General Alexander Vandegrift became renowned in World War Two for his success at the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal.
Born on 13 March 1887, Vandegrift was educated at the University of Virginia. After graduation in January 1909 he became a second lieutenant with the Marine Corps.
He served in the Caribbean and Haiti in the 1910s. In June 1920, Vandegrift had a promotion to the rank of major then in 1923 he was appointed to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia. Vandegrift travelled to Tientsin, China in 1927 to serve as Operations and Training Officer of the 3rd Marine Brigade; he returned to China in 1935 to serve at the US Embassy in Peiping.
Vandegrift was made the Major General Commandant’s assistant in March 1940 and the next month he received a promotion of brigadier-general. He became part of the 1st Marine Division in November 1941 and sailed over to the South Pacific in May 1942 as the 1st US Marine Division’s commanding general. This unit joined in with America’s first large scale offensive action of World War Two: otherwise known as the attack and capture of Solomon Group islands Guadalcanal, Tulagi and Guvutu in August 1942. Vandegrift then occupied and defended the captured territories. He was presented with the Navy Cross award and the Medal of Honour for his role in this campaign. The Japanese navy were prevented from capturing Guadalcanal, which would have enabled them to establish an airfield and threaten the sea lanes between Australia and America.
In his role as commander of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps, General Vandegrift had the responsibility of commanding the successful landings at Empress Augusta Bay in the Northern Solomon Islands, in November 1943. He then went back to Washington as Commandant-designate.
On 1 January 1944 he became the Marine Corps’ 18th Commandant with the rank of lieutenant general. He became the first ever Marine officer to become a four-star general during active service in April 1945. Vandegrift was given the Distinguished Service Medal award for outstanding services to the Marine Corps.
On 31 December 1947 Vandegrift resigned from active service and was included on the retired list on 1 April 1949. He died on 8 May 1973.
See also: The Pacific War
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