Commandants of the Marine Corps

Name Dates Period
Served
Final Rank
as CMC
1. Samuel Nicholas
(1)
B. 1744
D. 27 Aug 1790
28 Nov 1775
1781
Major
2. William W. Burrows
(2)
B. 16 Jan   1758
D.   6 Mar 1804
12 Jul   1798
  6 Mar 1804
Lt. Colonel
3. Franklin Wharton
(3)
B. 23 Jul   1767
D.   1 Sep 1818
  7 Mar 1819
  1 Sep   1818
Lt. Colonel
4. Anthony Gale B. 17 Sep 1782
D.1843
  3 Mar 1819
16 Oct   1820
Lt. Colonel
5. Archibald Henderson
(4)
B. 21 Jan 1783
D.   6 Jan 1859
17 Oct 1820
  6 Jan 1859
Colonel
6. John Harris
(5)
B. 20 May 1790
D.   2 May 1864
  7 Jan   1859
12 May 1864
Colonel
7. Jacob Zeilin
(6)
B. 16 Jul   1806
D. 18 Nov 1880
10 Jun 1864
31 Oct 1876
Br. General
8. Charles McCawley B. 29 Jan 1827
D. 13 Oct 1891
  1 Nov 1876
29 Jan 1891
Colonel
9. Charles Heywood
(7)
B.   3 Oct 1839
D. 26 Feb 1915
30 Jan 1891
  2 Oct 1903
Maj. General
10. George Elliott
(8)
B. 30 Nov 1846
D.   4 Nov 1931
  3 Oct   1903
30 Nov 1910
Maj. General
11. William P. Biddle
(9)
B. 17 Dec 1853
D. 25 Feb 1923
  3 Feb 1911
24 Feb 1914
Maj. General
12. George Barnett
(GNA)
B.   9 Dec 1859
D. 27 Apr 1930
25 Feb 1914
30 Jun 1920
Maj. General
13. John A. Lejeune
(GNA)
B. 10 Jan 1867
D. 20 Nov 1942
  1 Jul   1920
  4 Mar 1929
Maj. General
14. Wendell Neville
(GNA) (MOH)
B. 12 May 1870
D.   8 Jul   1930
  5 Mar 1929
  8 Jul   1930
Maj. General
15. Ben H. Fuller
(GNA)
B. 27 Feb 1870
D.   8 Jun 1937
  9 Jul   1930
28 Feb 1934
Maj. General
16. John H. Russell
(GNA)
B. 14 Nov 1872
D.   6 Mar 1947
  1 Mar 1934
30 Nov 1936
Maj. General
17. Thomas Holcomb
(11)
B.   5 Aug   1879
D. 24 May 1965
  1 Dec 1936
31 Dec 1943
Lt. General
18. Alexander A. Vandegrift
(12) (MOH)
B. 13 Mar 1887
D.   8 May 1973
  1 Jan 1944
31 Dec 1947
General
19. Clifton B. Cates B. 31 Aug 1893
D.   4 Jun 1970
  1 Jan 1948
31 Dec 1951
General
20. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. B. 10 Feb 1896
D.   6 Aug 1990
  1 Jan 1952
31 Dec 1955
General
21. Randolph McCall Pate
(13)
B. 11 Feb 1898
D. 31 Jul 1961
  1 Jan 1956
31 Dec 1959
General
22. David M. Shoup
(14) (MOH)
B. 30 Dec 1904
D. 13 Jan 1983
  1 Jan 1960
31 Dec 1963
General
23. Wallace M. Greene, Jr.
(GNA)
B. 27 Dec 1907
D. 10 Mar 2003
  1 Jan 1964
31 Dec 1967
General
24. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. B.   3 Nov 1913
D.   6 Jan 2000
  1 Jan 1968
31 Dec 1971
General
25. Robert E. Cushman, Jr.
(GNA)
B. 24 Dec 1914
D.   2 Jan 1985
  1 Jan 1972
30 Jun 1975
General
26. Louis H. Wilson
(MOH)
B. 11 Feb 1920
  1 Jul 1975
30 Jun 1979
General
27. Robert H. Barrow B.   5 Feb 1922
D. 30 Oct 2008
  1 Jul 1979
30 Jun 1983
General
28. Paul X. Kelley B. 11 Nov 1928
  1 Jul 1983
30 Jun 1987
General
29. Alfred M. Gray, Jr. B. 22 Jun 1928
  1 Jul 1987
30 Jun 1991
General
30. Carl E. Mundy, Jr. B. 16 Jul 1935
  1 Jul 1991
30 Jun 1995
General
31. Charles C. Krulak
(GNA)
B.   4 Mar 1942
  1 Jul 1995
30 Jun 1999
General
32. James L. Jones B.   19 Dec 1943
  1 Jul 1999
13 Jan 2003
General
33. Michael W. Hagee B.   19 Dec 1943
14 Jan 2003
13 Nov 2006
General
34. James T. Conway B.   26 Dec 1947
 
14 Nov 2006
General
(GNA) Graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy.
(MOH) Medal of Honor Recipient.
(1) The resolution of the Continental Congress on 10 November 1775 provided for a colonel to command two battalions of Marines authorized, but the highest rank received by any Marine during the Revolution was that of major.   Samuel Nicholas was appointed "Captain of Marines" on 28 November 1775, and promoted to major on 25 June 1776.   Because of his senior status among other Marine officers of the Revolution, he is numbered as the first Commandant.   The year 1781 saw Major Nicholas' return to private life.   By the summer of 1781 there were only three Marine captains and three lieutenants on active duty, and overall organization had ceased to exist.

(2) When Burrows was apointed under authority of the Act of 11 July 1798 (1 Stat. 72) he was not known technically as "Major Commandant."   It was not until 1 May 1800, when Burrows was promoted to "Lieutenant Colonel Commandant" under the Act of 22 April 1800 (2 Stat. 29), that there was an alliance of rank and position for the head of the Marine Corps.

(3) Between Wharton's death and Gale's apointment, Brevet Major Samuel Miller, the Adjutant and Inspector and Brevet Major Archibald Henderson served as Acting Commandants, 2-15 September 1818 and 16 September 1818 - 2 March 1819, respectively.

(4) By authority of the Act of 30 June 1834 (4 Stat. 32) the rank of Commandant was raised to colonel.   On 4 March 1843, Henderson was commissioned brigadier general by brevet for his services during the Florida Indian Wars.   Subsequently, he was commonly referred to as Brevet Brigadier General Henderson.   This was a personal rank in the nature of a decoration for gallantry.   It had nothing to do with the office of the Commandant; less, in fact, than the personal rank held by Heywood.   In this connection, it should be noted that, in official correspondence, Henderson usually signed himself "Col. Commdt."

(5) Between the death of Harris and the apointment of Zeilin, Major Augustus S. Nicholson, the Adjutant and Inspector, served as Acting Commandant 13 May - 9 June 1864.

(6) The Act of March 1867 (14 Stat. 174) provided that "the commandant of the marine corps shall have the rank and pay of a brigadier general of the army."   This law was repealed by the Act of 6 June 1874 (18 Stat. 216) when the office of the Commandant was returned to the rank of colonel when and if a vacancy occurred.   Thus, Zeilin retained his rank of brigadier general but his successor was slated to be a colonel.

(7) By the Act of 3 March 1899 (30 Stat. 413) the post of Commandant was again raised to that of brigadier general; Heywood was promoted as of that date.   The Act of 1 July 1902 (32 Stat. 1368) accorded the Commandant the rank, pay, and allowances of a major general in the army.   This act, however, specifically provided that should a vacancy occur in the office "on the expiration of the service of the present, incumbent, by retirement or otherwise, the commandant of the Marine Corps shall thereafter have the rank, pay, and allowances of a brigadier-general."   Thus, Heywood's final rank must be considered to have been personal in character.

(8) The Act of 13 May 1908 (35 Stat. 166) provided for the post of "major-general commandant, in lieu of the present brigadier-general commandant."   Accordingly, in May 1908, Elliott was promoted to major general.

(9) From the time of Major General Elliott's retirement until his own appointment, Biddle served as Acting Commandant in his personal rank of colonel, 1 December 1910 - 2 February 1911.   during Biddle's tenure the term of Commandant was fixed for the first time -- four years "unless sooner relieved" -- by the Act of 19 December 1913 (38 Stat. 3).

(10) Lejeune was the first Commandant reappointed after the expiration of a fixed term.

(11) The Act of 20 January 1942 (56 Stat. 10) provided the rank of lieutenant general for the Commandant, and Holcomb was accordingly promoted to rank from that date.   The same act provided that the office henceforth should be known as "Commandant of the Marine Corps."   Holcomb was advanced to general on the retired list effective 1 January 1944 -- the first Marine ever to hold that rank.

(12) The Act of 21 march 1945 (59 Stat. 29) permitted the President to appoint the Commandant to the rank of general.   When Vandergrift was promoted on 4 April 1945, to rank from 21 March of that year, he became the first Marine to serve in the rank of general.   The Act of 21 March 1945 was restricted in effect to "six months after the termination of the war in which the United States is now engaged..."   Hostilities had not yet bee officially terminated when, by the Act of 7 August 1947 (61 Stat. 880), the rank of the Commandant was permanently fixed as general.

(13) The President in 1955 appointed Lieutenant General Pate to a two-year term as Commandant, in 1957, however, Pate's tenure was renewed for another two years.

(14) When Pate was due to be relieved, the President nominated Major General Shoup for a two-year term as he had done with General Pate.   The Senate in confirming the nomination, however, invoked the four year provision of the 1913 law and fixed Shoup's tenure as 1960-1964. & (Hearing on H.R. 8189.   3 September 1959.)

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-Darry L. Deaton, gyrene@sysnet.net