Robert E. Cleary

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Robert Earl Cleary
Robert E. Cleary.JPEG
10th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (1983-1987)
BornJune 2, 1931
Tewksbury, Massachusetts
DiedFebruary 11, 2018(2018-02-11) (aged 86)
Virginia Beach, Virginia
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1951-1987
RankSergeant Major
Commands heldSergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Battles/warsKorean War
Vietnam War
AwardsSilver Star
Purple Heart (2)
Air Medal (3)

Robert Earl Cleary (June 2, 1931 - February 11, 2018) was the tenth Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, serving in this position between 1983–1987. He served for 36 years — including serving in combat in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.[1] For his actions in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Navy Commendation Medal, and two Purple Hearts. [2] He was the last Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps to have served in the Korean War.

Personal life[edit]

Robert Earl Cleary was born in Tewksbury, Massachusetts on 2 June 1931, and graduated from Holyoke Trade High School in May 1949. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1951 and rose through the ranks to the highest enlisted rank — Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. He retired in 1987. Cleary died on February 11, 2018.

Military service[edit]

Soon after the Korean War began, Cleary enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on 24 October 1951. Years later, Cleary said: "If I was going to join, I wanted to join what I still feel is one of the best outfits in the world – the Marines. We’re the 911 of the United States of America."[3] He underwent recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, then attended a nine-week Demolition Specialist Course at Schools Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, where he was promoted to private first class. Upon completion of the school, he was assigned as the Battalion Demolition Specialist, Company B, 7th Engineer Battalion at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Promoted to corporal, he remained with the 7th Engineer Battalion until April 1953.

Cleary transferred overseas, where he joined the 1st Marine Division in Korea, as a Squad Leader and Right Guide with Company I, 3rd Battalion . While in this assignment, he was promoted to sergeant. Returning from overseas, he reported to the 1st Rifle Company at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center, Springfield, Massachusetts. In early 1958, he returned to Camp Pendleton, for duty as a military policeman with the Military Police Company.

In May 1958, he was promoted to staff sergeant, and continued to serve in this assignment until April 1961, when he transferred to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for duty as a drill instructor.

Upon completion of his tour as a drill instructor, Sergeant Major Cleary joined Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines for duty as a Section Leader, and later, Platoon Sergeant in the 81 mm Motor Platoon. In February 1965, he transferred to H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, as a Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader.

This assignment was followed by his first tour in Vietnam as a Platoon Leader, Company G, 2nd Battalion 1st Marines, where he was promoted to gunnery sergeant. In August 1966, he transferred to Company F, 2nd Battalion 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, for duty as Company Gunnery Sergeant. For his combat service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Navy Commendation Medal with valor device, and two awards of the Purple Heart.

He returned to San Diego for a short tour as a drill instructor in August 1967, at which time he was selected for promotion to first sergeant. He was reassigned to the 27th Marine Regiment as the Company First Sergeant. During March 1968, he returned to Vietnam, serving as the First Sergeant of Battery C, 1st LAAM Battalion, MACC-19, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Subsequently, he served as Company First Sergeant of Company G, 28th Marine Regiment.

Cleary then reported to H&S Company, 2nd Battalion 7th Marines as the Company First Sergeant, followed by his third tour in Vietnam as the Squadron Sergeant Major of HMM-165. Upon his return from overseas in May 1973, he was assigned to VMA-223 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, where he attained his present grade and served as the Squadron Sergeant Major. In September, he was reassigned to the 2nd LAAM Battalion.

He reported to Headquarters Marine Corps in September 1974 for duty as the Battalion Sergeant Major of Marine Security Guard Battalion, followed by duty as Personnel Sergeant Major. His next assignment was as the 3rd Marine Division Sergeant Major in July 1979, then returned to Marine Security Guard Battalion.

On 1 January 1982, Sergeant Major Cleary was selected as the Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Development and Education Command in Quantico, Virginia. He was selected as the 10th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on 25 May 1983, and assumed the post on 28 June 1983. He retired in 1987.

Awards and honors[edit]

His military decorations include:[4][5]

Gold star
Award numeral 3.png "V" device, brass.svg1 golden star.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Marine Combat Aircrew Badge w/ 3 service stars
1st Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Purple Heart w/ 1 award star
2nd Row Air Medal w/ Strike/Flight numeral "3" Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ valor device & 1 award star Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Combat Action Ribbon
3rd Row Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 service star Navy Unit Commendation w/ 1 service star Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal w/ 7 service stars
4th Row National Defense Service Medal w/ 1 service star Korean Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Vietnam Service Medal w/ 7 service stars Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon
5th Row Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ palm Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Korean Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam Gallantry Cross unit citation
6th Row Vietnam Civil Actions unit citation United Nations Korea Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal Korean War Service Medal

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  1. ^ "Valor Awards for Robert Cleary". Military Times. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  2. ^ Fannin, John (February 13, 2018). "Memorial: Sergeant Major Robert E. Cleary". American Grit. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  3. ^ "Bob Cleary, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ret". Virginian-Pilot. Atlantic Shores. November 11, 2016. Retrieved 2018-02-17.
  4. ^ Chapin, John (1993). Uncommon Men - The Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps (1 ed.). Shippensburg, Pennsylvania 17257-0152 USA: Burd Street Press. pp. 339–340. ISBN 0-942597-45-1.
  5. ^ "Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal". Air Force's Personnel Center. U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
Military offices
Preceded by
Leland D. Crawford
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps
Succeeded by
David W. Sommers