WALLACE M. GREENE, JR., USMC (DECEASED)
General Wallace M. Greene, Jr., 23rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born 27 December 1907, in Waterbury, Vermont. In 1925, he graduated from high school in Burlington, Vermont, then attended the University of Vermont for a year before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. Upon graduation from the Naval Academy, 5 June 1930, he was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant and ordered to Marine Officers’ Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
After completing Basic School in June 1931, 2dLt Greene served for a year at the Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. During July 1932, he completed the Sea School at San Diego, California, and joined the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Tennessee. Returning from sea duty in March 1934, he served briefly at Pensacola, Florida, and Quantico, Virginia, before reporting to the Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, that November. He was promoted to first lieutenant the same month.
Except for a temporary assignment at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, where he completed a course in the Chemical Warfare School, he remained stationed at Lakehurst until March 1936. After that, he served at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, until he sailed for Guam in October 1936. He was stationed there until June 1937, when he embarked for Shanghai, China, to join the 4th Marine Regiment. During September 1937, the 4th Marines became a part of the 2d Marine Brigade and he was promoted to captain.
Along with his unit, Capt Greene was commended for performance of duty while attached to the defense forces of the International Settlement during the Sino-Japanese hostilities of 1937 and 1938. Upon his return from China in August 1939, he entered the Junior Course, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. He completed the course in May 1940, then took command of the 1st Chemical Company, 1st Marine Brigade, sailing with it that October for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While there, the brigade was redesignated the 1st Marine Division.
Returning with his unit in April 1941, Capt Greene served at Quantico and New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina, as Assistant Operations Officer, 1st Marine Division. In November 1941, he was ordered to London, England, as a Special Naval Observer. During that assignment, he attended the British Amphibious Warfare School in Inverary, Scotland, and the Royal Engineer Demolitions School in Ripon, York, England. He was promoted to major in January 1942 and returned to the United States the following month.
Named Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, 3d Marine Brigade, in March 1942, Maj Greene sailed with the brigade for Upolu, Western Samoa, the following month. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in August 1942 and remained on Samoa until November 1943 when he joined the V Amphibious Corps in Hawaii.
For outstanding service as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, Tactical Group One, during the planning and execution of the Marshall Islands invasion, LtCol Greene was awarded his first Legion of Merit with Combat “V”. Following the disbanding of the group in March 1944, he joined the 2d Marine Division as G-3, earning a second Legion of Merit for outstanding service in this capacity prior to and during combat on Saipan and Tinian. He remained with the 2d Division until his return to the United States in September 1944.
In October 1944, LtCol Greene was appointed Officer in Charge, G-3, Operations, Division of Plans and Policies, Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC). He held that post until July 1945, then served as Executive Officer, Special Services Branch, Personnel Department. In April 1946, he was ordered to Little Creek, Virginia, as G-3, Troop Training Unit, Amphibious Training Command, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. While there, he was promoted to colonel in February 1948, with rank from August 1947.
Detached from Little Creek in June 1948, Col Greene reported to Pearl Harbor that August as G-3, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Pacific. He returned from that assignment in June 1950 and for the next two years was Chief of the Combined Arms Section, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. He also served briefly as Chief of the Coordination and Evaluation Section there, before entering the National War College, Washington, in August 1952. He graduated in June 1953 and the following month became Staff Special Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Security Council Affairs. Prior to his departure from Washington, he was promoted to brigadier general on 1 September 1955.
Later that September, BGen Greene assumed duty as Assistant Commander, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune. In May 1956, he was transferred to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, where he served as Commanding General, Recruit Training Command, until March 1957, when he became Commanding General of the Recruit Depot. That July he became Commanding General of the Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune.
In January 1958, BGen Greene reported to HQMC as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3. While serving in this capacity, he was promoted to major general in August 1958. Following this assignment, he served from March through December 1959 as Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans). On 1 January 1960, he was designated as Chief of Staff, with the rank of lieutenant general.
Lieutenant General Greene was nominated by President John F. Kennedy on 24 September 1963 to become the 23rd Commandant of the Marine Corps for a four-year term. Upon assuming his post as Commandant on 1 January 1964, he was promoted to four-star rank. During his tenure, there was a proliferation of troops in Southeast Asia. In 1964, there were fewer than a thousand Marines in Vietnam but by 1968, the III Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam numbered more than 100,000 Marines and sailors.
General Greene retired on 31 December 1967. He died 8 March 2003 and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal with one Gold Star in lieu of a second award, the general’s medals and decorations include: the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award, the Navy Unit Commendation, the China Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal with base clasp, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star.
He also has been awarded the Order of the Cloud and Banner, Grand Cordon, by the Republic of China; The Order of Service Merit, First Class, by the Republic of Korea; the Brazilian Order of Naval Merit, Grand Official, from Brazil; and the National Order of Vietnam, 3d Class, from the Republic of Vietnam.
Commandants of the Marine Corps