Lieutenant General John R. Chaisson



Lieutenant General John R. Chaisson, who retired from active duty on 31 July 1972, died of a heart attack, 20 September 1972. He had served his last tour of duty as Chief of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, from May 1971 until his retirement.

Born 27 September 1916, in Swampscott, Massachusetts, he graduated from Swampscott High School in 1934. He received his BA degree upon graduation from Harvard College in June 1939, then attended Boston College Law School for one year.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in October 1940, and was assigned to the Officer Candidates' School, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on 20 February 1941, and was commissioned in the regular Marine Corps on 4 August 1941.

At the outbreak of World War II, Lieutenant Chaisson was a battery officer with the 1st Battalion, Eleventh Marines, serving at Parris Island, South Carolina, and New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina.

Embarking with his unit for the Pacific area in April 1942, he saw combat in the Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Britain, and Peleliu campaigns. The Legion of Merit with Combat "V" was awarded him for outstanding service as Plans and Training Officer of the 1st Battalion, Eleventh Marines, 1st Marine Division, during the seizure of the Peleliu Island airfield. He also earned the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for meritorious service as Artillery Observer of the 1st Battalion, Eleventh Marines, in action on Cape Gloucester, New Britain. He was promoted to major in May 1943.

Major Chaisson returned to the United States in November 1944, and the following month was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, where he completed the Instructors' Orientation Course and later served as Officer in Charge of the Course and Academic Inspector until April 1948.

Following this assignment, he departed the United States in June 1948 for Tsingtao, China, where he served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, and Public Information Officer of Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific, until March 1949. After a brief assignment with the 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, California, he joined the Naval ROTC unit at Tufts College, Medford, Massachusetts, for a two-year tour as Officer Instructor. While serving as Officer Instructor, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1951.

Colonel Chaisson reported to Headquarters Marine Corps in June 1951, where he served as Enlisted Coordinator, then as Head of the Enlisted Coordinator Section, Detail Branch, Personnel Department, until October 1953. Upon his detachment, he completed cold weather training with the Cold Weather Training Battalion, Bridgeport, California, and embarked for duty in the Far East in December 1953.

In Korea, Chaisson joined the 1st Marine Division, and served consecutively as Commander of the 4th Battalion, Assistant G-3, and Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, from December 1953 until September 1954. For meritorious achievement while commanding the 4th Battalion in Korea, he was awarded the Navy Letter of Commendation.

In October 1954, he was assigned duties in Washington, D.C., as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Personnel and Reserve Forces), and later, served as Special Assistant for Manpower Utilization and for Marine Corps Matters. In August 1957, he returned to Marine Corps Schools, where he completed the Senior School, then served successively as Chief, Landing Force Instruction Team, Advanced Base Problem Section; Assistant Director and later, Director of the Junior School until June 1961. While serving there, he was promoted to colonel in March 1959.

From July 1961 until July 1963, Colonel Chaisson served as Fleet Marine Officer on the Staff of the Commander, Sixth Fleet. Upon his return to the United States, he began a tour of duty with the 2d Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune, serving as Chief of Staff, Plans Officer and, again as Chief of Staff, until December 1965.

He was assigned to South Vietnam in February 1966, and served there for twenty-nine months. The Legion of Merit with Combat "V" was awarded him for his service as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, III Marine Amphibious Force. Following his promotion to brigadier general in November 1966, he was reassigned duty as Director, Combat Operations Center, Headquarters, MACV, and earned the Distinguished Service Medal.

Detached in June 1968, he returned to Headquarters Marine Corps where he was assigned duty as Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans and Programs). He was promoted to major general, 1 October 1968. Nominated for promotion to lieutenant general by President Nixon, his nomination was confirmed by the Senate on 17 June 1970. He received his third star on 1 July 1970 and was designated Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans and Programs). In May 1971, he became Chief of Staff and served in this capacity until he retired from active duty. General Chaisson earned a second award of the Distinguished Service Medal for his service at Headquarters Marine Corps, from July 1968 through July 1972.

A complete list of his medals and decorations include: two awards of the Distinguished Service Medal; the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and one gold Star in lieu of a second award, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V", the Navy Commendation Medal, three Presidential Unit Citations, the Navy Unit Commendation, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the China Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star, the Korean Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the United Nations Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

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