General Alexander Archer Vandegrift USMC

Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift USMC


Alexander Archer Vandegrift was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on 13 March 1887. In January 1909, after two years at the University of Virginia, he entered the United States Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant. He saw very active service in the Caribbean and Central America between 1912 and 1923, taking part in the capture of Coyotepe, Nicaragua, in the former year, the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914 and pacification efforts in Haiti beginning in 1915.

Major Vandegrift commanded a Marine battalion while stationed at Quantico, Virginia, from 1923 and in 1926 became Assistant Chief of Staff at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California. Service in China in 1927-28 was followed by duty in Washington, D.C., and at Quantico. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1934, returned to China in 1935 and reached the rank of Colonel in 1936. While stationed at Marine Corps Headquarters in 1937-41, Vandegrift worked closely with the Corps' Commandant and was promoted to Brigadier General in March 1940. He became Assistant Commander of the newly-formed First Marine Division in late 1941 and the Division's Commanding General in early 1942.

Major General Vandegrift took his division to the south Pacific in May 1942 and led it in the long, harsh but successful campaign to seize and hold Guadalcanal between August and December 1942. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his "tenacity, courage and resourcefulness" during this operation. In November 1943, as a Lieutenant General, Vandegrift commanded the First Marine Amphibious Corps during the initial stages of the Bougainville campaign.

Returning to the United States in late 1943, he became Commandant of the Marine Corps on 1 January 1944. He guided the Service's continued expansion through the rest of World War II, oversaw its contraction following the conflict, and successfully defended its existence during the difficult post-war years. Promoted to four-star General effective in March 1945, Vandegrift was the first Marine Corps officer to hold that rank while on active duty. General Alexander A. Vandegrift was relieved as Commandant at the beginning of 1948 and formally retired in April 1949. He died on 8 May 1973.

(Courtesy of the USNHC)


Medal of Honor Citation

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.


Page revised Apr. 17, 2007