Major General George Barnett, 12th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born in Lancaster, Wisconsin, on 9 December 1859. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1877, graduating in 1881 with the first academy class to provide officers to the Marine Corps. After spending two years at sea as a cadet-midshipman he was transferred to the Marine Corps and was appointed a second lieutenant on 1 July 1883. While serving as a second lieutenant he did duty at the various Marine Barracks in the eastern part of the United States and served on board the USS Pinta for three years. He was again at sea on the USS Iroquois at the time he was promoted to first lieutenant in September 1890. 

After completing the second of several tours of sea duty he served one year at the Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., and was then attached to a Marine guard at the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago, where he remained until it closed. At that time he resumed his regular duties at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. 

In June 1896, he again went to sea, this time aboard the USS Vermont. He was transferred to the USS San Francisco in December 1897 and to the USS New Orleans during the following April. While serving on that vessel during the Spanish-American War, he participated in several bombardments of the forts at Santiago, Cuba. He was advanced to captain on 11 August 1898, and was transferred to the USS Chicago in November of that year. 

Captain Barnett came ashore for duty at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in May 1901, and was promoted to major shortly afterwards. During the following year he was given command of a battalion of Marines on the USS Panther and sent for duty on the Isthmus of Panama, where they protected American interests and guarded the railway transit of the Isthmus. 

Major Barnett returned to Washington in December 1902, only to be placed in command of another battalion of Marines being transferred less than a month later to join the first Brigade of Marines in the Philippine Islands. Arriving in the Philippines a few months later, he was transferred to duty as a Fleet Marine Officer of the Asiatic Fleet and served on several vessels of that fleet until December 1904, when he rejoined the First Brigade of Marines. 

Major Barnett was transferred from the Philippine Islands to Washington, D.C. in April 1905, and shortly after arriving in the United States received a promotion to lieutenant colonel. He served as Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, Navy Yard in Washington for a period of one year when he was again placed in command of an expeditionary battalion which sailed on board the USS Minneapolis for Havana, Cuba, where it landed and became part of the Cuban Army of Pacification. 

Lieutenant Colonel Barnett’s organization was augmented to a regiment soon after landing in Cuba, while the entire Marine Expeditionary Force was increased to a brigade under the command of Colonel Littleton W.T. Waller. LtCol Barnett’s regiment was almost immediately transferred to Cianfuegos, where it spread out over a wide area with Barnett controlling a considerable portion of the island. A large army expeditionary force relieved part of the Marines in Cuba and LtCol Barnett returned to Washington early in November 1906. 

After commanding the Marine Barracks in Washington for a period of one year, he was transferred to Marine Corps Headquarters and was shortly afterwards ordered to command the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peking, China. Upon completing his tour of duty in the Far East he returned to the United States during the summer of 1910 and assumed command of the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was promoted to the rank of colonel on 11 October of that year. 

During the next three years he was sent to Cuba, each year in command of the First Regiment of Marines, which was repeatedly sent to that troublesome island on account of serious domestic disturbances, which the United States was obligated to control under provisions of the Platt Amendment. While this serious undertaking was being conducted, the First Advanced Base Brigade of Marines was organized at Philadelphia, under the command of Col Barnett. He went with that organization on extensive maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet to Puerto Rico from which he returned on 15 February and was appointed Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps on 25 February 1914 for a period of four years. He was the first Commandant to be appointed on a four-year term in accordance with a law passed the previous year. He was promoted to brigadier general on 29 August 1916. 

The first important military event of his administration as Commandant was the sending of a reinforced brigade of Marines to take part in the operations which occurred at Vera Cruz, Mexico, during 1914. A minor intervention in Haiti was made during that year and an expeditionary force of Marines was kept afloat for some time along the west coast of Mexico. Serious trouble began to brew in both Haiti and Santo Domingo and within a year it was necessary for the Marine Corps under BGen Barnett’s guidance to place a brigade of Marines in each of these two countries, where they continued on duty until after the close of his administration. 

World War I activities of the Marine Corps were carried out under the general direction of BGen Barnett as well. The Marine Corps expanded to more than three thousand officers and approximately 75,500 enlisted men. In addition to maintaining the occupation of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and reinforcing the regular stations of the Marine Corps, two brigades of Marines were deployed to France, while other Marine units occupied parts of Cuba, and another Marine brigade was held in reserve in Galveston, Texas. Large training centers were also maintained at Quantico, Virginia, and Parris Island, South Carolina. BGen Barnett also saw the Marine Corps through the difficult period of demobilization and reorganization at the close of the war. For his outstanding service he was honored by the French Government by being made a commander of the Legion of Honor, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the Secretary of the Navy. 

He was relieved as Commandant of the Marine Corps on 30 June 1920, by order of the Secretary of the Navy. On 5 March 1921, he was given the regular rank of Major General. He spent the remaining years of his active service as Commanding General of the Department of the Pacific.

Major General Barnett retired on 9 December 1923, having reached the statutory age limit of sixty-four years. He died on 27 April 1930 in Washington D.C., and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, in a section reserved for the members of the Naval Academy Class of 1881. 

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