Eli Kelley Cole was born on 1 September 1867 in New York City. He was appointed a naval cadet on 4 September 1883 and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy on 8 June 1888. After completing the two-year period of sea duty then incumbent upon graduates of Annapolis, Cole transferred to the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant on 1 July 1890. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 19 July 1892; to captain 6 June 1899; to major, 28 September 1903; to lieutenant colonel, 13 May 1908; to colonel 27 October 1914; to brigadier general, 29 August 1916; and to major general, 20 June 1924.


As a junior officer, Cole served with Marine Detachments aboard various vessels of the Navy including the auxiliary cruiser, USS Prairie, in the West Indies during the War with Spain. His first field command was with a company of the 1st Brigade in the Philippines, 1902-1903. In the early part of 1904 he commanded a Provisional Battalion of Marines in Panama. Between July 1904 and July 1905, he was commanding officer of Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. Subsequently he returned to the Philippines to head the 2d Regiment, 1st Brigade, at Olongapo, a post which he also commanded intermittently until his detachment to the United States in November 1907.


In the early part of 1908, Cole was detailed to study at the Army War College, Washington, D.C. His course, which was interrupted by a month's duty in charge of another expeditionary force in Panama in June and July, was resumed in September and completed in December. On 1 January 1909 Cole assumed command of the Marine Officers' School redesignated as of that date from Marine Barracks, Port Royal (now Parris Island), South Carolina. His tenure at Port Royal was interrupted in December 1909 by four months duty in command of the 2d Regiment on further expeditionary service in Panama. Returning to the United States in April 1910, he resumed command at Port Royal in May and remained on that station until April 1911 when he was ordered to duty at Headquarters Marine Corps. For the next three and a half years he was engaged in the administration of recruiting at the Headquarters level and the inspection of recruiting stations.


In January 1915, Cole was assigned to command the Barracks at Annapolis, Maryland, but six months later was detached to assume command of the 2d Regiment for duty in Haiti. In August of the same year he relinquished this command in favor of the 1st Regiment, and in November 1916 he assumed command of the 1st Provisional Brigade comprising all the Marine forces in Haiti. In 1920 he was awarded the Navy Cross for his services in Haiti.


Returning to the United States in November 1917, Cole performed duty at Headquarters until January 1918 when he as reassigned to Marine Barracks, Parris Island, South Carolina. He remained there until 1 September when he transferred to head the 5th Brigade for duty in France.


Cole arrived in France on 24 September 1918. Since his brigade was broken up to guard various depots and stations in the Services of Supply, AEF, he was first assigned the additional duty as observer with the Second Division and later detailed to command the 41st Division (1st Depot Division), U.S. Army, a post which he filled from 29 October to 26 December 1918. Subsequently he headed the 1st Replacement Depot, AEF, and the American Embarkation Center at LeMans - all in addition to his duties as commanding general of the far-flung 5th Brigade. On 31 March 1919 he returned to the United States.


The next Marine command assigned to Cole was a third tour of Parris Island where he joined in September 1919 and remained until August 1924 with the exception of the period 20 December 1923 to 29 February 1924 when acting as Commanding General, Marine Corps Expeditionary Force, on maneuvers at Culebra. From August 1924 until June 1927, he assumed command of the Department of the Pacific and served there until his death in San Francisco, California, on 4 July 1929.


Assistant Commandants of the Marine Corps

Marine Corps University