(Archive - Week of November 12, 2005)
Gerald Carthrae Thomas
General, United States Marine Corps
Note from Noah:
Gerald C. Thomas, the first United States Marine to rise from private to a four-star general, rank by rank. It was an honor to have served in the Corps (War and Peace) under the command of General Thomas on three different occasions.
General Gerald C. Thomas, a veteran of more than 38 years of distinguished service which included duty on four continents spanning two World Wars, Haiti and the Korean conflict, died 7 April 1984 at his home in Washington, D.C.
In 1951 the general earned the Army Distinguished Service Cross and Army Distinguished Service Medal while commanding the 1st Marine Division in Korea. During World War II he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal as Operations Officer of the 1st Marine Division in 1942. In that capacity he prepared operational plans for the assault and capture of Guadalcanal and Tulagi. In 1943, after serving as Chief of Staff of the 1st Division at Guadalcanal, he won the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" as Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps in the Treasury-Bougainville operation. He was awarded a second Legion of Merit for outstanding service from January 1944 to November 1946, as Director of the Division of Plans and Policies at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington.
For gallantry in action during World War I, General Thomas was awarded the Silver Star Medal. He also received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action, and as a former member of the 6th Marine Regiment, he is entitled to wear the French Fourragere.
The general was born on 29 October 1894, at Slater, Missouri, and after attending Illinois Wesleyan University, he enlisted in the Marine Corps on 28 May 1917. He was awarded a degree of Doctor of Laws by his alma mater on 10 February 1954.
Sailing for France in September 1917, General Thomas saw action with the 6th Marines at Verdun, Belleau Wood, Soissons, and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Champagne). He was commissioned a second lieutenant in September 1918, and after participating in the occupation of Germany, he returned to the United States in July 1919. That November, he joined the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in Haiti, taking part in action against Haitian bandit forces until May 1921. In August 1921, he was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, where he remained for the next two years. During that time he was detached for several months of duty with the guard company at the Disarmament Conference in Washington. He also completed the Company Officers Course at the Marine Corps Schools.
From November 1923, to October 1925, the general commanded the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Tulsa. He was then stationed for two years at the Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Charleston, South Carolina, and for a year at Camp Holabird, Maryland, where he completed a course in the Army Motor Transport School. In December 1928, after serving as Officer-in-Charge of Land Transportation at the Marine Barracks, Parris Island, South Carolina, he joined the 1st Brigade Marines in Haiti, and became Aide to the Commanding General. He returned to the United States in June 1931, entering the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, the following September.
Graduating in June 1932, General Thomas was made an instructor in the Basic School at the Philadelphia NavyYard. He remained there until August 1934, when he was ordered back to Quantico as a student in the Senior Course. After completing that course, he was ordered to China in July 1935, for duty with the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in Peiping. He returned to the United States two years later to attend the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and after graduating in June 1938, he joined the staff of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico.
In May 1941, the general was transferred to Cairo, Egypt, as a naval observer, but he was recalled to Quantico two months later to become Assistant Operations Officer of the 1st Marine Division. Named Operations Officer of the division in March 1942, he sailed for the South Pacific in that capacity two months later. He was appointed Chief of Staff of the division in September 1942, at Guadalcanal, and in July 1943, he became Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps. After participating in the Empress Augusta Bay operation at Bougainville, he returned to Marine Corps Headquarters, where he was made Director of Plans and Policies in January 1944.
In July 1947, General Thomas was named Commanding General of Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific. After that unit was disbanded in March 1949, he became Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps Equipment Board at Quantico, later serving there as Commanding General of the Landing Force Development Center. He took command of the 1st Marine Division in Korea in April 1951, serving in that capacity until January 1952, when he returned to the United States. The following month he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and designated by the President as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served in that billet until June 1954, and the following month became Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. He retired from the Marine Corps and was promoted to his present rank on 1 January 1956.
General Thomas' medals and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross; Distinguished Service Medal (Army); Distinguished Service Medal (Navy); Silver Star Medal; Legion of Merit with Gold Star; Air Medal with two old Stars; Purple Heart Medal; Presidential Unit Citation with one Bronze Star; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Star; United Nations Service Medal; Commander in the Order of the Orange Nassau with Crossed Swords, the French Fourragere and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
General Thomas was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
GERALD C. THOMAS
GENERAL, U.S. MARINE CORPS
VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 01/01/1939 - 01/01/1959
DATE OF BIRTH: 10/29/1894
DATE OF DEATH: 04/07/1984
DATE OF INTERMENT: 04/11/1984
BURIED AT: SECTION 2 SITE 4967-A-1
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY