James Mattis

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James Mattis
Mattis Centcom 2010.jpg
Nickname(s) "Chaos" (callsign)[1]
"Warrior Monk"
"Mad Dog Mattis"[2]
Born (1950-09-08) September 8, 1950 (age 65)
Pullman, Washington, U.S.
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1969–2013
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held U.S. Central Command
U.S. Joint Forces Command
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation
I Marine Expeditionary Force
U.S. Marine Forces Central Command
Marine Corps Combat Development Command
1st Marine Division
7th Marine Regiment
1st Battalion, 7th Marines
Battles/wars Persian Gulf War
Invasion of Afghanistan
Iraq War
 • Invasion of Iraq
 • First Battle of Fallujah
 • Second Battle of Fallujah
Awards Defense Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
US Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal with Valor device

James N. Mattis (born September 8, 1950)[3] is a retired United States Marine Corps general who last served as the 11th commander of United States Central Command. Mattis is known for his military legacy, including implementing the COIN strategy. Having replaced David Petraeus on August 11, 2010, he previously commanded United States Joint Forces Command from November 9, 2007, to August 2010 and served concurrently as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007, to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War.[4] General Mattis retired on May 22, 2013, after 44 years of service.

Early life and education[edit]

Mattis was born in Pullman, Washington on September 8, 1950.[3] He graduated from Columbia High School, Richland, Washington, in 1968 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969.[5] He later earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Central Washington University[6] and was commissioned a second lieutenant through ROTC on January 1, 1972.[7] Mattis during his service years was considered something of an intellectual among the upper ranks, with his personal library numbering more than a thousand volumes. Major General Robert H. Scales (ret.)(PhD), described him as "....one of the most urbane and polished men I have known." Reinforcing this intellectual persona was the fact that he carried on his person a copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius throughout his deployments.[8]


As a lieutenant, Mattis served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he commanded a rifle company and a weapons company in the 1st Marine Regiment, then Recruiting Station Portland, Oregon, as a major.

Persian Gulf War[edit]

Upon promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Mattis commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, which was one of Task Force Ripper's assault battalions during the Persian Gulf War.

War in Afghanistan[edit]

As a colonel Mattis commanded 7th Marine Regiment. He led the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade at its commanding officer upon promotion to brigadier general. During the initial planning for the War in Afghanistan, Mattis led Task Force 58 in operations in the southern part of the country, becoming the first Marine officer to ever command a Naval Task Force in combat.[7]

While serving in Afghanistan as a brigadier general, he was known as an officer who engaged his men with "real leadership". A young Marine officer named Nathaniel Fick cited an example of that leadership when he witnessed Mattis in a fighting hole talking with a sergeant and a lance corporal: "No one would have questioned Mattis if he'd slept eight hours each night in a private room, to be woken each morning by an aide who ironed his uniforms and heated his MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat). But there he was, in the middle of a freezing night, out on the lines with his Marines."[9]

As a brigadier-general deployed to Afghanistan, Mattis came under intense scrutiny from Army and Air Force units in the vicinity of his Marines when he refused to send a CASEVAC team after ODA-574, an Army Green Beret team that had come in contact with enemy and, at one point had one soldier confirmed KIA, one missing and presumed KIA, and four others expected to die, regardless of whether or not they received medical aid. Units in Uzbekistan, four times further away from ODA-574's position than Mattis's Marines, were required to send in the CASEVAC. [39]

Iraq War[edit]

Letter written by Mattis on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, addressed to members of the 1st Marine Division.

As a major general, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent stability operations during the Iraq War.[10] Mattis played key roles in combat operations in Fallujah, including negotiation with the insurgent command inside of the city during Operation Vigilant Resolve in April 2004, as well as participation in planning of the subsequent Operation Phantom Fury in November.

Following a U.S. Department of Defense survey that showed only 55% of American soldiers and 40% of U.S. Marines would report a colleague for abusing civilians, Mattis told U.S. Marines in May 2007 that "Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it's a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents." Reflecting an understanding of the need for restraint in war as key to defeating an insurgency, he added that "Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave."[11]

Mattis popularized the 1st Marine Division's motto "no better friend, no worse enemy", a paraphrase of the famous self-made epitaph for the Roman dictator Sulla,[12] in his open letter to all men within the division for their return to Iraq. This phrase later became widely publicized during the investigation into the conduct of Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, a platoon commander serving under Mattis.[13][14][15][16][17][18]

He also was noted for a willingness to remove senior leaders under his command at a time when the U.S. military seemed unable or unwilling to relieve under-performing or incompetent officers. During the division's push to Baghdad, Mattis relieved Colonel Joe D. Dowdy, regimental commander of Regimental Combat Team-1, and it was such a rare occurrence in the modern military that it made the front page of newspapers. Despite this, Mattis declined to comment on the matter publicly other than to say that the practice of officer relief remains alive, or at least "We are doing it in the Marines."[9] Later interviews of Dowdy's officers and men revealed that "the colonel was doomed partly by an age-old wartime tension: Men versus mission -- in which he favored his men" while Mattis insisted on execution of the mission to seize Baghdad swiftly.[19]

Combat Development Command[edit]

After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking ad libitum at a forum in San Diego, he said "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." Mattis's remarks sparked controversy and General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement suggesting that Mattis should have chosen his words more carefully, but would not be disciplined.[20]

U.S. Joint Forces Command[edit]

The Pentagon announced on May 31, 2006 that Lieutenant General Mattis was chosen to take command of I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.[21] On 11 September 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that President George W. Bush had nominated Mattis for appointment to the rank of general to command U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. NATO agreed to appoint Mattis as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. On 28 September 2007, the United States Senate confirmed Mattis's nomination, and he relinquished command of I MEF on 5 November 2007 to Lieutenant General Samuel Helland. Mattis was promoted to four-star general and took control of JFCOM/SACT on 9 November 2007. He transferred the job of SACT to French General Stéphane Abrial on 9 September 2009, but continued in command of JFCOM.[22]

U.S. Central Command[edit]

In early 2010, Mattis was reported to be on the list of U.S. Marine generals being considered for selection to replace James T. Conway as the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.[23] In July, he was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for nomination to replace David Petraeus as commander of United States Central Command,[3][24] and formally nominated by President Barack Obama on July 21.[25] His confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee marked the first time Marines had held billets as commander and deputy commander of a Unified Combatant Command.[26] He took command at a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base on August 11.[27][28][29]

As head of Central Command, Mattis oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, Yemen.[30] The Obama administration did not place much trust in Mattis, because he was perceived to be too eager for a military confrontation with Iran.[31] He retired from the Marine Corps on May 22, 2013.

Personal life[edit]

Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. Mattis is also noted for his intellectualism and interest in military history,[10] with a personal library that once included over 7,000 volumes,[1] and a penchant for publishing required reading lists for Marines under his command.[32][33] He has never been married and has no children.[1] He is nicknamed "The Warrior Monk" because he devoted his life to studying and fighting war.[34]

Since retirement, Mattis has worked for FWA Consultants[35] and is an Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution.[36] He also serves as a Member of the General Dynamics Board of Directors.[35]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
 ribbon ribbon
Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge.png
Gold star
Gold star
ribbon ribbon ribbon
ribbon ribbon
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
ribbon ribbon ribbon
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
ribbon ribbon
USMC Rifle Expert badge.png USMC Pistol Expert badge.png
First row Defense Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Navy Distinguished Service Medal Defense Superior Service Medal Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge
Second row Legion of Merit Bronze Star Medal w/ valor device Meritorious Service Medal w/ 2 award stars Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Third row Combat Action Ribbon Presidential Unit Citation Joint Meritorious Unit Award Navy Unit Commendation
Fourth row Navy and Marine Corps Meritorious Unit Commendation Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 2 campaign stars
Fifth row Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal w/ 1 service star Afghanistan Campaign Medal Iraq Campaign Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Sixth row Humanitarian Service Medal Sea Service Ribbon w/ 7 service stars Marine Corps Recruiting Service Ribbon w/ 1 service star Polish Army Medal in gold
Seventh Row NATO Meritorious Service Medal[22] NATO Medal for Service with ISAF[22] Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Badges Rifle Expert marksmanship badge (4th award) Pistol Expert marksmanship badge (2nd award)

He is also the recipient of several civilian awards, to include:

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). ‘’Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond - The U.S. Marine Corps in the Second Iraq War.’’p. 5. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-717-4


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

  1. ^ a b c Kovach, Gretel C. (January 19, 2013). "Just don't call him Mad Dog". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Boot, Max (March 2006). "The Corps should look to its small-wars past". Armed Forces Journal. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Nominations before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Second Session, 111th Congress" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Garamone, Jim (August 11, 2010). "Gates: Mattis brings experience, continuity to Central Command". American Forces Press Service. Headquarters Marine Corps. Retrieved 18 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Mattis, James (25 September 2013). General James Mattis, "In the Midst of the Storm: A US Commander's View of the Changing Middle East". Dartmouth College. Event occurs at 80:10. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Official website". United States Joint Forces Command. 
  7. ^ a b Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond. pp. 4–5. ISBN 9781591147176. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  8. ^ Ricks, Thomas E. (August 1, 2006). "Fiasco". Armed Forces Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Thomas E. Ricks (2012). The Generals : American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin Press. p. 405. ISBN 9781594204043. 
  10. ^ a b Thomas E. Ricks (2006). Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin Press. p. 313. 
  11. ^ Perry, Tony (17 May 2007). "General Urges Marines To Add A Friendly Wave To Their Arsenal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Durant, Will (2001). Heroes of History : A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 131. ISBN 0-7432-2910-X. 
  13. ^ "Top 10 Stories of 2005: Pantano, roads, Olchowski are 10-7". Star News Online. December 28, 2005. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  14. ^ Quinn-Judge, Paul (February 28, 2005). "Did He Go Too Far?". TIME. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  15. ^ Phillips, Stone (April 26, 2005). "Marine charged with murders of Iraqis: Lieutenant claims self-defense in shooting of detainees". MSNBC. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  16. ^ Jeff Schogol (November 16, 2005). "Marine acquitted in Iraqi shootings will publish a book". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  17. ^ Walker, Mark (July 1, 2006). "Pantano case has parallels to Hamdania incident". North County Times. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  18. ^ Charen, Mona (February 25, 2005). "Is the Marine Corps P.C.?". townhall.com. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  19. ^ Cooper, Christopher (April 5, 2004). "How a Marine Lost His Command In Race to Baghdad". wsj.com. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  20. ^ Guardiano, John R. (February 11, 2005). "Breaking the Warrior Code". The American Spectator. 
  21. ^ Lowe, Christian (June 12, 2006). "Popular commander to lead I MEF". Marine Corps Times. p. 24. 
  22. ^ a b c "French general assumes command of Allied Command Transformation". Allied Command Transformation Public Affairs Office. USS George Washington (CVN-73): NATO. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  23. ^ Gearan, Anne (June 22, 2010). "Gates announces nomination of Amos for CMC". Marine Corps Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  24. ^ Cavallaro, Gina (July 8, 2010). "Pentagon picks Mattis to take over CENTCOM". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  25. ^ "Obama backs Mattis nomination for CENTCOM". Marine Corps Times. July 22, 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  26. ^ "Petraeus' replacement at Central Command confirmed". The Fayetteville Observer. Associated Press. August 6, 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  27. ^ "Mattis takes over Central Command, vows to work with Mideast allies in Afghanistan, Iraq". Fox News. Associated Press. August 11, 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  28. ^ Mitchell, Robbyn (August 12, 2010). "Mattis takes over as CentCom chief". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  29. ^ "Mattis assumes command of CENTCOM". U.S. Central Command. August 11, 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  30. ^ Mattis interview: Syria would fall without Iran's help April 12, 2013 USA Today
  31. ^ Panetta, Leon; Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace (Kindle Locations 6368-6370). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition
  32. ^ "LtGen James Mattis' Reading List". Small Wars Journal. 5 June 2007. 
  33. ^ Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, p. 317
  34. ^ North, Oliver (July 9, 2010). "Gen. Mattis: The Warrior Monk". Fox News Insider. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  35. ^ a b c d "About General James Mattis". FWA Consultants. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  36. ^ "General Jim Mattis, Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow". Hoover Institute. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  37. ^ "Convocation Will Honor Marine General James Mattis". Washington College. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  38. ^ "Character Bio". HBO. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 

39. "The Green Berets who saved Karzai" http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/01/18/the-green-berets-who-saved-karzai.html

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
David Petraeus
Commander of United States Central Command
Succeeded by
Lloyd Austin