Virginia Hall was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 6, 1906. She was the youngest child of Edwin Lee Hall and Barbara Virginia Hammel. Nicknamed “Dindy” by family and friends, Virginia graduated from Roland Park Country Day School in Baltimore. From 1924 to 1926, she attended Radcliffe (Harvard University’s college for women) before going on to Barnard (Columbia University’s college for women). She attended graduate school at the American University in Washington, D.C. A self-confident and outgoing young person, Virginia participated in high school drama productions and was the editor of her college paper and president of her class.
She may well have inherited her love of adventure from her father who stowed away on her grandfather’s clipper ship when he was nine. Virginia’s parents took her to Europe for the first time in 1909 and she would go back as often as she could. As a college student, Virginia studied at the Ecole des Sciences Politiques in Paris, the Konsularakademie in Vienna, and completed brief stints at universities in Strasbourg, Grenoble, and Toulouse. While studying in Europe, Virginia mastered both French and German, although she could never quite rid herself of a slight American accent.
Virginia Hall is awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Bill Donovan, chief of Office of Strategic Services on September 23, 1945. (Photo courtesy: CIA Museum)
Before she ended up at the top of the Gestapo’s most wanted list in Nazi-occupied France, Virginia Hall spent seven years in the U.S. Foreign Service working as a consular clerk in Poland, Turkey, Italy, and Estonia. After she failed to pass the difficult U.S. Foreign Service exam on her first and second tries in December 1929 and July 1930, Virginia decided to get some practical on-the-job experience by working at U.S. missions overseas. As a result, she joined the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw in July 1931 as a consular clerk. She worked there until April 1933 when she transferred to the U.S. Consulate in the Turkish port city of Smyrna (present day Izmir).
Virginia always had a keen sense of adventure. A great lover of the outdoors, she enjoyed hiking, hunting, and horseback riding. But while serving in Turkey, Virginia suffered an unfortunate hunting accident. On December 8, 1933, her shotgun misfired as she was climbing over a fence, leaving her left foot in tatters. While her colleagues managed to get her to a local hospital in time to save her life, gangrene had already set in. The American doctor who treated her was forced to amputate her left leg below the knee. After her condition stabilized, she transferred to the American Hospital in Istanbul in January 1934. By February, she was able to travel back to the United States to continue treatment. In her home town of Baltimore, Virginia was fitted with a custom prosthetic and started learning how to walk all over again. She named her new leg “Cuthbert.”
By September 1934, Virginia was ready to get back to work. She wrote the U.S. Department of State asking to be reinstated and listed, Spain, Estonia, and Peru as her top three choices for her next assignment. How the small U.S. Legation in Tallinn made it to the top of her bid list is not quite clear. But by the late 1920s, Estonia already had a reputation in U.S. Foreign Service circles as being a very nice place to work. As there were no positions available for consular clerks where she wanted to go, Virginia was offered a position at the U.S. Consulate in Venice instead. By December 1934, she was back at work.
In Venice, Virginia tried once again to pursue her dream of joining the U.S. Foreign Service. But the odds were against her. At that time, only six out of the 1,500 or so commissioned U.S. Foreign Service officers were women. And those six women had to be single. If they got married, regulations required that they resign their commissions. In 1937, Virginia asked to complete the U.S. Foreign Service exam a third time, a process she had begun while stationed in Warsaw. To her great dismay, she received a rejection letter from the U.S. Department of State explaining that regulations required that all applicants be “able-bodied.” Virginia’s amputation, the letter went on to explain, “is a cause for rejection, and it would not be possible for Miss Hall to qualify for entry into the Service under these regulations.”
Stunned, Virginia tried to appeal the decision. Hoping that a change of location might do her some good, Virginia accepted an opening at the U.S. Legation in Tallinn where she arrived in June 1938. Under the supervision of U.S. Consul Walter A. Leonard and Vice Consul Montgomery H. Colladay, Virginia worked once again as a consular clerk. She was in Tallinn on November 24, 1938 when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary John C. Wiley presented his credentials to State Elder Konstantin Päts – although Virginia would not have been allowed to attend the ceremony as a simple Foreign Service clerk.
From Tallinn, Virginia launched her final appeal to Assistant Secretary of State G. Howland Shaw requesting a waiver to take the Foreign Service exam. When her appeal was turned down, Virginia decided that it time to leave the U.S. Foreign Service. The routine life of a consular clerk in a nice, quite post like Tallinn simply did not offer enough of a challenge. Virginia resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service and left Estonia for Paris in May 1939 in search of something greater. In France, Virginia would find her true calling, where her twin “handicaps” of being both a woman and an amputee would not matter.
After her dreams of joining the U.S. Foreign Service were crushed, Virginia spent the summer of 1939 in Paris trying to figure out what to do with her life. Hitler’s September 1, 1939 invasion of Poland provided the answer for her. Right after France declared war on Germany on September 3, Virginia decided to follow in Ernest Hemingway’s Great War footsteps by enlisting in the French ambulance corps known as the Services Sanitaires de l’Armee as a private. During the so-called “Phony War” which lasted from September 1939 to May 1940 when the French and Germans fought only minor skirmishes, Virginia received first aid training and began her work as an ambulance driver. The job evacuating casualties from the front lines was not easy, especially as Virginia had to drive an ambulance with her wooden leg. But all hell finally broke loose on May 10 when the Germans turned their full military might on France. From that day until the fall of Paris on June 14, Virginia worked almost around the clock evacuating the wounded to relative safety.
After France surrendered to Nazi Germany on June 22, Virginia found herself stuck in occupied France. Disgusted by the Nazi regime and their policies directed against European Jews, Virginia decided that the best way for her to continue fighting the good fight would be to go to England. Thanks for her U.S. passport; she made her way to London via neutral Spain in August 1940. When she checked in at the U.S. Embassy, Virginia was immediately asked to debrief the staff about the situation in occupied France. In September, she was hired by the U.S. Defense Attaché’s Office. But Virginia did not want to end up right where she started, working as a clerk at a U.S. mission. After surviving the Battle of Britain and the Luftwaffe’s round-the-clock bombings of London which lasted from July to October 1940, Virginia was all the more convinced that she wanted to take the war to the Germans.
On February 26, 1941, Virginia resigned her position at the U.S. Embassy in London as a code clerk stating that she was “seeking other employment.” What Virginia failed to mention is that she had been recruited by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). After completing the elite SOE’s demanding agent training program, Virginia became an SOE special agent in April 1941. She then spent the summer planning her deployment in Vichy France. Virginia, codenamed Germaine, arrived in France on August 23, 1941 assuming the identity of Brigitte LeContre, a French-American reporter for the New York Post. While the SOE usually kept its agents in the field for just six months, Virginia spent the next fifteen months working in Lyon organizing, funding, supplying, and arming the French resistance. She rescued downed Allied airmen, making sure they made it safely back to England. She oversaw SOE parachute drop, designed to supply resistance fighters. She organized sabotage attacks against German supply lines. She engineered POW escapes from German and Vichy French prisons and camps. She served as a liaison for other SOE agents operating in southern France.
Virginia did her job so well that she came to the attention of both the French Vichy Police and the German Gestapo. Because Virginia was a master of evasion and disguise, they never quite managed to figure out who Germaine was. But the Nazi authorities had enough information on her that they were looking for a “French-Canadian” nicknamed la dame qui boite – the Lady with the Limp. When U.S. and British forces invaded North Africa in November 1942, the fiction that was known as Vichy France came to an abrupt end. German troops took full control of the rest of France. The infamous Klaus Barbie assumed control over the Gestapo in former Vichy territorities. “The Butcher of Lyon” – as he would become known – launched a nation-wide hunt to find Virginia, complete with want ads and posters. The Nazis code-named Virginia Artemis. Barbie is reputed to have told his staff: “I would give anything to lay my hands on that Canadian bitch.”
But by the time Barbie arrived in Lyon, Virginia had vanished. Despite the winter snows and her wooden leg, Virginia hiked all the way across the Pyrenees and into Spain. After being imprisoned in Spain for twenty days for lacking the proper documentation for entry, Virginia made it back to London in time for Christmas dinner where she was greeted by her SOE colleagues as a hero. Not content to sit around, Virginia wanted to get back out into the field.
But now that Virginia was at the top of the Gestapo’s most wanted list, the SOE thought that it was much too dangerous to send her back to occupied France. Virginia’s next assignment took her to Madrid in May 1943 where she worked undercover as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Her job was to run a network of safe houses. But Spain was too far from the front lines for Virginia’s liking. She transferred back to London and spent her free time how to become a radio operator. In July 1943, Virginia was made a Member of the British Empire for her outstanding contributions to the Allied war effort. She declined to accept the medal from King George VI for fear it would blow her cover.
As the SOE refused to send her back behind German lines, Virginia set out to find someone who would. On March 10, 1944, Virginia joined the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) with the grudging approval of the SOE. By the end of the month, Virginia (now code-named Diane) was back in France disguised as an old lady. She was taken to the coast of Bretagne by a wooden speed boat under the cover of darkness. She and a fellow agent landed on the shore in a rubber dinghy. After transiting through Paris, Virginia set up operations in a village south of Paris named Maidou where she monitored and reported on German troop movements. As the Germans had sophisticated radio detection equipment, the job of an undercover radio operator was incredibly dangerous. When the Gestapo began to close in, Virginia moved further south to the town of Cosne where she set up operations in May 1944. With the Allied invasion of France drawing near, OSS agent Diane received new orders to organize the local French Résistance forces. Having already done this in Lyon for the SOE, Virginia knew exactly what to do. She went to work contacting the French Résistance network and arranging for weapons, supplies, and other agents to be dropped behind enemy lines.
By the time Allied troops landed in Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944, Virginia and her men were ready. They sabotaged supply lines, attacked German troops, and caused enough chaos behind enemy lines to hinder movements to the north of France. All over France, other OSS- and SOE-led French Résistance groups were doing exactly the same. When Allied troops hit the beaches of southern France on August 16, 1944, Virginia and her fellow agents switched tactics. What had been a guerilla war intended to harass and disrupt German forces became an all out war. On August 26, Virginia and her French Résistance troops accepted the surrender of the German southern command at Le Chambon. As the war in France was winding down, Virginia was instructed to coordinate another parachute drop on September 4. One of the men who arrived as part of the drop was a French-American lieutenant named Paul Goillot who called both Paris and New York home. While it was almost love at first sight, there was still a war to be won.
After clearing their zone of any resistance, Virginia, Paul, and several of their colleagues left Cosne on September 13 looking for more Germans to fight. By September 25, they made it to Paris which had been liberated the month before. After they reporting in, the OSS congratulated Virginal and her team on a job well done and pulled them out of the field.
Although it looked like the war would soon be over, the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 to January 1945) made it clear that the final battle for Germany would be long and hard. As a result, Virginia and Paul volunteered for another dangerous mission, this one behind German lines in Austria. On April 25, Virginia’s new OSS team was in position in Switzerland, waiting for their orders to cross the border. But on May 2, the mission was scrubbed. Six days later, Germany surrendered to the Allies. The war in Europe was finally over.
Already a British hero for her work with the SOE, Virginia became an American hero when she received the Distinguished Service Cross on September 23, 1945 for her work with the OSS. In a letter to President Harry S Truman, General William J. Donovan wrote: “Miss Virginia Hall, an American civilian working for this agency in the European Theatre of Operations, has been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against the enemy. We understand that Miss Hall is the first civilian woman in this war to receive the DSC. Despite the fact that she was well known to the Gestapo, Miss Hall voluntarily returned to France in March 1944 to assist in sabotage operations against the Germans.” Although President Truman wanted to present the award at a public ceremony, Virginia insisted on protecting her cover. So instead, General Donovan – who earned both the Medal of Honor and the DSC while in command of the famous “Fighting Irish” regiment during the First World War – gave Virginia her DSC at a private ceremony attended only by her mother.
Always modest, Virginia’s only comment on receiving America’s second highest award for bravery is said to have been: “Not bad for a girl from Baltimore.”
Back in the United States after the war, Virginia tried to join the U.S. Foreign Service one more time in March 1946 after President Truman dissolved the OSS. But she was turned down once again – this time because of “budgetary cutbacks.” As a result, Virginia ended up joining the recently created Central Intelligence Group which would eventually evolve into the Central Intelligence Agency. Virginia spent a good part of 1947 and 1948 working in the field in Europe. After her return to the U.S., she worked for the CIA’s National Committee for Free Europe in New York City where she lived with her long-time love, Paul Goillot. The two would finally get married in 1950. While Virginia wanted to stay out in the field, the CIA put her to work as an analyst in the Office of Policy Coordination in Washington in December 1951. Working a variety of jobs at the agency, Virginia was the first woman to become a member of the CIA’s Career Staff in 1956. She left ten years later when she reached the mandatory retirement age of sixty.
Living on her farm in Barnestown, Maryland, Virginia enjoyed reading, bird-watching, gardening, weaving, and her pet poodles. She died on July 12, 1982 in Rockville, Maryland at the age of 76. Virginia’s wartime exploits are meticulously documented in Judith L. Pearson’s The Wolves at the Door: the True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy (2005).
(Resources used for this article come from the following:
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Pearson, Judith L.The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy. Lyons Press, 2005.
- Kramer, Ann Women Wartime Spies. MJF Books, Fine Communications, 2011
- This article is excerpted in part from the “Clandestine Women: The Untold Stories of Women in Espionage” Exhibition, produced by the National Women’s History Museum, Annandale, Virginia, in 2002.
- ”Virginia Hall,” Central Intelligence Agency, n.d., http://www.cia.gov/cia/ciakids/history/vhall.html.
- “We must find and destroy her,” S. News, 27 January 2003
- PHOTO; CIA
December 7, 1941
As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of this “date which will live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it on December 8, 1941, explore six little known facts about the USS Arizona and the attack that plunged America into war.
- At 6:54 a. m. (Hawaii Time) The USS Ward sunk a Japanese midget submarine near the entrance to Pearl Harbor.
At the beginning of World War II, Captain William Outerbridge skippered the USS Ward, a re-commissioned ship built during the World War I period. Reportedly in his first command and on his first patrol off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, Outerbridge and the USS Ward detected a Japanese two-man midget submarine near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The USS Ward detected the midget sub at 6:45 AM and sank it at 6:54 AM, firing the first shots in defense of the U.S. in World War II. Captain Outerbridge was reportedly awarded the Navy Cross for Heroism.
(Sub was located 2002 exactly at location in Outerbridge’s report.)
- At 7:55 a.m. (Hawaii Time) – The United States of America was plunged into World War II
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time (12:55 p.m. EST) on December 7, 1941, Japanese fighter planes attacked the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, launching one of the deadliest attacks in American history. The assault, which lasted less than two hours, claimed the lives of more than 2,500 people, wounded 1,000 more and damaged or destroyed 18 American ships and nearly 300 airplanes. Almost half of the casualties at Pearl Harbor occurred on the naval battleship USS Arizona, which was hit four times by Japanese bombers.
- Twenty-three sets of brothers died aboard the USS Arizona.
There were 37 confirmed pairs or trios of brothers assigned to the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941. Of these 77 men, 62 were killed, and 23 sets of brothers died. Only one full set of brothers, Kenneth and Russell Warriner, survived the attack; Kenneth was away at flight school in San Diego on that day and Russell was badly wounded but recovered. Both members of the ship’s only father-and-son pair, Thomas Augusta Free and his son William Thomas Free, were killed in action. Though family members often served on the same ship before World War II, U.S. officials attempted to discourage the practice after Pearl Harbor. However, no official regulations were established, and by the end of the war hundreds of brothers had fought—and died,—together. The five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa, for instance, jointly enlisted after learning that a friend, Bill Ball, had died aboard the USS Arizona; Their only condition upon enlistment was that they be assigned to the same ship. In November 1942, all five siblings were killed in action when their light cruiser, the USS Juneau, was sunk during the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
Almost half of the casualties at Pearl Harbor occurred on the naval battleship USS Arizona, which was hit four times by Japanese bombers and eventually sank. Among the 1,177 crewmen killed were all 21 members of the Arizona’s band, known as U.S. Navy Band Unit (NBU) 22. Most of its members were up on deck preparing to play music for the daily flag raising ceremony when the attack began. They instantly moved to man their battle positions beneath the ship’s gun turret. At no other time in American history has an entire military band died in action.
- Fuel continues to leak from the USS Arizona’s wreckage.
December 6, 1941, the USS Arizona took on a full load of fuel—nearly 1.5 million gallons—in preparation for its scheduled trip to the mainland later that month. The next day, much of it fed the explosion and subsequent fires that destroyed the ship following
its attack by Japanese bombers. While the USS Duncan was in at Pearl Harbor for refitting and repairs, Roy Boehm, a 17 year old Navy hardhat diver, was tasked with salvaging the sunken USS Arizona and diving to recover corpses and ammunition. (Boehm would continue in the Navy and eventually be asked by President John F. Kennedy to form the SEALs, thus becoming the First SEAL.)
However, despite the raging fire and ravages of time, some 500,000 gallons are still slowly seeping out of the ship’s submerged wreckage: Nearly 70 years after its demise, the USS Arizona continues to spill up to 9 quarts of oil into the harbor each day. In the mid-1990s, environmental concerns led the National Park Service (NPS) to commission a series of site studies to determine the long-term effects of the oil leakage.
Some scientists have warned of a possible “catastrophic” eruption of oil from the wreckage, which they believe would cause extensive damage to the Hawaiian shoreline and disrupt U.S. naval functions in the area. The NPS and other governmental agencies continue to monitor the deterioration of the wreck site but are reluctant to perform extensive repairs or modifications due to the Arizona’s role as a “war grave.” In fact, the oil that often coats the surface of the water surrounding the ship has added an emotional gravity for many who visit the memorial and is sometimes referred to as the “tears of the Arizona,” or “black tears.”
- Some former crew-members have chosen the USS Arizona as their final resting place.
The bonds between the crew-members of the USS Arizona have lasted far beyond the ship’s loss on December 7, 1941. Since 1982, the U.S. Navy has allowed survivors of the USS Arizona to be interred in the ship’s wreckage upon their deaths. Following a full military funeral at the Arizona memorial, the cremated remains are placed in an urn and then deposited by divers beneath one of the Arizona’s gun turrets. To date, more than 30 Arizona crewmen who survived Pearl Harbor have chosen the ship as their final resting place. Crew-members who served on the ship prior to the attack may have their ashes scattered above the wreck site, and those who served on other vessels stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, may have their ashes scattered above their former ships. There are 6 living survivors as of today, 28 Sep 2016. Several have decided to be buried on the Arizona.
After the USS Arizona sank, its superstructure and main armament were salvaged and reused to support the war effort, leaving its hull, two gun turrets and the remains of more than 1,000 crewmen submerged in less than 40 feet of water. In 1949 the Pacific War Memorial Commission was established to create a permanent tribute to those who had lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it was not until 1958 that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation to create a national memorial. The funds to build it came from both the public sector and private donors, including one unlikely source. In March 1961, entertainer Elvis Presley, who had recently finished a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor’s Block Arena that raised over $50,000—more than 10 percent of the USS Arizona Memorial’s final cost. The monument was officially dedicated on May 30, 1962, and attracts more than 1 million visitors each year.
It was at last my senior year in high school. We were so excited to be graduating at the end of this school year. We had several new teachers that year because the school had enlarged. One of the new teachers was a Chemistry teacher named Mr. Outerbridge. None of us knew at the time he would change our lives as he had the lives of many others 30 years prior.
Let me introduce you to Mr. Outerbridge. He was an older gentleman probably about mid 70’s in age. He always had a lot of neat stories to tell when we completed our chemistry lessons for the day. William Woodward Outerbridge was born in Hong Kong, China, on 14 April 1906. He matriculated at MMI from Middleport, Ohio, and graduated from the high school program in 1923. A member of “E” Company, he was a cadet private and held membership in the Yankee Club and, ironically, in the Stonewall Jackson Literary Society. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, in the Class of 1927.
One day in December he told us we would take a break from Chemistry. He needed to tell us a true story about himself and Pearl Harbor. Of course all of us thought we knew all about Pearl Harbor since we have been taught about that since our earliest memories. Little did we know we had a true war hero in our midst. That man was Captain William Woodward Outerbridge, Captain of the USS Ward. The Ward was advised by the USS CONDOR that a mini-sub was headed to the entry channel of the port of Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.
At the beginning of World War II, Captain Outerbridge skippered the USS Ward, a recommissioned ship built during the World War I period. Reportedly in his first command and on his first patrol off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, Outerbridge and the USS Ward detected a Japanese two-man midget submarine near the entrance to Pearl Harbor. The USS Ward detected the midget sub at 6:45 AM and sank it at 6:54 AM, firing the first shots in defense of the U.S. in World War II. Captain Outerbridge was reportedly awarded the Navy Cross for Heroism.
Noted for firing the first shots in defense of the United States during World War II – just prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor – then Captain William W. Outerbridge served as the skipper of the destroyer USS Ward. He reported the action and the sinking of the submarine before the attack by Japan.
During World War II, Captain Outerbridge served in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, taking part in operations at Pearl Harbor, Normandy and Cherbourg, France, and at Ormoc, Mindoro, Lingayon Gulf and Okinawa. He also participated in the carrier task force strikes against Tokyo and the Japanese mainland.
Outerbridge later both attended and taught at the Naval War College; he also taught at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. William Outerbridge retired from the Navy in 1957 as a Rear Admiral (RADM).
RADM Outerbridge married the former Grace Fulwood of Tifton, Georgia. They were the parents of three sons. The Admiral died on 20 September 1986. His last address was Tifton, Georgia.
In 2002, the submarine was discovered in 1200 feet of water off Pearl Harbor with the shell holes in the coning tower confirmed Outerbridge’s report.
(This information is presented from this author’s personal conversations with RADM Outerbridge, from her notes and from personal research. Additional information may be located in the Eisenhower Library Papers, the USN Archives re: investigation of the sinking of the mini sub.)
U.S. Marine Corps 1942-1945
U.S. Army Reserve 1946-1949
Iowa Air National Guard 1949-1951
U.S. Air Force 1951-1977
World War II 1942-1945
Cold War 1945-1977
Korean War 1953
Vietnam War 1967-1973 (POW)
Bud Day was born on February 24, 1925, in Sioux City, Iowa. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on December 10, 1942, and spent 30 months in the South Pacific during World War II before receiving an honorable discharge on November 24, 1945.
After the war, Day joined the U.S. Army Reserve on December 11, 1946, and served until December 10, 1949. He was appointed a 2d Lt in the Iowa Air National Guard on May 17, 1950, and went on active duty in the U.S. Air Force on March 15, 1951.
Lt Day completed pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Webb AFB, Texas, in September 1952, and completed All-Weather Interceptor School and Gunnery School in December 1952. He served as an F-84 Thunder jet pilot with the 559th Strategic Fighter Squadron of the 12th Strategic Fighter Wing at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, from February 1953 to August 1955, with deployments to Omisawa, Japan, during this time in support of the Korean War.
His next assignment was as an F-84 and F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 55th Fighter Bomber Squadron of the 20th Fighter Bomber Wing and later on the wing staff at RAF Wethersfield, England, from August 1955 to June 1959, followed by service as an Assistant Professor of Aerospace Science at the Air Force ROTC detachment at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, from June 1959 to August 1963. During his service in England, he became the first person ever to live through a no-chute bailout from a jet fighter.
CPT Day attended Armed Forces Staff College for Counterinsurgency Indoctrination training at Norfolk, Virginia, from August 1963 to January 1964, and then served as an Air Force Advisor to the New York Air National Guard at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport, New York, from January 1964 to April 1967.
MAJ Day then deployed to Southeast Asia, serving first as an F-100 Assistant Operations Officer at Tuy Hoa AB, South Vietnam, before organizing and serving as the first commander of the Misty Super FACs at Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam, from June 1967 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on August 26, 1967. He managed to escape from his captors and make it into South Vietnam before being recaptured and taken to Hanoi. After spending 2,028 days in captivity, COL Day was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at March AFB, California, and then received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his PhD in Political Science at Arizona State University from August 1973 to July 1974.
His final assignment was as an F-4 Phantom II pilot and Vice Commander of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, from September 1974 until his retirement from the Air Force on December 9, 1977. MISTY 1, Col Bud Day, died on July 27, 2013, and was buried at Barrancas National Cemetery at NAS Pensacola, Florida.
His Medal of Honor Citation reads:
On 26 August 1967, Col. Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Ben Hai River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
Ira Hamilton Hayes, participant in the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima, was a Pima Indian, born at Sacaton, Arizona, on 12 January 1923. In 1932, the family moved a few miles southward to Bapchule. Both Sacaton and Bapchule are located within the boundaries of the Gila River Indian Reservation in south central Arizona. Hayes left high school after completing two years of study. He served in the Civilian Conservation Corps in May and June of 1942, and then went to work as a carpenter.
On 26 August 1942, Ira Hayes enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve at Phoenix for the duration of the National Emergency. Following boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, Hayes was assigned to the Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie, Marine Corps Base, San Diego. Graduated one month later, the Arizonan was qualified as a parachutist on 30 November and promoted to private first class the next day. On 2 December, he joined Company B, 3rd Parachute Battalion, Divisional Special Troops, 3rd Marine Division, at Camp Elliott, California, with which he sailed for Noumea, New Caledonia, on 14 March 1943.
In April, Hayes’ unit was redesignated Company K, 3rd Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment. In October Hayes sailed for Vella Lavella, arriving on the 14th. Here, he took part in the campaign and occupation of that island until 3 December when he moved north to Bougainville, arriving on the 4th. The campaign there was already underway, but the parachutists had a full share of fighting before they left on 15 January 1944.
Hayes was ordered to return to the United States where he landed at San Diego on 14 February 1944, after slightly more than 11 months overseas and two campaigns. The parachute units were disbanded in February, and Hayes was transferred to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, of the 5th Marine Division, then at Camp Pendleton, California.
In September, Hayes sailed with his company for Hawaii for more training. He sailed from Hawaii in January en route to Iwo Jima where he landed on D-day (19 February 1945) and remained during the fighting until 26 March. Then he embarked for Hawaii where he boarded a plane for the U.S. on 15 April. On the 19th, he joined Company C, 1st Headquarters Battalion, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.
On 10 May, Hayes, Private First Class Gagnon, Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class Bradley, and Marine Technical Sergeant Keyes Beech, a combat correspondent, left on the bond selling tour. In Chicago, Hayes received orders directing his return to the 28th Marines. He arrived at Hilo, Hawaii, and rejoined Company E of the 29th on 28 May. Three weeks later, on 19 June, he was promoted to corporal.
With the end of the war, Corporal Hayes and his company left Hilo and landed at Sasebo, Japan, on 22 September to participate in the occupation of Japan. On 25 October, Corporal Hayes boarded his eleventh and last ship to return to his homeland for the third time. Landing at San Francisco on 9 November, he was honorably discharged on 1 December.
Corporal Hayes was awarded a Letter of Commendation with Commendation Ribbon by the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, Lieutenant General Roy S. Geiger, for his “meritorious and efficient performance of duty while serving with a Marine infantry battalion during operations against the enemy on Vella Lavella and Bougainville, British Solomon Islands, from 15 August to 15 December 1943, and on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, from 19 February to 27 March 1945.”
The list of the Corporal’s decorations and medals includes the Commendation Ribbon with “V” combat device, Presidential Unit Citation with one star (for Iwo Jima), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four stars (for Vella Lavella, Bougainville, Consolidation of the Northern Solomons, and Iwo Jima), American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.
The Corporal Hayes, U.S.M.C. completed his earthly tour of Duty at Bapchule on 24 January 1955. He was buried with honors on 2 February 1955 at Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 34, Plot 479A.
There are probably no more tragic stories than that of Ira Hayes. Born to Joe E. and Nancy W. Hayes on the Pima Indian Reservation in Sacaton, Arizona, Ira was the son of a poor farming family. His family and people had struggled for years to make a living in the arid conditions of the Reservation and had little success beyond survival. At one time the Pima were successful farmers but that was before the US Government cut off their water supply and created a situation where they could no longer grow enough crops to eat.
Until the beginning of W.W.II, his life was probably unnoticed by anyone more than a few miles from his birthplace. When America called its men to arms Ira answered this call and joined the US Marine Corps for several reasons: He would be able to leave the Reservation, eat regularly and send money home to his family to help them have a better life. His Tribal Chief told him to be an Honorable Warrior and to bring honor upon his people. Ira never failed to do this. He was a dedicated Marine who was admired by his peers who fought alongside him in three major battles in the Pacific.
February 23, 1945, at age 23, an event occurred that would forever place Ira Hayes in this nation’s history books and irrevocably change his life. On a hilltop above a Pacific island, a small group of Marines struggled to raise the American flag to claim victory over the Japanese occupancy. As the flag was being raised, Ira rushed to help his comrades just as the photographer snapped what was to become one of the most famous pictures in history. That picture was the “Flag Raising At Iwo Jima” and it is Ira’s hands that are outstretched to give the final thrust that planted this symbol of American victory. Six men were caught in that photograph, three of them died shortly afterwards. The battle of Iwo Jima was a costly one for our troops. Only 5 of Ira’s platoon of 45 survived and of his company of 250, only 27 escaped death or injury.
Ira Hayes was stunned when he was told that President Truman wanted him and the other survivors to return to the United State to join the 7th Bond Tour to help raise money for the war efforts. He never considered himself a hero and often said the real heroes were “my good buddies” who died during the battles. What was supposed to be an easy tour of duty turned into the worst ordeal of Ira’s military life. He never understood why he was called an American hero and struggled with the adulation that was heaped on him everywhere he went. Over and over he made statements that he was not a hero but reminded everyone of the brave men who had died and deserved this honor.
By the time Ira was released from duty he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol. The Bond Tour had been a battle that had taken more of a toll on him than any he fought in the Pacific. It seemed that this nation found one way to honor its heroes: Buy them a drink! Ira went back to the Reservation to escape the unwanted attention he’d be forced to bear but people did not stop writing and coming to see “the Indian who raised the flag.” Ira’s only escape from the conflict he felt over being viewed as a hero was the bottle. Over and over he made statements like; “I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they’re not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.” After a ceremony where he was praised by President Eisenhower once again for being a hero, a reporter asked Ira, “How do you like the pomp & circumstances?” Ira just hung his head and said, “I don’t.”
For the next few years Ira Hayes was a drifter and loner addicted to alcohol. He never married, was often arrested for public intoxication and was filled with despair over the plight of his people. He had been wined and dined by the rich and powerful, had been immortalized in American history but he was still no more than an Indian on a dried up Reservation now that he’d come home. There was still no water, no crops and no hope for a better life for the Pima or him. All this time he still struggled with his own inability to reconcile himself as being worthy of the fame he’d received for simply being one of the lucky ones who lived through such a horrible war. Ira never saw his military service as any more than just being an “Honorable Warrior.”
In 1954, Ira Hayes attended the dedication ceremony in Washington, D. C. for the Iwo Jima Memorial. This monument was a bronze cast replica of the now famous photograph of the flag raising, created by Felix DeWeldon. Within 10 weeks of this celebration Ira Hamilton Hayes would be dead at age 33. After another night of drinking and still lamenting over his fallen “buddies”, Ira fell into an irrigation ditch and froze to death, alone and forgotten by a country that had called him a hero. The ditch where he died was the single source of water that was provided for his people by the same government he’d proudly served.
Note: Ira H. Hayes was one of the first public figures to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. During Ira’s time, it was referred to “Shell Shock” or “Survivor’s Guilt” and there was little or no treatment. Today, about 30% of war veterans experience PTSD and receive various treatment methods. If you or someone you know exhibits PTSD characteristics please seek professional help.
Dan Akee, of the Kiyanni and Ashihii clans, was born in Coalmine Canyon in November 1922. He grew up in the Coalmine Mesa area. He started school in 1928 at an early age at the Tuba City Boarding School. Akee withdrew from school shortly after he started for medical reasons and went to a convalescence home in Kayenta, Ariz. to recover from tuberculosis. There he taught himself and reached a 10th grade level equivalent.
Akee enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943, shortly after the outbreak of WWII. Akee trained as a code talker and was detailed to the 4th Marine Division, 25th Regiment. From 1943-45, Akee took part in some of the most ferocious fighting in the Pacific theater. He participated in the Marshall Islands, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima campaigns.
As a code talker, Akee transmitted and received messages in coded Navajo, a code that was never broken. During battle, Akee was often on the front lines, receiving communication for his regiment. Especially at Iwo Jima, he lost many of his regiment and friends. Some years ago, the Retired Sergeant Major received the Congressional Silver Medal of Honor for his service.
After the war, Akee retired to civilian life with a rank of Sergeant Major, the highest rank for a non-commissioned Marine officer. He went back to high school at the Sherman Institute in Calif. but did not get a high school diploma, because of post war stress trauma. According to Akee, he recovered from the trauma with the help of Navajo Way and Christianity. He worked on the railroad and in a uranium ore processing plant. In 1967, he became an interpreter with Tuba City Hospital’s mental health department where he retired in 1988 after 21 years of service.
After delivering a prayer of remembrance in Navajo, Akee outlined the skills needed to memorize the approximately 555 Navajo words in the highly classified system. The code terms were designed to communicate locations and information of strategic importance during the Second World War. Navajo words, he said, were integrated to represent approximately 450 military terms not in the traditional language, such as submarine and dive-bomber.
The Tuba City resident explained it took five months to memorize the code, which remained top-secret until declassified in 1968. He emphasized the importance of indigenous language preservation and how the code was used to save many lives on both sides, and especially hasten the end of the war.
The approximately 450 Navajo Marines were not allowed to discuss their Signal Corps role in World War II until the 1990s. In 2001, they received Congressional Medals for service to their country.
School officials said the honorary high school diploma is long overdue and recognizes Akee’s achievement as a code talker and his outstanding and tireless lifetime of service to the Navajo people and the United States.
Dan Akee and his wife have 12 children. As of 2011, Sergeant Major Dan Akee and his wife had 73 grandchildren.
As a Marine in WWII Palmer and 28 other Code Talkers used their native language to transmit military messages on enemy tatics, Japanese troop movements and other battlefield informatian by telephone and radio.
He was honorably discharged in January of 1946. During his service he received the Purple Heart, 4 Bronze Star Medals and a Presidential Citation. In July of 2001 he received the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for his service as one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers. He was a retired lineman for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
According to the Naval Historical Center in Washington, the Navajo Code Talkers took part in every assault the Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945 and were praised for their skill, speed and accuracy. Their work was impossible for the enemy to decode. After the war, Palmer and the others were told to keep the Navajo code a secret. Even after the information was declassified in 1968, they were reluctant to discuss it or take credit for their deeds.
Palmer, 84, Of Yuma, AZ, died on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at the VA Medical Center in Tucson. He leaves his wife, Flora Nejo Palmer; son, Kermit (Earlena); granddaughter, Cejae; brothers, Tom, Thomas (Carol), Kee (Susie), Keeteddy (Sandra), John (Zannie) and Jimmie; and sisters, Betty Slowtalker and Bessie Scott. Joe was preceded in death by his father, Judge Slowtalker and mother, Mary. He is buried at Desert Lawn Memorial Park, Yuma, AZ
Joseph Warren Stilwell was born on March 19, 1883, in Palatka, Florida to Doctor Benjamin Stilwell and Mary A. (Peene) Stilwell. He was an eighth generation descendant of an English colonist who arrived in America in 1638, whose descendants remained in New York up through the birth of Stilwell’s father. Named for a family friend, as well as the doctor who delivered him, Joseph Stilwell, known as Warren by his family, grew up in New York, under a strict regimen from his father that included an emphasis on religion. Stilwell later admitted to his daughter that he picked up criminal instincts due to, “…being forced to go to Church and Sunday School, and seeing how little real good religion does anybody, I advise passing them all up and using common sense instead.” Stilwell’s rebellious attitude led him to a record of unruly behavior once he reached a post-graduate level at Yonkers High School. Prior to this last year, Stilwell had performed meticulously in his classes, and had participated actively in football and track. Under the discretion of his father, Stilwell was placed into a post-graduate course following graduation, and immediately formed a group of friends whose activities ranged from card playing to stealing the desserts from the senior dance in 1900. This last event, in which an administrator was punched, led to the expulsions and suspensions for Stilwell’s friends. Stilwell, meanwhile, having already graduated, was once again by his father’s guidance sent to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, rather than to proceed to Yale University as originally planned. Despite missing the deadline to apply for Congressional appointment to the military academy, Stilwell gained entry through the use of family connections who knew President William McKinley. In his first year, Stilwell underwent plebe that he referred to as “hell.” While at West Point, Stilwell showed an aptitude for languages, such as French, in which he ranked first in his class during his second year. In the field of sports, Stilwell is credited with introducing basketball to the Academy, and participating in cross-country running, as well as playing on the varsity football team. At West Point he had two demerits for laughing during drill. Ultimately, Stilwell graduated from the academy, class of 1904, ranked 32nd in a class of 124 cadets. His son, Brigadier General Joseph Warren Stilwell, Jr., served in World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam.
Stilwell later taught at West Point, and attended the Infantry Advanced Course and the Command and General Staff College. During World War I, he was the U.S. Fourth Corps intelligence officer and helped plan the St. Mihiel offensive. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in France. Stilwell is often remembered by his sobriquet, “Vinegar Joe”, which he acquired while a commander at Fort Benning, Georgia. Stilwell often gave harsh critiques of performance in field exercises and a subordinate – stung by Joe’s caustic remarks – drew a caricature of Stilwell rising out of a vinegar bottle. After discovering the caricature, Stilwell pinned it to a board and had the drawing photographed and distributed to friends. Yet another indication of his view of life was the motto he kept on his desk: Illegitimi non carborundum, a form of fractured Latin that translates as “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Between the wars, Stilwell served three tours in China, where he mastered spoken and written Chinese, and was the military attaché at the U.S. Legation in Beijing from 1935 to 1939. In 1939 and 1940 he was assistant commander of the 2nd Infantry Division and from 1940 to 1941 organized and trained the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California. It was there that his leadership style – which emphasized concern for the average soldier and minimized ceremonies and officious discipline – earned him the nickname of “Uncle Joe.” Just prior to World War II, Stilwell was recognized as the top corps commander in the Army and was initially selected to plan and command the Allied invasion of North Africa. However, when it became necessary to send a senior officer to China to keep that country in the War, Stilwell was selected, over his personal objections, by President Franklin Roosevelt and his old friend, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. He became the Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, served as the commander of the China Burma India Theater responsible for all Lend-Lease supplies going to China, and later was Deputy Commander of the South East Asia Command. Unfortunately, despite his status and position in China, he soon became embroiled in conflicts over U.S. Lend-Lease aid and Chinese political sectarianism.
Stilwell’s assignment in the China-Burma-India Theater was a geographical administrative command on the same level as the commands of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur. However, unlike other combat theaters, for example the European Theater of Operations, the CBI was never a “theater of operations” and did not have an overall American operational command structure. The China theater came under the operational command of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, commander of Nationalist Chinese forces, while the Burma India theater came under the operational command of the British India Command and later Allied South East Asia Command whose supreme commander was Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. The British and Chinese were ill-equipped and more often than not on the receiving end of Japanese offensives. Chiang Kai-Shek was interested in conserving his troops and Allied Lend-Lease supplies for use against any sudden Japanese offensive, as well as against Chinese Communist forces in a later civil war. The Generalissimo’s wariness increased after observing the disastrous Allied performance against the Japanese in Burma. After fighting and resisting the Japanese for five years, many in the Nationalist government felt that it was time for the Allies to assume a greater burden in fighting the war.
However, the first step to fighting the war for Stilwell was the reformation of the Chinese Army. These reforms clashed with the delicate balance of political and military alliances in China, which kept the Generalissimo in power. Reforming the army meant removing men who maintained Chiang’s position as commander-in-chief. While he gave Stilwell technical overall command of some Chinese troops, Chiang worried that the new American-led forces would become yet another independent force outside of his control. Since 1942, members of the Generalissimo’s staff had continually objected to Chinese troops being used in Burma for the purpose, as they viewed it, of returning that country to British colonial control. Chiang therefore sided with General Claire Chennault’s proposals that the war against the Japanese be continued largely using existing Chinese forces supported by air forces, something Chennault assured the Generalissimo was feasible. The dilemma forced Chennault and Stilwell into competition for the valuable Lend-Lease supplies arriving over the Himalayas from British-controlled India — an obstacle referred to as “The Hump”. George Marshall, in his biennial report covering the period of July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945, acknowledged he had given Stilwell “one of the most difficult” assignments of any theater commander. Arriving in Burma just in time to experience the collapse of the Allied defense of that country, which cut China off from all land and sea supply routes, Stilwell personally led his staff of 117 men and women out of Burma into Assam, India on foot, marching at what his men called the ‘Stilwell stride’ – 105 paces per minute. Two of the men accompanying him, his aide Frank Dorn and the war correspondent, Jack Belden, wrote books about the walkout: Walkout with Stilwell in Burma (1971) and Retreat with Stilwell (1943), respectively. The Assam route was also used by other retreating Allied and Chinese forces. In India, Stilwell soon became well known for his no-nonsense demeanor and disregard for military pomp and ceremony. His trademarks were a battered Army campaign hat, GI shoes, and a plain service uniform with no insignia of rank; he frequently carried a .30 Springfield rifle in preference to a sidearm. His hazardous march out of Burma and his bluntly honest assessment of the disaster captured the imagination of the American public: “I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it.” However, Stilwell’s derogatory remarks castigating the ineffectiveness of what he termed Limey forces, a viewpoint often repeated by Stilwell’s staff, did not sit well with British and Commonwealth commanders. However, it was well known among the troops that Stilwell’s disdain for the British was aimed toward those high command officers that he saw as overly stuffy and pompous. After the Japanese occupied Burma, China was almost completely cut off from Allied aid and materiel except through the hazardous route of flying cargo aircraft over the Hump. Early on, the Roosevelt administration and the War Department had given priority to other theaters for U.S. combat forces, equipment, and logistical support. With the closure of the Burma Road and the fall of Burma, it was realized that even replacing Chinese war losses would be extremely difficult. Consequently, the Allies’ initial strategy was to keep Chinese resistance to the Japanese going by providing a lifeline of logistical and air support. Convinced that the Chinese soldier was the equal of any given proper care and leadership, Stilwell established a training center (in Ramgarh, India, 200 miles west of Calcutta) for two divisions of Chinese troops from forces that had retreated to Assam from Burma. His effort in this regard met passive, sometimes active, resistance from the British, who feared that armed, disciplined Chinese would set an example for Indian insurgents, and from Chiang Kai-shek who did not welcome a strong military unit outside of his control. From the outset, Stilwell’s primary goals were the opening of a land route to China from northern Burma and India by means of a ground offensive in northern Burma, so that more supplies could be transported to China, and to organize, equip, and train a reorganized, reequipped, modernized, and competent Chinese army that would fight the Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater (CBI). Stilwell argued that the CBI was the only area at that time where the possibility existed for the Allies of engaging large numbers of troops against their common enemy, Japan. Unfortunately, the huge airborne logistical train of support from the USA to British India was still being organized, while supplies being flown over the Hump were barely sufficient to maintain Chennault’s air operations and replace some Chinese war losses, let alone equip and supply an entire army. Additionally, critical supplies intended for the CBI were being diverted due to various crises in other combat theaters. Of the supplies that made it over the Hump a certain percentage were diverted by Chinese (and American) personnel into the black market for their personal enrichment. As a result, most Allied commanders in India, with the exception of General Orde Wingate and his Chindit operations, were focused on defensive measures.
During this time in India, Stilwell became increasingly disenchanted with British forces, and did not hesitate to voice criticisms of what he viewed as hesitant or cowardly behavior. Ninety percent of the Chindit casualties were incurred in the last phase of the campaign from 17 May when they were under the direct command of Stilwell. The British view was quite different and they pointed out that over the period from 6 June to 27 June, Calvert’s 77th Brigade, which lacked heavy weapons, took Mogaung and suffered 800 casualties (50%) among those of the brigade involved in the operation. Stilwell expected 77th Brigade to join the siege of Myitkyina but Michael Calvert, sickened by demands on his troops which he considered abusive, switched off his radios and withdrew to Stilwell’s base. 111 Brigade, after resting, were ordered to capture a hill known as Point 2171. They did so, but were now utterly exhausted. Most of them were suffering from malaria, dysentery and malnutrition. On 8 July, at the insistence of the Supreme Commander, Admiral Louis Mountbatten, doctors examined the brigade. Of the 2200 men present from four and a half battalions, only 119 were declared fit. The Brigade was evacuated, although Masters sarcastically kept the fit men, “111 Company” in the field until 1 August. The portion of 111 Brigade east of the Irrawaddy were known as Morris Force, after its commander, Lieutenant-Colonel “Jumbo” Morris. They had spent several months harassing Japanese traffic from Bhamo to Myitkyina. They had then attempted to complete the encirclement of Myitkyina. Stilwell was angered that they were unable to do so, but Slim pointed out that Stilwell’s Chinese troops (numbering 5,500) had also failed in that task. By 14 July, Morris Force was down to three platoons. A week later, they had only 25 men fit for duty. Morris Force was evacuated about the same time as 77th Brigade. Captain Charlton Ogburn, Jr., a U.S. Army Marauder officer, and Chindit brigade commanders John Masters and Michael Calvert later recalled that Stilwell’s appointment of a staff officer specially detailed by him to visit subordinate commands in order to chastise their officers and men as being ‘yellow’. In October 1943, after the Joint Planning Staff at GHQ India had rejected a plan by Stilwell to fly his Chinese troops into northern Burma, Field Marshal Wavell asked whether Stilwell was satisfied on purely military grounds that the plan could not work. Stilwell replied that he was. Wavell then asked what Stilwell would say to Chiang Kai-shek, and Stilwell replied “I shall tell him the bloody British wouldn’t fight.”
After Stilwell left the defeated Chinese troops that he had been given nominal command by Chiang Kai-shek (Chinese generals admitted later that they had considered Stilwell as an ‘adviser’ and sometimes took orders directly from Chiang), he escaped Burma in 1942, Chiang was outraged by what he saw as Stilwell’s blatant abandonment of his best army without orders and began to question Stilwell’s capability and judgment as a military commander. Chiang was also infuriated at Stilwell’s strict control of U.S. lend lease supplies to China. But instead of confronting Stilwell or communicating his concerns to Marshall and Roosevelt when they asked Chiang to assess Stilwell’s leadership after the Allied disaster in Burma, Chiang reiterated his “full confidence and trust” in the general while countermanding some orders to Chinese units issued by Stilwell in his capacity as Chief of Staff. An outraged Stilwell began to call Chiang “the little dummy” or “Peanut” in his reports to Washington, (“Peanut” originally being intended as a code name for Chiang in official radio messages) while Chiang repeatedly expressed his pent-up grievances against Stilwell for his “recklessness, insubordination, contempt and arrogance” to U.S. envoys to China. Stilwell would press Chiang and the British to take immediate actions to retake Burma, but Chiang demanded impossibly large amounts of supplies before he would agree to take offensive action, and the British refused to meet their previous pledges to provide naval and ground troops due to Churchill’s “Europe first” strategy. Eventually Stilwell began to complain openly to Roosevelt that Chiang was hoarding U.S. lend lease supplies because he wanted to keep Chinese Nationalist forces ready to fight the Communists under Mao Zedong after the end of the war with the Japanese, even though from 1942 to 1944 98% of U.S. military aid over the Hump had gone directly to the 14th Air Force and U.S. military personnel in China. Stilwell also continually clashed with Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, and apparently came to believe that the British in India were more concerned with protecting their colonial possessions than helping the Chinese fight the Japanese. In August 1943, as a result of constant feuding and conflicting objectives of British, American, and Chinese commands, along with the lack of a coherent strategic vision for the China Burma India (CBI) theater, the Combined Chiefs of Staff split the CBI command into separate Chinese and Southeast Asia theaters.
Stilwell was infuriated also by the rampant corruption of the Chiang regime. In his diary, which he faithfully kept, Stilwell began to note the corruption and the amount of money ($380,584,000 in 1944 dollars) being wasted upon the procrastinating Chiang and his government. The Cambridge History of China, for instance, also estimates that some 60%–70% of Chiang’s Kuomintang conscripts did not make it through their basic training, with some 40% deserting and the remaining 20% dying of starvation before full induction into the military. Eventually, Stilwell’s belief that the Generalissimo and his generals were incompetent and corrupt reached such proportions that Stilwell sought to cut off Lend-Lease aid to China. Stilwell even ordered Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officers to draw up contingency plans to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek after he heard Roosevelt’s casual remarks regarding the possible defeat of Chiang by either internal or external enemies, and if this happened to replace Chiang with someone else to continue the Chinese resistance against Japan.
With the establishment of the new South East Asia Command in August 1943, Stilwell was appointed Deputy Supreme Allied Commander under Lord Louis Mountbatten. Taking command of various Chinese and Allied forces, including a new U.S. Army special operations formation, the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) later known as Merrill’s Marauders, Stilwell built up his Chinese forces for an eventual offensive in northern Burma. On December 21, 1943, Stilwell assumed direct control of planning for the invasion of Northern Burma, culminating with capture of the Japanese-held town of Myitkyina. In the meantime, Stilwell ordered General Merrill and the Marauders to commence long-range jungle penetration missions behind Japanese lines after the pattern of the British Chindits. In February 1944, three Marauder battalions marched into Burma. Though Stilwell was at the Ledo Road front when the Marauders arrived at their jump-off point, the general did not walk out to the road to bid them farewell. In April 1944, Stilwell launched his final offensive to capture the Burmese city of Myitkyina. In support of this objective, the Marauders were ordered to undertake a long flanking maneuver towards the town, involving a grueling 65-mile jungle march. Having been deployed since February in combat operations in the jungles of Burma, the Marauders were seriously depleted and suffering from both combat losses and disease, and lost additional men while en route to the objective. A particularly devastating scourge was a severe outbreak of amoebic dysentery, which erupted shortly after the Marauders linked up with the Chinese Army in India, called X Force. By this time, the men of the Marauders had openly begun to suspect Stilwell’s commitment to their welfare. Despite their sacrifices, Stilwell appeared unconcerned about their losses, and had rejected repeated requests for medals for individual acts of heroism. Initial promises of a rest and rotation were ignored; the Marauders were not even air-dropped replacement uniforms or mail until late April. On May 17, 1,310 remaining Marauders attacked Myitkyina airfield in concert with elements of two Chinese infantry regiments and a small artillery contingent. The airfield was quickly taken, but the town, which Stilwell’s intelligence staff had believed to be lightly defended, was garrisoned by significant numbers of well-equipped Japanese troops, who were steadily being reinforced. A preliminary attack on the town by two Chinese regiments was thrown back with heavy losses. The Marauders did not have the manpower to immediately overwhelm Myitkyina and its defenses; by the time additional Chinese forces arrived and were in a position to attack, Japanese forces totaled some 4,600 fanatical Japanese defenders. During the Myitkyina siege, which took place during the height of the monsoon season, Marauders’ second-in-command, Col. Hunter, as well as the unit’s regimental and battalion level surgeons, had urgently recommended that the entire 5307th be relieved of duty and returned to rear areas for rest and recovery. By this time, most of the men had fevers and continual dysentery, forcing the men to cut the seats out of their uniform trousers in order to fire their weapons and relieve themselves simultaneously. Stilwell rejected the evacuation recommendation, though he did make a frontline inspection of the Myitkyina lines. Afterwards, he ordered all medical staff to stop returning combat troops suffering from disease or illness, and instead return them to combat status, using medications to keep down fevers. The feelings of many Marauders towards General Stilwell at that time were summed up by one soldier, who stated, “I had him [Stilwell] in my sights. I coulda’ squeezed one off and no one woulda’ known it wasn’t a Jap who got that son of a bitch.” Stilwell also ordered that all Marauders evacuated from combat due to wounds or fever first submit to a special medical ‘examination’ by doctors appointed by his headquarters staff. These examinations passed many ailing soldiers as fit for duty; Stilwell’s staff roamed hospital hallways in search of any Marauder with a temperature lower than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the men who were passed and sent back into combat were immediately re-evacuated as unfit at the insistence of forward medical personnel. Later, Stilwell’s staff placed blame on Army medical personnel for overzealously interpreting Stilwell’s return-to-duty order. During the Myitkyina siege, Japanese soldiers resisted fiercely, generally fighting to the last man. As a result, Myitkyina did not fall until August 4, 1944, after Stilwell was forced to send in thousands of Chinese reinforcements, though Stilwell was pleased that the objective had at last been taken (his notes from his personal diary contain the notation, “Boy, will this burn up the Limeys!”). Later, Stilwell blamed the length of the siege, among other things, on British and Gurkha Chindit forces for not promptly responding to his demands to move north in an attempt to pressure Japanese troops. This was in spite of the fact that the Chindits themselves had suffered grievous casualties in several fierce pitched battles with Japanese troops in the Burmese jungles, along with losses from illness and combat exhaustion. Stilwell also had not kept his British allies clearly informed of his force movements, nor coordinated his offensive plans with those of General Slim. Bereft of further combat replacements for his hard-pressed Marauder battalions, Stilwell felt he had no choice but to continue offensive operations with his existing forces, using the Marauders as ‘the point of the spear’ until they had either achieved all their objectives, or were wiped out. He was also concerned that pulling out the Marauders, the only U.S. ground unit in the campaign, resulted in charges of favoritism, forcing him to evacuate the exhausted Chinese and British Chindit forces as well. When General William Slim, commander of British and Commonwealth forces in Burma, informed Stilwell that his men were exhausted and should be withdrawn, Stilwell rejected the idea, insisting that his subordinate commanders simply did not understand enlisted men and their tendency to magnify physical challenges. Having made his own ‘long march’ out of Burma under his own power using jungle trails, Stilwell found it difficult to sympathize with those who had been in combat in the jungle for months on end without relief. In retrospect, his statements at the time revealed a lack of understanding of the limitations of lightly equipped unconventional forces when used in conventional roles. Myitkyina and the dispute over evacuation policy precipitated a hurried Army Inspector General investigation, followed by U.S. congressional committee hearings, though no disciplinary measures were taken against General Stilwell for his decisions as overall commander. Only a week after the fall of Myitkyina in Burma, the 5307th Marauder force, down to only 130 combat-effective men (out of the original 2,997), was disbanded.
One of the most significant conflicts to emerge during the war was between General Stilwell and General Claire Lee Chennault, the commander of the famed “Flying Tigers” and later air force commander. As adviser to the Chinese air forces, Chennault proposed a limited air offensive against the Japanese in China in 1943 using a series of forward air bases. Stilwell insisted that the idea was untenable, and that any air campaign should not begin until fully fortified air bases supported by large infantry reserves had first been established. Stilwell then argued that all air resources be diverted to his forces in India for an early conquest of North Burma. Following Chennault’s advice, Generalissimo Chiang rejected the proposal; British commanders sided with Chennault, aware they could not launch a coordinated Allied offensive into Burma in 1943 with the resources then available. During the summer of 1943, Stilwell’s headquarters concentrated on plans to rebuild the Chinese Army for an offensive in northern Burma, despite Chiang’s insistence on support to Chennault’s air operations. Stilwell believed that after forcing a supply route through northern Burma by means of a major ground offensive against the Japanese, he could train and equip thirty Chinese divisions with modern combat equipment. A smaller number of Chinese forces would transfer to India, where two or three new Chinese divisions would also be raised. This plan remained only theoretical at the time, since available airlift capacity for deliveries of supplies to China over the Hump barely sustained Chennault’s air operations, and were wholly insufficient to equip a new Chinese Army. In 1944, the Japanese launched the counter-offensive, Operation Ichi-Go, quickly overrunning Chennault’s forward air bases and proving Stilwell partially correct. However, by this time, Allied supply efforts via the Hump airlift were steadily improving in tonnage supplied per month; with the replacement of Chinese war losses, Chennault now saw little need for a ground offensive in northern Burma in order to re-open a ground supply route to China. This time, augmented with increased military equipment and additional troops, and concerned about defense of the approaches to India, British authorities sided with Stilwell. In coordination with a southern offensive by Nationalist Chinese forces under General Wei Li-huang, Allied troops under Stilwell’s command launched the long-awaited invasion of northern Burma; after heavy fighting and casualties, the two forces linked up in January 1945. Stilwell’s strategy remained unchanged: opening a new ground supply route from India to China would allow the Allies to equip and train new Chinese army divisions for use against the Japanese. The new road network, later called the Ledo Road, would link the northern end of the Burma Road as the primary supply route to China; Stilwell’s staff planners had estimated the route would supply 65,000 tons of supplies per month. Using these figures, Stilwell argued that the Ledo Road network would greatly surpass the tonnage being airlifted over the Hump. General Chennault doubted that such an extended network of trails through difficult jungle could ever match the tonnage that could be delivered with modern cargo transport aircraft then deploying in-theater. Progress on the Ledo Road was slow, and could not be completed until the linkup of forces in January 1945.
In the end, Stilwell’s plan to train and modernize thirty Chinese divisions in China (as well as two or three divisions from forces already in India) was never fully realized. As Chennault predicted, supplies carried over the Ledo Road at no time approached tonnage levels of supplies airlifted monthly into China via the Hump. In July 1945, 71,000 tons of supplies were flown over the Hump, compared to only 6,000 tons using the Ledo Road, and the airlift operation continued in operation until the end of the war. By the time supplies were flowing over the Ledo Road in large quantities, operations in other theaters had shaped the course of the war against Japan. Stilwell’s drive into North Burma, however, allowed Air Transport Command to fly supplies into China more quickly and safely by allowing American planes to fly a more southerly route without fear of Japanese fighters. American airplanes no longer had to make the dangerous venture over the Hump, increasing the delivery of supplies from 18,000 tons in June 1944, to 39,000 tons in November 1944. On August 1, 1945 a plane crossed the hump every one minute and 12 seconds. In acknowledgment of Stilwell’s efforts, the Ledo Road was later renamed the Stilwell Road by Chiang Kai-shek.
With the rapid deterioration of the China front after Japanese launched Operation Ichi-Go in 1944, Stilwell saw this as an opportunity to gain full command of all Chinese armed forces. In a separate effort based on the same appreciation of the situation, Roosevelt sent an ultimatum to Chiang threatening to end all American aid unless Chiang “at once” place Stilwell “in unrestricted command of all your forces.” An exultant Stilwell immediately delivered this letter to Chiang despite pleas from Patrick Hurley, Roosevelt’s special envoy in China, to delay delivering the message and work on a deal that would achieve Stilwell’s aim in a manner more acceptable to Chiang. Seeing this act as a move toward the complete subjugation of China, Chiang gave a formal reply in which he said that Stilwell must be replaced immediately and he would welcome any other qualified U.S. general to fill Stilwell’s position. On October 19, 1944, Stilwell was recalled from his command by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Partly as a result of controversy concerning the casualties suffered by U.S. forces in Burma and partly due to continuing difficulties with the British and Chinese commanders, Stilwell’s return to the United States was not accompanied by the usual ceremony. Upon arrival, he was met by two Army generals at the airport, who told him that he was not to answer any media questions about China whatsoever. Stilwell was replaced by General Albert C. Wedemeyer, who received a telegram from General Marshall on October 27, 1944 directing him to proceed to China to assume command of the China theatre and replace General Stilwell. Wedemeyer later recalled his initial dread over the assignment, as service in the China theater was considered a graveyard for American officials, both military and diplomatic. When Wedemeyer actually arrived at Stilwell’s headquarters after Stilwell’s dismissal, Wedemeyer was dismayed to discover that Stilwell had intentionally departed without seeing him, and did not leave a single briefing paper for his guidance, though departing U.S. military commanders habitually greeted their replacement in order to thoroughly brief them on the strengths and weaknesses of headquarters staff, the issues confronting the command, and planned operations. Searching the offices, Wedemeyer could find no documentary record of Stilwell’s plans or records of his former or future operations. General Wedemeyer then spoke with Stilwell’s staff officers but learned little from them because Stilwell, according to the staff, kept everything in his “hip pocket”.
Despite prompting by the news media, Stilwell never complained about his treatment by Washington or by Chiang. He later served as Commander of Army Ground Forces, U.S. Tenth Army Commander in the last few days of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, and as U.S. Sixth Army Commander. In November, he was appointed to lead a “War Department Equipment Board” in an investigation of the Army’s modernization in light of its recent experience. Among his recommendations was the establishment of a combined arms force to conduct extended service tests of new weapons and equipment and then formulate doctrine for its use, and the abolition of specialized anti-tank units. His most notable recommendation was for a vast improvement of the Army’s defenses against all airborne threats, including ballistic missiles. In particular, he called for guided interceptor missiles, dispatched in accordance with electronically computed data obtained from radar detection stations.”
Stilwell died of stomach cancer on October 12, 1946 at the Presidio of San Francisco, while still on active duty. His ashes were scattered on the Pacific Ocean, and a cenotaph was placed at the West Point Cemetery. Among his military decorations are the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit degree of Commander, the Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (this last award was given to him as he was dying from stomach cancer).
Stilwell’s home, built in 1933–1934 on Carmel Point, Carmel, California, remains a private home. A number of streets, buildings, and areas across the country have been named for Stilwell over the years, including Joseph Stilwell Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida. The Soldiers’ Club he envisioned in 1940 (a time when there was no such thing as a soldiers’ club in the Army) was completed in 1943 at Fort Ord on the bluffs overlooking Monterey Bay. Many years later the building was renamed “Stilwell Hall” in his honor, but because of the erosion of the bluffs over the decades, the building was taken down in 2003. Stilwell’s former residence in Chongqing – a city along the Yangtze River to which Chiang’s government retreated after being forced from Nanjing by Japanese troops – has now been converted to the General Joseph W. Stilwell Museum in his honor.
Frank Dow Merrill was born on December 4, 1903 to Charles W. and Katherine (Donavan) Merrill in Hopkinton, MA. He is best remembered for his command of Merrill’s Marauders, officially the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), in the Burma Campaign of World War II. Merrill’s Marauders came under General Joseph Stilwell’s Northern Combat Area Command. It was a special forces unit modeled on the Chindits’ (British India Special Forces) long range penetration groups trained to operate from bases deep behind Japanese lines.
Merrill lived with his family in Amesbury, Massachusetts and graduated from Amesbury High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1922 and earned the rank of sergeant before attending West Point where he graduated in 1929. Merrill also earned a B.S. in military engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1932. In 1938, Merrill became the Military Attaché in Tokyo where he studied the Japanese language. He joined General Douglas MacArthur’s staff in the Philippines in 1941 as a military intelligence officer. Merrill was on a mission in Rangoon, Burma at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and remained in Burma after the Japanese invasion. In 1942, Col. Merrill was promoted to Brigadier General.
In 1943, General Merrill was appointed to command a new volunteer U.S. Army special forces unit patterned after the Long Range Jungle Penetration groups formed by the British to harass Japanese forces in Burma (the Chindits). The U.S. Army’s official name for the unit was the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional). (The title provisional means the unit is formed for a special mission or operation and will be disbanded afterwards). Visiting war correspondents, after viewing the 5307th’s performance on the firing ranges, promptly dubbed the unit Merrill’s Marauders. General Merrill oversaw the training and deployment of the three battalions of the 5307th into Burma in February 1944. In slightly more than five months of combat behind Japanese lines in Burma, the Marauders, who supported the X Force, advanced 750 miles through some of the harshest jungle terrain in the world, fought in 5 major engagements (Walawbum, Shaduzup, Inkangahtawng, Nhpum Ga, and Myitkyina) and engaged in combat with the Japanese Army on thirty-two separate occasions. Battling Japanese soldiers, hunger, and disease, they had traversed more jungle on their long-range patrols than any other U.S. Army unit of the war. On March 29, Merrill suffered his first heart attack and command returned to then executive officer, Colonel Charles N. Hunter. In their final mission against the Japanese base at Myitkyina, the Marauders suffered 272 killed, 955 wounded, and 980 evacuated for illness and disease. By the time the town of Myitkyina was taken, only about 200 surviving members of the original Marauders were present. On August 10, 1944, a week after the town’s fall to U.S. and Chinese forces, the 5307th was disbanded with a final total of only 130 combat-effective officers and men (out of the original 2,997).
General Merrill’s awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and Combat Infantryman Badge. After World War II and service in the post war Philippines, Merrill became the New Hampshire Commissioner of Highways. He was elected President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials but died two days later on December 11, 1955 in Fernandina Beach, Florida. The Everett Turnpike bridge over New Hampshire’s Souhegan River was a favorite of Merrill’s, and is dedicated to Merrill’s Marauders. Camp Frank D. Merrill, near Dahlonega, Georgia, is home to the U.S. Mountain Rangers 5th Battalion and is a three-week mountain training phase of the United States Army Ranger School. In 1962 Merrill’s Marauders, a film was produced and released abou this unique group of warriors.
Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller was born in West Point, Virginia to Matthew and Martha Puller. His father was a grocer who died when Lewis was 10 years old. Puller grew up listening to old veterans’ tales of the War Between the States and idolizing Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. He wanted to enlist in the United States Army to fight in the Border Wars with Mexico in 1916, but he was too young and could not get parental consent from his mother.
The following year, Puller attended the Virginia Military Institute but left at the end of his first year as World War I was still ongoing, saying that he wanted to “go where the guns are!” Inspired by the 5th Marines at the Battle of Belleau Wood, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps as a private and attended boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina.
Although he never saw action in that war, the Corps was expanding, and soon after graduating he attended NCO school and OCS at Quantico, Virginia, following that. Upon graduation from OCS on June 16, 1919, Puller was appointed to the grade of Second Lieutenant in the Military reserves, but reduction in force from 73,000 to 1,100 officers and 27,400 men following the war led to his being put on inactive status 10 days later and given the rank of corporal.
First Lieutenant Lewis “Chesty” Puller (center left) and Sergeant William “Ironman” Lee (center right) and two Nicaraguan soldiers in 1931
As a corporal, Puller received orders to serve in the Gendarmerie d’Haiti as a lieutenant, seeing action in the United States occupation of Haiti (1915-1934). While the United States was working under a treaty with Haiti, he participated in over forty engagements during the ensuing five years against the Cacos rebels and attempted to regain his commission as an officer twice. In 1922, he served as an Adjutant to Major Alexander Vandegrift, a future Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Puller returned stateside and was finally re-commissioned as a second lieutenant on March 6, 1924, afterward completing assignments at the Marine Barracks in Norfolk, Virginia, The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, and with the 10th Marine Regiment in Quantico, Virginia. He was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in July 1926 and in San Diego, California, in 1928.
In December 1928, Puller was assigned to the Nicaraguan “Guardia Nacional” National Guard detachment, where he was awarded his first Navy Cross, (military’s second highest valor award) for his actions from February 16 to August 19, 1930, when he led “five successive engagements against superior numbers of armed bandit forces.” He returned stateside in July 1931 and completed the year-long Company Officers Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, thereafter returning to Nicaragua from September 20 to October 1, 1932, and was awarded a second Navy Cross.
Puller with members of the Guardia Nacional
After his service in Nicaragua, Puller was assigned to the Marine detachment at the American Legation in Beijing, China, commanding a unit of China Marines. He then went on to serve aboard USS Augusta (CA-31), a Cruiser in the Asiatic Fleet, which was commanded by then-Captain Chester W. Nimitz. Puller returned to the States in June 1936 as an instructor at the Basic School in Philadelphia.
In May 1939, he returned to the Augusta as commander of the onboard Marine detachment, and then back to China, disembarking in Shanghai in May 1940 to serve as the executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines. He later served as its commanding officer.
World War II
Major Puller returned to the U.S. on August 28, 1941. After a short leave, he was given command of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (known as 1/7) of the 1st Marine Division, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, the new Marine amphibious base which would soon be renamed for the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, John A. Lejeune, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Early in the Pacific theater the 7th Marines formed the nucleus of the newly created 3rd Marine Brigade and arrived to defend Samoa on May 8, 1942. Later they were redeployed from the brigade and on September 4, 1942, they left Samoa and rejoined the 1st Division at Guadalcanal on September 18, 1942.
Soon after arriving on Guadalcanal, Puller led his battalion in a fierce action along the Matanikau (September 1942), in which Puller’s quick thinking saved three of his companies from annihilation. In the action, these companies were surrounded and cut off by a larger Japanese force. Puller ran to the shore, signaled a United States Navy destroyer, the USS Monssen (DD-436), and then Puller directed the destroyer to provide fire support while landing craft rescued his Marines from their precarious position. For his actions, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”.
Puller on Guadalcanal in September, 1942
Later on Guadalcanal, Puller was awarded his third Navy Cross, in what was later known as the Battle for Henderson Field. Puller commanded 1st Battalion 7th Marines (1/7), one of two American infantry units defending the airfield against a regiment strength Japanese force. The 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 164th Infantry Regiment (3/164) fought alongside the Marines. In a firefight on the night of October 24–25, 1942, lasting about three hours, 1/7 and 3/164 sustained 70 casualties; the Japanese force suffered over 1,400 killed in action, and the Americans held the airfield. It was in this battle that Marine Sergeant John Basilone would earn the Medal of Honor. The Marines awarded Army Lt. Colonel Robert Hall, commander of the 3/164, the Navy Cross for his role in this battle.
Puller was then made executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment. While serving in this capacity at Cape Gloucester, Puller was awarded his fourth Navy Cross for overall performance of duty between December 26, 1943, and January 19, 1944. During this time, when the battalion commanders of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines and, later, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, while under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, he expertly reorganized the battalion and led the successful attack against heavily fortified Japanese defensive positions. He was promoted to colonel effective February 1, 1944, and by the end of the month had been named commander of the 1st Marine Regiment. Colonel Puller would lead the 1st Marines into the protracted battle on Battle of Peleliu, one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history during September and October 1944, action where he was awarded his first Legion of Merit. During the summer of 1944, Puller’s younger brother, Samuel D. Puller, the Executive Officer of the 4th Marine Regiment, was killed by a sniper on Guam.
Puller returned to the United States in November 1944, was named executive officer of the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Lejeune and, two weeks later, Commanding Officer. After the war, he was made Director of the 8th Reserve District at New Orleans, and later commanded the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Puller was once again assigned as commander of the 1st Marine Regiment, with which he made a landing at Inchon on September 15, 1950, and was awarded the Silver Star Medal. For leadership from September 15 to November 2, he was awarded his second Legion of Merit. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross from the Army for action from November 29 to December 5 of that same year, and his fifth Navy Cross for action during December 5–10 at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. It was during that battle when he made the famous quote, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”
Colonel Puller studies the terrain during the Korean War.
In January 1951, Puller was promoted to brigadier general and was assigned duty as assistant division commander (ADC) of the 1st Marine Division. On February 24, however, his immediate superior, Major General Oliver Prince Smith, was hastily transferred to command IX Corps when its Army commander, Major General Bryant Moore, died. Smith’s temporary transfer left Puller in command of his beloved 1st Marine Division. Puller would serve as ADC until he completed his tour of duty and left for the United States on May 20, 1951.
General Puller subsequently received promotions to major general and lieutenant general, and served in various command capacities until he suffered a stroke from high blood pressure and was forced to retire in 1955.
Puller was a distant cousin to Army General George S. Patton.
He requested to re-enlist so he could serve in Vietnam in 1966, at the age of 68, however, his request was denied because of his age. General Puller was living in Hampton, Virginia at the time of his passing on October 11, 1971, he was 73 years of age.
Awards and honors – Military decorations and awards
Puller received the Navy Cross, the Navy and Marine Corps second highest military award, five times (the second and only other person to be so honored, after Navy submarine commander Roy Milton Davenport). Puller received the second highest U.S. military award six times; five Navy Crosses and a U.S. Army Distinguished Service Cross.
In addition, Puller received the Silver Star Medal; the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V;” the Air Medal with Gold Stars in lieu of second and third awards; and the Purple Heart Medal. His other medals and decorations include the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with four bronze stars; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with one bronze star; the World War I Victory Medal with West Indies clasp; the Haitian Campaign Medal; the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star; the China Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the American Area Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with four bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal; the Haitian Medaille Militaire; the Nicaraguan Presidential Medal of Merit with Diploma; the Nicaraguan Cross of Valor with Diploma; the Republic of Korea’s Ulchi Medal with Gold Star; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster.
Puller’s only Purple Heart was earned at Guadalcanal on the night of November 9, 1942 – the night before the Marine Corps Birthday. Puller had campaign participation credit (“battle stars”) for Capture and Defense of Guadalcanal, Eastern New Guinea Operations, Cape Gloucester New Britain, and Capture and Occupation of the Southern Palau Islands (Peleliu). His Korean campaign battle stars include North Korean Aggression, Inchon Landing, Communist China Aggression (Chosin Reservoir), First UN Counteroffensive and Communist China Spring Offensive.
Puller is loved by enlisted U.S. Marines for his constant actions to improve their working conditions. Puller insisted upon good equipment and discipline; once he came upon a second lieutenant who had ordered an enlisted man to salute him 100 times for missing a salute. Puller told the lieutenant, “You were absolutely correct in making him salute you 100 times lieutenant, but you know that an officer must return every salute he receives. Now return them all, and I will keep count.”
He continues to be well loved by those who served under him and after him, because he led from the front and never asked a Marine to do anything he would not do first. It is rumored that he continues to motivate Marines and Recruits at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, where at night you can hear them respectfully say “Good Night, General Chesty, wherever you are.”
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