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Commandant of the Marine Corps

James T. Conway, official military photo portrait, 2006.jpg

Gen James T. Conway
since: November 14, 2006
First Samuel Nicholas
Formation November 28, 1775de facto,
July 12, 1798de jure


The Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) is the highest-ranking officer in the United States Marine Corps and is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1] The CMC reports directly to the United States Secretary of the Navy (but not to the Chief of Naval Operations) and is responsible for ensuring the organization, policy, plans, and programs for the Marine Corps as well as advising the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy on matters involving the Marine Corps. Under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, the CMC designates Marine personnel and resources to the commanders of Unified Combatant Commands.[2] The commandant performs all other functions prescribed in Section 5043 in Title 10 of the United States Code[3] or delegates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in his administration in his name. As with the other joint chiefs, the commandant is an administrative position and has no operational command authority over United States Marine Corps forces.

The Commandant is nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate[3] and is appointed as a four-star general.[3] "The Commandant is directly responsible to the Secretary of the Navy for the total performance of the Marine Corps. This includes the administration, discipline, internal organization, training, requirements, efficiency, and readiness of the service. The Commandant is responsible for the operation of the Marine Corps material support system."[4] Since 1801, the home of the Commandant has been located in the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. and his main offices are in Arlington, Virginia.



The responsibilities of the Commandant are outlined in Title 10, Section 5043 the United States Code of Law[3] and is "Subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of the Navy". As stated in the U.S. Code, the Commandant shall preside over the Headquarters, Marine Corps, transmit the plans and recommendations of the Headquarters, Marine Corps, to the Secretary and advise the Secretary with regard to such plans and recommendations, after approval of the plans or recommendations of the Headquarters, Marine Corps, by the Secretary, act as the agent of the Secretary in carrying them into effect, exercise supervision, consistent with the authority assigned to commanders of unified or specified combatant commands under chapter 6 of this title, over such of the members and organizations of the Marine Corps and the Navy as the Secretary determines, perform the duties prescribed for him by section 171 of this title and other provisions of law and perform such other military duties, not otherwise assigned by law, as are assigned to him by the President, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of the Navy.[3]

List of commandants

Thirty-four [5] men have served as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, including the current Commandant James T. Conway. The first Commandant was Samuel Nicholas, who took office as a captain,[5] though there was no office titled "Commandant" at the time, and the Second Continental Congress had authorized that the senior-most Marine could take a rank up to Colonel.[6] The longest-serving was Archibald Henderson, sometimes referred to as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps" due to his thirty-nine year tenure.[5] In the 234-year history of the United States Marine Corps, only one Commandant has ever been fired from the job: Anthony Gale, as a result of a court-martial in 1820.[5]

# Picture Name Rank Start of tenure End of tenure Notes
1 black & white portrait of Samuel Nicholas NicholasSamuel Nicholas O-04 Major 01775-11-28 November 28, 1775 01783-08-27 August 27, 1783 The first de facto Commandant for his role as the senior-most officer of the Continental Marines.[7]
2 black & white portrait of William W. Burrows BurrowsWilliam W. Burrows O-05 Lieutenant Colonel 01798-07-12 July 12, 1798 01804-03-06 March 6, 1804 The first de jure Commandant, he started many important organizations within the Marine Corps, including the United States Marine Band
3.03 black & white portrait of Franklin Wharton WhartonFranklin Wharton O-05 Lieutenant Colonel 01804-03-07 March 7, 1804 01818-09-01 September 1, 1818 Was the first Commandant to occupy the Commandant's House at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
3.5 black & white portrait of Archibald Henderson Henderson1Archibald Henderson (acting) O-05 Major 01818-09-16 September 16, 1818 01819-03-02 March 2, 1819 Acting Commandant, would later serve as Commandant from 1820 to 1859
GaleAnthony Gale O-05 Lieutenant Colonel 01819-03-03 March 3, 1819 01820-10-08 October 8, 1820 The only Commandant to be fired
5 black & white portrait of Archibald Henderson Henderson2Archibald Henderson O-07 Brevet Brigadier General 01820-10-17 October 17, 1820 01859-01-06 January 6, 1859 The longest-serving Commandant; known as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps"; known for his role in expanding the Marine Corp's mission to include expeditionary warfare and rapid deployment[8]
6 black & white photograph of John Harris HarrisJohn Harris O-06Colonel 01859-01-07 January 7, 1859 01864-05-01 May 1, 1864 Commandant during the start of the American Civil War
7 black & white photograph of Jacob Zeilin ZeilinJacob Zeilin O-07Brigadier General 01864-06-10 June 10, 1864 01876-10-31 October 31, 1876 Became the Marine Corps' first general officer, officially approved of the design of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor as the emblem of the Marine Corps
8 black & white photograph of Charles G. McCawley McCawleyCharles G. McCawley O-06Colonel 01876-11-01 November 1, 1876 01891-01-29 January 29, 1891 Chose "Semper Fidelis", Latin for "Always Faithful", as the official Marine Corps motto
9 black & white portrait of Charles Heywood HeywoodCharles Heywood O-08 Major General 01891-06-30 June 30, 1891 01903-10-02 October 2, 1903 Was the first Marine to hold the rank of Major General
10 black & white portrait of George F. Elliott ElliottGeorge F. Elliott O-08 Major General 01903-10-03 October 3, 1903 01910-11-30 November 30, 1910 Successfully resisted attempts to remove seagoing Marines from capital ships and to merge the Corps into the United States Army
11 black & white photograph of William P. Biddle BiddleWilliam P. Biddle O-08 Major General 01911-02-03 February 3, 1911 01914-02-24 February 24, 1914 Established the Advanced Base Force, forerunner of today's Fleet Marine Force
12 black & white portrait of George Barnett BarnettGeorge Barnett O-08 Major General 01914-02-25 February 25, 1914 01920-06-30 June 30, 1920 Served as Commandant during World War I, which caused a huge increase in personnel during his term
13 black & white portrait of John A. Lejeune LejeuneJohn A. Lejeune O-08 Major General 01920-07-01 July 1, 1920 01929-03-04 March 4, 1929 Started the tradition of the birthday ball with Marine Corps Order 47, still read annually
14 black & white portrait of Wendall C. Neville NevilleWendall C. Neville O-08 Major General 01929-03-05 March 5, 1929 01930-07-08 July 8, 1930 Recipient of the Medal of Honor and Marine Corps Brevet Medal
15 black & white photograph of Ben H. Fuller FullerBen H. Fuller O-08 Major General 01930-07-09 July 9, 1930 01933-02-28 February 28, 1933 Consolidated the Fleet Marine Force concept
16 black & white photograph of John H. Russell, Jr. RussellJohn H. Russell, Jr. O-08 Major General 01934-03-01 March 1, 1934 01936-11-30 November 30, 1936 The system of seniority promotions of officers was changed to advancement by selection, the 1st Marine Brigade was withdrawn from Haiti, and the number of ships carrying Marine detachments continued to increase.
17 black & white photograph of Thomas Holcomb HolcombThomas Holcomb O-09 Lieutenant General 01936-12-01 December 1, 1936 01943-12-31 December 31, 1943 Expanded the Corps almost 20 times in size for World War II and integrated women into the Corps. The first Marine to be advanced (after retirement) to the rank of General
18 black & white photograph of Alexander A. Vandegrift VandegriftAlexander A. Vandegrift O-09 General 01944-01-01 January 1, 1944 01947-12-31 December 31, 1947 Recipient of the Medal of Honor. Was the first active duty Marine to hold the rank of General, resisted attempts to merge the Corps with the Army
19 black & white photograph of Clifton B. Cates CatesClifton B. Cates O-10General 01948-01-01 January 1, 1948 01951-12-31 December 31, 1951 Recipient of the Navy Cross
20 black & white photograph of Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. ShepherdLemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. O-10General 01952-01-01 January 1, 1952 01955-12-31 December 31, 1955 First Commandant to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff
21 black & white photograph of Randolph M. Pate PateRandolph M. Pate O-10General 01956-01-01 January 1, 1956 01959-12-31 December 31, 1959
22 black & white photograph of David M. Shoup ShoupDavid M. Shoup O-10General 01960-01-01 January 1, 1960 01963-12-31 December 31, 1963 Recipient of the Medal of Honor
23 black & white photograph of Wallace M. Greene, Jr. GreeneWallace M. Greene, Jr. O-10General 01964-01-01 January 1, 1964 01967-12-31 December 31, 1967 Oversaw the proliferation of the Corps in the Vietnam War
24 black & white photograph of Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. ChapmanLeonard F. Chapman, Jr. O-10General 01968-01-01 January 1, 1968 01971-12-31 December 31, 1971 Was the Commandant during the Vietnam War
25 black & white photograph of Robert Everton Cushman, Jr. CushmanRobert Everton Cushman, Jr. O-10General 01972-01-01 January 1, 1972 01975-06-30 June 30, 1975 Saw the last of the Marines leave Vietnam and the peacetime strength fall to 194,000 while still maintaining readiness
26 black & white photograph of Louis H. Wilson, Jr. WilsonLouis H. Wilson, Jr. O-10General 01975-07-01 July 1, 1975 01979-06-30 June 30, 1979 Recipient of the Medal of Honor
27 color photograph of Robert H. Barrow BarrowRobert H. Barrow O-10General 01979-07-01 July 1, 1979 01983-06-30 June 30, 1983 Was the first Commandant to serve a regular four-year tour as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acquired approval of production of the American-modified Harrier aircraft, and several other improvements to enhance the effectiveness of the Marine Corps
28 black & white photograph of Paul X. Kelley KelleyPaul X. Kelley O-10General 01983-07-01 July 1, 1983 01987-06-30 June 30, 1987 In 2007, in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, General Kelly spoke against President George W. Bush's executive order concerning the interrogation and torture of terrorism suspects.
29 color photograph of Alfred M. Gray, Jr., the only Marine in this list wearing utilities instead of a service or dress uniform GrayAlfred M. Gray, Jr. O-10General 01987-07-01 July 1, 1987 01991-06-30 June 30, 1991 The Alfred M. Gray Research Center at Marine Corps Base Quantico houses the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections, the Quantico Base Library, and the research library for the Marine Corps University.
30 color photograph of Carl E. Mundy, Jr. MundyCarl E. Mundy, Jr. O-10General 01991-07-01 July 1, 1991 01995-06-30 June 30, 1995 Is currently on the board of directors for General Dynamics and is the Chairman of the Marine Corps University foundation
31 color photograph of Charles C. Krulak KrulakCharles C. Krulak O-10General 01995-07-01 July 1, 1995 01999-06-30 June 30, 1999 Was the son of Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak
32 color photograph of James L. Jones JonesJames L. Jones O-10General 01999-07-01 July 1, 1999 02003-01-12 January 12, 2003 Oversaw the Marine Corps' development of MARPAT camouflage uniforms and the adoption of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program; later became the first Marine officer to serve as Commander, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), then as National Security Advisor for the Obama Administration.
33 color photograph of Michael W. Hagee HageeMichael W. Hagee O-10General 02003-01-13 January 13, 2003 02006-11-13 November 13, 2006 Guided the Corps through the initial years of the Iraq War
34 color photograph of James T. Conway ConwayJames T. Conway O-10General 02006-11-14 November 14, 2006 Incumbent The current serving Commandant

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

Inline citations
  1. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 151 Joint Chiefs of Staff: composition; functions.
  2. ^ 10 U.S.C. § 165 Combatant commands: administration and support
  3. ^ a b c d e 10 U.S.C. § 5043 Commandant of the Marine Corps
  4. ^ "Appendix A: How the Marines Are Organized" (PDF). Marine Corps Concepts and Programs 2006. United States Marine Corps. p. 252. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps". Historical Topics: Frequently Requested. Reference Branch, History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-10-21. 
  6. ^ Journal of the Continential Congress (10 November 1775). "Resolution Establishing the Continential Marines". United States Marine Corps History Division. Retrieved 2 February 2010. 
  7. ^ Hoffman, Col Jon T. (2002). Marine Corps Association. ed. USMC: A Complete History. Beth L. Crumley (illustration editor), Charles J. Ziga (design), Col John Greenwood (editor), James O. Muschett (editor). Hugh Lauter Levin Associates. ISBN 0-88363-650-6. 
  8. ^ Krivdo, Michael E. (4th quarter 2009). "Harpers Ferry: Last Action of "Henderson Era"". Fortitudine (Quantico, VA: United States Marine Corps Historical Program) 34 (4): pp. 7–11. ISBN 0-16-010404-1. Retrieved 2010-02-01. 


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