United States Marine Corps flag

Lieutenant General John Archer Lejeune
(1867 1942)


 

 

John Archer Lejeune was born in New Roads, Louisiana, on January 10, 1867.  He attended Louisiana State University, located at that time in what is now known as the Old Pentagon Barracks on the present-day State Capitol grounds in downtown Baton Rouge.  Because the family could not afford the university's required military uniform, Lejeune's mother made one for him by dying one of his father's old gray Confederate uniforms and sewing the appropriate insignias and buttons onto it herself.

 

Lejeune secured an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and later graduated in 1888.  As a midshipman, he promptly embarked on an exemplary career in the Marine Corps, starting with sea duty aboard the steam-driven sloop USS VANDALIA.  He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant while at sea in 1890.

 

In 1898, now-Captain Lejeune saw action in the Spanish American War while aboard the cruiser USS CINCINNATI (C7).  His tours of duty following the war included quelling uprisings in Panama in 1903 and a tour in the Philippines.  He graduated from the U.S. Army War College in 1910.  In 1911, Lieutenant Colonel Lejeune and his 2nd Provisional Brigade quelled uprisings in Cuba.  By 1914, he was in command of the 2nd Advanced Base Regiment in Vera Cruz, Mexico.

 

Lejeune was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and, in 1917, became the first commander of the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia.

 

Lieutenant General John Archer Lejeune

LGen. John Archer Lejeune,

13th Commandant of the U.S.

Marine Corps, after whom

Camp Lejeune, NC is named.

 Photo courtesy of the

National Archives.

 

World War I saw Lejeune leading a brigade of the 32nd Division at Brest, France.  Following the Soissons offensive, he took charge of the 4th Marine Brigade.  He was promoted to Major General and placed in command of the 2nd Division, American Expeditionary Force, becoming the first Marine Corps officer to command an Army division in combat.  The 2nd Division took part in some of the bloodiest fighting involving American forces, including the drive on St. Mihiel and the Champagne offensive.

 

The U.S. Army Distinguished Service MedalThe U.S. Navy Distinguished Service MedalThe French Croix de Guerre MedalThe French Legion of Honor Medal

(L-R) The U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, the

U.S. Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the French

Croix de Guerre, and the French Legion of Honor.

Following the armistice in November of 1918, Lejeune led the 2nd Division triumphantly into Germany.  He was awarded the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre by the government and people of France, the Army Distinguished Service Medal from General John J. Pershing, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his actions in World War I.

 

Upon returning to the United States, Lejeune was placed in command of the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia, for a second time.  He served in this billet for a short time before being named the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps.  He served in this capacity until his retirement from active duty in 1929.

 

During his tenure as Commandant, many sought to dissolve the Marine Corps.  Lejeune fought hard to keep the service alive.  The strategies on amphibious warfare used in World War II were developed under his stewardship as Commandant.

 

Following his retirement from the Marine Corps in 1929, Lejeune served as superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute until poor health forced him to resign in 1939.  While on the retired list, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, the first Marine to ever hold that rank.  He died on November 20, 1942, at the age of 75 in Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.  He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.  Marine Barracks, New River, North Carolina, was renamed in his honor near the end of 1942.  Camp Lejeune is today one of the largest Marine Corps training facilities in the nation.

 

LGen. John Archer Lejeune is today known and revered in Marine Corps history as "the Marine's Marine" and "the greatest Leatherneck."

 

 

Back To Louisiana's Sons & Daughters Page

 


**Copyright 1997-2006 by Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission**