Alexander Archer Vandegrift, who earned the Medal of Honor in World War II,
served as the eighteenth Commandant of the Marine Corps, from January 1, 1944
to January 1, 1948.
The general commanded the First Marine Division, Reinforced, in the battle
for Guadalcanal, and the First Marine Amphibious Corps in the landing at
Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, during World War II. For outstanding
services as Commanding General of the First Marine Division, Reinforced,
during the attack on Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Gavutu in the Solomon Islands
on August 7, 1942, he was awarded the Navy Cross, and for the subsequent
occupation and defense from August 7 to December 9, 1942, was awarded the
Medal of Honor. His citation for the latter reads in part: "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 the 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."
General Vandegrift was born on March 13, 1887, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He attended the University of Virginia and was commissioned in the Marine
Corps as a second lieutenant on January 22, 1909. Following instruction as
the Marine Officers' School, Port Royal, South Carolina, and a tour of duty
at the Marine Barracks, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he went to foreign shore
duty in the Caribbean area, where he participated in the bombardment, assault
and capture of Coyotepe in Nicaragua. He further participated in the
engagement and occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico.
In December 1914, following his promotion to first lieutenant, he attended
the Advance Base Course at the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia. Upon completion
of schooling, he sailed for Haiti with the First Brigade and participated in
action against hostile Cacos bandits at LeTrou and Fort Capois.
In August 1916, he was promoted to captain and became a member of the Haitian
Constabulary at Port Au Prince, where he remained until detached to the
United States in December 1918. He returned to Haiti again in July 1919, to
serve with the Gendarmerie d' Haiti as an Inspector of Constabulary.
He was promoted to major in June 1920. Major Vandegrift returned to this
country in April 1923, and was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Quantico,
Virginia. He completed the Field Officers' Course, Marine Corps Schools in
May 1926, following which he went to the Marine Corps Base, San Diego,
California, as Assistant Chief of Staff.
In February 1927, he sailed for China where he served as Operations and
Training Officer of the Third Marine Brigade with Headquarters at Tientsin.
He was ordered to Washington, D. C., in September 1928, where he became
Assistant Chief Coordinator, Bureau of the Budget. Following duty in
Washington, he joined the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, where he
became Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 Section, Fleet Marine Force. During this
assignment, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in June 1934.
Ordered to China in June 1935, Lieutenant Colonel Vandegrift served
successively as Executive Officer and Commanding Officer of the Marine
Detachment at the American Embassy in Peiping. He was promoted to colonel in
Colonel Vandegrift reported to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D. C.,
in June 1937, where he became Military Secretary to the Major General
Commandant. In March 1940, he was appointed Assistant to the Major General
Commandant, and the following month was promoted to brigadier general.
General Vandegrift was detached to the First Marine Division in November 1941
shortly before the outbreak of World War II. He was promoted to major general
in March 1942, and in May sailed for the South Pacific area as Commanding
general of the first Marine division to ever leave the shores of the United
States. On August 7, 1942, in the Solomon Islands, he led ashore the First
Marine Division, Reinforced, in the first large-scale offensive action against
In July 1943, he assumed command of the First Marine Amphibious Corps, and
commanded this organization inthe landing at Empress Augusta Bay,
Bougainville, Northern Solomon Islands, on November 1, 1943. Upon
establishing the initial beachhead, he relinquished command and returned to
Washington, D. C., as Commandant-designate.
On January 1, 1944, as a lieutenant general, he was sworn in as the
eighteenth Commandant of the Marine Corps. On April 4, 1945, he was appointed
general, with date of rank from March 21, 1945, the first Marine officer on
active duty to attain four-star rank.
For outstanding services as Commandant of the Marine Corps from January 1,
1944 to June 30, 1946, the general was awarded the Distinguished Service
Medal. He left active service on December 31, 1947, and was placed on the
retired list, April 1, 1949.
General Vandegrift holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Military Science
from Pennsylvania Military College, and honorary degrees of Doctor of Law
from Harvard, Colgate, Brown, Columbia, and Maryland Universities and John
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, and Distinguished Service
Medal, his decorations and Medals include: the Presidential Unit Citation
with one Bronze Star, Solomon Islands, 1942; Navy Unit Commendation with one
Bronze Star, Solomon Islands, 1943, and Okinawa, 1945; Expeditionary Medal
with three Bronze Stars, Cuba, 1912, Nicaragua, 1912, Haiti, 1915-24, China,
1927-28; Nicaraguan Campaign Medal, Nicaragua, 1912; Mexican Service Medal,
Mexico, 1914; Haitian Campaign Medal with one Star, Haiti, 1915 and 1919-20;
Victory Medal with West Indies Clasp and one star, Haiti, 1918; Yangtze
Service Medal, Shanghai, 1927; American Defense Service Medal, 1939-1941;
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars, Solomon Islands,
1942-43; American Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.
He has received the following foreign decorations: Haitian Distinguished
Service Medal, Haiti, 1919-20; Medaille Militaire with one Silver Star,
Haiti, 1920-21; Honorary Knight Commander, Military Division of the Most
Excellent Order of the British Empire; Companion (Honorary) of the Military
Division of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath, British Solomon Islands,
1942; Cruz de Aviacion de Primera Clase, Peruvian Government, 1944; Abdon
Calderon of the 1st Class, Ecuador, 1944, Knights Grand Cross in the Order of
the Orange-Nassau with Swords, Netherlands, 1945; the Order of Pao-Ting
(Precious Tripod) with Special clasp, China, 1947; and the Legion of Honor
(Grand Officer), France.
His first wife, Mildred Strode Vandegrift (March 12, 1886-July 11, 1952), his
son, Alexander Archer Vandegrift, Colonel, United States Marine Corps, who
was badly wounded on Iwo Jima in World War II (May 27, 1911-1969) and his
second wife, Kathryn Henson Vandegrift (August 19, 1903 - October 23, 1978),
are buried with him.
of Honor citation of Major General Alexander Archer Vandegrift (as printed in
the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy",
"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."
courtesy of the United States Marine Corps
(FFG 48), named for Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift, U.S. Marine Corps, was
built at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, and was commissioned
on 24 November 1984. The ship's inaugural cruise began on 5 January 1987.
During the course of this around-the-world cruise, it sailed three oceans,
seven seas and visited four continents. The plank owners also crossed the
international dateline, equator, Greenwich meridian, and sailed through the
straits of Gibraltar, and the Suez and Panama canals. VANDEGRIFT conducted
operations with USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63) in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.
These operations were highlighted by an air and sea power demonstration for
the President of Pakistan. Port visits included Pearl Harbor; Subic Bay in the
Republic of the Philippines; Karachi, Pakistan; Mombasa, Kenya; Maxime,
France; Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; and St. Croix and St. Thomas, U.S.
Virgin Islands. VANDEGRIFT returned home to Long Beach in June, 1987.
The ship's second deployment began in June, 1988, returning it to operations
in the Arabian Gulf shortly after the cease-fire between Iran and Iraq.
VANDEGRIFT's mission while on patrol in the Northern Arabian Gulf focused on
providing protection and logistic support for joint forces in the area.
VANDEGRIFT also participated in numerous Earnest Will missions, escorting
U.S. and reflagged Kuwaiti tankers. Port visits included Pearl Harbor; Subic
Bay, Republic of the Philippines; Bahrain; Pattaya Beach, Thailand and Hong
Kong. VANDEGRIFT returned home in December, 1988.
The ship's third deployment to the Arabian Gulf began in March, 1990.
VANDEGRIFT patrolled the Northern Arabian Gulf and conducted Earnest Will
escort missions. As the senior ship on station in the Arabian Gulf during the
invasion of Kuwait, VANDEGRIFT served as the Anti-Air Warfare Commander and
Electronic Warfare Coordinator. VANDEGRIFT participated in Operation Desert
Shield's Maritime Interception Operations with units from United Kingdom,
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and France. Ports of call included
Pearl Harbor; Subic Bay; Phuket, Thailand; Singapore and Hong Kong.
VANDEGRIFT returned home after an extended deployment in October, 1990.
On April 22, 1992, VANDEGRIFT began its fourth deployment to the Arabian
Gulf. VANDEGRIFT participated in exercises with India, Qatar and Pakistan,
helping to strengthen U.S. relations in that area. Ports of call included
Doha, Qatar; Dubai, Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Karachi,
Pakistan; Phuket, Thailand; Goa, India; Bahrain; Hong Kong; Singapore and
Guam, and earned the Chief of Naval Operations LAMPS Helicopter Safety Award.
VANDEGRIFT returned home on 22 October 1996.
VANDEGRIFT changed homeport to San Diego in February, 1993, and earned the
COMNAVSURFPAC Food Service Award in March, 1994. The fifth deployment to the
Arabian Gulf began on 25 October 1994. VANDEGRIFT's mission was the
enforcement of U.N. sanctions against Iraq in the Northern Arabian Gulf. The
most memorable event was conducting a non-permissive boarding of a sanctions
violator on Christmas Day. During the return transit, VANDEGRIFT played host
to a major diplomatic reception in Muscat, Oman, to better diplomatic
relations. Ports of call included Sasebo, Japan; Manila, Republic of the
Philippines; Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates; Bahrain; Singapore and Hong
Kong. VANDEGRIFT returned home on 25 April 1995.
On May 13, 1996, VANDEGRIFT began its sixth deployment to the Arabian Gulf.
VANDEGRIFT again conducted operations in support of U.N. sanction enforcement
against Iraq. VANDEGRIT also participated in exercises with Bahrain, Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia, helping to strengthen U.S. relations in that area. Ports of
call included Hong Kong; Lumut, Malaysia; Karachi Pakistan; Bahrain; Albany,
Australia; Sydey, Australia; Suva, Fiji; and Pearl Harbor, HI. earned the
Chief of Naval Operations LAMPS Helicopter Safety Award. VANDEGRIFT returned
home on 22 October 1992.
On 23 February 1998, VANDEGRIFT departed San Diego, California en-route to
its new homeport in Yokosuka, Japan. On 13 March 1998, VANDEGRIFT chopped to
Commander, Seventh Fleet and the Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) and
arrived Yokosuka, Japan on 23 March 1998. In her first year with the FDNF,
VANDEGRIFT conducted RIMPAC as part of the Kitty Hawk Battle Group.
VANDEGRIFT also participated in the two major annual exercises in SEVENTH
Fleet, FOAL EAGLE and ANNUALEX.
VANDEGRIFT’s next three years in the FDNF were highlighted by her seventh
deployment to the Arabian Gulf, supporting international efforts to enforce
UN sanctions against Iraq and her participation in the planning and execution
of contingency operations in relation to the May 2001 EP-3C incident at
Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, VANDEGRIFT was surge
deployed to the Straits of Malacca. From September to November 2001, she
successfully completed more than 25 escorts for U.S. vessels and support
ships through the most heavily trafficked straits in the world.
In January 2003, VANDEGRIFT deployed for the eighth time to the Arabian Gulf
in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom. Assigned
escort operations in the Straits of Hormuz, VANDEGRIFT conducted over 50
transits, safely escorting over 78 vessels carrying over 1 million tons of
hardware in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, VANDEGRIFT
seized two Iraqi mine-laying vessels in the Southern Arabian Gulf and was
credited with protecting the Coalition’s flank from planned mine-laying
From 2003-2006, VANDEGRIFT’s service in the Forward Deployed Naval Forces was
marked by a series of “first ever” U.S. Navy ship visits.
In September 2003, VANDEGRIFT conducted the first ever visit by a U.S. Navy
warship to Zhanjiang, China.
In November 2003, VANDEGRIFT conducted a historic visit to Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam, becoming the first U.S. Navy warship to visit the country in thirty
In May 2004, VANDEGRIFT conducted another significant diplomatic mission -
becoming the first U.S. warship to visit the newly independent nation of East
In October 2004, VANDEGRIFT participated in the Proliferation Security
Initiative Exercise (PSIEX) with units from the Japan Maritime Self Defense
Force and the French and Australian Navies. The exercise tested the abilities
of the Western Pacific navies to identify and intercept sea-borne weapons of
mass destruction (WMD). VANDEGRIFT demonstrated the abilities of a joint
force to detain and board a suspect vessel.
In 2005, VANDEGRIFT became the first U.S. Warship to visit the Japanese city
In May 2005, VANDEGRIFT conducted her last deployment with the Kitty Hawk
Strike Group. Earmarked by a series of major exercises including a SINKEX and
Anti-submarine Warfare Exercise - Talisman Saber, it proved to be a fitting
final strike group deployment as VANDEGRIFT navigated much of the same waters
that General Vandegrift and the First Marine Division traveled in the
Solomons and the battle of Guadalcanal.
VANDEGRIFT completed eight years of service in the Forward Deployed Naval
Forces and departed Yokosuka, Japan on 14 August 2006 executing a change of
homeport to San Diego, California. VANDEGRIFT’s service in the FDNF concluded
following multiple deployments to the Arabian Gulf and Western Pacific Ocean
and numerous combined and joint operations with the Japan Maritime Self
Defense Force and the navies of Korea, Australia, Russia, Indonesia,
Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Egypt and Jordan. VANDEGRIFT also
completed numerous operational and goodwill port visits throughout the
Western Pacific including visits to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, Sakata Japan,
Okinawa Japan, Pyongtaek Korea, Donghae Korea, Hong Kong, Sasebo Japan, Guam,
Cairns and Brisbane Australia, Saipan and Chinhae Korea.
VANDEGRIFT arrived in San Diego, California on 1 September 2006 completing
her homeport shift. VANDEGRIFT was assigned to Carrier Strike Group Eleven
and Destroyer Squadron Twenty Three. On 1 February 2007, VANDEGRIFT was
re-assigned to Destroyer Squadron One.
The ship's decorations include the Meritorious Unit Citation, National
Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Southwest Asia
Service Medal, and five Sea Service Ribbons.