Alexander Vandegrift

Infobox Military Person
name= Alexander Archer Vandegrift
born= birth date|1887|03|13
died= death date and age|1973|05|08|1887|03|13
placeofbirth= Charlottesville, Virginia
placeofdeath= Bethesda, Maryland
placeofburial= Arlington National Cemetery

caption= 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps (1944-1947)
nickname= Archie [Crocker(2006): 298.]
allegiance= United States of America
branch= United States Marine Corps
serviceyears= 1909-1949
rank= General
commands=1st Marine Division 1st Marine Amphibious Corps Commandant of the Marine Corps
battles= Capture of Cayotepe United States occupation of Veracruz The Banana Wars World War II *Battle of Guadalcanal *Battle of Empress Augusta Bay
awards=Medal of Honor Navy Cross Navy Distinguished Service Medal

General Alexander Archer Vandegrift (March 13, 1887 – May 8, 1973) was a General in the United States Marine Corps. He commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in the Battle of Guadalcanal; for his actions at Guadalcanal, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Vandegrift later served as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps; and was the first Marine to hold the rank of four-star general while on active duty. [cite web
title=USMC 4 Star Generals
work=The Warfighter's Encyclopedia


Vandegrift was born on March 13, 1887 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended the University of Virginia and was commissioned in the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant on January 22, 1909.

The Banana Wars

Following instruction at the Marine Officers' School, Port Royal, South Carolina, and a tour of duty at the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he went to foreign shore duty in the Caribbean area. He participated in the bombardment, assault, and capture of Coyotepe in Nicaragua. He further participated in the engagement and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico.

In December 1914, following his promotion to first lieutenant, he attended the Advance Base Course at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia. Upon completion of schooling, he sailed for Haiti with the 1st Marines and participated in action against hostile Cacos bandits at Le Trou and Fort Capois, Haiti.

In August 1916, he was promoted to captain and became a member of the Haitian Constabulary at Port Au Prince, where he remained until detached to the United States in December 1918. He returned to Haiti again in July 1919 to serve with the Gendarmerie d'Haiti as an Inspector of Constabulary. He was promoted to major in June 1920.


Major Vandegrift returned to the U.S. in April 1923 and was assigned to the Marine Barracks, MCB Quantico, Virginia. He completed the Field Officers' Course, Marine Corps Schools in May 1926. He then was transferred to the Marine Corps Base San Diego, California as Assistant Chief of Staff.

In February 1927, he sailed for China where he served as Operations and Training Officer of the 3rd Marines with Headquarters at Tientsin. He was ordered to Washington, D.C., in September 1928 where he became Assistant Chief Coordinator, Bureau of the Budget.

Following duty in Washington, he joined the Marine Barracks, Quantico, where he became Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 Section, Fleet Marine Force (FMF). During this assignment, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in June 1934.

Ordered to China in June 1935, LtCol Vandegrift served successively as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in Peiping. Promoted to colonel in September 1936, Col Vandegrift reported to Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC), Washington, D.C. in June 1937, where he became Military Secretary to the Major General Commandant. In March 1940, he was appointed Assistant to the Major General Commandant, and the following month was promoted to brigadier general.

World War II

Brigadier General Vandegrift was detached to the 1st Marine Division in November 1941, shortly before the United States of America entered World War II. He was promoted to major general in March 1942 and sailed for the South Pacific Area that May as commanding general of the first Marine division to ever leave the shores of the United States. On August 7, 1942, in the Solomon Islands, he led ashore the 1st Marine Division in the first large-scale offensive action against the Japanese. For outstanding service as Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division during the attack on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu in the Solomon Islands, he was awarded the Navy Cross and for the subsequent occupation and defense from August 7, to December 9, 1942, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

In July 1943, he assumed command of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps and commanded this organization in the landing at Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, Northern Solomon Islands, on November 1, 1943. Upon establishing the initial beachhead, he relinquished command and returned to Washington, D.C. as Commandant-designate.

Commandant of the Marine Corps

On January 1, 1944, as a lieutenant general, he was sworn in as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps. On April 4, 1945, he was appointed general, with date of rank from March 21, 1945, the first Marine officer on active duty to attain four-star rank.

During his tenure as Commandant, the Marine Corps faced institutional threats from Army efforts to absorb the mission of the Marines. Though the Navy was sympathetic to the Marine Corps's predicament, it was ready to accept the diminishment of the Corps in exchange for keeping Naval Aviation from consolidation attempts by the Air Force. The post-war discussions on the restructuring of the American defense establishment opened the door to diminishing the mission and role of the Marine Corps in the new defense structure. Proponents of such cuts included President Harry Truman and General Dwight Eisenhower. In this power struggle, the Marine Corps aligned itself with Congress, warning against the encroachment on civilian oversight within the Army proposals.cite book
last = Krulak
first = Victor H.
authorlink = Victor H. Krulak
coauthors =
title = First To Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps
publisher = Naval Institute Press
year = 1984
location = Annapolis, Maryland
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-87021-785-2
Chapter 7, "The Marines' Push Button" 113-119]

To cinch the support of Congress, Commandant Vandegrift delivered the famous "bended knee speech" on May 6, 1946. In it, he stated

The Marine Corps, then, believes that it has earned this right—to have its future decided by the legislative body which created it—nothing more. Sentiment is not a valid consideration in determining questions of national security. We have pride in ourselves and in our past, but we do not rest our case on any presumed ground of gratitude owing us from the Nation. The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps. If the Marine as a fighting man has not made a case for himself after 170 years of service, he must go. But I think you will agree with me that he has earned the right to depart with dignity and honor, not by subjugation to the status of uselessness and servility planned for him by the War Department. [cite web
last = Vandegrift
first = Alexander
coauthors =
title = Bended Knee Speech
work =
publisher = United States Marine Corps
date = 2006-05-06
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2006-07-18
] .

For outstanding service as Commandant of the Marine Corps from January 1, 1944 to June 30, 1946, Gen Vandegrift was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. He left active service on December 31, 1947 and was placed on the retired list on April 1, 1949.

General Vandegrift died May 8, 1973 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, after a long illness. His interment was on May 10, 1973 at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

:For outstanding and heroic accomplishment above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division in operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands during the period August 7, to December 9, 1942. With the adverse factors of weather, terrain, and disease making his task a difficult and hazardous undertaking, and with his command eventually including sea, land, and air forces of Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Major General Vandegrift achieved marked success in commanding the initial landings of the United States forces in the Solomon Islands and in their subsequent occupation. His tenacity, courage, and resourcefulness prevailed against a strong, determined, and experienced enemy, and the gallant fighting spirit of the men under his inspiring leadership enabled them to withstand aerial, land, and sea bombardment, to surmount all obstacles, and leave a disorganized and ravaged enemy. This dangerous but vital mission, accomplished at the constant risk of his life, resulted in securing a valuable base for further operations of our forces against the enemy, and its successful completion reflects great credit upon Major General Vandegrift, his command, and the United States Naval Service.


Decorations, medals, and honors

*Medal of Honor
*Navy Cross
*Distinguished Service Medal
*Presidential Unit Citation (US) with one bronze star;
*Navy Unit Commendation with one bronze star
*Expeditionary Medal with three bronze stars
*Nicaraguan Campaign Medal
*Mexican Service Medal
*Haitian Campaign Medal with one star
*World War I Victory Medal with West Indies Clasp and one star
*Yangtze Service Medal
*American Defense Service Medal
*Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars
*American Campaign Medal
*World War II Victory Medal

He received the following foreign decorations:
*Haitian Distinguished Service Medal
*Medaille Militaire with one silver star, Haiti
* Honorary Knight Commander, Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
* Companion (Honorary) of the Military Division of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath
*Cruz de Aviacion de Primera Clase, Peru
*Abdon Calderon of the 1st Class, Ecuador
* Knights Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords, Netherlands
*the Order of Pao-Tine (Precious Tripod) with Special Clasp, China
*Legion of Honor (Grand Officer), France.

Namesake and honors

General Vandegrift held an honorary degree of Doctor of Military Science from Pennsylvania Military College, and honorary degrees of Doctor of Law from Harvard, Colgate, Brown, Columbia, and Maryland Universities and John Marshall College.

In 1982, the frigate, USS "Vandegrift" (FFG-48) was named in his honor.

The main street that runs through Camp Pendleton is named Vandegrift Blvd in his honor.

ee also




*cite book
last = Crocker
first = H.W.
coauthors =
year = 2006
title = Don't Tread on me: A 400-year history of America at War, from Indian Fighting to Terrorist Hunting
publisher = Crown Forum
location =
id = ISBN 1-40005-363-3


* [ Navy Historic Center Biography of Alexander Vandegrift]
* [ US Marine Corps biography of Alexander Vandegrift]

NAME= Vandegrift, Alexander
SHORT DESCRIPTION= United States Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient

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