Alfred M. Gray Jr.

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Alfred M. Gray Jr.
Born (1928-06-22) June 22, 1928 (age 95)
Rahway, New Jersey, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1950–1991
Commands heldCommandant of the Marine Corps
Marine Forces Atlantic
II Marine Expeditionary Force
2nd Marine Division
33d Marine Amphibious Unit
4th Marine Regiment
2nd Marine Regiment
1st Battalion, 2nd Marines
1st Radio Battalion
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal (4)
Purple Heart (3)
Spouse(s)Jan Goss (1980–2020; her death)[1]

Alfred Mason Gray Jr.[2] (born June 22, 1928) is a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general who served as the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1 July 1987 until his retirement on 30 June 1991 after 41 years of service.

Early life and education[edit]

Gray was born on June 22, 1928, in Rahway, New Jersey, the son of Emily and Alfred Mason Gray.[3] The family moved to the Jersey Shore community of Point Pleasant Beach.[4] He transferred from Rahway High School to Point Pleasant Beach High School, where he played baseball, basketball and football, graduating as part of the class of 1946.[5]

Gray studied at Lafayette College, and received a Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York. He has honorary degrees from Lafayette College, Monmouth University, Norwich University, the National Defense Intelligence College, and Franklin University.[6] He married the former Jan Goss of Burlington, Vermont, on July 20, 1980.[3][7]

Marine career[edit]

Gray enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1950. He served overseas with Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Pacific, attaining the rank of sergeant before being commissioned a second lieutenant in April 1952. His early tours included service with 11th Marines and 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in Korea, the 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., during which he saw service in Guantanamo Bay and Vietnam.[8]

Gray is considered the founder of Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion, although he never commanded the unit under that name. In 1955 Gray was tasked with forming Marine units to serve at Naval Security Group (NSG) sites. Gray commanded the Marine Detachment at NSG Kamiseya, Japan from 1956 to 1958.[9]

In May 1964 he commanded the Signal Engineering Survey Unit, the radio detachment consisted of three officers and 27 enlisted men drawn from the 1st Radio Company, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific and from Headquarters Marine Corps supported by a 76-man infantry detachment from Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, which deployed to Danang Air Base, South Vietnam. The unit established communication facilities at Khe Sanh, Tiger Tooth Mountain (Dong Voi Mẹp) (16°46′05″N 106°42′47″E / 16.768°N 106.713°E / 16.768; 106.713), Monkey Mountain and Bạch Mã. The unit left South Vietnam in mid-September 1964.[10]

As a major, Gray joined the 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division in South Vietnam in October 1965, serving concurrently as regimental communications officer, regimental training officer, and artillery aerial observer. He took command of the Composite Artillery Battalion and United States Free World Forces at Gio Linh in April 1967. In September, Gray was reassigned to the III Marine Amphibious Force in Da Nang where he commanded the 1st Radio Battalion elements throughout I Corps until February 1968. Following a brief tour in the United States, he returned to South Vietnam from June to September 1969 in conjunction with surveillance and reconnaissance matters in the I Corps area.

Gray then served as Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Battalion Landing Team; Commanding Officer of the 2nd Marine Regiment from 22 April 1972 to 27 December 1972. Gray attended the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania from August 1973 to June 1974. He was next assigned as Commanding Officer of 4th Marines from 30 July 1974 to 8 August 1975. His follow on assignment was as Camp Commander of Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. While commanding the 33rd Marine Amphibious Unit and Regimental Landing Team-4, and concurrently serving as Deputy Commander, 9th Marines Amphibious Brigade, Gray directed the Operation Frequent Wind evacuation of Saigon in April 1975. Advanced to brigadier general in March 1976, Gray served as Commanding General, Landing Force Training Command, Atlantic, and the 4th Marine Amphibious Brigade.

Promoted to major general in February 1980, he assumed command of the 2nd Marine Division, FMF, Atlantic, Camp Lejueune, North Carolina, in June 1981.[11] While in the position, he was a confidant to Vice-Admiral Arthur S. Moreau Jr., finding Marines for a covert team which targeted terrorists and drug traffickers.[12] Gray relinquished command of 2nd MARDIV on August 28, 1984, to Major General Richard J. Murphy.[13]

Following his promotion to lieutenant general on August 29, 1984, Gray was reassigned as Commanding General, FMF, Atlantic/Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Commanding General, FMF, Europe. Gray was promoted to general and became Commandant of the Marine Corps on July 1, 1987. His appointment as Commandant of the Marine Corps was recommended by Jim Webb, then Secretary of the Navy.[11]

Gray presided over changes in training in the 1970s with an emphasis on large-scale maneuver in desert and cold-weather environments, and changed Marine doctrine to one of maneuver warfare in the 1980s. This transformation from the Vietnam War-era is sometimes called the second enlightenment of the Marine Corps (the first being under Major General John A. Lejeune), and included development of a robust maritime special operations capability, emphasis on the education of leaders, establishment of Marine Corps University, and development of a long-range desert operations capability. 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.[14]

Silver Star citation[edit]


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Major Alfred Mason Gray, Jr. (MCSN: 0-56067), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Commanding Officer of the Composite Artillery Battalion, Twelfth Marines, THIRD Marine Division, in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. During the night of 14 May 1967, three Marines who were en route to a listening post northeast of the Gio Linh perimeter became confused in the darkness and unknowingly entered an area heavily mined with M-2 and M-16 mines. One of the Marines inadvertently detonated a mine which killed him and seriously wounded his comrades. Upon learning of the accident, Major Gray immediately proceeded to the area and, realizing that the casualties required immediate medical attention, unhesitatingly entered the mined area to assist them. Disregarding his own safety, Major Gray, accompanied by another Marine, calmly and skillfully probed a cleared path forty meters through the unmarked minefield to the side of the wounded men. Directing his companion to guide stretcher bearers along the cleared route, Major Gray moved one of the casualties away from a sensitized mine and began administering first aid to the injured Marines. When stretcher bearers arrived, he directed the safe evacuation of the casualties through the minefield. Subsequently, he maneuvered through the dangerous area to the side of the mortally wounded Marine and left the hazardous area only after he was assured that the man was dead. His timely and heroic actions in the face of great personal danger inspired all who served with him and were instrumental in saving the lives of two Marines. By his inspiring courage, bold initiative and selfless devotion to duty, Major Gray upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

In popular culture[edit]

Gray appeared as himself on the Birthday Ball episode of Major Dad, a second-season episode that celebrated the 215th birthday of the Marine Corps. Appearing on 60 Minutes in the 1980s, he addressed the graduating class at the Naval Academy. He summarized the core of leadership—civilian or military, "If you come and join my Marines, I want you to know that your 'number one' job is to take care of the men and women you are privileged to lead."


The Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, is the home of the Alfred M. Gray Research Center. The center houses the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections, the Quantico Base Library, and the research library for the Marine Corps University, as well a conference center. Since 2004, as part of the Marine Corps Communications Awards Program, The General Alfred M. Gray Trophy is presented annually in honor of the 29th Commandant. The award bears his name due to his contributions to modernization in intelligence and communications. The Marine Corps University Foundation retains overall responsibility for funding the Trophy, and receives a grant from Sprint. A Marine Captain on active duty serving in the military occupational specialty (MOS) 0602 Communications Information Systems Officer within the operating forces or supporting establishment is recognized with the trophy each year at an awards ceremony.[15]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Defense Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 bronze oak leaf cluster Navy Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 gold award star Army Distinguished Service Medal Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Legion of Merit w/ valor device & 1 award star Bronze Star Medal w/ valor device & 3 award stars
Purple Heart w/ 2 award stars Meritorious Service Medal Joint Service Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Combat Action Ribbon w/ 1 award star Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 service star Navy Unit Commendation w/ 2 service stars Meritorious Unit Commendation w/ 1 service star
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Korea Service Medal w/ 1 service star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal w/ 1 service star Sea Service Deployment Ribbon Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam Gallantry Cross unit citation
Vietnam Civil Actions unit citation United Nations Service Medal for Korea Vietnam Campaign Medal Republic of Korea War Service Medal
Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

In 1991, he was awarded the Distinguished Sea Service Award by the Naval Order of the United States.

Post-Marine Corps career[edit]

Alfred M. Gray (right) and James F. Amos (left) in June 2012.

Gray serves on the board of directors or board of advisors of a number of companies, including:[6]

Gray is a member of the 2nd Marine Division Association, Marine Corps Association, Khe Sanh Veterans, Inc., and the Marine Corps League.

See also[edit]


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

  1. ^ "JAN GRAY Obituary (1943 - 2020) the Washington Post".
  2. ^ Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps and Reserve Officers on Active Duty. Bureau of Naval Personnel. January 1, 1965. p. 856.
  3. ^ a b "Nomination of Lieutenant General Alfred M. Gray Jr. To Be Commandant of the Marine Corps". Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. June 16, 1987. Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  4. ^ Tucker, Spencer C. Persian Gulf War Encyclopedia: A Political, Social, and Military History: A Political, Social, and Military History, p. 175. ABC-CLIO, 2014. ISBN 9781610694162. Accessed November 20, 2017. "Alfred M. Gray Jr. was born on June 22, 1928, at Rahway, New Jersey. Raised in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, he attended Lafayette College but dropped out of school and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1950."
  5. ^ General Alfred M. Gray, USMC Archived 2017-12-01 at the Wayback Machine, Point Pleasant Beach School District. Accessed November 30, 2017. "Alfred Gray graduated in 1946. After transferring from Rahway High School into 10th grade he became one of the most active members of his class."
  6. ^ a b c d e "Profile: Alfred M. Gray, USMC". Forbes. 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  7. ^ "Alfred M. Gray". Marquis Who's Who (fee required for BRC). Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. 2008. Document Number: K2016616305. Archived from the original on January 12, 2001. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  8. ^ "General Alfred M. Gray Jr". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  9. ^ "Cryptologic Heritage". Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  10. ^ Whitlow, Robert (1977). U.S. Marines in Vietnam:The Advisory And Combat Assistance Era, 1954–1964 (PDF). History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. pp. 139–41. ISBN 1494285290.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ a b Cushman, John H. Jr. (June 5, 1987). "Activist General in Line for Top Marine Post". The New York Times. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  12. ^ Hersh, Seymour M. (24 January 2019). "The Vice President's Men". London Review of Books. LRB Limited. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  13. ^ "2ND MARINE DIVISION AND ITS REGIMENTS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-10-26. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  14. ^ "GEN GRAY HONORED AT GENERAL H.M. SMITH DINNER". Marine Military Academy. April 7, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2020.
  15. ^ "Marine Corps Order 1650.47" (PDF). Retrieved June 30, 2017.
  16. ^ "General Alfred M. Gray, (Retired USMC)". American Public University System. 2007-05-08. Archived from the original on 8 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-26.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commandant of the United States Marine Corps
Succeeded by