Commandant of the Marine Corps


The commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) is normally the highest-ranking officer in the United States Marine Corps. It is a four-star general position and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1] The CMC reports directly to the secretary of the Navy 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, the National Security Council,[1] the Homeland Security Council,[1] 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 8043 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.

Commandant of the Marine Corps
Emblem of the United States Marine Corps.svg
Emblem of the Marine Corps
Flag of the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.svg
Flag of the commandant of the Marine Corps
Gen. David H. Berger.jpg
General David H. Berger
since 11 July 2019
United States Marine Corps
Headquarters Marine Corps
Member ofJoint Chiefs of Staff
Reports toSecretary of Defense
Secretary of the Navy
ResidenceMarine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
SeatThe Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
Renewable one time, only during war or national emergency
Constituting instrument10 U.S.C. § 8043
Formation10 November 1775de facto,
12 July 1798de jure
First holderSamuel Nicholas
DeputyAssistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
WebsiteOfficial website

The commandant is nominated for appointment by the president, for a four-year term of office,[3] and must be confirmed by the Senate.[3] The commandant can be reappointed to serve one additional term, but only during times of war or national emergency declared by Congress.[3] By statute, the commandant is appointed as a four-star general while serving in office.[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 also responsible for the operation of the Marine Corps material support system."[4] Since 1806, the official residence of the commandant has been located in the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., and his main offices are in Arlington County, Virginia.


The responsibilities of the commandant are outlined in Title 10, Section 5043, the United States Code[3] and the position 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 commandantsEdit

38[5] men have served as the commandant of the Marine Corps. 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 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]

No. Portrait Commandant of the Marine Corps Took office Left office Time in office Notes
Samuel Nicholas
28 November 177527 August 17837 years, 272 daysThe first de facto Commandant for his role as the senior-most officer of the Continental Marines.[7]
Lieutenant Colonel
William W. Burrows
12 July 17986 March 18045 years, 238 daysThe first de jure Commandant, he started many important organizations within the Marine Corps, including the United States Marine Band
Lieutenant Colonel
Franklin Wharton
7 March 18041 September 181814 years, 178 daysThe first commandant to be court-martialed (acquitted) and the first to occupy the commandant's house at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
Archibald Henderson
16 September 18182 March 1819167 daysActing Commandant, would later serve as Commandant from 1820 to 1859
Lieutenant Colonel
Anthony Gale
3 March 18198 October 18201 year, 219 daysThe second Commandant to be court-martialed and the only Commandant to be fired. Burial location is unknown and no authenticated images have ever been located.
Brigadier General
Archibald Henderson
17 October 18206 January 185938 years, 81 daysThe longest-serving Commandant; known as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps"; known for his role in expanding the Marine Corps' mission to include expeditionary warfare and rapid deployment[8]
John Harris
7 January 18591 May 18645 years, 115 daysCommandant during most of the American Civil War
Brigadier General
Jacob Zeilin
10 June 186431 October 187612 years, 143 daysBecame the Marine Corps' first general officer, officially approved of the design of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor as the emblem of the Marine Corps
Charles G. McCawley
1 November 187629 January 189114 years, 89 daysChose "Semper Fidelis", Latin for "Always Faithful", as the official Marine Corps motto
Major General
Charles Heywood
30 June 18912 October 190312 years, 94 daysChose "Semper Fidelis", Latin for "Always Faithful", as the official Marine Corps motto; he was the first Commandant to reach the rank of Major General
Major General
George F. Elliott
3 October 190330 November 19107 years, 58 daysSuccessfully resisted attempts to remove seagoing marines from capital ships and to merge the Corps into the United States Army
Major General
William P. Biddle
3 February 191124 February 19143 years, 21 daysEstablished the Advanced Base Force, forerunner of today's Fleet Marine Force
Major General
George Barnett
25 February 191430 June 19206 years, 126 daysServed as Commandant during World War I, which caused a huge increase in personnel during his term
Major General
John A. Lejeune
1 July 19204 March 19298 years, 246 daysStarted the tradition of the birthday ball with Marine Corps Order 47, still read annually. Commanded a US Army division (the 2nd Infantry Division) in combat during World War I.
Major General
Wendell C. Neville
5 March 19298 July 19301 year, 125 daysRecipient of the Medal of Honor and Marine Corps Brevet Medal
Major General
Ben H. Fuller
9 July 193028 February 19343 years, 234 daysConsolidated the Fleet Marine Force concept
Major General
John H. Russell Jr.
1 March 193430 November 19362 years, 274 daysThe 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.
Lieutenant General
Thomas Holcomb
1 December 193631 December 19437 years, 30 daysExpanded 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
Alexander Vandegrift
1 January 194431 December 19473 years, 364 daysRecipient 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
Clifton B. Cates
1 January 194831 December 19513 years, 364 daysRecipient of the Navy Cross. Commandant during early stage of the Korean War.
Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr.
1 January 195231 December 19553 years, 364 daysRecipient of the Navy Cross and last World War I veteran to be Commandant. First Commandant to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Commandant during the Korean War.
Randolph M. Pate
1 January 195631 December 19593 years, 364 daysCommandant between U.S. involvement in the Korean War and Vietnam War.
David M. Shoup
1 January 196031 December 19633 years, 364 daysRecipient of the Medal of Honor. Opposed U.S. involvement in South Vietnam based on strategy and undue influence of corporations and military officials in foreign policy. Historians consider Shoup's criticisms to be among the most pointed and high-profile leveled by a veteran against the Vietnam War.
Wallace M. Greene Jr.
1 January 196431 December 19673 years, 364 daysOversaw the expansion of the Corps role in the Vietnam War
Leonard F. Chapman Jr.
1 January 196831 December 19713 years, 364 daysWas the commandant during the final years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. During his period in command, the III Marine Amphibious Force withdrew from Vietnam and the strength of the Corps dropped from a peak of 289,000 to 198,000.
Robert E. Cushman Jr.
1 January 197230 June 19753 years, 180 daysOversaw the withdrawal of the Marines from Vietnam and a decline in the Corps' peacetime strength to 194,000
Louis H. Wilson Jr.
1 July 197530 June 19793 years, 364 daysRecipient of the Medal of Honor for capture of Guam
Robert H. Barrow
1 July 197930 June 19833 years, 364 daysLast World War II veteran to be Commandant. Was the first Commandant to serve 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
Paul X. Kelley
1 July 198330 June 19873 years, 364 daysCommandant when the Marine Barracks bombing occurred in Beirut during the 1982–84 multinational force peacekeeping mission under the Reagan Administration.
Alfred M. Gray Jr.
(born 1928)
1 July 198730 June 19913 years, 364 daysThe 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.
As a reminder that the primary role of every marine is a rifleman, he had his official photograph taken in the Camouflage Utility Uniform, the only Commandant to have done so. Last Korean War veteran to serve as Commandant.
Carl E. Mundy Jr.
1 July 199130 June 19953 years, 364 daysAfter retirement, he served as president and CEO of the United Service Organizations (USO), and was the chairman of the Marine Corps University Foundation.
Charles C. Krulak
(born 1942)
1 July 199530 June 19993 years, 364 daysSon of Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak. Came up with the concept of the 'Strategic Corporal' and the 'Three Block War'. Introduced The Crucible, a final test of marine recruits.
James L. Jones
(born 1943)
1 July 199912 January 20033 years, 195 daysOversaw 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.
Michael W. Hagee
(born 1944)
13 January 200313 November 20063 years, 304 daysGuided the Corps through the initial years of the Iraq War
Last Vietnam veteran to serve as Commandant
James T. Conway
(born 1947)
13 November 200622 October 20103 years, 343 daysCommanded Marine forces in the Iraq War and oversaw expansion of the Corps to 202,000 personnel.
First Commandant in nearly 40 years to have not served in the Vietnam War.
James F. Amos
(born 1946)
22 October 201017 October 20143 years, 360 daysOversaw the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the Marine Corps.
First naval aviator to serve as Commandant.[9]
Joseph Dunford
(born 1955)
17 October 201424 September 2015342 daysFirst Commandant and second marine to be promoted to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Robert Neller
(born 1953)
24 September 201511 July 20193 years, 290 daysLed the integration of women into combat roles. Made administrative regulations for marines on social media.
David H. Berger
(born 1959)
11 July 2019Incumbent3 years, 321 daysIssued guidance for Service-level planning to include refocusing on high-end combat, shifting away from tanks and artillery in favor of long-range missiles and drones.


David BergerRobert NellerJoseph DunfordJames F. AmosJames T. ConwayMichael HageeJames L. JonesCharles C. KrulakCarl Epting Mundy Jr.Alfred M. Gray Jr.Paul X. KelleyRobert H. BarrowLouis H. Wilson Jr.Robert E. Cushman Jr.Leonard F. Chapman Jr.Wallace M. GreeneDavid M. ShoupRandolph M. PateLemuel C. Shepherd Jr.Clifton B. CatesAlexander VandegriftThomas HolcombJohn H. Russell Jr.Ben Hebard FullerWendell Cushing NevilleJohn A. LejeuneGeorge BarnettWilliam P. BiddleGeorge F. ElliottCharles HeywoodCharles Grymes McCawleyJacob ZeilinJohn Harris (USMC officer)Anthony GaleArchibald HendersonFranklin WhartonWilliam Ward Burrows ISamuel Nicholas

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c 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 f g 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. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d "Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps". Historical Topics: Frequently Requested. Reference Branch, History Division, United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2007.
  6. ^ Journal of the Continental Congress (10 November 1775). "Resolution Establishing the Continental Marines". United States Marine Corps History Division. Archived from the original on 7 October 2010. 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. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009.
  8. ^ Krivdo, Michael E. (2009). "Harpers Ferry: Last Action of "Henderson Era"". Fortitudine. Quantico, VA: United States Marine Corps Historical Program. 34 (4): 7–11. ISBN 978-0-16-010404-6. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  9. ^ Shea, Sgt Jimmy D. (22 October 2010). "Taking the Reins: Marine Corps Welcomes New Commandant". Headquarters Marine Corps. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.


  •   This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  • Allan Reed Millett; Jack Shulimson, eds. (2004). Commandants of the Marine Corps. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-012-9.
  • Ulbrich, David J. (2011). Preparing for Victory: Thomas Holcomb and the Making of the Modern Marine Corps, 1936–1943. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1591149033.

External linksEdit

  • Official website