General Randolph McCall Pate, 21st Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born in Port Royal, South Carolina, on 11 February 1898. After a brief tour of enlisted service with the U.S. Army in 1918, he entered the Virginia Military Institute, graduating in June 1921 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve that September and accepted his commission in the Regular Marine Corps the following May. In addition to expeditionary duty in Santo Domingo in 1923 and 1924 and in China from 1927 to 1929, General Pate served at various posts in the United States and Hawaii. He was promoted to first lieutenant in September 1926, to captain in November 1934, and to major in October 1938. In the spring of 1939, he became Assistant Chief of Staff for Supply, 1st Marine Division, at New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina, and while there was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1942. He began his World War II service in this capacity, participating in the planning and combat phases of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was promoted to colonel in December 1943, and later saw further service in the Pacific area. 

Returning to the United States after the war, he was named Director of the Division of Reserve at Marine Corps Headquarters in January 1946. The following year he assumed duties as a member of the General Board, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. In July 1948, he became Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, and two years later was named Director of the Marine Corps Educational Center. While stationed at Quantico in September 1949, he was promoted to brigadier general.

In July 1951, BGen Pate was assigned to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he served as Deputy Director of the Joint Staff for Logistic Plans. He was named Director of the Division of Reserve for a second time that November and in August 1952, was promoted to major general. The following month, he took command of the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. Ordered to Korea in June 1953, he commanded the 1st Marine Division until May 1954.

In July 1954, MajGen Pate was appointed Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chief of Staff, serving in that capacity at the rank of lieutenant general for eighteen months. On 1 January 1956, he was promoted to the rank of general and executed the oath of office as Commandant of the Marine Corps, succeeding General Lemuel C. Shepherd.

As Commandant, he directed an overhaul of recruit training, largely in response to the tragic Ribbon Creek episode, in which six recruits drowned in a training night march at Parris Island, South Carolina. Also, the unstable Middle East situation led to the landing in 1956 of a Marine battalion at Alexandria, Egypt, to cover the evacuation of 1,500 civilians. Two years later four Marine battalions landed in Lebanon to support the pro-Western government.

General Pate retired 31 December 1959. At his retirement ceremonies, he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1 January 1956 to 31 December 1959.”

Following a brief illness, Gen Pate died at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, 31 July 1961. Funeral services were held on 3 August in Fort Myer Chapel, Arlington, Virginia, and the general was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

General Pate’s medals and decorations include: the Navy and Army Distinguished Service Medals; the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Purple Heart (Guadalcanal, 1942); the Presidential Unit Citation (Guadalcanal, 1942); the Navy Unit Commendation (Korea, 1953); the World War I Victory Medal; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with two bronze stars (Santo Domingo, 1923-24 and China, 1927-29); the Yangtze Service Medal (China, 1927); the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star; the United Nations Service Medal; the Korean Presidential Unit Citation; and the Korean Order of Military Merit Taiguk.

Commandants of the Marine Corps

Marine Corps University