John McCaslin

The frankness of Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff in World War II and architect as secretary of state under former President Harry S. Truman of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, was extolled by retiring Air Force Maj. Gen. Roger P. Lempke at the recent Gen. George C. Marshall Memorial Dinner in Washington.

In fact, Gen. Lempke called for more outspoken officers in today's U.S. military — to fend off ill-advised military schemes hatched by political leaders.

One of Gen. Marshall's first recorded instances of speaking truth to power came in an encounter as a lieutenant colonel with Gen. John J. Pershing during World War I. Gen. Marshall's outspokenness, instead of receiving punishment, was rewarded with a post on Pershing's staff.

Gen. Marshall was later as outspoken with Winston Churchill, telling Britain's World War II prime minister that not a single American soldier would be permitted to die for the sake of Churchill's desired invasion of the Greek island of Crete. Gen. Marshall's outspokenness emboldened the British general staff, which supported his opposition, and Churchill withdrew the proposal.

Meanwhile, Gen. Lempke, adjutant general of Nebraska and a 1969 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate, noted the conspicuous and continuous service of National Guard units in the Iraq war and praised National Guard leaders for preparing their units so well.

"If the National Guard had not been there and ready, I don't know what would have happened to us," he said. "The National Guard was there with men and women ready to serve, though with minimal financing and resources."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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