General William O. Brice



General William Oscar Brice, a veteran of the Korean conflict, the World War II fight for the Solomon Islands and pre-war expeditionary duty in Haiti and China, died 30 January 1972 at the U.S. Army Hospital, Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. He last served at Pearl Harbor as Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, after more than three years at Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington, D.C., as Director of Marine Aviation, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps for Air and Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Marine Aviation.

The general served in Korea as Assistant Commander of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from April to October 1951. In World War II, when the Marines were fighting at Guadalcanal in America's first offensive against Japan, he commanded all U.S. Army, Navy, Marine and Royal New Zealand Air Force search, bombing and torpedo planes based on that island. He also headed Marine Aircraft Group 14 during its support of the New Georgia and Bougainville invasions and directed all Solomons-based Army, Navy, Marine and New Zealand fighter operations against Rabaul, Japan's biggest base in the Southwest Pacific.

He won the Distinguished Service Medal at Guadalcanal, the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" as head of the Fighter Command, the Air Medal for combat flights in the Solomons between December 1942, and February 1944, and the Order of the British Empire (with rank of Honorary Commander, Military Division) for his service with the New Zealand Air Force. In addition, he earned the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" in the final months of the war as Chief of Staff, Air, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.

Born 10 December 1898, in Columbia, South Carolina, General Brice attended Mt. Zion Institute at Winnsboro, South Carolina, from 1913 to 1917, then served in the Army in the latter part of World War I. After the war, he resumed his education, graduating from The Citadel at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1921. On September 25th of that year, he reported for active duty as a Marine second lieutenant and was assigned to the Company Officers School at Quantico, Virginia. Graduating from the school in July 1922, he was stationed at the Marine Barracks, Parris Island, South Carolina, until May 1923, when he joined the 1st Marine Brigade in Haiti. He returned from that country in February 1924, to enter flight training at Pensacola, Florida, where he was designated an aviator that August.

In June 1925, after further instruction at Pensacola and service with Observation Squadron 3 at Quantico, the general began another tour of overseas duty, this time with Scouting Squadron 1 on Guam. From Guam he was ordered to China in April 1927, when most of the squadron was sent there to help protect Americans and other foreigners during the Chinese civil war. The squadron was withdrawn to the Philippines in May while arrangements for a flying field were made with the Chinese government, and the next month it returned to China to begin operating from Hsin Ho in support of the 3rd Marine Brigade.

Returning to the United States in December 1927, General Brice was assigned the following month to Fighter Squadron 9-M at Quantico where he remained until October 1931. Then, on November 2nd of that year he reported aboard the aircraft carrier Lexington in command of Scouting Squadron 15-M, which thus began its service as one of the first two Marine squadrons to be based on Navy carriers. (The other unit, Scouting Squadron 14-M, boarded the "Saratoga" the same day.)

The general remained on the Lexington until January 1933, and that June, after six month at San Diego, he returned to Quantico. There, during the next three years, he served on aviation duty, completed the Junior Course and was a member of the War Plans Section. He entered the Army Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama, in August 1936, and upon graduation in June of the following year, returned to Quantico to serve as Executive Officer and later, Commander, of Scouting Squadron 1. After that he was an instructor at Pensacola from June 1939, until August 1941, when he went back to Quantico once more, this time as Operations Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11.

With that group General Brice moved to San Diego in December 1941, and there, in March 1942, he assumed command of Marine Aircraft Group 12. He headed that unit until September 1942, when he rejoined Marine Aircraft Group 11 as its commander, and the following month he sailed with it (via New Caledonia) for the New Hebrides Islands, where the group began feeding planes and pilots into Guadalcanal. In December 1942, he moved up to Guadalcanal to take command of Marine Aircraft Group 14 and all the search, bombing and torpedo planes based there, remaining until April 1943, when he departed for New Zealand with the group.

The general returned to the Solomons with that unit in August 1943, to support the New Georgia and Bougainville operations. The group became the nucleus of the Solomons Fighter Command, and that October General Brice was assigned additional duties as head of that organization. He relinquished his command of the group in January 1944, but continued to head the Fighter Command until he returned to the United States that March.

In September 1944, after service in various capacities at the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina, General Brice reported to Marine Corps Headquarters, where he served as Executive Officer of the Division of Plans and Policies until June 1945. The same year he was promoted to brigadier general at the age of 46, which made him the youngest general officer then in the Marine Corps, and that July he arrived in Hawaii to take over as Chief of Staff, Air, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. He held that post until May 1947, and the following month, returned to Marine Corps Headquarters as Assistant Director of Marine Aviation.

Leaving Headquarters in May 1949, the general's next tour of duty was at Glenview, Illinois, as a Commander of Marine Air Reserve Training from that July until April 1951, when he left for Korea to become Assistant Commander of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Promoted to major general that August, he returned to Hawaii in October as Deputy Commander, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, serving in that capacity until March 1952, when he returned to the United States. He became Director of Aviation the following month, and in August 1953, when that post was elevated to a lieutenant general's billet, he was promoted to his present rank. He left Washington in July 1955, and assumed his final command on September 9th of that year. He retired in 1956 and was advanced to the rank of general.

In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal and Order of the British Empire, General Brice holds the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star; the World War I Victory Medal; the Yangtze Service Medal; the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; the American Area Campaign Medal; the World War II Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.

Marine Corps University