DONN J. ROBERTSON, USMC
Lieutenant General Donn J. Robertson, who earned the Navy Cross on Iwo Jima and two awards of the Distinguished Service Medal in South Vietnam, died 4 March 2000 in Falls Church, Virginia. He had retired from active duty, 30 April 1972, after almost 34 years of active service.
Born 9 September 1916, in Willow City, North Dakota, he graduated from high school in Minot, North Dakota, in 1934. In 1938, he received his BS degree upon graduation from the University of North Dakota where he captained the basketball squad in his senior year. He resigned an Army Reserve commission to accept appointment as a Marine second lieutenant in June 1938.
After attending Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Lieutenant Robertson's first duty assignment was with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS West Virginia. He then served as a company officer and division adjutant with the 2d Marine Division from August 1940 to March 1942. He was promoted to first lieutenant in August 1941, and to captain in February 1942.
Following the outbreak of World War II, Captain Robertson was Adjutant of the Samoan Defense Force for nearly two years. During this assignment, he was promoted to major in March 1943. Returning to the United States the following March, he attended the 5th Command and Staff Course at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, until June 1944 when he joined the 5th Marine Division, prior to embarking again for the Pacific area that September. The following month, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
As commanding officer of the 3d Battalion, 27th Marines, Lieutenant Colonel Robertson participated in the Iwo Jima campaign and was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in personally inspiring his men, who had been pinned down by heavy fire, to attack and seize a heavily fortified hill. Later, he rallied his depleted units for defense of the position, then directed the action to repulse a strong counterattack, and remained throughout the night at the front lines consolidating the position.
Lieutenant Colonel Robertson was later named Regimental Executive Officer of the 27th Marines and served with the unit in the occupation of Japan until December 1945, when he was appointed Executive Officer of the Eighth Service Regiment. Returning to the United States in May 1946, he became Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, San Diego. That November he was named G-1 of the 3d Marine Brigade at Camp Pendleton, and later moved up to G-1 of the 1st Marine Division, remaining in that post until March 1948, when he was ordered to Headquarters Marine Corps as Officer in Charge of the Enlisted Detail Branch.
In June 1951, he was assigned as Executive Officer and, later, Commanding Officer of Marine Barracks, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Returning to the United States after two years in Cuba, he completed the Senior School at Quantico in June 1954, and while at Quantico was promoted to colonel.
In October 1954, Colonel Robertson joined the 1st Marine Division in Korea as Senior Advisor to the Korean Marine Corps. He was awarded the Korean Ulchi Distinguished Military Service Medal with silver star for his service in this capacity. On his return to the United States in September 1955, he headed the Plans Branch of the G-3 Division at Headquarters Marine Corps until June 1958. He then served as G-3 of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, for two years. In June 1961, he graduated from the National War College, Washington, D.C.
Returning to Quantico, he served as Chief of Staff, Marine Corps Schools, from July 1961 through August 1963, and was promoted to brigadier general, 30 August 1963.
General Robertson served for two years as Commanding General, Force Troops, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. In September 1965, he became Deputy Fiscal Director of the Marine Corps. For his service in the latter assignment, he was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal. Prior to his detachment from Headquarters Marine Corps, he was promoted to major general, 5 May 1967.
For his service as Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, in South Vietnam from June 1967 until June 1968, General Robertson earned his first Distinguished Service Medal.
Upon his return to the United States, he served for two years as Commanding General, Marine Corps Base/Commanding General, 4th Marine Division Headquarters Nucleus, with additional duty for three months, as Commanding General, 5th Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California. He earned the Legion of Merit for service during this assignment.
In September 1970, General Robertson returned to Headquarters Marine Corps, for a fourth time, and saw duty as Director of the Marine Corps Reserve. While serving in this capacity, he was nominated for advancement to lieutenant general, and his nomination was approved by President Nixon in October and confirmed by the Senate on 9 December 1970. On 24 December 1970, he was advanced to that rank upon assuming his second tour of duty in South Vietnam and, later, on Okinawa, as Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force. General Robertson earned a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal during this assignment.
Upon his return to the United States in January 1972, he was assigned duty at Headquarters Marine Corps.
A complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Navy Cross; the Distinguished Service Medal with one Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Legion of Merit; the Navy Commendation Medal; the Presidential Unit Citation with two bronze stars; the Navy Unit Commendation; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze star; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia clasp; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Vietnam Service Medal with five bronze stars; the Korean Order of National Security Merit; the Gug-Seon Medal; the Korean Ulchi Distinguished Military Service Medal with silver star; the National Order of Vietnam, 3d Class; the National Order of Vietnam, 5th Class; the Vietnamese Army Distinguished Service Order, 1st Class; the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with two bronze palms; the Vietnamese Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.