James T. Conway

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James Terry Conway
James T. Conway, official military photo portrait, 2006.jpg
34th Commandant of the Marine Corps
Born (1947-12-26) December 26, 1947 (age 73)
Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1970–2010
Commands heldCommandant of the Marine Corps
I Marine Expeditionary Force
1st Marine Division
The Basic School
3rd Battalion 2nd Marines
Battles/warsGulf War
Iraq War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal (3)
Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)

James Terry Conway (born December 26, 1947) is a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general who served as the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps.[1][2][3] Among his previous postings were Director of Operations (J-3) on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Commanding General of 1st Marine Division and I Marine Expeditionary Force, taking part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the First Battle of Fallujah.

Early life[edit]

Conway was born in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in St. Louis, Missouri and then attended Southeast Missouri State University, where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, graduating in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. He was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1970.

Marine career[edit]

Conway's first assignment was command of a rifle platoon with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, based at Camp Pendleton. He also served as the battalion's 106mm recoilless rifle platoon commander. Later, he served as Marine detachment executive officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and as commanding officer of the Sea School at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

After graduating with honors from the Army's Infantry Officers Advanced Course, Conway commanded two companies in the 2nd Marine Regiment's Operations and Security section. As a field grade officer, he commanded two companies of students and taught tactics at The Basic School. He then went on to serve as operations officer for the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, with sea duty in the western Pacific and in contingency operations off Beirut, Lebanon.

Returning to the United States, Conway was assigned as Senior Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for two years. After graduating from Marine Corps Command and Staff College with honors, he took command of 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines through its eight-month deployment to Southwest Asia during the Gulf War.

After the war, he was promoted to colonel and assigned command of The Basic School. Promoted to brigadier general in December 1995, he again was assigned to the Joint Chiefs and later served as President of the Marine Corps University.[4] After being promoted to major general, he served as commander of the 1st Marine Division and as Deputy Commanding General of Marine Forces Central. He was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) on November 16, 2002. He commanded I MEF during two combat tours in Iraq, with 60,000 troops under his command, including Marines, soldiers, sailors, and British forces. In the book The Iraq War, Conway was described as, "big, buff, well read and well educated ... he represented all that was best about the new United States Marine Corps, which General Al Gray as the commandant had set up."[5]

Conway responding to questions at a Pentagon briefing, June 2005

In a press interview on May 30, 2003, Conway was questioned about the failure at that point to locate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He replied, in part:

It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons ... It's not for lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there ... What the regime was intending to do in terms of its use of the weapons, we thought we understood—or we certainly had our best guess, our most dangerous, our most likely courses of action that the intelligence folks were giving us. We were simply wrong. But whether or not we're wrong at the national level, I think, still very much remains to be seen.[citation needed]

Conway is sworn in by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on November 13, 2006

US Marines of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force under Conway's command constructed the military base "Camp Alpha" on top of ancient Babylonian ruins following the invasion. Though a US Military spokesman claimed that the project was discussed with the "head of the Babylon museum",[6] the construction of the base drew intense criticism from archaeologists, who contend that it caused irreparable damage to one of the most important sites in the world. Dr. John Curtis of the British Museum's Near East department described how parts of the archaeological site were levelled and paved over to create a helipad as well as parking lots for heavy vehicles.[7] Donny George, head of the Iraqi State Board for Heritage and Antiquities, stated that the "mess will take decades to sort out".[8]

On June 13, 2006, Conway was nominated by President George W. Bush to become the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps;[9] the nomination was confirmed by the Senate on August 2, 2006.[10] On November 13, Conway was promoted to the rank of general at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C. and became the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was the first Commandant in nearly 40 years to have not served in the Vietnam War.

On June 11, 2009, Conway spoke at the National Press Club about the importance of maintaining the Amphibious assault ships to lift two Marine Expeditionary Brigades and the time "at home" away from the current wars to train for amphibious assault.[11]

Conway talks to his Marines, September 2005

Conway was reported to have had "major reservations" about the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell", in contrast to the Pentagon opinion that the younger rank and file of the military did not have such reservations about serving with openly gay service members.[12] Conway, along with Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, and Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General George Casey, supported running a one-year study on the effects of a possible repeal.[13] Conway said that if gay Marines are allowed to serve openly, he might need to change the policy that requires unmarried Marines to share rooms.[14] The policy was repealed on December 22, 2010, after his tenure as Commandant had ended.

On October 22, 2010, Conway turned the position of Commandant over to General James F. Amos, his Assistant Commandant, at a ceremony at Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.,[15] Defense secretary Robert Gates presented Conway with his third Defense Distinguished Service Medal during the change-in-command.[15] He then retired on November 1.

Personal life[edit]

Conway is a graduate of the Infantry Officers Advanced Course, the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the Air War College.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Conway has been decorated for service, to include:

Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Defense Meritorious Service Medal ribbon.svg 1 golden star.svg1 golden star.svg
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Achievement ribbon.svg Combat Action Ribbon.svg United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze star
Marine Corps Expeditionary ribbon.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d.pngBronze-service-star-3d.png Bronze-service-star-3d.pngBronze-service-star-3d.pngBronze-service-star-3d.png Bronze-service-star-3d.pngBronze-service-star-3d.png Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Korea Defense Service ribbon.svg Bronze-service-star-3d.pngBronze-service-star-3d.pngBronze-service-star-3d.png Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon.svg
Order of Bahrain - 5th Class.png Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) ribbon.svg Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait) ribbon.svg
USMC Rifle Expert badge.png USMC Pistol Expert badge.png
1st row Defense Distinguished Service Medal w/ 2 oak leaf clusters Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
2nd row Navy Distinguished Service Medal Legion of Merit Defense Meritorious Service Medal Meritorious Service Medal w/ 2 award stars
3rd row Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Combat Action Ribbon Navy Presidential Unit Citation
4th row Joint Meritorious Unit Award w/ 2 oak leaf clusters Navy Unit Commendation Meritorious Unit Commendation w/ 1 service star Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
5th row National Defense Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 3 campaign stars Iraq Campaign Medal w/ 2 campaign stars Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
6th row Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Korea Defense Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon w/ 3 service stars Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon
7th row The Khalifyyeh Order of Bahrain, Knight Legion of Honor, Commander[16] Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
  • He also holds 7 expert awards in both rifle and pistol marksmanship badges. In 2010, Conway was the recipient of the distinguished "Keeper of the Flame" award.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official Biography:General James T. Conway". Biographies: General Officers & Senior Executives. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2007.
  2. ^ "New Marine Corps Commandant Welcomed". Military.com. November 14, 2006. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  3. ^ Schogol, Jeff (November 14, 2006). "Conway becomes Marine Corps Commandant". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2006.
  4. ^ "Biography of General James T. Conway, USMC (Retired)". United States Marine Corps History Division. Archived from the original on September 23, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  5. ^ Murray, Williamson; Scales, Robert H. (2003). The Iraq War: A Military History. Harvard University Press. p. 65. ISBN 0-674-01280-1.
  6. ^ Leeman, Sue (January 16, 2005). "Damage seen to ancient Babylon". The Boston Globe.
  7. ^ Bajjaly, Joanne Farchakh (April 25, 2005). "History lost in dust of war-torn Iraq". BBC News. Retrieved June 7, 2013.
  8. ^ Heritage News from around the world Archived February 2, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, World Heritage Alert!. Retrieved April 19, 2008.
  9. ^ Dunham, Will (June 13, 2006). "Marine Corps to get a new top general". Reuters. Archived from the original on June 1, 2006. Retrieved June 13, 2006.
  10. ^ "Conway confirmed as new commandant". Marine Corps Times. August 3, 2006. Archived from the original on August 8, 2006. Retrieved August 3, 2006.
  11. ^ Marine Commandant Says Corps Fulfilled its Mission in Iraq Archived June 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (January 31, 2010). "Forces Pushing Obama on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'". the New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2010.
  13. ^ Lamothe, Dan (February 24, 2010). "Conway: Study needed before DADT repeal". Marine Corps Times. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2010.
  14. ^ Whitlock, Craig (March 27, 2010). "Gay, straight Marines wouldn't share rooms with don't ask' repeal, general says". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 7, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Shea, Sgt Jimmy D. (October 22, 2010). "Taking the Reins: Marine Corps Welcomes New Commandant". Headquarters Marine Corps. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on October 26, 2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
  16. ^ DeFilippis, Sgt. Rocco (December 4, 2009). "Commandant of the Marine Corps awarded French Legion of Honour by French Army Chief of Staff". Paris. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2009.


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

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Michael Hagee
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Succeeded by
James F. Amos