On June 5, 1948, in a speech at Harvard University, General George Marshall announced an audacious strategy to help rebuild Western Europe following World War ll. Costing more than 15 billion dollars, the American blueprint for economic redevelopment in post-war Europe would become known as the Marshall Plan.
Born in 1880 in Pennsylvania, George Catlett Marshall was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute before serving in the Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, and in World War l. Marshall became an aide-de-camp to the US Army’s Chief of Staff, General John J. Pershing.
Later, Marshall served as assistant commandant of the Army's Infantry School. During this period he instituted modernization and streamlined processes. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed him Army Chief of Staff on September 1, 1939. Ironically, on this same date, Hitler ordered the German Army to invade Poland.
Under General Marshall, the US Army experienced its greatest expansion in history. With war raging in Europe and in the Pacific, Marshall oversaw unprecedented military operations and won worldwide respect and admiration. British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, claimed that Marshall was the “Organizer of Victory” and that the US General’s leadership was indispensable to the victory by the Allied Forces in Europe.
In 1947, General Marshall continued his service to our country as Secretary of State under President Harry Truman. Realizing that the catastrophic devastation and destruction of Europe was impacting the health and safety of humanity, Truman asked Marshall to develop a plan of enormous complexity to rebuild he economies of Europe.
As Mashall explained in his address at Harvard University in 1948, every aspect of life in Western Europe was negatively impacted by the death and destruction of society. Businesses and manufacturing were destroyed. Farmers had no markets to sell crops. Fuel was in short supply and currencies and banking were in free-fall. People in every nation were displaced and unable to find employment, food and housing. In his address at Harvard University, Marshall announced that America’s plan to help Europe recover would address, “hunger, poverty, and desperation.” across the European continent.
The Marshall Plan, as it came to be known, was the engine that eventually helped European nations to rebuild and modernize their economies. In recognition for his outstanding contributions, General Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.
While history books are filled with epic stories of World War ll, lesser known is the unique connection between the men whose leadership was essential to the Allied Forces’ victory in Europe. Many of these statesman and military heroes were also Freemasons – including General George Marshall.
General Marshall was a member of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. Both Presidents he served under, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman were also Masons.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was initiated in 1911 in Holland Lodge No. 8, in New York City. Roosevelt was also made the first Honorary Grand Master of the Order of DeMolay in a ceremony at the White House in 1934.
The 37th President of the United States, Harry S. Truman was initiated as a member of Bolton Lodge No. 450 in Bolton, Missouri in 1911 and served as Master of Grandview Lodge, No. 618, as Worshipful Master before being elected as the Grand Master of Masons of Missouri in 1940.
On “the other side of the pond”, Sir Winston Churchill who served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 during the war years and again in 1951-1955, was a Freemason. Churchill was initiated as a Master Mason on March 5, 1902 at Studholme Lodge, No 591.