Edward A. Craig —Marine

It has been necessary for troops now fighting in Korea to pull back at times, but I am stating now that no unit of this Brigade will retreat except on orders from an authority higher than the 1st Marine Brigade.  You will never receive an order to retreat from me.  All I ask is that you fight as Marines have always fought.”

—Edward A. Craig, Brigadier General, U. S. Marine Corps

Commanding General, 1st Marine Provisional Brigade

“The Pusan perimeter is like a weakened dike; the Army intends to use us to plug the holes as they open.  We’re a brigade —a fire brigade.  It will be costly fighting against a numerically superior enemy.  Marines have never lost a battle; this brigade will not be the first to establish such a precedent.  Prepare to move.”

—Edward A. Craig, Brigadier General, U. S. Marine Corps

Commanding General, 1st Marine Provisional Brigade

This firebrand Marine Officer was born on 22 November 1896 in Danbury, Connecticut.  His father, a career officer in the United States Army (Medical Corps), was not at all disposed to having his son become a Marine: “They are a bunch of drunkards and bums.”  As with many Army officers (then and now), he overlooked one thing about the Marines —they are renowned for two things: they know how to make Marines, and they win battles.

Craig attended St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin, graduating in 1917.  After four years in the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC), he applied for a commission and was accepted as a Second Lieutenant on 23 August 1917.  Upon completion of training at the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, Craig was assigned to duty as an Adjutant with the 8th Marines.  Although never dispatched to a line unit during World War I, he did serve in protecting/safeguarding oil fields in Texas from German attack along the coastal areas.  The 8th Marines performed this duty for 18 months, during which time the regiment intensely trained for combat.  During this time, he was promoted to First Lieutenant.

In 1919, Craig accompanied his regiment to Haiti via Santiago Bay, Cuba.  There, the 8th and 9th Marines formed the 1st Marine Brigade, a temporary organization organized to perform a specific expeditionary task.  A short time later, Craig was transferred to the 2nd Marine Brigade, which was stationed in the Dominican Republic.  There, he was assigned as the Commanding Officer, 70th Company, 15th Marine Regiment and received a temporary promotion to Captain.  Within the first 8-months he served in this capacity, he was assigned to La Romana, conducting combat patrols in areas populated by bandits and rebel forces, and later assigned to Vincentillo, a remote outpost, where he served an additional six months.

Craig returned to the United States in December 1921.  After a short stint at Quantico, Craig was assigned to Puget Sound where he served as Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment, Naval Ammunition Depot.  In 1922, he was ordered to the U. S. Naval Station near Olongapo City, Philippine Islands.  He subsequently served as Commanding Officer, Marine Detachment about the cruiser, USS Huron[1], then assigned to the Pacific Ocean area.  In this capacity, he and his Marines participated in several landings, including at Shanghai, China in 1924 safeguarding the international settlement from rival Chinese armies that were fighting nearby[2].  His detachment was later sent to Peking in response to the warlord Wu P’ei-Fu; Craig’s Marines remained there for a month before returning to the Huron.

Craig returned to the United States in March 1926, where he was briefly assigned to the 4th Marines at San Diego, California.  He was subsequently selected as aide-de-camp to then Commandant John A. Lejeune.  He served in this capacity until General Lejeune’s retirement in 1929.  At Craig’s request, he was subsequently assigned to duty with the Nicaraguan National Guard as a staff officer (training) near Jinotega.  From 1931 to 1933, Craig joined the Marine Corps Base, San Diego but while there served on detached duty with the US State Department.  From 1933 to 1936, Craig served as a company commander in the 6th Marine Regiment and then another staff assignment with the 2nd Marine Brigade where he served as a personnel officer.  From 1937 to 1938, Craig attended the Marine Corps Schools Senior Officer’s Course at Quantico —at the completion of which he returned once more to San Diego, California where he served severally as an instructor at the Platoon Leader’s Course, an Inspector-Instructor, Reserve Field Training Battalion, and Base Adjutant.

From June 1939 and June 1941, Craig served as an intelligence officer aboard the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise.  During this period, he served temporarily at the Naval Air Station, Pearl Harbor.  In brief periods, he served in the commands of Admiral Ernest King, Charles Blakely, and William Halsey.  In July 1941, Craig was assigned as Provost Marshal and Guard Battalion Commander at San Diego, California.  These duties took on greater importance after Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor in December.  In June 1942, Craig assumed the duties of regimental executive officer, 9th Marine Regiment but within a few months, having been selected for promotion to Colonel, he was assigned as Commanding Officer, Service Troops, 3rd Marine Division.  After the division’s arrival in New Zealand, Craig requested an infantry assignment.  In July 1943, he was again assigned to the 9th Marines —this time as regimental commander.  Craig led the regiment at Bougainville through April 1944; he continued to led them during the Battle for Guam.  During this campaign, Craig earned the Navy Cross.  In September, Craig was ordered to the V Amphibious Corps, where he served as Operations Officer.  In this capacity, he directed the planning for the assault on Iwo Jima in February 1945.  In July, Craig returned to the United States to serve as Chief of Staff, Marine Training Command, San Diego.

After the war, Craig served as the officer in charge of specialized amphibious training, Eight Army in Japan.  While so assigned, Craig was advanced to Brigadier General and assigned as Assistant Division Commander, 1st Marine Division, which was then serving in Tientsin, China.  In June 1947, Craig assumed command of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Forces, Guam, where he served for two years.

As with the other services, the Marine Corps was drastically reduced in size after World War II.  Accordingly, it was unprepared for North Korea’s invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950.  As a response to the aggression, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed the Marine Corps to ready a 15,000-man division into Korea as part of the United Nations Command.  The Marine Corps response was immediate, but in the interim, 4,725 Marines were assembled around the 5th Marine Regiment.  On 7 July 1950, the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade was reactivated, and Brigadier General Craig was assigned to command it.  The Brigade arrived in Pusan, South Korea on 3 August.  Combat operations began almost immediately.  As part of Eighth Army’s reserve, the Marines were used as a stop-gap measure to plug holes in the line left vacant by Army units in retreat.  It became known as the Fire Brigade.  In September, the Brigade rejoined the 1st Marine Division during the assault on Inchon and Brigadier General Craig served under Major General Oliver P. Smith as Assistant Division Commander.

Upon his return to the United States, Craig was promoted to Major General and assumed the directorship of the Division of Reserve, Headquarters Marine Corps.  In recognition of his valor in combat, Craig was advanced to lieutenant general on the retired list.  He passed away at his home at El Cajon, California on 11 December 1994.  He was 98 years of age.


[1] USS South Dakota was renamed USS Huron (CA 9) on 7 June 1920 to free up the name for a new class South Dakota battleship.

[2] This was during the so-called Warlord Era in China when scattered international settlements were frequently threatened by Chinese nationalists and the anti-foreign movements among various groups.


In his later years of service, Oliver Prince Smith commanded the 1st Marine Division in one of its most extraordinary battles: The Chosin[1] Reservoir.  Few battles can compare to the intense fighting that took place there.  It was a time when the entire body of United Nations forces were stopped in their advance to the Yalu River by an overwhelming number of Chinese Communist infantry.

At the time, the 1st Marine Division and US 7th Infantry Division operated as part of the US 10th Army Corps (X Corps) some 60-70 miles inland, in the mountainous regions of central Korea.  Temperature hovered around thirty degrees below zero, but powerful winds from Manchuria plummeted these temperatures even lower.  Suddenly isolated from all other UN forces, the only hope these troops had to survive the onslaught was a quality leader with fierce determination[2].  It has been said by those under Smith’s command that he was precisely the right man, at the right place, and at the right time.

The Chinese forces assaulting X Corps included the 20th, 26th, and 27th Chinese field armies —totaling 12 infantry divisions.   China’s sudden attack sliced between the two forward elements of X Corps: the 1st Marine Division was operating inland, on the left, and the US 7th Infantry Division was operating nearest the east coast, on the right.  3rd US Infantry Division, with only two regiments, was assigned to X Corps reserve.  The 1st Marine Division was the most formidable component of the X Army Corps[3] and General Smith was its most capable general.  China’s intent was to destroy the Marine division; were it not for the leadership and combat skill of Major General O. P. Smith, they might have succeeded.

What do we know about General Smith?

General Smith was born in Menard, Texas (1893), but grew up in Northern California.  He attended the University of California (Berkley), working his way through college doing odd jobs, but mostly gardening.  Gardening became his hobby and one that he pursued his entire life.  He graduated from UC in 1916; he applied for and received a commission to Second Lieutenant on 14 May 1917.

The following month, Smith was ordered to duty with the Marine Barracks, Naval Station, Guam, Marianas Islands.  Subsequently, Smith served various tours of sea and shore duty, in Haiti with the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, and attended professional schools at Fort Benning, Georgia, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, and being fluent in French, he was the first Marine Corps officer to graduate from the Ecole Superieure de Guerre, in Paris, France.  Smith also successfully served as the Assistant Regimental Operations Officer, 7th Marines, as Fleet Marine Force Operations Officer in San Diego, and then finally as a lieutenant colonel, he received his first organizational command —1st Battalion, 6th Marines.  In May 1941, the 6th Marine Regiment was ordered to Iceland as part of the US Defense Force protecting Iceland from German attack, relieving British forces for duty elsewhere.  While in Iceland, Smith was advanced to Colonel.

The Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941 brought home to Smith the realization that most Marine officers and senior NCOs in his command had no appreciation for the complexities of amphibious warfare, particularly when conducted so far from the United States in the South and Central Pacific Ocean region.  Colonel Smith therefore embarked upon a program for officers, NCOs, and enlisted men to educate them about the difficulties of amphibious operations.  The program, which he personally taught, was so successful that it was extended to the officers and men of other battalions.

Upon his return to the United States in 1942, Colonel Smith was assigned to the staff at Headquarters Marine Corps where he led the Division of Plans and Policies.  Then, in 1944, Smith was ordered to the 1st Marine Division, then serving on New Britain.  Assuming command of the 5th Marine Regiment, Smith led his command in the Talasea phase of the Cape Gloucester Operation.  Advanced to Brigadier General, Smith then served as the Assistant Division Commander from April 1944 through October 1944 (which included the assault on the Island of Peleliu in the Marianas.  In November 1944, Brigadier General Smith was assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) for the US X Army; he participated in the Battle of Okinawa from April through June 1945.

In July 1945, Smith assumed the duties of Commandant, Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia and in January 1948, assumed command of the Marine Corps Base, Quantico.  In April 1948, Smith was assigned as an assistant commandant and Marine Corps Chief of Staff, Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps.  While serving in this capacity, he also served as editor-in-chief of the professional journal, Marine Corps Gazette.

Major General Oliver P. Smith was named to replace Major General Graves B. Erskine as  Commanding General, 1st Marine Division in early June, 1950.  Before the shift in commanders could take effect, however, on 25 June 1950, North Korean forces launched a massive assault on the Republic of (South) Korea.

At that time, the Marine Corps had suffered the same fate as other organizations within the Department of Defense, to wit: President Truman and Defense Secretary Louis Johnson reduced these units in strength and material to the extent that the United States military had no combat-effective units.  In the case of the 1st Marine Division, on 25 June 1950, the division’s combat capability was on the order of a reinforced regimental combat team: the division had but one understrength regiment: 5th Marines, then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Raymond L. Murray.  At this early stage, the 5th Marines had but two battalions (rather than three); each battalion could field two rifle companies (rather than three), and rifle companies had but two infantry platoons (rather than three).

On 26 June 1950, General Erskine and the Marine Corps faced with two immediate herculean undertakings: first, to send Marines to Korea to defend the Pusan Perimeter; second, to reestablish the 1st Marine Division as an effective fighting force.  To complete the first task, Marine Corps Headquarters ordered the formation of the 1st Marine Provisional Brigade.  The Brigade was formed around the 5th Marines and Marine Aircraft Group 33; leading the Brigade was Brigadier General Edward A. Craig, who previously served as the Erskine’s Assistant Division Commander.  Craig was a veteran of two world wars.

The effort to bring the air/ground components up to war-time status and efficiency not only involved massive personnel realignments from the supporting establishment (Marine Barracks, Detachments, Recruiting Duty), but also transferring individual Marines from the 2nd Marine Division (at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (at Cherry Point, North Carolina).  Additionally, reservists were called to active duty to fill in the ranks of reactivated regiments (1st Marines and 7th Marines).  Lacking funds due to defense cuts, many reservists had yet to attend recruit training, so it fell upon General Erskine and General Smith to provide pre-deployment training as part of their efforts to rebuild a fighting division.  This was achieved in record time.

Remarkably, the Brigade departed San Diego, California on 7 July 1950.  It would take General Erskine and General Smith a little longer to provision and deploy the remainder of the division.  Fortunately, most of the division’s senior company grade officers, field grade officers, and senior NCOs were veterans of World War II; they knew the business of war.  This one factor goes a long way in making a distinction between the combat performance of Korean-era Marines and their army counterparts.

General Smith assumed command of the 1st Marine Division on 26 July 1950.

General Smith was a scholar, an intellectual, and well-schooled in the art and science of war.  He possessed a calm, pleasant demeanor, and a degree of self-confidence unmatched by any other senior Marine Corps leader at the time.  He trusted his officers and NCOs to do their job.  Smith was also a devout Christian —important, perhaps, because no matter what crisis he faced in combat, he never took counsel of his fears.  His was a calming, professional influence over subordinates —most of whom, as I have said, had themselves experienced the crucible of war.

General Smith loved his Marines; he felt deeply the loss of their lives in combat.  The fact that he was a Marine through and through is evidenced by the fact that when he was offered an airlift withdrawal of his division from the Chosin Reservoir, he responded, “No.  We are going out as a Marine division, with all of our equipment, and we will fight our way out as an organized Marine division; we are attacking in another direction —as an organized division.”  Bring them out he did … with the dead, wounded, and the survivors of the 7th Infantry Division’s 31st Regimental Combat Team, and most of the division’s combat equipment.

For additional information about this courageous, resourceful, and much-loved Marine Corps officer, I highly recommend these two books: For Country and Corps: The Life of General Oliver P. Smith, by Gayle B. Chiseler (Naval Institute Press), 2009 and The Gentle Warrior: Oliver Prince Smith, by Clifton La Brea, Kent State University Press, 2001.  Additionally, for a knuckle-biting read of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, I recommend The New Breed: The Story of the U. S. Marines in Korea by Andrew Clare Geer, (Harper Press) 1952.  In the case of the last book, it may be somewhat difficult to obtain, but there are pre-owned copies available at Amazon, and I believe Google offers copies through its print on demand system.


[1] At the beginning of the Korean War, the only maps available to US forces were those obtained from Japanese sources.  The Japanese name for this region was Chosin, but in the native Korean language, Changjin.  In Marine Corps history, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir is still referred to as such, acknowledging the sacrifices of the Americans who fought there, but according to modern maps, particularly those of Korean origin, no such place exists.

[2] The US Eighth Army was decisively defeated in the Battle of the Chongchon River; forced to retreat all the way back into South Korea, it was the longest retreat of any military unit in US history.  Units retreated helter-skelter, many leaving their dead and much of their equipment to the enemy.

[3] At the outbreak of the Korean War, the 7th Infantry Division was seriously depleted of trained soldiers due to the incredible short-sightedness of the President and his Secretary of Defense.  Ordered to transfer soldiers to the 25th Infantry Division as replacements in late June 1950, the 7th Infantry Division soon became combat-ineffective.  In July 1950, the 7th Infantry Division consisted of only 9,000 men.  To make up for this deficiency, General Douglas MacArthur assigned 8,000 poorly trained South Korean conscripts.  The division did eventually reach its war time strength of 25,000 men, but this number included, in addition to the poorly trained, non-English-speaking Koreans, a regiment of Ethiopians.

Art Donovan

Art Donovan (5 June 1924 – 4 August 2013) was a defensive tackle that played with the Baltimore Colts (1950, 1953-1962), New York Yanks (1951), and the Dallas Texans (1952). In his second run with the Colts, Donovan became one of the outstanding defense tackles in the game, selected to five straight Pro Bowls (1953-1957). The Colts won back-to-back championships in 1958 and 1959. Selected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1968, Art Donovan was one of the stars in the greatest football game ever played, the 1958 title game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants on 28 Dec 1958. The game ended in a 17-17 tie and went into overtime (the first NFL game to do so). Donovan’s tackle enabled Johnny Unitas to lead the Colts in an 80 yard scoring drive to win the game.

A much younger Art Donovan received a scholarship to the University of Notre Dame in 1942, but left after one semester to join the United States Marine Corps. He took part in some of the fiercest engagements, including the Battle of Luzon, and the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Now enjoy this interview of Art Donovan on the Johnny Carson Show. Rest in peace, Art


Colonel Commandant John Harris

In 1798, there were only 83 U. S. Marines serving in uniform.  On 12 July of that year, President John Adams appointed William Ward Burrows to the post of Major Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.  Burrows was the second man to serve in this post, tradition giving Samuel Nicholas the title Commandant of Continental Marines (serving 1775—1783).  Burrows was the first to serve as Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1798 to 1804; during this time, the strength of the Marine Corps increased to 389 officers and enlisted men.[1]

Both the Navy and Marine Corps were born out of necessity, for once Congress realized that the United States must emerge as a maritime power, men were needed in both services to man American ships of war.  In 1798, the threat of war came from France; a few years later, from Islamist pirates operating in the Mediterranean Sea and along the west coast of Africa.

In these early days, Marines were needed to man the Navy’s frigates; it initially fell to Burrows to supply these Marines with uniforms and equipment, whereas Marine officers serving aboard ship had responsibility for training their own men.  Initially encamped at Philadelphia, Barrows relocated his headquarters to the new city of Washington in 1800.  Its present location occupies that initial site at Eighth & I Streets, Washington DC.

Within twelve years, the United States and Great Britain once more went to war.  From the American perspective, there were several reasons for war in 1812: (a) trade restrictions imposed on the United States by England’s war with France, (b) the illegal impressment of (several thousand) American merchant seaman into the Royal Navy, (c) British instigation of violence against the American frontier by natives, (d) outrage in the United States over the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair[2] (inset drawing by Fred Cozzens, 1897), and British objections to America’s westward expansion.  Commenting on the British perspective, historian William Kingsford once observed, “The events of the war of 1812 have not been forgotten in England, for they have never been known there.”

What we know about the performance of early Marine Corps commandants comes to us in the bits and pieces from the works of several authors producing other works; some of these are first-hand accounts that are tinted by individual biases or relevant politics.  The writings of Brigadier General Henry Clay Cochrane (service from 1861 to 1903), suggest that in many instances, early commandants were somewhat orthodox in their thinking —happy to maintain the status quo because in the doing of it required little effort or political risk.  In these early times, officers harbored the view that the commandancy was an entitlement of the most senior officer.  While generally true, there were occasions when the Secretary of the Navy selected someone junior to the most senior officer.  Whenever this occurred, the more-senior officer(s) would be forced into retirement.  By forcing the most senior officers into retirement, junior officers developed the hope of future promotion —and perhaps themselves, one day, being elevated to the commandancy.

In the early days, the relationship between the navy and Marine Corps was at best strained.  In the first place, few navy officers even believed that the Marine Corps belonged to the naval establishment; others opined that if there was a legitimate role for the Marine Corps in the naval service, such service should be part of the ships company.  Marine officers, they believed, should serve the ship’s captain as heads of divisions: gunnery officers or officers in charge of munitions and ordnance.  Marines saw it differently; they were naval infantry whose task was to provide naval artillery (manning ship’s guns), maintain law and order aboard ship (prevent mutinies), and project naval power ashore as part of a landing force.  Some of the early commandants (the better ones) insisted that the navy respect these roles; others were easily swayed into the lethargy of politics: they sought to maintain the favor of senior naval officers and the Secretary of the Navy at the expense of an appropriate role and mission for his Marines.  In short, if ever there was a marriage between the navy and Marine Corps, it was one of convenience.

Prior to the commencement of the Civil War, Lieutenant Colonel John Harris was elevated to the office of Commandant.  Harris (20 May 1793—12 May 1864) served as the sixth Commandant, serving on active duty for more than fifty years.  The Harris family lived in Whiteland Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania and produced several career military officers.  John’s father William served as an officer during the Revolutionary War.  An elder brother served as a naval surgeon who ultimately led the Navy’s bureau of medicine and surgery.  A younger brother Stephen married the granddaughter of Persifor Frazer, a prominent citizen during the Revolutionary period.

John Harris received his commission as a Second Lieutenant on 23 April 1814; in two months, he had already been promoted to First Lieutenant.  Harris served with the Marine force opposing the British at the battle of Brandywine, Maryland.  It was the distinction of these Marines in combat that may have prompted the British Army to spare the Marine Barracks in the city of Washington during the War of 1812.  All other government buildings were destroyed by fire.

In 1815, Harris assumed command of the Marine Detachment aboard USS Macedonian, flagship of the squadron of Commodore Stephen Decatur.  It was this squadron that sailed from New York to punish the Barbary Pirates.  After several periods of shore duty, Harris commanded Marines aboard USS Franklin, which included a South Pacific tour from 1821—1824.  Harris was brevetted to Captain on 3 March 1825, followed by tours of duty in Boston, aboard the USS Java, USS Delaware, and USS Philadelphia.  In 1836, Harris joined the Marine Detachment at Fort Monroe, Virginia where he served with the Army during the Florida Indian Wars.  He served with distinction in the Creek campaign in Alabama, and the Seminole conflicts in Florida.  Colonel Commandant Archibald Henderson gave a good report on Captain Harris, stating, “Captain Harris while in Florida commanded mounted Marines and did good service in that capacity.”

In 1837, Harris was advanced to brevet major, “for gallantry and good conduct in the affair of Hatchee Lustee”.  He was received a regular commission to major on 6 October 1841, serving in Philadelphia, Washington, and Norfolk until the outbreak of war with Mexico.

In March 1848, Major Harris sailed with a battalion of Marines to Veracruz, Mexico but since the armistice had already been concluded, he was ordered to garrison Alvarado.  He was ordered to Marine Corps headquarters in Washington in late summer of that year, subsequently serving as the Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks in Philadelphia and New York.  In 1855, Harris was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and placed in command of the Marine Barracks, Brooklyn where he remained until 7 January 1859.  On that date, he assumed the office of Commandant in grade of Colonel, U. S. Marine Corps.

There is little doubt that Colonel Harris was embarrassed on the eve of the American Civil War as half of his officers resigned their commissions to serve in the armed forces of the Confederate States; he labored to reconstitute a much-weakened Marine Corps.  Added to this, Harris was tasked to send Marines to serve as United States Secret Service agents in Maryland to stem the flow of contraband: this mission depleted the ranks of the Marine Corps by a full battalion.

Following a brief illness, Colonel Harris died while serving in office at the age of 70 years.  His death left Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells in a dilemma: there were few Marine Corps officers qualified to assume the post of Commandant.  Secretary Wells delayed selecting a replacement for a full month; his final selection forced several senior Marine Corps officers into retirement.  This delay, and the Secretary’s final choice, was probably a good thing for the Marine Corps as it was about to embark on a much-needed period of reform.  Some say that this reform movement continues in the Marine Corps today; I am one of those.  You see, in the Marines, nothing is ever good enough; I think this attitude benefits the United States of America —and her people.


[1] Department of Defense, Selected Manpower Statistics, FY-1997, Table 2-11.

[2] HMS Leopard gave chase to the American frigate USS Chesapeake, which ended when the American captain surrendered his ship having fired only one shot.  The British tried and executed four members of the Chesapeake’s crew for desertion.  The balance of the crew was released and sent back to port in disgrace.