By Ray Rimell
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George C. Marshall as soon as known as him "the brains of the military. " And but basic Lesley J. McNair (1883-1944), a guy so instrumental to America's army preparedness and armed forces modernization, is still little identified this present day, his papers purportedly misplaced, destroyed by means of his spouse in her grief at his demise in Normandy.
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Disclaimer: Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of the US Army School of Advanced Military Studies, the US Army Command and General Staff College, the United States Army, the Department of Defense, or any other US government agency. Cleared for public release: distribution unlimited. Acknowledgments I owe a great many people my deepest gratitude for helping me complete this project. I began my academic journey as a military historian while pursuing a master of military arts and sciences degree with a specialty in history.
I soon found evidence that she did not burn her husband’s papers. In 2010, I discovered a set of McNair papers at the Library of Congress. The first of the nine boxes included a short letter that Clare McNair wrote when she donated the papers. This collection consisted of various personal items including letters, poster-sized promotion orders (“sheepskins”), and several scrapbooks of photos and newspaper clippings that Clare collected throughout her husband’s career. Interestingly, the letters in the collection of personal papers include none between Lesley and Clare (or between McNair and any family members or colleagues); they consist entirely of Clare’s communications with friends of the family and Lesley’s professional acquaintances.
6 The experience that McNair gained during his forty-year career—and the manner in which he influenced the US army’s effectiveness at planning and conducting modern mechanized combined arms warfare during World War II—serves as the central topic of this narrative. Few day-by-day accounts of fighting or detailed campaign analyses appear, although in some cases such accounts provide evidence to illustrate key points. The pressures of military service during this difficult period revealed weaknesses in McNair’s personality and flaws in his thinking—just as they did in all of the senior leaders who served during the first half of the twentieth century.