Cates, Clifton Bledsoe
[Gen CMC]

biography   biography


Cates, Clifton B. General 19th Commandant USMC


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

19th Commandant of the Marine Corps (1948-1951)

Born (1893-08-31)August 31, 1893
Tiptonville, Tennessee
Died June 4, 1970(1970-06-04) (aged 76)
Annapolis, Maryland
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1917 - 1954
Rank General

Commands held



General Clifton Bledsoe Cates (August 31, 1893–June 4, 1970), USMC, was the 19th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (served January 1, 1948 - December 31, 1951) . He was honored for his heroism during World War I at Belleau Wood and in World War II for inspired combat leadership at Iwo Jima.

Military career

After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1916, he was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserves. He began active duty on June 13, 1917.

World War I

During World War I, Cates served with the 6th Marine Regiment, fighting in France. For his heroism in the Aisne defensive at Boursches and Belleau Wood, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross and Oak Leaf Cluster, in addition to the Purple Heart. He was awarded a Silver Star for his gallantry at Soissons. In addition to his medals from the U.S. military, he was recognized by the French government with the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star and two palms.

Post-war service

Cates returned to the United States in September 1919, and he served in Washington, D.C. as a White House aide and Aide-de-Camp to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 1920, he served in San Francisco, California, as Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, Department of the Pacific. From 1923 to 1925, he served a tour of sea duty as commander of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS California (BB-44).

In 1929, Cates was deployed to Shanghai, China, where he rejoined the 4th Marines, where he served for three years. He then returned to the U.S. for training at the Army Industrial College and in the Senior Course in the Marine Corps Schools. In 1935, was assigned to the War Plans Section of the Division of Operations and Training at Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC). In 1936, he returned to Shanghai as a battalion commander with the 6th Marine Regiment. In 1938, he rejoined the 4th Marines in Shanghai.
In 1940, and he was named the Director of the Marine Officers Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In 1942, Col Cates took command of the 1st Marines.

World War II

Colonel Cates led the 1st Marine Regiment at Guadalcanal, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V". He then took command of the 4th Marine Division in the Marianas operation, the Tinian campaign and the seizure of Iwo Jima. For his services at Tinian he received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal for his service at Iwo Jima.

After his first tour of duty in the Pacific, returned to the United States to serve as Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico until 1944. He then returned to the Pacific theater until the end of the war as commander of the 4th Marine Division.


On January 1, 1948, he was promoted to the rank of General and sworn in as Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served as Commandant for four years. Upon completion of his tour as Commandant of the Marine Corps he was reverted back to the rank of Lieutenant General and returned to serve again as Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools. He retired on June 30, 1954 and was once again promoted to the rank of General.


General Cates died 4 June 1970 at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland, after a long illness. He was buried with full military honors on 8 June 1970 at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the few officers of any service who had commanded a platoon, a company, a battalion, a regiment and a division under fire, he won nearly 30 decorations. In addition to the decorations already mentioned, Gen Cates’ medals and decorations include: the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon with three bronze stars (Guadalcanal, Tinian and Iwo Jima); the World War I Victory Medal with Aisne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector clasps; the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal; the Expeditionary Medal (China-1929-1931); the Yangtze Service Medal (Shanghai-1930-1931); the China Service Medal (China-1937-1939); the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the American Area Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal and the Netherlands Order of the Orange Nassau with crossed swords and rank of Grand Officer.

General Cates also held doctoral law degrees from the University of Tennessee and the University of Chattanooga.

Awards and Citations

Awards and decorations

Cates was the recipient of the following awards:

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1st Row Navy Cross French Fourragère
2nd Row Distinguished Service Cross w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Navy Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 star Silver Star w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Legion of Merit w/ valor device
3rd Row Purple Heart w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 3 stars Navy Unit Commendation World War I Victory Medal w/ 3 Silver Navy Commendation Stars & 5 campaign stars
4th Row Army of Occupation of Germany Medal Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal Yangtze Service Medal China Service Medal
5th Row American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars World War II Victory Medal
6th Row National Defense Service Medal Croix de Guerre w/ Gilt Star & 2 palms Legion of Honor, Knight grade Order of Orange-Nassau, rank of Grand Officer w/ crossed swords

Date of Rank

Rank Date
biography Second Lieutenant May 24, 1917 (Provisional/Reserves)
Sep, 18, 1917 (Temporary)
biography First Lieutenant July 1, 1918 (Temporary)
Aug, 28, 1918 (authorized-Temporary)
biography Captain Mar, 5, 1919-Sep, 25, 1919 (temporary)
Mar, 21, 1921 (appointed-Temporary)
Apr, 2, 1921 (permanent)
Jun, 4, 1920 (official, retroactive, date of rank)
biography Major Oct, 1, 1931
biography Lieutenant Colonel July 1, 1935
authorized on July 26, 1935
biography Colonel Apr, 1, 1940
biography Brigadier General Sep, 16, 1942 (temporary)
Apr, 3, 1943 (permanent)
biography Major General Feb, 1, 1944
authorized on June 23, 1944
biography Lieutenant General Jan, 1, 1952
biography General While serving as Commandant (until Dec 31, 1951)
Dec, 31, 1947 (appointed)
Jan 28, 1948 (commission)
Jun 30, 1954 (on retired list)


Lieutenant General Lemuel C . Shepherd, Jr. Commanding General, FMFPac, after an inspection trip to the war zone during which he was briefed on and viewed the operations of the brigade and of VMO—6, echoed General Craig's praise of helicopters and repeated his call for more of them:

There are no superlatives adequate to describe the general reaction to the helicopter. Almost any individual questioned could offer some personal story to emphasize the valuable part played by the five H03S planes available .* Reconnaissance, liaison, visual flank security, movement of security patrols from one key locality to the next, posting and supply of security detachments and many more . There is no doubt that the enthusiasm voiced by the brigade is entirely warranted . Moreover the usefulness of the helicopter is not by any means confined to a situation such as encountered in Korea . No effort should be spared to get helicopters—larger than the H03S-ls if possible —but helicopters in any form, to the theater at once —and on a priority higher than any other weapon.

[11] Cited in BGen Clayton C . Jerome memo to VAdm Cassady, RAdms Soucek, Duckworth, Pride, and Goe, dtd 19Sep50, no Subj, hereafter cited as Jerome memo.

In view of General Shepherd ' s statement pertaining to the helicopter in Korea, Brigadier General Clayton C. Jerome, who relieved Major General Wallace as the Director of Aviation on 1 September 1950, sent a memorandum to Admiral Cassady in which he included General Shepherd' s statement. General Jerome said

"this emphasizes the
[remark] I made the other day in connection with the requirements for helicopters, more helicopters, and more helicopters in the Korea Area. "

[12] Jerome memo .

Major General Lamson-Scribner recalled the period: Just prior to the receipt of General Shepherd's letter, General Jerome and I attended a conference
[at] which Admiral Cassady, was chairman of the Navy Aircraft Procurement Program for Fiscal 51 . The program was for only a relatively few helicopters . We insisted that we needed more than programed for purchase . Admiral Mel Pride, Chief of BuAir, remarked in essence

`If you know as little about helicopters as we do you would not get into one .' Admiral Cassady said ,
`Mel, the Marines want them . Make some changes in the program to provide more helicopters for the Marines .'

[13] MajGen F. H. Lamson-Scribner (Ret.) ltr to Dir MCHist&Mus, dtd 23Mar75 . Comment file, "Developmental History of the Helicopter in the USMC 1946 — 1962 . "


General Jerome's memo was only the latest of many attempts to convince the Department of the Navy to increase the Marine Corps ' inventory of aircraft for the Korean buildup . On 19 July, General Cates submitted a request to the Secretary of the Navy for an additional four Marine fighter squadrons in an effort to increase the total to 12 .

June 26, 1950


Upholding their long tradition as America’s force-in-readiness, the Marines have usually been among the first troops to see action on a foreign shore. Thus it might have been asked what was holding them back at a time when Army troops in Korea were hard-pressed.

The answer is that the Marines actually were the first United States ground forces to get into the fight after completing the long voyage from the American mainland. There were no Marine units of any size in the Far East at the outset of the invasion. But not an hour was lost at the task of assembling an air-ground team at Camp Pendleton, California, and collecting the shipping.

The spirit of impatience animating the Marine Corps is shown by an entry on the desk calendar of General Clifton B. Cates under the date of 26 June 1950. This was the day after the news of the invasion reached Washington, and the Commandant commented:

“SecNav’s policy meeting called off. Nuts.”


 Gen Clifton B. Cates ltr to authors, 7 Apr 54 (Cates, 7 Apr 54).