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Fair warning: reading about George C. Marshall will make you feel like a serious underachiever. Even if you're a gym rat who is up at 6 every morning, a workaholic who finds time to learn the cello while holding down two waitressing gigs, or a full-time student with a full-time internship, Marshall is going to make you feel like a sloth.
Marshall was a five-star general, U.S. Army chief of staff, secretary of state, secretary of defense, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
See what we mean?
Throughout World War II, Marshall organized an expansion of the U.S. military while simultaneously coordinating Allied operations in both the European and Pacific theaters.
But after the war ended, Marshall decided a leisurely retirement wasn't in the cards for him, and he served as secretary of state under President Truman. By this time, relations between the major allies had started to sour.
The United States and Great Britain were committed to letting freedom ring throughout Europe, but the USSR was more interested in spreading the love—and by "love," we mean "communism." And the Western world wasn't too thrilled about that.
While the Allies needed to work together throughout World War II to defeat Hitler and the Nazis, it was actually a case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," rather than a bunch of countries actually getting along. So, with Hitler long gone, the United States and the rest of the Western world saw communism as the next big threat, and the State Department, along with Marshall, believed giving Europe money and food was the best way to stop it from spreading.
The Marshall Plan—for which Marshall won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1953—was all about making sure Europe was stable and secure after the Nazis had wreaked havoc across the continent for years. Part of that plan included protecting all people everywhere from the types of human rights violations that occurred throughout the war, and he was on hand in Paris in 1948, where he opened the third meeting of the General Assembly for the Commission on Human Rights.
(Psst—we have a whole guide dedicated to the Marshall Plan. Check it out.)