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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....

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Lee, William Andrew (12 November 1900–27 December 1998), distinguished U.S. Marine Corps officer, was born at Ward Hill, Massachusetts; his parents' names are unknown. In May 1918 he enlisted in the marines as a private and was briefly engaged against German forces along the western front. Afterward he commenced routine tours of duty on land and sea, including a stint with the marine complement aboard the battleship ...

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John A. Lejeune Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114896).

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Lejeune, John Archer (10 January 1867–20 November 1942), Marine Corps officer, was born in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, the son of Ovide Lejeune, a sugar planter, and Laura Archer Turpin. The perilous economic times following the Civil War resulted in the loss of the family plantation, “Old Hickory.” Educated at Louisiana State University, in 1884 Lejeune accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy when his family could no longer fund his education. He graduated thirteenth in his class in 1888, and he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps two years later....

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McCutcheon, Keith Barr (10 August 1915–13 July 1971), U.S. Marine Corps officer, was born in East Liverpool, Ohio, the son of Merle D. McCutcheon, a physician, and Louise Alberta Sturtevant. McCutcheon graduated from East Liverpool High School in 1933 and earned a B.S. in management science in 1937 at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. A member of the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, McCutcheon was accepted for flight training. However, with no guarantee of an active duty assignment because of limited funding during the depression, he decided to resign his army reserve commission for a regular appointment as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, effective 13 August 1937....

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Megee, Vernon Edgar (05 June 1900–14 January 1992), U.S. Marine Corps officer, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma Territory, the son of George D. Megee, a rancher, and Alice Ford. Megee’s mother died when he was five years old, and he was raised by his father on a small ranch in central Oklahoma. Educated in local schools, he entered Oklahoma A & M College (now Oklahoma State University) in 1917. Two years later, on 8 March 1919, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Megee sought and obtained a commission as second lieutenant on 4 May 1922. The following year he married Nell Nemeyer; they had one child....

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Neville, Wendell Cushing (12 May 1870–08 July 1930), Marine Corps officer, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Willis Henry Neville, a ship’s carpenter, and Mary Elizabeth Cushing. His parents raised him as a Methodist. After his father’s death in 1883, an older brother provided for Neville’s education, and he graduated from Norfolk Academy in 1885. Choosing an option not unusual for the sons of poor southern families of the era, Neville took an appointment to one of the service academies, reporting to Annapolis in the fall of 1886. Although a rather poor student, Neville survived the rigorous demands of the institution to graduate in 1890. After completing the postgraduation cruise in 1892, he and his classmates returned for further examinations and assignment to the fleet. Because of his low academic standing, Neville did not qualify for a commission in the navy, and he accepted a second lieutenant’s vacancy in the Marine Corps. Years later he claimed it to be his first choice because of a hearty dislike for standing watches at sea....

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Puller, Lewis Burwell, Jr. (18 August 1945–11 May 1994), marine corps officer and winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize, was born at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the son of General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, one of the most highly decorated marines in American history, and Virginia Montague Evans Puller, a schoolteacher. He had two sisters. The Puller family could trace their military tradition back to Major John Puller, a confederate cavalryman, who died while fighting in 1863. Lewis Puller, Sr., spent thirty-seven years in the marines, retiring in 1955, and there was never any doubt that his only son would follow in his footsteps. While young Puller was growing up in rural Virginia, his family would be visited at any time of the day or evening by former marines stopping by to pay homage to the decorated three-star general. Lewis, Jr., completed his secondary education at Christchurch School in 1962 and then attended William and Mary College, graduating in 1967. He promptly joined the marines, receiving his basic training at Quantico, Virginia, followed by a stint at the Marine's Officer Candidate School, from which he emerged as a second lieutenant in July 1968. The next month he married Linda Ford Todd, with whom he had two children. Later that same month, Puller was sent to Vietnam as a platoon commander in the Second Battalion of the First Marine Regiment of the First Marine Division....

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Puller, Lewis Burwell (26 June 1898–11 October 1971), Marine Corps officer, was born in West Point, Virginia, the son of Matthew Puller, a grocer, and Martha Leigh. Puller received a public education and, interested in military history, attended the Virginia Military Institute in 1917. Impatient to fight in World War I, he joined the Marine Corps the following year but was retained as an instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina. In 1919 Puller graduated from the Officers’ Training School and received a second lieutenant’s commission, but postwar cutbacks forced him onto the inactive reserve list. Determined to serve, he immediately rejoined the marines as a corporal and shipped off to Haiti to serve with the ...

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Shoup, David Monroe (30 December 1904–13 January 1983), U.S. Marine Corps officer and commandant, was born in Battle Ground, Indiana, the son of John Lemar Shoup and Mary Layton, farmers. While studying mathematics at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, Shoup enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program in order to receive the small stipend that was provided. After graduating in 1926 Shoup sought and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the marines. Although he entered the military mostly out of economic need, Shoup became a highly successful career officer. In 1931 he married Zola De Haven; they had two children....

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Smith, Holland McTyeire (20 April 1882–12 January 1967), Marine Corps officer, was born at Seale, Alabama, the son of John Wesley Smith and Cornelia Elizabeth McTyeire. Like his father, Smith intended to pursue a legal career and graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1901 before obtaining his law degree from the University of Alabama in 1903. Smith was admitted to the bar and practiced two years in Montgomery before seeking a second lieutenant’s commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in March 1905. In 1909 he married Ada Wilkinson; they had one child. Smith subsequently saw duty in the Philippines (1906–1908; 1912–1914), Panama 1909–1910, and the Dominican Republican, 1916–1917. He was promoted to captain shortly before sailing to France in June 1917, commanding a machine gun company of the Fifth Marines. However, upon arrival, Smith became the first Marine officer ever selected to attend the Army General Staff College at Langres. Following graduation he served as adjutant of the Fourth Marine Brigade and in July 1918 took a post as staff officer with I Corps, First Army. In this capacity Smith fought with distinction at the battles of Aisne-Marne, St.-Mihiel, Oise, and Meuse-Argonne and received the Croix de Guerre. He ended the war with the rank of major and attached to the staff of the Third Army. Following a tour of occupation duty at Koblenz, Germany, Smith returned home in March 1919....