Flag of a Marine Corpsfour-star general
Flag of a Marine Corps
four-star general

This is a complete list of four-star generals in the United States Marine Corps. The rank of general (or full general, or four-star general) is the highest rank in the Marine Corps. It ranks above lieutenant general (three-star general).

There have been 73 four-star generals in the history of the United States Marine Corps. Of these, 55 achieved that rank while on active duty, 17 were promoted upon retirement in recognition of combat citations ("tombstone promotions", 1942–1959), and one was promoted posthumously. Generals entered the Marine Corps via several paths: 29 via Officer Candidates School (OCS), 24 via Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at a civilian university, 10 via the United States Naval Academy (USNA), 3 via Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at a civilian university, and 7 via ROTC at a senior military college.

List of generals

Entries in the following list of four-star generals are indexed by the numerical order in which each officer was promoted to that rank while on active duty, or by an asterisk (*) if the officer did not serve in that rank while on active duty. Each entry lists the general's name, date of rank,[1] active-duty positions held while serving at four-star rank,[2] number of years of active-duty service at four-star rank (Yrs),[3] year commissioned and source of commission,[4] number of years in commission when promoted to four-star rank (YC),[5] and other biographical notes.[6]

# Name Photo Date of rank[1] Position Yrs[3] Commission[4] YC[5] Notes
1 Alexander A. Vandegrift
AAVandegrift.jpg
21 Mar 1945   2 1909 (OCS) 36 (1887–1973) Awarded Medal of Honor, 1942.
* Roy S. Geiger
Roy Geiger.jpg
23 Jan 1947  
  • (posthumous)
0 1909 (OCS) 38 (1885–1947) [7]
2 Clifton B. Cates
Clifton B. Cates.jpg
1 Jan 1948   4 1917 (OCS) 31 (1893–1970) [8]
3 Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr.
Lemuel Cornick Shepherd mlajsi.jpg
1 Jan 1952   7 1917 (VMI) 35 (1896–1990) [9]
4 Randolph M. Pate
GenRMPate USMC (cropped).jpg
1 Jan 1956   4 1921 (VMI) 35 (1898–1961)
5 David M. Shoup
David Monroe Shoup (cropped).jpg
1 Jan 1960   4 1926 (ROTC) 34 (1904–1983) Awarded Medal of Honor, 1943.
6 Wallace M. Greene Jr.
Wallace M. Greene.jpg
1 Jan 1964   4 1930 (USNA) 34 (1907–2003)
7 Leonard F. Chapman Jr.
Leonard F. Chapman.jpg
1 Jan 1968   4 1935 (NROTC) 33 (1913–2000) U.S. Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, 1973–1977.
8 Lewis W. Walt
Lewis William Walt.jpg
2 Jun 1969   2 1936 (ROTC) 33 (1913–1989)
9 Raymond G. Davis
Raymond G. Davis.jpg
12 Mar 1971   1 1938 (ROTC) 33 (1915–2003) Awarded Medal of Honor, 1950.
10 Keith B. McCutcheon
Keith B. McCutcheon.jpg
1 Jul 1971   0 1937 (ROTC) 34 (1915–1971) [10]
11 Robert E. Cushman Jr.
Robert E. Cushman.jpg
1 Jan 1972   4 1935 (USNA) 37 (1914–1985) Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, 1969–1971.
12 Earl E. Anderson
Earl Edward Anderson.jpg
31 Mar 1972   3 1940 (NROTC) 32 (1919–2015)
13 Louis H. Wilson Jr.
GEN Wilson, Louis Hugh Jr..jpg
1 Jul 1975   4 1941 (OCS) 34 (1920–2005) Awarded Medal of Honor, 1944.
14 Samuel Jaskilka
GEN Samuel Jaskilka.jpg
4 Mar 1976   3 1942 (OCS) 34 (1919–2012)
15 Robert H. Barrow
Gen Robert H. Barrow.JPG
1 Jul 1978   5 1942 (OCS) 36 (1922–2008)
16 Kenneth McLennan
GEN McLennan Kenneth USMC (cropped).jpg
2 Jul 1979   3 1945 (OCS) 34 (1925–2005)
17 Paul X. Kelley
GEN Kelley, Paul X.jpg
1 Jul 1981   6 1950 (NROTC) 31 (1928–2019) Chairman, American Battle Monuments Commission, 1991–1994, 2001–2005.
18 John K. Davis
General John K. Davis.jpg
1 Jul 1983   3 1950 (NROTC) 33 (1927–2019)
19 George B. Crist
General George Crist, official military photo, 1985.JPEG
22 Nov 1985   3 1952 (NROTC) 33 (1931–       )
20 Thomas R. Morgan
Morgan ThomasR.jpg
1 Jun 1986   2 1952 (NROTC) 34 (1930–       )
21 Alfred M. Gray Jr.
Official Portrait of Retired Gen. Alfred M. Gray (2) (cropped).jpg
1 Jul 1987   4 1952 (OCS) 35 (1928–       )
22 Joseph J. Went
Joseph J. Went.jpg
1 Jul 1988   2 1952 (NROTC) 36 (1930–       )
23 John R. Dailey
Dailey JR.jpg
1 Aug 1990   3 1956 (NROTC) 34 (1934–       ) Associate Deputy Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1992–1999; Director, National Air and Space Museum, 2000–2018.
24 Carl E. Mundy Jr.
GEN Carl E. Mundy, Jr.JPG
1 Jul 1991   4 1957 (NROTC) 34 (1935–2014) President, United Service Organizations, 1996–2000.
25 Joseph P. Hoar
Joseph Hoar official military photo.jpg
1 Sep 1991   3 1957 (NROTC) 34 (1934–       )
26 Walter E. Boomer
Walter E. Boomer.jpg
1 Sep 1992   2 1960 (NROTC) 32 (1938–       )
27 Richard D. Hearney
Hearney RD.jpg
15 Jul 1994   2 1962 (OCS) 32 (1939–       )
28 John J. Sheehan
Sheehan JohnJ USMC.jpg
31 Oct 1994   3 1962 (NROTC) 32 (1940–       )
29 Charles C. Krulak
Charles C. Krulak.jpg
29 Jun 1995   4 1964 (USNA) 31 (1942–       ) President, Birmingham–Southern College, 2011–2015. Son of Marine Corps lieutenant general Victor H. Krulak.
30 Richard I. Neal
Richard I Neal.jpg
19 Sep 1996   2 1965 (NROTC) 31 (1942–       )
31 Anthony C. Zinni
Anthony Zinni.jpg
8 Aug 1997   3 1965 (NROTC) 32 (1943–       ) U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East, 2002–2003; U.S. Special Envoy to Qatar, 2017–2019.
32 Charles E. Wilhelm
Charles E. Wilhelm.jpg
25 Sep 1997   3 1964 (NROTC) 33 (1941–       )
33 Terrence R. Dake
Dake TR.jpg
5 Sep 1998   2 1966 (OCS) 32 (1944–       )
34 James L. Jones
James L. Jones 2.jpg
30 Jun 1999   7 1967 (NROTC) 32 (1943–       ) National Security Advisor, 2009–2010.
35 Peter Pace
Peter Pace official portrait.jpg
8 Sep 2000   7 1967 (USNA) 33 (1945–       ) Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2008.
36 Carlton W. Fulford Jr.
Carlton W Fulford Jr.jpg
1 Oct 2000   2 1966 (USNA) 34 (1944–       )
37 Michael J. Williams
Michael J. Williams.jpg
1 Nov 2000   2 1967 (USNA) 33 (1943–       )
38 William L. Nyland
William L. Nyland.jpg
4 Sep 2002   3 1968 (NROTC) 34 (1946–       )
39 Michael W. Hagee
Michael W. Hagee.jpg
14 Jan 2003   3 1968 (USNA) 35 (1944–       )
40 James E. Cartwright
GEN Cartwright VJCS.jpg
1 Sep 2004   7 1971 (NROTC) 33 (1949–       )
41 Robert Magnus
Robert Magnus.jpg
1 Nov 2005   3 1969 (NROTC) 36 (1947–       )
42 James T. Conway
James T. Conway, official military photo portrait, 2006.jpg
13 Nov 2006   4 1970 (OCS) 36 (1947–       )
43 James N. Mattis
Mattis Centcom 2009.jpg
9 Nov 2007   6 1972 (ROTC) 35 (1950–       ) U.S. Secretary of Defense, 2017–2018.
44 James F. Amos
General James F. Amos.jpg
2 Jul 2008   6 1970 (NROTC) 38 (1946–       ) First naval aviator to become commandant.
45 Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
Dunford CJCS.JPG
23 Oct 2010   9 1977 (OCS) 33 (1955–       )
46 John R. Allen
General John R. Allen.jpg
18 Jul 2011   2 1976 (USNA) 35 (1953–       ) Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 2014–2015; President, Brookings Institution, 2017–present.
47 John F. Kelly
John F. Kelly, 2012.jpg
19 Nov 2012   3 1976 (OCS) 36 (1950–       ) U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, 2017; White House Chief of Staff, 2017–2019.
48 John M. Paxton Jr.
Paxton 2013 1.jpg
15 Dec 2012   4 1974 (OCS) 38 (1951–       )
49 Robert B. Neller
Neller 2015 2.jpg
24 Sep 2015   4 1975 (OCS) 40 (1953–       )
50 Thomas D. Waldhauser
Waldhauser Africom 2.jpg
18 Jul 2016   3 1976 (OCS) 40 (1953–       )
51 Glenn M. Walters
ACMC Walters.jpg
2 Aug 2016   2 1979 (Citadel) 37 (1957–       ) President, The Citadel, 2018–present.
52 Gary L. Thomas
ACMC 2018 HiRes.jpg
4 Oct 2018   3 1984 (NROTC) 34 (1962–       )
53 Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.
General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr (USCENTCOM).jpg
28 Mar 2019   3 1979 (Citadel) 40 (1957–       )
54 David H. Berger
Gen. David H. Berger.jpg
11 Jul 2019   3 1981 (NROTC) 38 (1959–       )
55 Eric M. Smith
Gen Smith Official Photo V1.jpg
8 Oct 2021   1 1987 (Texas A&M) 34 (c. 1961–       )

Tombstone generals

The Act of Congress of March 4, 1925, allowed officers in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. Combat citation promotions were colloquially known as "tombstone promotions" because they conferred all the perks and prestige of the higher rank including the loftier title on their tombstones but no additional retirement pay. The Act of Congress of February 23, 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades. Tombstone promotions were subsequently restricted to citations issued before January 1, 1947, and finally eliminated altogether effective November 1, 1959. The practice was terminated in an effort to encourage senior officer retirements prior to the effective date of the change to relieve an overstrength in the senior ranks.

Any general who actually served in a grade while on active duty receives precedence on the retirement list over any tombstone general holding the same retired grade. Tombstone generals rank among each other according to the dates of their highest active duty grade.

Name Photo Date of rank (LGEN) Date retired Commission [4] Notes
1 Thomas Holcomb
Gen Thomas Holcomb.jpg
20 Jan 1942   Jan 1944   1900 (OCS) (1879–1965) U.S. Minister to South Africa, 1944–1948.
2 Holland M. Smith
Holland Smith.jpg
28 Feb 1944   May 1946   1905 (OCS) (1882–1967)
3 Harry Schmidt
Harry Schmidt.jpg
1 Mar 1946   Jul 1948   1909 (OCS) (1886–1968)
4 Allen H. Turnage
Allen H. Turnage.jpg
4 Oct 1946   Jan 1948   1913 (OCS) (1891–1971)
5 LeRoy P. Hunt
Leroy p. hunt.jpg
1 Jul 1949   Jul 1951   1917 (OCS) (1892–1968)
6 Franklin A. Hart
Hart FA.jpg
22 Feb 1951   Aug 1952   1917 (OCS) (1894–1967)
7 Graves B. Erskine
ErskineGB Gen USMC.jpg
2 Jul 1951   Jul 1953   1917 (OCS) (1897–1973) Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, 1953–1961.
8 Gerald C. Thomas
Gerald C. Thomas.jpg
8 Mar 1952   Jan 1956   1917 (OCS) (1894–1984)
9 Oliver P. Smith
Oliver P. Smith.jpg
23 Jul 1953   Sep 1955   1917 (OCS) (1893–1977)
10 William O. Brice
Brice WO.jpg
28 Aug 1953   1956   1921 (Citadel) (1898–1972)
11 Christian F. Schilt
Schilt CF USMC.jpg
1 Aug 1955   Apr 1957   1919 (OCS) (1895–1987) Awarded Medal of Honor, 1928.
12 Alfred H. Noble
Noble AH.jpg
1 Aug 1955   Nov 1956   1917 (OCS) (1894–1983)
13 Vernon E. Megee
Vernon Megee.jpg
1 Jan 1956   Nov 1959   1922 (OCS) (1900–1992)
14 Edwin A. Pollock
Edwin A Pollock.jpg
1 Jan 1956   Nov 1959   1921 (Citadel) (1899–1982)
15 Merrill B. Twining
Merrill B Twining.jpg
12 Sep 1956   Oct 1959   1923 (USNA) (1902–1996) Brother of Air Force four-star general Nathan F. Twining.
16 Ray A. Robinson
Robinson RA.jpg
1 Nov 1956   Nov 1957   1917 (OCS) (1896–1976)
17 Robert E. Hogaboom
Robert E. Hogaboom.jpg
1 Dec 1957   Oct 1959   1925 (USNA) (1902–1993)

History

Four-star positions

Structure of the United States Marine Corpsfederal government of the United Statescombined operationsUnified combatant commandUnified combatant commandUnified combatant commandJoint Chiefs of StaffIraq WarWar in Afghanistan (2001–2021)Gulf WarVietnam WarKorean WarCold WarWorld War II

1945–present

By the Act of March 21, 1945, Congress permitted the President to appoint the Commandant of the Marine Corps to the grade of general. Alexander Vandegrift, then Commandant, was promoted from lieutenant general to general on April 4, 1945, to rank from March 21 of that year. He thus became the first Marine to serve in the grade of general. The Office of the Commandant was permanently fixed at the grade of four-star general under authority of the Act of August 7, 1947. All Commandants since that date have been entitled by law to serve in the grade of general and, in accordance with the provisions of 10 U.S.C. § 5201, to retire in that grade.

In April 1969, the Senate passed and sent a bill to the White House that makes the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps a four-star general when the active duty strength of the Marine Corps exceeds 200,000. On May 5, 1969, President Richard Nixon signed the bill, and Lieutenant General Lewis William Walt was promoted to that rank on June 2, 1969, thus becoming the first Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps to attain four-star rank. Legislation allowing the Assistant Commandant to wear the four-star insignia regardless of the strength of the Marine Corps was approved by President Gerald Ford on March 4, 1976.

On November 22, 1985, General George B. Crist was promoted to four-star rank and on November 27, he assumed the position of Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. His appointment marked the first time a Marine headed a unified command and the first time the Corps had three four-star generals on active duty at the same time. Since 1985, a number of Marines have served in joint positions holding four-star rank, and it is no longer uncommon for the Corps to have four or five four-star generals on active duty at the same time.

In 2005, General Peter Pace became the first Marine to be appointed as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chief military advisor to the President of the United States and most senior appointment in the United States armed forces. Previously, in 2001, General Pace was the first Marine officer to be appointed as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VJCS).

The standard tour length for the commandant (CMC) is four years; two years for the assistant commandant (ACMC); for a combatant commander, three years; and a total of four years served in consecutive two-year terms for the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS/VJCS).

Eric Smith (general)David H. BergerKenneth F. McKenzie Jr.Gary L. Thomas (general)Glenn M. WaltersThomas D. WaldhauserRobert NellerJohn M. Paxton, Jr.John F. Kelly (Marine)John R. AllenJoseph F. Dunford Jr.James F. AmosJames N. MattisJames T. ConwayRobert MagnusJames E. CartwrightMichael W. HageeWilliam L. NylandMichael J. WilliamsCarlton W. Fulford Jr.Peter PaceJames L. JonesTerrence R. DakeCharles E. WilhelmAnthony C. ZinniRichard I. NealCharles C. KrulakJohn J. SheehanRichard D. HearneyWalter E. BoomerJoseph P. HoarCarl E. Mundy Jr.John R. DaileyJoseph J. WentAlfred M. Gray, Jr.Thomas R. MorganGeorge B. CristJohn K. DavisPaul X. KelleyKenneth McLennanRobert H. BarrowSamuel JaskilkaLouis H. Wilson Jr.Earl E. AndersonRobert E. Cushman Jr.Raymond G. DavisKeith B. McCutcheonLewis W. WaltLeonard F. Chapman Jr.Wallace M. Greene Jr.David M. ShoupGerald C. ThomasRandolph M. PateLemuel C. Shepherd Jr.Clifton B. CatesAlexander A. VandegriftIraq WarWar in Afghanistan (2001–2021)Gulf WarVietnam WarKorean WarCold WarWorld War II

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Dates of rank are taken, where available, from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps register of active and retired commissioned officers, or from the World Almanac and Book of Facts.
  2. ^ Positions listed are those held by the officer when promoted to general. Dates listed are for the officer's full tenure, which may predate promotion to four-star rank or postdate retirement from active duty.
  3. ^ a b The number of years of active-duty service at four-star rank is approximated by subtracting the year in the "Date of rank" column from the last year in the "Position" column.
  4. ^ a b c Sources of commission are listed in parentheses after the year of commission and include: the Officer Candidates School (OCS); the United States Naval Academy (USNA); Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at a civilian university; Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) at a civilian university; and ROTC at a senior military college such as the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) or The Citadel (Citadel).
  5. ^ a b The number of years in commission before being promoted to four-star rank is approximated by subtracting the year in the "Commission" column from the year in the "Date of rank" column.
  6. ^ Notes include years of birth and death; awards of the Medal of Honor, Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, or honors of similar significance; major government appointments; university presidencies or equivalents; familial relationships with other four-star officers or significant government officials such as U.S. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, U.S. Senators, or state governors; and unusual career events such as premature relief or death in office.
  7. ^ Posthumously promoted to general by Act of Congress, Jun 1947, with date of rank 23 Jan 1947.
  8. ^ Reverted to lieutenant general, Jan 1952; retired as general, Jun 1954.
  9. ^ Retired as general, Jan 1956; recalled as general, Mar 1956.
  10. ^ Unable to assume post due to ill health; promoted and placed on retired list as general by Act of Congress, 1 Jul 1971; died 13 Jul 1971.

Bibliography

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  • United States Marine Corps History Division, Who's Who in Marine Corps History, archived from the original on 2007-02-19, retrieved 2012-11-15
  • United States Marine Corps Manpower & Reserve Affairs, Biographies: General Officers & Senior Executives, archived from the original on 2013-05-12
  • United States Marine Corps Officer Candidates School, History of Officer Candidates School, archived from the original on 2007-02-05
  • U.S. Bureau of Naval Personnel (1950–1959), Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, Washington D.C.: Department of the Navy
  • "Generals' Exodus", TIME Magazine, September 7, 1959, archived from the original on October 28, 2007