Rick Marshall donated Marshall Park to the City of Raleigh in honor of his father, Lt. Col. George Frederick Marshall. In 1942, when Rick was two years old, Colonel Marshall was killed in the invasion of Oran in northern Africa. Rick’s grief-stricken 26-year-old mother, Dahlis Marshall, wrote a letter pleading for details about Colonel Marshall’s tragic death. The letter eventually made its way to Leo Disher, a United Press War Correspondant, who accompanied Marshall and his troop. Mr. Disher had suffered numerous bullet and shrapnel wounds while covering the attack. He was recovering in a hospital in England when he received the letter from Mrs. Marshall. Leo Disher remembered Marshall well, commenting in one report that “[he] was lean and bronzed, almost too young for the Colonel’s insignia on his shoulders, but he spoke with a crisp authority that made me forget he was only 31.”
The exchange of letters between Mrs. Marshall and Leo Disher portray both the horrors and heroics of World War II.
“When in time our two little boys are old enough to be told, they will be very proud and I should so like to be able to answer all their questions.”
Excerpt from a letter from Mrs. Dahlis Marshall
“Yes, Mrs. Marshall they will be very proud, and you can tell them he was a slim, straight silhouette against the red flashes of the guns. You can tell them that when he gave the order to throw the grenades—to attack a war ship with hand grenades—his voice was calm above the chatter of the machine gun under his arm.
You can tell your sons, Mrs. Marshall, that their father kept stabbing back until the last while the flames of our burning ship broke around him and shells tore away pieces of the bridge where he stood…striking back against guns so close it almost seemed we could touch them.
You need never fear the boys’ questions, Mrs. Marshall. You can tell them their father tackled a job of greatest importance to the success of our armies and that he never quit fighting against impossible odds, and that he never struck the ship’s colors.
I hope this letter may help a little. But it is wrong for you to say you are asking a great deal of me. You are one of whom a great deal was asked and proudly given. You and a great many others at home.’’
Excerpt from a western union telegram from leo disher
LT. COL. GEORGE F. MARSHALL
was born in Jacksonville, Florida, November 22, 1910. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating June 12, 1935. After serving in several capacities in the United States and overseas, he was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia. It was there that his two sons, George Frederick “Rick” and Michael Playfair, were born. In mid-1942, Marshall was transferred to Northern Ireland and promoted to the grade of lieutenant colonel in his capacity as Battalion Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, 1st Armored Division. Lt. Col. George F. Marshall was killed in action on November 8, 1942, while commanding his battalion during a raid on the Port of Oran, Algeria. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.