After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute in 1901, he entered the U.S. Army, where he was to have a long and distinguished career. Until World War I, he was posted to various positions in the US and the Philippines, and was trained in modern warfare. During the war he had roles as a planner of training and operations. Between WWI and WWII, he was a key planner and writer in the War Department, spent three years in China, and taught at Army War College.
He went to France in the summer of 1917 as the director of training and planning for the 1st Infantry Division. In mid-1918, he was promoted to American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, where he was a key planner of American operations. In 1919 he became an aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing. Between 1920 and 1924, while Pershing was army chief of staff, Marshall worked in a number of positions in the US Army, focusing on training and teaching modern, mechanised warfare. He was instrumental in the design and coordination of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which forced Germany to sue for peace.
He was promoted to brigadier general in October 1936. In 1939 he was selected by Franklin D. Roosevelt to be army chief of staff, a position he held until 1945. Marshall was instrumental in getting the U.S. Army and Army Air Corps reorganized and ready for war. Marshall authored the document that would become the central strategy for all allied operations in Europe and designed Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. Throughout the remainder of the World War II, Marshall coordinated all allied operations in Europe and the Pacific. He was characterized as the organizer of Allied victory by Winston Churchill. Time Magazine named Marshall Man of the Year in 1944.
Shortly after Senator Joseph McCarthy denounced him for making decisions that "aided the Communist drive for world domination", Marshall "retired" in November 1945 and was named Secretary of State in 1947. As such, he designed the European Recovery Plan, which became known as the Marshall Plan, for which he was named Time Man of the Year in 1948 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. In 1949 he resigned from the State Department and was named president of the American National Red Cross. He was Secretary of Defense 1953-54. He died October 16, 1959.