Few knew this better than General of the Army George C. Marshall, who served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army during World War II. Marshall had served since graduating from the Virginia Military Institute at the turn of the 20thcentury. He served in World War I and was Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing’s aide-de-camp in the following years, then endured the long hiatus between the wars.

. And endured is the right word; the Army shrunk in size and frankly importance. It was a backwater, and only the hardy persevered.Between the wars, there was an emphasis on decorum more than competence. Officer balls were a highlight. Training was limited more to the campground than the battlefield. All the while, Marshall kept his eye out for talent (although reports of his “little black book” have been discounted).

These talented officers included George Patton, Omar Bradley, Joe Stilwell, Mark Clark and Dwight Eisenhower. Their senior officers had overlooked these men, but when war came, they were promoted to general and proved their mettle in Europe.

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