Professor Megan Marshall published a piece in The New Yorker, “The Second Man in the Front Row: A Forgotten Story of the First World War,” about her grandparents’ time in Paris during World War I.
Joe Marshall joined the Army in 1917 as an interpreter for General Pershing, and swiftly became press officer, eventually working his way up to captain. He was allowed to bring his wife, Elizabeth, to Paris with him, and so the newlyweds started their life and family in war-torn France.
Megan Marshall, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, said she didn’t really know her grandfather, who suffered from dementia during his later years, until she started going through his papers.
What I’d discovered of my grandparents’ lives in their letters was so much more impressive, so much more interesting, than anything I’d imagined. Why had I not heard any of these stories? Why had I not searched for them sooner in the brown cardboard boxes that arrived from California in the late eighties, after they had died? I’d stacked the boxes in an attic closet and left them there while I read the letters of people unrelated to me and wrote up their lives instead.