Best American Army Commander WWII?


Jan 2018
On the Allied side, no one approached George C. Marshal in importance to the entire war effort around the globe...
No doubt.

I’m interested on your views on the original topic of best army commander, by which I meant an actual field army.
Last edited:
Nov 2014
Birmingham, UK
On the Allied side, no one approached George C. Marshal in importance to the entire war effort around the globe. General Marshal had close ties with his friend and mentor, General Pershing and was his aide-de-camp during the Great War. Marshal, a product of VMI, was a keen observer who kept neat notes on everyone in the Army when paths crossed. Between the wars he became Chief of Staff, and it was he who ordered MacArthur to clear the Bonus Marchers from their make-do squats. He arranged MacArthur to comand the military forces of the Philippines. He was impressed with Eisenhower's quiet and effective leadership during the Louisiana Exercises. He put Patton together to work out the Army's armored doctrines.

As war approached preparations were made, and often it was Marshal's approach that was chosen. Both FDR and Churchill depended on Marshal's ability to understand and value strategic planning. Marshal, for all his honors had never served as a combat commander ... it was his primary goal in life, but he had to sit out directly commanding the Allied Invasion of Europe, a Plan similiar to those he was originating in 1942. Eisenhower got that distinction.

Out in the Pacific, carriers had revolutionized war at sea. It was the Navy's Theater, while the Army's Theater was Europe. The Naval Chief of Staff reported to ... Marshal, who decided what materials should flow to the island hopping campaign that returned MacArthur to the headlines.

Stalin had endless demands on his allies, but General Marshal held the spigot.

When FDR died, it was General Marshal who brought Truman up to speed on the Manhattan Project, the inner most military secrets regarding US operations around the world, and it was Marshal who guided Truman in those tumultuous early days.

Early days for the Cold War, but the final days of the Axis. It was the early days of reconstruction, and the numbers of undocumented persons in Europe was staggering. There were hardened ordinary criminals, and the world's Intelligence Services entered "middle school" mixed into the rootless crowds. Hunger was still a direct result of War, and Communists were quick to take advantage of the situation. Marshal was retiring from the Army, but Truman valued him so much that Marshal became Secretary of State. Marshal was a star at State; he knew all the actors everywhere, he had un-equaled experience in managing the vast resources of a modern State.

To pass over one the great men of the world during the most formative and important conflict in the history of our species merely because "he never commanded a unit in combat" would be ironic.

Nearly forgot, it was General Marshal who recommended President Truman fire General MacArthur.
Wow, great post. Any biographies you would recommend?

Lord Oda Nobunaga

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
Ontario, Canada
If you want specifically American army commanders then I am giving this either to George S. Patton or Courtney Hodges.


Forum Staff
May 2013
Albuquerque, NM
I rather like Leonard Mosley's Marshall: Hero for our Times. The book has good notes and footnotes. The source material and index works, but the book suffers from note including a bibliography. Like many biographies, the author may be a bit too close to his subject but the writing is clear, and readable.

Actually I'm not a big fan of WWII largely because it is sooo close to us in time that objectivity is lost in popularity and fashion. Nazism has become a synonym for depravity and an example of how close our species still is to our animal roots. Yeah, but their uniforms looks so cool. To generations who have grown up with comic books images and simple good v. evil interpretations of events, some of the horrid fundamental threat to liberty seems lost. Murder is natural to us, and something about raising those numbers of willful violence to astronomical levels reduces the whole to meaninglessness.

The first half of the 20th century is a tangle of trends, some going back thousands of years, to produce a graphic picture of just how little our species has changed since we invented civilization. However, we are still too close to the cyclone to appreciate fully how and why it happened; we only know how it effected our lives and those around us. It was different to our parents who went out to die in flimsy aircraft intent on bombing the enemy into submission. "We'll meet again; don't know how, don't know when ... " and "There'll be sun and laughter, and peace ever after". Children herded into their schoolrooms and burned alive, but then their parents had dug long trenches to ease the task of their executioners ... young soldiers convinced they were heroes machine gunning old men and pregnant women. Designer uniform jackets to show off awards for achievements tied to working slaves to death while starving them. You see how emotional it can get?

To know human history is to brush up against all our adjectives. We are cowardly heroes, virtuous murderers, we glorify our destruction and mourn our sons have been eaten alive by forces they could never know. The great conflicts of the 20th century, make earlier depredations, tyrannies and oppression pale in comparison. A tribe whose names and existence were lost six or seven thousand years ago were wiped out without a trace leaving perhaps a genetic marker in the descendants of their murderers. How many body bags would they have needed? Thousands? hundreds? Dozens, or was that tribe just a frightened family in the way of "progress"?
Oct 2015
Forrest Pogue wrote a four volume "official" biography of General Marshall; the "Architect of Victory" as Churchill called him, and who deserves a place in the American pantheon with Washington, Winfield Scott, Grant and Pershing (and who was born in Uniontown PA).


Forum Staff
May 2013
Albuquerque, NM
General Marshall, as important to Allied victory as FDR, Churchill, Stalin, and all those lesser Generals he commanded. Marshall did his bit in the Asian Station, meaning Japan, China, Korea, and the Philippine Islands. Gen. Marshall (VMI) was General Pershing's aide and chief advisor during WWI, and after the War remained Pershing's closest friend and fan. He had a great perch from which to observe large scale operations, the strategic importance of logistics, and above all the character and potential of Officers who were still Captains and Majors between the two World Wars. During the Louisiana Maneuvers (193?), a quiet Major from the West held a key post and went into Marshall's famous little book. The Major, Eisenhower was on the ladder to Supreme Commander of the European Theater. Of course it was impossible to miss the bombastic MacArthur, fair-haired son of a legendary Western Army General, and Georgie Patton who had won his spurs in Mexico as a Jr. Officer.

By the time FDR was settled in Office, General Marshall was Army Chief of Staff, and Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Long before America entered the War, Marshall had been preparing for the conflict. He had developed the fundamental concepts the U.S. would need to fight the war that was rapidly becoming a certainty. His pick and mentoring of younger ranks preparing and testing them, provided the most effective Field Grade Officers the nation had up until that time. The jewel in Marshall's plans was focused on the Invasion of Europe across the English Channel, and he fully intended to lead that effort. From the time George C. Marshall was a cadet, his dream was leading men into battle, but his brilliance as a Staff Officer kept him at HQ. The Invasion of Europe! Unfortunately for his aspirations, once again he was so critical to the war-effort that he could not be spared, or replaced, at the mind and heart behind the Allied global war efforts. So Ike, inherited Marshall's Plan and got the glory. Don't get me wrong, Eisenhower's Plan was fundamentally the same, but modified to meet circumstances, political imperatives, etc. Marshall was the key figure to bring Truman up-to-speed after FDR died, and was at Truman's elbow when the decision was made to use an Atomic Weapon (that only existed because Marshall made the Manhattan Project possible) on Japan to avoid the millions who would die in a land invasion of the Home Islands.

After WWII, Marshall continued and was at Truman's elbow managing the aftermath. Truman and Marshall designed a policy to rebuild a shattered Europe as a hedge against Soviet aggression, and Truman graciously named it the Marshall Plan. That worked out pretty well. When North Korea made a surprise attack on South Korea as U.S. forces were withdrawing, MacArthur had his finest hour at Inchon in a timely manner and the UN forces pushed the North Koreans back eventually to near the Yalu River. Once MacArthur got the wind in his teeth, he was hard to control as Truman quickly discovered. MacArthur wanted to use the new Atomic bombs on China, but Marshall and Truman, both his superiors squelched that, but violations of airspace over the Yalu continued and eventually, the PRC invaded south taking on the U.S.M.C. at the Chosen Reservoir. A new world was born, but General Marshall continued as a trusted adviser to Presidents as long as he lived.
Jun 2011
The Old Dominion
Ummm, Marshall did not become Chief of Staff of the US Army until 1 September 1939.
And at the time that MacArthur, the then Chief of Staff, was so gently clearing out the Bonus Marchers, July 1932, Marshall, a Colonel, was commander of the 8th Infantry at Fort Screven on Tybee Island, Georgia.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
San Diego
Marshall. Both during the war- and the post war era.

Marshall arguably made the US the leader of the free world, Arguably was responsible for the Soviets turning the tide of the eastern front thru Lend Lease, arguably stabilized the governments and economies of both Germany and Japan- and created the bonds that have turned those enemies into the US's staunchest allies.

Marshall decided which general would command which army... and dealt with ALL the vying prima donnas in a constructive way.

He also dealt with logistics and war production by ten thousand independent private interests.

The men who commanded armies in the field were in those positions because of Marshall, and had the equipment and men they utilized because of Marshall.