George Marshall by David L. Roll

Book Review presents reviews of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects by noted scholars, historians and journalists.

George Marshall
Defender of the Republic
by David L. Roll
Dutton Caliber, 704 pp., hardcover $34

George C. Marshall grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, but his chosen path would take him far, both physically and conceptually. His notable service in the military spanned from Gen. John J. Pershing’s aide-de-camp in World War I to Army chief of staff during World War II. After the war, he served as Harry Truman’s secretary of state, proposing a plan for economic recovery in Europe that would bear his name and earn him the Nobel Peace Prize.

In George Marshall: Defender of the Republic, author Roll brings us a much needed biography of the soldier and statesman, the first of this magnitude in more than three decades and one constructed of previously unpublished papers, untapped correspondence, and firsthand accounts. The author indicates in the book’s Prologue that his motivation is the concern that Marshall’s “significance is fading from public memory,” contending that “no person comes close to matching Marshall’s ubiquitous yet selfless presence throughout the history of the last century.”

Roll makes clear that although Marshall was at times the recipient of well-timed luck, it is what he did in such circumstances, the decisions he made, that set him apart. The author’s research is unprecedented in revealing Marshall’s inner life as a window to his character, as well as the legacy of a warrior who would be lauded for safeguarding peace. This important work will provide readers with a better understanding of a man who shaped military and diplomatic affairs in a crucial period of world history, one who is not to be forgotten.

Tyler O. Gum
Pennsylvania Military Museum