Brigadier General Robert L. Denig, Sr.



Robert Livingston Denig, Sr., the Marine Corps’ first Director of Public Information, was born 29 September 1884 in Clinton, New York.  The son of a Navy officer, he became acquainted with naval service early in life, and attended grade school for several years in Japan while his father was serving with the U.S. Asiatic Fleet.

He attended high school in Sandusky, Ohio, where he was a member of the Sixth Ohio Regiment of the National Guard in 1900.  He also attended St. Johns School in Manlius, New York, and the University of Pennsylvania.

On 29 September 1905, he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.  After studying at the School of Application, Annapolis, Maryland, in 1906, he was ordered to a Provisional Marine Battalion being assembled at Norfolk Virginia, for duty with the Army in the Cuban Pacification, where he served until November 1907. 

From late 1907 to early 1917, he served in various locations, including aboard the USS Missouri; at Marine Barracks, Annapolis; as a recruiting officer in St. Paul, Minnesota; in the Philippine Islands; and at the Marine Barracks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was promoted to first lieutenant on 14 May 1908 and captain on 29 August 1916.

In May 1917, he was temporarily promoted to major and was sent to France in July of that year.  There he commanded an Army battalion in the Aisne-Marne Defensive east of Chateau-Thierry from 1 June to 7 July 1918.  Through the battle of Soissons, Maj Denig commanded the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines.  On 30 July 1918, he was again given an Army battalion to command.

While leading his men in cleaning out enemy machine guns and snipers from the area around the Medeah Farm in France, Maj Denig was wounded on 3 October 1918.  For remaining in action until the mission was accomplished, he earned the Army Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross, the Nation’s second highest decorations.

After the war he was permanently promoted to major on 4 June 1920 and served at various posts in the United States, in Santo Domingo, and in Nicaragua.  For outstanding performance of duty in Nicaragua during the 1931 earthquake, he was awarded that country’s Presidential Medal of Merit.

Major Denig was initially hospitalized due to injuries received during the Nicaraguan earthquake upon his return to the United States in April 1931.  After recovering, he saw duty at various stations across the country.  He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 1 October 1931 and colonel on 25 November 1934.  On 30 June 1941, he was advanced to the rank of brigadier general and placed on the retired list.

However, BGen Denig was immediately recalled to active duty and assigned to Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was given the task of organizing a Division of Public Relations.  BGen Denig is credited with “fathering” the idea of combat correspondents in the American armed forces.  For his work as director of the Division of Public Relations throughout World War II, he earned the Legion of Merit.

Brigadier General Denig retired for a second time on 1 December 1945, after serving more than 40 years in the Marine Corps.  He passed away at the age of 94 on 25 July 1979 in Los Altos, California.

Other decorations held by BGen Denig include:  the Purple Heart Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Cuban Pacification Medal, World War I Victory Medal, Expeditionary Medal, Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal, French Legion of Honor, French Croix de Guerre with Palm and Bronze Star, French Fourragere, American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal.