I don’t know whether to consider this a late Father’s Day or early Fourth of July story.
The Benning years were lonely ones for Marshall. His first wife, to whom he was deeply devoted, had died two months before his assignment there. To fill his days, he threw himself into not only the duty but also the off-duty activities of his officers and their wives. He organized hunts, competitive night rides, pageants, games, amateur theatricals; from October to April there were hunts about twice a week. His pageants were held for visiting dignitaries instead of formal military reviews, which he found boring. But diversion for him, writes Pogue, “was only another form of busyness.” He lost weight, and a nervous tic that turned up a corner of his mouth grew more noticeable. The pressure on him to relieve emptiness affected others, for whom so much distraction was not always welcome and who, says Pogue, “would gladly have settled for a short period of ennui.” Out of his hearing they called him “Uncle George.”
Marshall’s loneliness ended in 1929. At a dinner in Columbus, he was introduced to a widow and sometime actress, Katherine Boyce Tupper Brown, a tall and handsome woman. He offered to drive her home to the house where she was visiting, taking nearly an hour to do so and covering most of the city, which she remarked that he seemed not to know very well. Marshall replied that if he did not know it well he would not have been able to keep going so long without passing her street.
By the spring of 1930, they were close enough to engaged that Mrs. Brown wanted to be certain her children approved, especially twelve-year-old Allen, and she invited Marshall to visit them on Fire Island. He shortly received a note: “I hope you will come to Fire Island. Don’t be nervous. it is O.K. with me. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Allen Brown.” On October 15, Marshall and Katherine Brown were married, with General Pershing as best man.
On May 28, 1944, Second Lieutenant Allen Tupper Brown, leading a tank platoon int the breakout from the Anzio beachhead, was killed by a German sniper.
–Eric Larrabee, Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants, and Their War
George C. Marshall was Army Chief of Staff throughout the Second World War and one of the chief architects of the Allied victory. His first wife was unable to have children, due to a congenital heart defect (which later took her life), and his fondness for children found its fulfillment with his stepson. The death of Brown was a terrific blow coming at the peak of the war.
War is such an awful waste, even when just and necessary. I am reminded of the lament Jefferson eventually cut from the final draft of the Declaration of Independence: “We might have been a free and great people together. Teancum is not particularly celebrated among Mormons for his even temper, but nothing made him angrier than the disastrous war brought on the Nephites by the ambitions of Ammoron and Amalickiah. And how Moroni mourned Teancum’s death!