General Alexander Archer Vandegrift, USMC (March 13, 1887 – May 8, 1973) was a United States Marine Corps four-star general. During World War II, he commanded the 1st Marine Division to victory in its first ground offensive of the war, the Battle of Guadalcanal. For his actions on August 7 to December 9, 1942, in the Solomon Islands campaign, he received the Medal of Honor. Vandegrift later served as the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was the first four-star general on active duty in the Marine Corps.
- The Marine Corps, then, believes that it has earned this right—to have its future decided by the legislative body which created it—nothing more. Sentiment is not a valid consideration in determining questions of national security. We have pride in ourselves and in our past, but we do not rest our case on any presumed ground of gratitude owing us from the Nation. The bended knee is not a tradition of our Corps. If the Marine as a fighting man has not made a case for himself after 170 years of service, he must go. But I think you will agree with me that he has earned the right to depart with dignity and honor, not by subjugation to the status of uselessness and servility planned for him by the War Department.
- Conclusion of Vandegrift's "Bended Knee Speech" to the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs, delivered on May 6, 1946.
- We knew that America needed a shot in the national arm. Since December 7, 1941, our national heritage had yielded to a prideless humiliation. Half of our fleet still sat on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The Philippines were gone, Guam and Wake had fallen, the Japanese were approaching Australia. What Admiral King saw, and what he jammed down the throats of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was that just possibly the mighty Japanese had overextended. He saw that just possibly a strike by us could halt their eastward parade. The only weapon he held, the only weapon America held, was a woefully understrength fleet and one woefully ill-equipped and partially trained Marine division.
- Alexander Vandegrift, reflecting on the commencement of the Battle of Guadalcanal, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift (1964), p. 18
- Ernest King was something else again. Although I had met him in prewar years, neither I nor many people ever knew him. His prewar reputation- juniors liked to say he shaved with a blowtorch- raised him to almost demigod status in the eyes of some of his subordinates. Probably because the Marine Corps boasted its unique brand of toughness I wasn't much concerned about his reputation. Upon paying my first call to him as Commandant I did think we should understand each other, so before taking my leave I said, "Admiral, I want to tell you what I have always told seniors when reporting for duty. If one of your decisions is in my opinion going to affect the Marine Corps adversely, I shall feel it my duty to explain our position on the subject, no matter how disagreeable this may be. If you disagree, I expect to keep right on explaining until such time as you make a final decision. If I do not agree with that, I will try to work with it anyway. I say this, sir, because if you want a rubber stamp you can go to the nearest Kresge store and buy one for twenty-five cents." King stared at me a moment, then abruptly nodded his head- a characteristic gesture. In the event, I worked more closely with his deputy chief, Admiral Horne, his chief of staff, Admiral Edwards, and his planner, Admiral Savvy Cooke. [On a few matters] I was forced to go to him and I generally won my point.
- Alexander Vandegrift, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift (1964), p. 238
- I could not have felt more strongly about this subject. One day an aide, Buddy Masters, came to me. "General," he said, "I'm worried about your eyesight which is getting worse. You read all day here in the office and then you take a couple of hundred Purple Heart certificates home, sign them at night and read some more. I have found a way to ease this." "How?" "The other day over at the Navy I saw a new machine bought for the Secretary. It writes his signature automatically, and it only costs a few hundred dollars." "Save the money," I told him. "If those boys can get wounded, I can find time to sign my name on their Purple Hearts."
- Alexander Vandegrift, Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift (1964), p. 272
Quotes about Vandegrift
- CINCUS to Vandegrift for his flyers- Many happy returns Sunday and congratulations- Keep knocking them off.
- Dispatch from Ernest King to Vandegrift, commander of the 1st Marine Division, during the Battle of Guadalcanal in late August 1942. As quoted in Once A Marine: The Memoirs of General A.A. Vandegrift, U.S.M.C. (1964), p. 146
Medal of Honor citation
Vandegrift's Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER VANDEGRIFT
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
- For outstanding and heroic accomplishment above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the 1st Marine Division in operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands during the period from 7 August to 9 December 1942. With the adverse factors of weather, terrain, and disease making his task a difficult and hazardous undertaking, and with his command eventually including sea, land, and air forces of Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Maj. Gen. Vandegrift achieved marked success in commanding the initial landings of the U. S. forces in the Solomon Islands and in their subsequent occupation. His tenacity, courage, and resourcefulness prevailed against a strong, determined, and experienced enemy, and the gallant fighting spirit of the men under his inspiring leadership enabled them to withstand aerial, land, and sea bombardment, to surmount all obstacles, and leave a disorganized and ravaged enemy. This dangerous but vital mission, accomplished at the constant risk of his life, resulted in securing a valuable base for further operations of our forces against the enemy, and its successful completion reflects great credit upon Maj. Gen. Vandegrift, his command, and the U.S. Naval Service.
- Vandegrift, Alexander. Citation.. Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Retrieved on April 22, 2019.