Pulling away from the crowd of academics and journalists who dominate the field of Marshallography, Washington lawyer David L. Roll takes a fresh pen to the general’s life ... Despite its Jedi-like subtitle, Mr. Roll’s book is nicely balanced, lauding Marshall’s priestly devotion to the nation’s interests while not giving him a pass for failing to adequately warn the commanders at Pearl Harbor of a likely Japanese attack. Mr. Roll also notes Marshall’s fumbling over whether to support an independent state of Israel, and describes wrenching race-relations issues that Marshall, like most leaders of his day, shrugged off ... Mr. Roll wisely skips much of the Marshall back story that weighs down other biographies ... Occasionally Mr. Roll offers a bit more context than World War II fans might require ... But these are short detours, and Defender of the Republic quickly gets back to its strengths: replacing a marble statue with a splendid color portrait. Mr. Roll is especially good at bringing Marshall’s carefully guarded personality into the light ... he evocation of Marshall’s easygoing devotion to Katherine and his fondness for his stepchildren sets Mr. Roll’s work apart from biographies that have gone before ... For a life that has been subjected to so much spilled ink, Mr. Roll has managed to encapsulate George C. Marshall’s inner voice better than any previous work. Mr. Roll’s literary monument to one of America’s most devoted soldiers is a powerful antidote to a Twitter-glutted era when political cynicism has reached its nadir and civic virtue has become a punch line.
... a deeply researched and masterfully written work that relies in part on never-used documents, one that should establish Marshall at the top of any list of American titans ... Roll shows skill in explaining the tangled maze of legalities of the war-time agreements.
Author Roll is neither the first nor likely the last to write a biography of soldier/statesman Marshall, but his magnificent portrait of the man comes at a time when we seem most in need of leaders with his abilities, attitudes, and selfless dedication to the nation ... Roll’s work — which profits from new sources, including personal letters not made public until recently — does not supersede Forrest Pogue’s monumental four-volume Marshall biography as much as it supplements it with new material and a vigorous new vision of Marshall’s character and significance. Roll’s work is a highly focused depiction of Marshall that vividly recounts moments in the man’s life and then puts those moments into historical context ... Roll does not omit nor gloss over Marshall’s flaws and shortcomings ... David Roll’s fear that Marshall is becoming forgotten in today’s world is probably realistic, but his highly readable biography should go a long way to bringing the man back into the public consciousness.
What is missing from an otherwise brilliant portrait of a great man and leader is the source of Marshall’s character. Roll for some unknown reason devotes only a few paragraphs to Marshall’s childhood years growing up in the 1880s and 1890s in Uniontown, a rugged coal-town in southwestern Pennsylvania.
... authoritative and engaging ... Roll convincingly argues that Marshall’s character made him 'the most revered and trusted figure in Washington' and delves deeply into Marshall’s humility, judgment, and preference for delivering constructive criticism directly to his superiors ... Roll enlivens the narrative by including some previously unpublished correspondence and excerpts from the memoirs of Marshall’s second wife, Katherine Marshall, and family friend Rosa Page Wilson ... While Roll’s admiration for Marshall is obvious, he is unafraid to point out Marshall’s mistakes and failures ... his well-written and captivating book will stand as the definitive biography of Marshall.
An overdue, authoritative biography of one of America’s greatest soldier-statesmen ... The author excels in describing the period from Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland until Pearl Harbor ... Roll admits that America would have won World War II even with a less competent chief of staff, and many of his decisions remain controversial, but he was a thoroughly admirable, surprisingly quirk-free figure who, even during his life, seemed larger-than-life ... Despite not straying far from the almost universal veneration, this is a definitive, nuanced portrait.