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Gregory Boyington. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102293).

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Boyington, Gregory (04 December 1912–11 January 1988), Marine Corps fighter pilot, was born in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the son of Guy Boyington and Grace Hallenbeck, apple ranchers. He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Washington in 1934, and that year he married Helene Clark. Before divorcing in 1941, they had three children, one of whom became an Air Force fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. After a year with Boeing Aircraft, Boyington entered the Marine Corps as an aviation cadet in 1936....

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Burrows, William Ward (16 January 1758–06 March 1805), first commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of William Burrows, a lawyer, and Mary Ward. He studied law in both Charleston and London, England. Returning to America in 1775, he fought in the revolutionary war as part of the South Carolina militia. After the peace he relocated to Philadelphia and established a successful law practice. In 1783 he married Mary Bond; they had three children. Burrows was a Federalist by persuasion and well liked in social circles because of his pleasant, diplomatic demeanor. More importantly, he cultivated close personal ties with leading party figures such as ...

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Butler, Smedley Darlington (30 July 1881–21 June 1940), U.S. Marine Corps major general, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Butler and Maud Darlington, both respected Quakers. His father was a lawyer, judge, and later a powerful member of Congress who served as chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee in the 1920s. Educated in local Quaker schools, Smedley Butler dropped out when the United States went to war with Spain in 1898. As he was only sixteen years old, Butler lied about his age to secure a second lieutenant’s commission in the marines. He thus began a storied career of more than thirty years, during which he would win two Congressional Medals of Honor and earn the sobriquet “Old Gimlet Eye” for his steely eyed glare....

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Carlson, Evans Fordyce (26 February 1896–27 May 1947), army and Marine Corps officer and writer, was born in Sidney, New York, the son of Thomas Alpine Carlson, a Congregationalist minister, and Joetta Viola Evans. He grew up in New England and left home at fourteen to work on a farm near Vergennes, Vermont, where he attended but did not graduate from the local high school. After working as an assistant freight master in New Haven, Connecticut, and as a chainman in New Jersey, he joined the army in 1912, at age sixteen, with the reluctant permission of his parents. Stationed in the Philippines and in Hawaii, he was discharged with the rank of master sergeant in 1915....

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Cunningham, Alfred Austell (08 March 1882–27 May 1939), U.S. Marine Corps officer and aviator, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of John D. Cunningham, an attorney, and Cornelia Dobbins. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the sixteen-year-old Cunningham left Gordon Institute, a military preparatory school in Barnsville, Georgia, and joined the second Georgia Infantry Volunteers. He served in Cuba but did not see combat and was discharged as a corporal....

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Geiger, Roy Stanley (25 January 1885–23 January 1947), U.S. Marine Corps officer, was born in Middleburg, Florida, the son of Marion Francis Geiger, a county school superintendent and tax assessor, and Josephine Prevatt. Educated in local schools, Geiger attended Florida State Normal School from 1902 to 1904 and obtained a teacher’s certificate. In 1907 he received a bachelor of laws degree from John B. Stetson University at Deland, Florida, and was admitted to the bar....

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Henderson, Archibald (21 January 1783–06 January 1859), commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, was born in Colchester, Prince William County, Virginia, the son of Alexander Henderson, a merchant and politician, and Sarah Moore. Raised in northern Virginia, Henderson began his education with a family governess and continued through a series of private academies in Maryland. His father’s military experiences in the revolutionary war and subsequent political activities as a state delegate led young Henderson to choose a life of public service. He applied to the ...

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Heywood, Charles (03 October 1839–26 February 1915), ninth commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, was born in Waterville, Maine, the son of Charles Heywood, a naval officer, and Antonia H. Delgarde. At the age of eighteen, the younger Heywood received a commission as a second lieutenant of marines with date of rank of 5 April 1858. Heywood distinguished himself as a troop leader during the Civil War. After the war, in 1866, with the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel but permanent rank of captain, Heywood married Caroline Bacon. They had no children. In 1873–1874, during the crisis with Spain over the seizure of the American ship ...

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Holcomb, Thomas (05 August 1879–24 May 1965), commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and diplomat, was born in New Castle, Delaware, the son of Thomas Holcomb, an attorney, state legislator, and civil servant, and Elizabeth Hindman Barney. The family moved to Washington in 1893 when his father joined the Treasury Department. Holcomb graduated from high school in 1897 and three years later was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. After completing the marines’ School of Application, Holcomb served from September 1902 to April 1903 with a seagoing battalion attached to the North Atlantic Fleet. In 1903 he was promoted to first lieutenant and stationed in the Philippines in 1904 and 1905 and at the U.S. legation in Peking (Beijing) from 1905 through 1906. He returned to China in 1908 as a naval attaché. Holcomb, by that time a captain, oversaw the training of the legation’s marine detachment, placing particular emphasis—as he would throughout his career—on rifle marksmanship. An expert marksman himself, he had served as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Rifle Team in 1901, 1902, 1903, 1907, and 1908, and would do so again in 1911. Holcomb returned to the United States in 1914 and became inspector of target practice at corps headquarters. He married Beatrice Miller Clover in 1916; the couple had one son....