General Paul X. Kelley, 28th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born on 11 November 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Villanova University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant in June 1950.

After completing instruction in March 1951 at The Basic School, Quantico, Virginia, he served consecutively as a platoon leader, assistant battalion operations officer and assistant division training officer with the 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was transferred to the USS Salem, Flagship of the 6th Fleet, during September 1952, serving as the Executive Officer and then the Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment for a period of 20 months. He was promoted to captain on 16 December 1953.

He was ordered to Camp Pendleton, California, in July 1954, where he served as a battalion executive officer with the 1st Infantry Training Regiment. Transferred to Japan in February 1955, he served as the Division Training Officer, 3d Marine Division. From August 1955 to June 1956, he served as the Aide-de-Camp to the Deputy Commanding General, and then as Assistant Force Training Officer, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Pacific, in Hawaii.

Returning to the U.S. in July 1956, Capt Kelley became the Special Assistant to the Director of Personnel at Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., until December 1957. Following his assignment in Washington, he completed the Airborne Pathfinder School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. In February 1958, he was assigned to the newly activated 2d Force Reconnaissance Company, Force Troops, FMF, Atlantic, Camp Lejeune, where he served as the Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer.

From September 1960 to May 1961, he was the U.S. Marine Corps Exchange Officer with the British Royal Marines. During this tour he attended the Commando Course in England, served as Assistant Operations Officer with 45 Commando in Aden, and as Commander “C” Troop, 42 Commando in Singapore, Malaya and Borneo. On 1 March 1961, he was promoted to major.

He was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico in July 1961, and served there as a tactics phase chief at The Basic School; and then Reconnaissance and Survelliance Officer at the Marine Corps Landing Force Development Center. In June 1964, he assumed duties as Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, Newport, Rhode Island. He remained at that post until August 1965, when he was transferred to Vietnam and reported to the 3d Marine Amphibious Force, FMF, Pacific, as the Combat Intelligence Officer. Following this assignment, he served as the Commanding Officer, 2d Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in Vietnam. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 20 January 1966. During this tour as battalion commander, he earned the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and two awards of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”.

From Vietnam, he proceeded to the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, where he served from August 1966 to July 1968, as the Senior Marine Corps Representative of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He then attended the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, graduating as a “Distinguished Graduate” in May 1969. For his excellence in politico-military strategy while a student at the Air War College, the Board of Trustees of the National Geographic Society elected him a life member.

He returned to Headquarters Marine Corps in June 1969, as the Military Assistant to the Assistant Commandant. He was promoted to colonel on 1 April 1970, and in June 1970 was reassigned to Vietnam where he commanded the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Col Kelley redeployed the regiment, the last Marine ground combat unit to leave Vietnam, to Camp Pendleton, California, in May 1971. During his second tour in Vietnam, he was awarded a second Legion of Merit with Combat “V”.

Reassigned to the Washington area in July 1971, Col Kelley served as the Chief, Southeast Asia Branch, Plans and Policy Directorate, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he remained until November 1973, when he was assigned as the Executive Assistant to the Director, Joint Staff. Upon completion of this tour he was awarded a third Legion of Merit.

Following his promotion to brigadier general on 6 August 1974, he was assigned as the Commanding General, 4th Marine Division. In June 1975, BGen Kelley was ordered to the Marine Crops Development and Education Command, at Quantico, where he assumed the duties as Director, Development Center. He then assumed duties as Director, Education Center and was advanced to the grade of major general on 29 June 1976.

In May 1978, MajGen Kelley was ordered to Headquarters Marine Corps, where he became Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements and Programs. On 4 February 1980, he was promoted to lieutenant general and appointed by the President as the first Commander of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, (renamed the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) in January 1983), a four service force with headquarters at MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida.

Lieutenant General Kelley was promoted to full general and assigned as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chief of Staff on 1 July 1981. He became Commandant on 1 July 1983.

General Kelley retired on 30 June 1987 to Northern Virginia.

His personal decorations and awards include: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; the Navy Distinguished Service Medal; the Army Distinguished Service Medal; the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal; the Silver Star Medal; Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and two gold stars in lieu of second and third awards; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and a gold star in lieu of a second award; the Joint Service Commendation Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; and the Army Commendation Medal. He is a Marine Corps Parachutist and U.S. Army Master Parachutist.

General Kelley has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Villanova University, Norwich University, Webster University, Jacksonville University, and the United States Sports Academy.

He is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s Major General O.A. Anderson Award, the Veterans of Foreign War’s National Armed Forces Award, the American Academy of Achievement’s Gold Eagle Award, the Navy League’s Admiral John M. Will Award, the Ireland Fund’s Irishman of the Year for Southern California Award, the Reserve Officers Association’s Minuteman Hall of Fame Award, and the Marine Corps Scholarship Fund’s Semper Fidelis A.


Commandants of the Marine Corps