by Robert A. Fearey, class of 1937
As published in the Groton School Quarterly, 1999
Marshall Green, a star of what has been termed the Golden Age of the American Foreign Service in the decades after World War II, died while playing golf with his son Mark (’60) outside Washington D.C. on June 6, 1999.
Marshall’s career began with a two-year term as private secretary to Ambassador Joseph C. Grew (Groton 1898) in Tokyo, 1939-41. Following three years as a U.S. Navy trained Japanese translator arid interpreter, he joined the Foreign Service in 1945 and embarked on a succession of extraordinarily challenging and important assignments. They included principal assistant to Secretary of State Dulles in his management of the Taiwan Offshore Islands crisis of 1958; Chargé of our Embassy in Korea during General Park’s 1961 overthrow of the democratically elected Chang government; Consul General in Hong Kong 1961-63 when that outpost city was the West’s eyes and ears on Communist China; Ambassador to Indonesia during the 1965 overthrow of President Sukarno by General Suharto; Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs 1969-73, when he served as a key Assistant to President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger in their opening to China and conduct of the Vietnam War; and as Ambassador to Australia 1973-75, when his low-key, persuasive diplomacy was instrumental to the marked improvement of U.S.-Australian relations in that period.
Long concerned over the silent explosion of population growth in East Asia and most of the rest of the developing world, Marshall resigned in 1975 from his Australian assignment to establish and fill the position of State Department Coordinator of Population Affairs. He resigned from that position and the Foreign Service in 1979, joined a leading Washington non-profit population organization, the Population Crisis Committee, and devoted a major share of his attention to the world population problem throughout his extremely active retirement years.
Dedicated from his earliest years to the public interest and public service, Marshall believed that the Foreign Service should promote not just U.S. national interests but the welfare of all mankind on this unforgiving planet. He never tired of emphasizing that rights must be accompanied by responsibility. And he many times exemplified in his personal positions on public issues his conviction of the importance of courage—the courage to stand up for what one believes.
At the same time, Marshall was a genuinely humble and kindly individual incapable of pomposity or conceit. His concern for and loyalty to friends and staff were deep seated and unwavering. Possessed of unfailing good cheer and an irrepressible sense of humor, he was for forty years one of the Service’s most widely known, admired and best liked members. The death of his wife and Foreign Service partner of 54 years, Lisa, in 1996 was a devastating blow. But not even that could long discourage him and he maintained an amazing volume and variety of writing, speaking, travel and sports activities, including his beloved golf and bicycling.
I can do no better in attempting to review Marshall’s extraordinary qualities and career than to quote from his senior State Department colleagues’ remarks at his Washington memorial service:
William P. Bundy. "It was endlessly right that Marshall should have started his career in Tokyo under Ambassador Grew -- and that he went on to the very top, extraordinary in his grasp of East Asia and wise on any issue, admired and beloved by all who served with and under him."
Ambassador Thomas Shoesmith (Ret.). "During the Korean military coup, while Washington dithered, Marshall, then Chargé d'Affaires of our Embassy, unhesitatingly acted in support of democratic and constitutional principles. Again, as our Ambassador to Indonesia, during its revolution, it was Marshall's steady hand which guided the shaping of our policy toward that troubled country."
"As Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs, Marshall confronted a difficult policy decision regarding the extension of bombing raids into Cambodia. I still remember clearly how heartened and encouraged we in the Bureau were to learn of his courageous defense of his opposing position, along with his firm injunction to us to loyally support the final decision."
"Marshall was the 'compleat' diplomat, effective in his leaderrship, perceptive and imaginative in his policy prescriptions. But there was another very human and endearing side, Marshall's humor and wit, which could relieve tensions and brighten one's day. George Kennan put it best in commenting on Marshall's delightful book, 'Pacific Encounters:'
"No one has ever described with a more delicate and irrepressible sense of humor how the many crucial and dangerous moments of a long Foreign Service career in the Far East are coupled with the equally numerous ironies and absurdities that attend it.'"
Ambassador Paul Cleveland (Ret.). "Recognizing the significance of Asians' nationalism before others and perceiving their need and desire to develop skills and self esteem, Marshall translated his policy of helping Indonesians help themselves into the Guam Doctrine, wherein we proposed to help Asians everywhere help themselves. He saw his vision transformed into the Nixon Doctrine--something different--a rationale for removing our forces from Vietnam, leaving the Indochinese to carry on largely on their own."
"Deeply frustrated by the course of conflict in Indochina, particularly in Cambodia where he tried to change our approach, he pressed low key solutions and peace proposals whenever he saw opportunity. Sometimes it seemed quixotic. One day following the incursion into Cambodia he burst from his office to announce: "I know what we are doing in Cambodia!" "What, Marshall?" "We are widening down the war." While his energy, exuberance and optimism never failed him, it sometimes masked deep frustration."
"Assigned to Australia, he said he had always wanted to go there. He had indeed, and he loved it. Happily, there was a new challenge. Confronted with Australian antagonism over our military installations, generated by anger over Vietnam, he personally turned the Australians around simply by being the way he was: low key, perceptive, persuasive, indefatigably hopeful, and funny--the Yankee Quipper they called him. He persuaded the Australians to remain among our very closest allies in difficult times and they remain so today."
"Marshall not only thought more clearly and charmed and persuaded more effectively, he did so with purpose and passion, always reigned in by his professionalism and his diamond hard New England principles. He was practical and flexible, but mostly he was a deeply moral man and there were things he would not do."
"His devotion to his family, his love and pride in his sons, and above all his love for Lisa, 'Mission Control,' was shaped by these same qualities. It never once wavered. In a telling, poignant moment, his beloved Lisa paused to remark: ‘Do you know, even I can hardly believe, Marshall has never once raised his voice at me in all the time I have known him.' Nor for that matter did he with any of us."
"But in the end what was so unique and winning were the little explosions of suppressed glee and brilliance bubbling at the corners of his mouth; the enthusiasm with which he suddenly recalled from somewhere line after line of Hamlet's soliloquies or discovered Patagonia and its geology at the age of 81; the abiding interest in East Asia and the laser insights that helped him resolve the knottiest diplomatic problems- - in Korea, in Hong Kong, in Indonesia and Australia. His sheer, irrepressible bounce compelled us to love him and follow him naturally in that wondrous parade he and Lisa led through Asia for forty years."
"Perhaps as he strode down the sixth fairway, carrying his clubs as usual, he reflected on Jakarta of the sixties, tried to think of ways to improve our relations with Korea, China and Japan, calculated his and his son Mark's score, and hatched a new pun. We can be sure that he lived his last moments as he always had: fully engaged, firing on all twelve cylinders."
Philander P. Claxton. "Marshall recognized from his own observations in countries where he served and travelled that the burden and danger of rapid population growth was not just the old Malthusian warning of population growth exceeding food supply; it was the massive destruction of the environment. It was the wide unemployment and underemployment caused by immense and increasing numbers of young people moving into the job market for whom there were no jobs. The greatest dangerous consequence was the overcrowding of cities in the developing world, cities doubling in population every 15-20 year's, their teeming slums even faster."
"It is difficult, perhaps impossible,
to choose from Marshall's lifetime of devoted and highly effective public
service any phase which can be said to transcend others. I do believe,
however, from some 50 years--a half century--of friendship with Marshall
and observance of his career that his last 22 years, trying and succeeding
to help hundreds of millions of people all over the world to control their
fertility, truly capped his career."
Marshall throughout his life looked back to and blessed his Groton roots. He sent two sons to Groton and in 1990 gave the commencement address. Of the many who have gone on from Groton to lives of public service he deserves to be remembered and honored with the best.