At the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Josiah Bunting III reflects on General George C. Marshall and the links between our two biggest wars:
There are many links between the Civil War and the World War II. We tend to forget them. I’m going to talk a little about George Marshall within his generation. Marshall was born in 1880, the same year as Douglas MacArthur. He grew up in a small town, a suburb of Pittsburgh, surrounded by veterans of the Civil War. For that generation, that was their “great generation.” If you were 20 years old and had fought at Chancellorsville or Antietam or Gettysburg, you were still a relatively young person in the early 1890s. You’d be in your middle or late 40s. So if you were a doctor, a lawyer, an executive, a teacher in small town America, you were the person that people looked up to. Yet, the great military figures of that war were the people you aspired to be if you had any interest in the military.
Some of the links between the two wars are quite charming and unexpected. For example, Henry “Hap” Arnold, the chief of the Air Corps in World War II, was decorating workers at a B-29 factory in Wichita in 1943, and the foreman introduced a woman in her 70s, saying, “This is our best worker” The woman was Helen Longstreet, widow of the Civil War solider James Longstreet. He had lived a long life and married a young woman. Consequently, you still had people serving in World War II who had those connections to the Civil War.
On the eve of the Second World War, the United States observed the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. There were still enough living veterans to hold a reunion, and Franklin Roosevelt addressed them: