Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 308–318 | Cite as

From World War II to cold war: the emergence and development of George C. Marshall’s transatlantic worldview and policies, 1939–1951

  • Mark A. StolerEmail author


Although George C. Marshall served as US Secretary of State for only two years (from January 1947 to January 1949), he was responsible during that brief time period for the most important peacetime transatlantic initiatives in American history — most notably the European Recovery Programme that bears his name and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) whose formation would be completed a few months after he left office. While these initiatives clearly resulted from the growing Soviet-American conflict after the Second World War and the ensuing cold war, their roots lay in the strong transatlantic policies and strategies in which Marshall had participated, and which he had often initiated, during the Second World War. What follows is an analysis of those wartime policies and strategies, and their relationship to the postwar transatlantic policies and strategies Marshall championed as Secretary of State.


George C. Marshall the Second World War transatlantic relationship US foreign policy 


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  1. 1.
    My sources for these transatlantic initiatives are primarily documents that will be included in volume 6 of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, which I am now editing. Given that at the time of writing the volume is not yet published, those documents will be cited to their original manuscript and archival collections.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange: The US Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897-1945 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mark A. Stoler, Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 5–15. More accurate than ‘isolationist’ would be the term ‘unilateralist’, ‘continentalist’, or ‘anti-interventionist’.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mark S. Watson, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, a volume in United States Army in World War II (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1950), 312.Google Scholar
  5. 4a.
    See also David G Haglund, ‘George C Marshall and the Question of Military Aide to England, May-June, 1940’, Journal of Contemporary History 15 (October 1980): 745-60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 5.
    Louis Morton, ‘Germany First: The Basic Concept of Allied Strategy in World War II’, in Command Decisions, ed. Kent Roberts Greenfield (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1960), 11–41; Stoler, Allies and Adversaries, 29-32; andGoogle Scholar
  7. 5a.
    Henry Gole, The Road to Rainbow: Army Planning for Global War, 1934-1940 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2003). For the RED-ORANGE war plan seeGoogle Scholar
  8. 5b.
    William R. Braisted, ‘On the American Red and Red-Orange War Plans, 1919-1939’, in Naval Warfare in the Twentieth Century 1900-1945: Essays in Honor of Arthur Marder, ed. Gerald Jordan (London: Croon Helm, 1977), 167-85. The plans themselves are reproduced inGoogle Scholar
  9. 5c.
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  10. 6.
    Morton, ‘Germany First’, 41-47; and Forrest C Pogue, George C Marshall, Ordeal and Hope, 1939-1942 (New York: The Viking Press, 1966), 68–71. ABC-1 and the RAINBOW 5 Revised are reproduced in Ross, American War Plans, 4: 3-66 and 5: 3-43.Google Scholar
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  12. 8.
    Notes for Off-the-Record Talk to Overseas Press Club in New York City, March 1, 1945, George C Marshall Research Library, Lexington, VA (hereafter cited as GCMRL), George C Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office File, quoted in Mark A. Stoler, George C Marshall, Soldier Statesman of the American Century (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989), 127.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    Larry I. Bland, ed., The Papers of George Catlett Marshall 5: ‘The Finest Soldier’ (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), 113 (hereafter cited as The Marshall Papers, with volume number and page).Google Scholar
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    Bland, The Marshall Papers, 4: 653-54. See also Alex Danchev, Very Special Relationship: Field Marshal Sir John Dill and the Anglo-American Alliance, 1941-1944 (London: Brassey’s, 1986).Google Scholar
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    ‘Outline of Remarks’ at the University of Oxford, November 22, Marshall Papers, Secretary of State, Categorical, Invitations, GCMRL.Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    Ibid. Marshall spoke extemporaneously at Oxford, and no transcript of his exact remarks was made. This document, according to one of his aides, was ‘a combination of some notes he made prior to his talk, and a resume he dictated subsequent to his visit to Oxford’. Marshall Carter to Robert Woods Bliss, December 30, 1947, Marshall Papers, Secretary of State, General, GCMRL.Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    Marshall Testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Committee, February 14, 1947, US Senate, Executive Sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Historical Series), vol. 1, 80th Cong., 1st and 2nd sess., 1947-1948 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1976), 1-11.Google Scholar
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    FRUS, 1947, 2: 301. Unlike the ‘off the record’ wartime CCS meetings, however, minutes were kept of this 1 April ‘restricted session’ and it ended in failure. See Ibid., 303-4.Google Scholar
  20. 16.
    Radio No. 1481, KOSMOS 55, Marshall to Acheson, April 20, 1947, Central Decimal File, 740.0011 EW (Peace)/4-2047, RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  21. 17.
    Marshall Radio Address, April 28, 1947, Marshall Papers, Secretary of State, Speeches, GCMRL.Google Scholar
  22. 18.
    Walter Millis, ed., The Forrestal Diaries (New York: The Viking Press, 1951), 266.Google Scholar
  23. 19.
    Marshall to Conant, May 28, 1947, Marshall Papers, Secretary of State, General, GCMRL.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    Larry I. Bland, ed., George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue. rev. ed. (Lexington, VA: George C. Marshall Research Foundation, 1991), 527. Marshall refused to write his memoirs but agreed after his retirement from public life to a series of oral history interviews with Pogue, who would write his four-volume authorised biography, George C. Marshall (New York: Viking, 1963-1987).Google Scholar
  25. 21.
    For the multiple authors of the Marshall Plan concept and speech at Harvard, see the fourth volume of Pogue’s biography cited directly above, George C. Marshall: Statesman, 1945-1959, 200-11.Google Scholar
  26. 22.
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  27. 23.
    Speech to the Pilgrims Society, December 12, 1947, Marshall Papers, Secretary of State, Speeches, GCMRL.Google Scholar
  28. 24.
    Memorandum for Mr. Lovett, August 8, 1947, Central Decimal File, 711.00/8-847, RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  29. 25.
    Radio No. 74, Marshall to Lovett, August 25, 1947, Top Secret File, 841.2368/8-2547, RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  30. 26.
    Memorandum of Conversation with the British Ambassador, September 7, 1948, Central Decimal File, 868.20 Mission/9-748, RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  31. 27.
    Marshall to Royall, August 23, 1948, Central Decimal File, 800.24/8-648, RG 59, NARA. See also FRUS, 1948, 1: 601-2 and 615.Google Scholar
  32. 28.
    Memorandum of Conversation (Subject: The Berlin Conversations), August 30, 1948, Central Decimal File, 740.00119 Control (Germany) 8-3048), RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  33. 29.
    FRUS, 1948, 2, 1147-49.Google Scholar
  34. 30.
    Minutes of a Meeting of the Secretary of State with the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and France, September 20, 1948, Central Decimal File, 740.00119 Control (Germany)/10-448, RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  35. 31.
    Meeting of the Three Ministers, September 26, 1948, Central Decimal File, 740.00119 Control [Germany] 10-2648), RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  36. 32.
    Memorandum of Conversation, October 5, 1948, Central Decimal File, 840.50 Recovery/10-548), RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  37. 33.
    Memorandum of Conversation, October 4, 1948, Central Decimal File, 840.00/10-448 and 501.BC/10-448), RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  38. 34.
    Memorandum of Conversation, November 18, 1948, Central Decimal File, 851.00/11-1848, RG 59, NARA.Google Scholar
  39. 35.
  40. 36.
    Address to National Institute of Social Sciences, May 18, 1949, Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office, Speeches, GCMRL.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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