Clifton B. Cates

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Clifton Bledsoe Cates
Clifton B. Cates.jpg
19th Commandant of the Marine Corps (1948-1951)
Born (1893-08-31)August 31, 1893
Tiptonville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died June 4, 1970(1970-06-04) (aged 76)
Annapolis, Maryland, U.S.
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1917-1954
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held 1st Marine Regiment
4th Marine Division
Commandant of the Marine Corps

World War I

World War II

Awards Navy Cross
Distinguished Service Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart
Legion of Honor (France)
Croix de Guerre (France)

General Clifton Bledsoe Cates (August 31, 1893 – June 4, 1970), USMC, was the 19th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps (served January 1, 1948 - December 31, 1951) . He was honored for his heroism during World War I at Belleau Wood and in World War II for inspired combat leadership at Iwo Jima.

Military career[edit]

After graduating from high school at Missouri Military Academy in 1910 and the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Law degree in 1916, he was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserves. He began active duty on June 13, 1917.

World War I[edit]

During World War I, Cates served with the 6th Marine Regiment, fighting in France. For his heroism in the Aisne defensive at Boursches and Belleau Wood, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross and Oak Leaf Cluster, in addition to the Purple Heart. He was awarded a Silver Star for his gallantry at Soissons. In addition to his medals from the U.S. military, he was recognized by the French government with the Legion of Honor and the Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star and two palms.

Post-war service[edit]

Cates returned to the United States in September 1919, and he served in Washington, D.C. as a White House aide and Aide-de-Camp to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 1920, he served in San Francisco, California, as Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, Department of the Pacific. From 1923 to 1925, he served a tour of sea duty as commander of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS California (BB-44).

In 1929, Cates was deployed to Shanghai, China, where he rejoined the 4th Marines, where he served for three years. He then returned to the U.S. for training at the Army Industrial College and in the Senior Course in the Marine Corps Schools. In 1935, was assigned to the War Plans Section of the Division of Operations and Training at Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC). In 1936, he returned to Shanghai as a battalion commander with the 6th Marine Regiment. In 1938, he rejoined the 4th Marines in Shanghai.

In 1940, and he was named the Director of the Marine Officers Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In 1942, Col Cates took command of the 1st Marines.

World War II[edit]

Colonel Cates led the 1st Marine Regiment at Guadalcanal, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat “V". He then took command of the 4th Marine Division in the Marianas operation, the Tinian campaign and the seizure of Iwo Jima. For his services at Tinian he received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal for his service at Iwo Jima.

After his first tour of duty in the Pacific, returned to the United States to serve as Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico until 1944. He then returned to the Pacific theater until the end of the war as commander of the 4th Marine Division.


On January 1, 1948, he was promoted to the rank of General and sworn in as Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served as Commandant for four years. Upon completion of his tour as Commandant of the Marine Corps he was reverted to the rank of Lieutenant General and returned to serve again as Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools. He retired on June 30, 1954 and was once again promoted to the rank of General.


General Cates died 4 June 1970 at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland, after a long illness. He was buried with full military honors on 8 June 1970 at Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the few officers of any service who had commanded a platoon, a company, a battalion, a regiment and a division under fire, he won nearly 30 decorations. In addition to the decorations already mentioned, Gen Cates’ medals and decorations include: the Presidential Unit Citation ribbon with three bronze stars (Guadalcanal, Tinian and Iwo Jima); the World War I Victory Medal with Aisne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector clasps; the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal; the Expeditionary Medal (China-1929-1931); the Yangtze Service Medal (Shanghai-1930-1931); the China Service Medal (China-1937-1939); the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the American Area Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal and the Netherlands Order of the Orange Nassau with crossed swords and rank of Grand Officer.

General Cates also held doctoral law degrees from the University of Tennessee and the University of Chattanooga.

Cates Award[edit]

Cates' high school alma mater, the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Mo., honored his memory with the creation of the General Clifton B. Cates "I Will Hold" Award for Leadership during the Academy's 125th anniversary celebration in 2014. The award specifically recognizes the leadership traits of perseverance and determination.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Cates was the recipient of the following awards:

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Fourragère CG.png
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Gold star
1st Row Navy Cross Distinguished Service Cross w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Navy Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 star Silver Star w/ 1 oak leaf cluster French Fourragère
2nd Row Legion of Merit w/ valor device Purple Heart w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 3 stars World War I Victory Medal w/ 5 stars
3rd Row Army of Occupation of Germany Medal Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal Yangtze Service Medal China Service Medal
4th Row American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars World War II Victory Medal
5th Row National Defense Service Medal Croix de Guerre w/ Gilt Star & 2 palms Legion of Honor, Knight grade Order of Orange-Nassau, rank of Grand Officer w/ crossed swords

See also[edit]


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

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Harry Schmidt
Commanding General of the 4th Marine Division
12 July 1944– 28 November 1945
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Gen. Alexander A. Vandegrift
Commandant of the United States Marine Corps
Succeeded by
Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr.