United States Marine Corps History and Information

Learn about the Traditions and Customs of the USMC

Famous US Marines Through History

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Famous or Notable US Marines in History

Major Samuel Nicholas

Became the first commissioned officer of the Continental Marines when he was commissioned as a captain on November 28, 1775. He is traditionally regarded as the first Commandant.

Lieutenant Colonel William Ward Burrows

Officially appointed the first Commandant on July 12, 1798

First Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon (1776-1850)

After his heroic efforts in the battle for Derne in 1805 during the Tripolitan War, Prince Hamet Karamali presented him the sword that he carried while living with the Mamelukes in Egypt. This sword later served as the pattern for the Mameluke Sword, which is the sword that Marine officers carry today.

Brigadier General Archibald Henderson (1785-1859)

First general officer of the Marine Corps; 5th Commandant of the Marine Corps, he held that position from 1820 until 1859 – a span of over 38 years (longer than any other Commandant), during which he served under 11 different Presidents. He had a total of 53 years of service beginning in 1806. He is known as the “Grand Old Man of the Corps”.

Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin

Commandant who adopted The Marines’ Hymn and the current Marine Corps emblem and officer’s evening dress as well as bringing back the Mameluke Sword for officers in 1875.

John Philip “The March King” Sousa (1854-1932)

The most famous leader of the Marine Band, The President’s Own, who wrote many famous marches including Semper Fidelis and Stars and Stripes Forever. He was enlisted on June 9, 1868 by his father at the age of 13 for 7 and a half years to prevent him from running away with the circus. Sousa left the Marine Corps after that enlistment but returned in 1880 and served as Director of the Marine Band until 1892. He wrote an autobiography called Marching Along in 1928.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Huntington

Landed his battalion at Guantanamo Bay on June 7, 1898 to become the first U.S. troops to establish a beachhead on Cuban soil.

Lieutenant Alfred A. Cunningham

Became the first Marine aviator in 1912. He was designated Naval Aviator Number 5.

Major General John Archer Lejeune (1867-1942)

First Marine officer to ever command an Army division in combat – 13th Commandant who officially made scarlet and gold the Marine Corps colors; superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute from 1929-1937.

General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.

20th Commandant who also designed the Marine Corps seal.

General Alexander A. Vandegrift (1887-1973)

Led the U.S. offensive against the Japanese on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands during WWII. First Marine to be awarded both the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. 18th Commandant from 1944-1948. First Marine to hold the rank of 4-star General while still on active duty.

Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller (1898-1971)

The most decorated Marine of all time being awarded 52 ribbons and medals – he was awarded the Navy Cross an amazing FIVE TIMES – the Navy Cross is the second highest award a Marine can be awarded, it is only outranked by the Medal of Honor.

Major Gregory R. “Pappy” Boyington (1912-1988)

Medal of Honor; commanded the VMF-214 also known as the “Black Sheep Squadron” and was the Marine Corps’ top ranking ace of WWII with 28 victories; a television series was created about him and his squadron.

Major Smedley Darlington Butler (1881-1940)

The only Marine officer to be awarded the Medal of Honor TWICE – one in Vera Cruz in 1914 and the other in Haiti in 1915. Known as “Old Gimlet Eye”.

Gunnery Sergeant Daniel J. Daly

The only enlisted Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor TWICE – one in the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the other in Haiti in 1915.

Master Gunnery Sergeant Leland “Lou” Diamond

Served in France with the famous 6th Marines in World War I and with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Division on Guadalcanal and Tulagi at the age of 52 in World War II. Among the many fables concerning his service on Guadalcanal is the tale that he lobbed a mortar shell down the smoke stack of an off-shore Japanese cruiser. It is considered a fact, however, that he single-handedly drove the cruiser from the bay with his harassing near-misses. He was known as “Mr. Marine” and “Mr. Leatherneck”.

Sergeant Chuck Mawhinney

Marine sniper with the highest number of confirmed kills (103) – he is still alive and in September 1999 was invited to speak at the Scout/Sniper school on Camp Pendleton.

Gunnery Sergeant Carlos N. “White Feather” Hathcock

Marine sniper with the longest confirmed kill (2500 yards with a .50 caliber Browning rifle) – second highest number of confirmed kills (93).

Lieutenant General Carol A. Mutter

As a colonel, she was the first woman to gain qualification as a Space Director; as a brigadier general, she was the first woman of general/flag officer rank to command a major deployable tactical command, the 3D FSSG, III MEF, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific; In June of 1994, she became the first woman Major General in the Marine Corps and the senior woman on active duty in the armed services; On 1 Sep 1996, second woman in the history of the armed services and the first woman Marine to wear three stars.

Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr.

As pilot of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, Major General Bolden and crew successfully deployed the Hubble Space Telescope while orbiting the earth from a record setting altitude of 400 miles – commander of STS-60, the 1994 Space Shuttle Discovery flight, the first joint U.S./Russian Space Shuttle mission – more than 680 logged space hours – currently Deputy Commander, U.S. Forces, Japan.

Captain Sarah Deal

On 23 July 1993 she was the first woman to be selected for Naval aviation training; she became the Marine Corps’ first female pilot on 21 April 1995; she is a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter pilot.

Opha Mae Johnson

Enlisting on 13 August 1918 she became the first woman Marine.

Colonel Ruth Cheney Streeter

On 29 January 1943, she was sworn in as a Major in the United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve (USMCWR) and was sworn in as the first Director of the Women’s Reserve, which was formed on 7 November 1942. She served until 6 December 1945.

Colonel Katherine A. Towle

Second Director of the Women’s Reserve, was discharged from the Marine Corps Reserve on 3 November 1948 and accepted a Regular commission as a permanent lieutenant colonel. The next day she was appointed the first Director of Women Marines, with the temporary rank of colonel.

General Gerald C. Thomas (1917-1956)

Enlisted in WWI; he was operations officer and then chief of staff of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal, then commander of the same in the Korean War; served as Assistant Commandant from 1952-1954.

Master Sergeant Barbara J. Dulinsky

On 18 March 1967 in Saigon she became the first woman Marine ordered to a combat zone.

Colonel Margaret A. Brewer

Appointed to a general officer’s billet as Director of Information with the rank of Brigadier General on 11 May 1978, becoming the first woman Marine to attain general officer rank.

Colonel Gail M. Reals

Selected to the rank of Brigadier General in February 1985, she became the first woman Marine selected to general grade.

Sergeant Major Wilbur Bestwick

He was the first Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, holding that billet from May 23, 1957 through Aug. 31, 1959.

Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr. (b.1921)

Served in the Corps from 1943-1964. He flew 59 missions in WWII and 90 missions in Korea. He was a test pilot from 1954-1959. He became the first American to orbit the earth in his space capsule Friendship 7 in 1962.

Marines worth an honorable mention:

 Frederick C. Branch:

First black Marine officer

 Archibald Summers:

First Sergeant Major, appointed Jan 1, 1801

 Cpl John F. Mackie:

First Marine to earn a Medal of Honor, 1862 Civil War.

Brevet Major Anthony Gale:

Only Commandant to be court martialed and relieved, 4th Commandant, relieved Oct 18, 1820.

Sgt John H. Quick:

Medal of Honor at Cuzco’s Wall in Guantanamo, Cuba for risking his life signaling our own ships to stop firing at his men.

Capt Lloyd Williams:

Said “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.” at Belleau Wood


This should answer the questions:
Who are the most famous Marines in history?
Which famous Marines  should I know before a  Marine board?

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