The poem “George C. Marshall (1880-1959)” by Thomas Hawkins Johnson, deserves a wide audience. Especially in these troubled times.
In the photograph there are two rows of men,
Twelve or thirteen in all. Their drab uniforms
Look stiff in the midday glare: boots, riding
Breeches, thick wool blouses over khaki
Shirts strapped in with polished Sam Browne belts.
Hatless, they seem to squint at the cameraman,
Though it may be only the poor focus—still,
One recognizes all of them slowly—Bradley,
Patton, Bedell Smith, even the young balding
Eisenhower smiling at some lost remark.
In the rear row, on the end, stands Major Marshall,
Sober, impassive, his gaze impenetrable.
Perhaps such a photograph exists, taken,
Say, 1931 at the Infantry School,
Fort Benning; or perhaps it’s only pasted
In the nation’s worn album of apocrypha.
Because many events have intersected we
Allow that inference: cause: a small, dull army,
A few ambitious men trapped in
A generation of waiting, and one careful
Demon of integrity. The picture snapped,
They stroll toward toward the officer’s club for lunch,
Their conversation stunted in the heat.
Marshall, walking behind, keeps staring back.
George Catlett Marshall in the inter-war years. Army Chief-of-Staff General Marshall was described by Winston Churchill as the “Organizer of Victory.”
Credit: By: Colonel Charles F. Brower, US Military Academy.
Thomas H. Johnson, “George C. Marshall (1880-1959),” no date, unpublished poem.