Good reading, though the authors seem at pains to deny Marshall the full credit he is rightly due.
This from Jordan Michael Smith's review in The Boston Globe:
"Former President Harry Truman was asked in 1961 to name the American who had made the greatest contribution to the country over the preceding 30 years. Truman didn’t hesitate in his answer. 'George C. Marshall would be my pick,' he said.
"Marshall, he pointed out, had been Army chief of staff during World War II, transforming a weak military to the world’s strongest and promoting Eisenhower from obscurity to D-Day commander. Marshall had also acted brilliantly both as ambassador to China and as secretary of state. 'In each of those jobs he did an outstanding job,' Truman said. And yet, the former president continued, Marshall was not recognized for his achievements because he refused to do what everyone else in Washington did: promote himself.
"All of Marshall’s efforts are recalled in Debi and Irwin Unger’s new biography. But the magnitude of his achievements goes almost unnoticed. It’s as if Marshall still needs additional PR to get the laurels he so justly merits.
"Whenever possible, the authors downplay or outright ignore the significance of Marshall’s work. In disputing Winston Churchill’s reference to Marshall as the 'organizer of victory' in World War II, they grant that the 'enormous difficulties and challenges he faced — the embedded individualistic American values, the nation’s cultural diversity, its provincialism and regionalism, the severe time constraints events imposed — must be kept in mind.' Nonetheless, 'his training of an army ground force for combat was not an outstanding success.' Although, '[p]erhaps, considering the task of creating a mass army virtually overnight, the result could not have been different.'
"In fact, it could have been different — it could have been far worse. Marshall turned what was an army of 200,000 ill-trained, ill-equipped men in 1939 into one of 8.5 million six years later. It was a huge bureaucratic task, and it was done while identifying and elevating men like Eisenhower through the ranks, dealing with Congress and the British, and, not least, strategizing about how to defeat the Japanese and Nazis simultaneously.
"Ah yes, but 'Marshall delegated much of the actual day-to-day training process,' the Ungers write. Given that his management process was to identify talented men in the War Department and empower them, as the authors recognize, this would seem a distinction without a difference. Similarly, the Ungers off-handedly decide that what has come to be called the 'Marshall Memorandum' really 'was not his alone.' After all, it 'had been worked on and worked over by Eisenhower and several planning staffers.' Since we were told two pages earlier that Ike had been a 'fifty-one-year-old officer whose talents Marshall had spotted at the 1941 General Headquarters maneuvers, had befriended, and had recently brought to Washington to head the Army’s War Plans Division,' denying Marshall credit for the blueprint for Operation Overlord is churlish and misleading. What makes it particularly galling is that Marshall’s integrity outweighed even his military, strategic, and diplomatic skills. And the authors persistently overlook and misrepresent the general’s motivations and actions to undermine this.
"President Franklin Roosevelt created the rank of five-star general for Marshall, concerned that the British and other nations’ five-star military leaders would condescend to the highest-ranking American officer for having only four. Marshall spoke against the honor, saying that he never felt inferior and that, if such a rank were to be established, it should go to whoever won final victory over the Japanese, not someone mid-war. In telling this story, the book fails to credit Marshall for his modesty — he effectively argued against his own promotion.
"Marshall’s hallmark modesty becomes passive-aggressiveness in the Ungers’s fingers. FDR gave Marshall the chance to lead the Normandy invasion. But Marshall demurred, repeating only that whomever the president picked to run the operations would sit well with Marshall. Eisenhower was instead chosen as D-Day commander — the president wanted Marshall beside him in Washington. Marshall never complained about the choice.
"The book calls this 'pride.' It reads: 'The decision to command Overlord had been his to make; Roosevelt would have gone along if he made had his preference clear and emphatic. But to have done so, as Marshall’s biographer Mark Stoler writes, would have violated his ‘sense of honor and duty’ and also have blemished his self-crafted persona.' Marshall’s selflessness is portrayed not as a virtue but a flaw.
"Roosevelt once fretted to Eisenhower that posterity would not sufficiently revere Marshall. Only experts could recall who served as Lincoln’s chief of staff, but everybody knew the names of Grant, Lee, and Sherman, FDR noticed that he 'hated ‘to think’ . . . that fifty years from now practically nobody will know who George Marshall was.' George Marshall: A Biography implicitly suggests that Roosevelt need not have worried — Marshall didn’t deserve to be remembered as a great man. How wrong it is."