Vandegrift file photo [1037]

Alexander Vandegrift

SurnameVandegrift
Given NameAlexander
Born13 Mar 1887
Died8 May 1973
CountryUnited States
CategoryMilitary-Ground
GenderMale

Contributor:

ww2dbaseAlexander Archer Vandegrift was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. He attended the University of Virginia and was commissioned in the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant on 22 Jan 1909. After some time in New Hampshire, he was sent to the Caribbean Islands, participating in the assault on Coyotepe, Nicaragua and the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico. After another short period serving in Philadelphia, he once again was sent on foreign service in Haiti, battling the Cacos bandits. His next foreign tour of duty was not until 1927 when he was sent to China to serve as Operations and Training Officer of the 3rd Marine Brigade with headquarters in Tientsin. Between 1928 and 1934, he served in the Washington DC region. In Jun 1935 he returned to China as a lieutenant colonel to serve as executive officer and then commanding officer of the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in Beijing. In the following year, he returned to Washington DC to fill the role of the Military Secretary to the Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps. In Mar 1940, he was appointed Assistant to the Major General Commandant, and the following month was promoted to brigadier general.

ww2dbaseWhen the United States entered the war in Dec 1941, Vandegrift was promoted to the war time rank of major general and sent to the South Pacific the following May. On 7 Aug 1942, he led ashore the 1st Marine Division in the first large-scale offensive action against the Japanese at the Solomon Islands. For his leadership in the assault on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu, he was awarded the Navy Cross. Later that year, for his courage during the defense of those islands against Japanese counterattacks, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The citation for his Medal of Honor award was as follows:

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

ww2dbaseIn Jul 1943, he assumed command of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps. On 1 Jan 1944, with the rank of lieutenant general, he was sworn in as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was the first Marine to hold the rank of four-star general while being on the active roster in the Corps' history. On 4 Apr 1945, he was promoted a full general.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Vandegrift retired from active service on 31 Dec 1947. He passed away in 1973 at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, United States after a long illness. He rests in peace at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

ww2dbaseSources: Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.

Alexander Vandegrift Timeline

13 Mar 1887 Alexander Vandegrift was born.
5 Feb 1943 Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, commanding officer of US 1st Marine Division, was decorated with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony.
4 Apr 1945 US Marine Corps Commandant, Lieutenant General Alexander A. Vandegrift, was promoted to the rank of general, and thus became the first Marine officer on active service to attain four-star rank.
1 Apr 1949 General Alexander Vandegrift, Commandant of the US Marine Corps, retired after over 40 years of service.
8 May 1973 Alexander Vandegrift passed away.

Photographs

Young Vandegrift, circa 1914-16US Marine Corps officers Pedro del Valle, Thomas Holcomb, and Alexander Vandegrift inspecting 11th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina, United States, 1942Richmond Turner and Alexander Vandegrift aboard USS McCawley looking at maps of the Tulagi-Guadalcanal operation in the Solomon Islands, circa Jul-Aug 1942Vandegrift at a field desk on Guadalcanal, circa Aug-Dec 1942
See all 19 photographs of Alexander Vandegrift



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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Fred Childs says:
9 Mar 2006 12:34:36 PM

Typographical errors: Caribbean, not Caribbeans. 3rd Marine Brigade, not 3rd Marines Brigade
2. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
9 Mar 2006 03:53:59 PM

Errors have been corrected. Thanks so much for letting us know, Fred!
3. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
13 Sep 2013 12:38:25 AM

After the war, General Vandegrift fought another battle, this time in the halls of Congress, with the stakes being the survival of the Marine Corps. His counter-testimony during Congressional hearings in the spring of 1946 was instrumental in defeating initial attempts to merge or "unify" the U.S. Armed Forces. Although his term as Commandant ended on 31 December 1947, General Vandegrift would live to see the passage of Public Law 416, which preserved the Corps and its historic mission. His official retirement date of 1 April 1949 ended just over forty years of service.

General Vandegrift oulived his wife, Mildred, and his only son, Colonel Alexander A Vandegrift Jr., who fought in both World War II and Korea. He spent most of his final years in Delray, Florida. He died on 8 May, 1973.

Source: First Offensive: The Marine Campaign for Guadacanal.

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More on Alexander Vandegrift
Event(s) Participated:
» Guadalcanal Campaign
» Solomon Islands Campaign

Alexander Vandegrift Photo Gallery
Young Vandegrift, circa 1914-16
See all 19 photographs of Alexander Vandegrift




Famous WW2 Quote
"I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944