Samuel B. Griffith

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Samuel B. Griffith II
Samuel B. Griffith II.jpg
Samuel B. Griffith
Born(1906-05-31)May 31, 1906
Lewistown, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 27, 1983(1983-03-27) (aged 76)
Newport, Rhode Island
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service1929 – 1956
RankUS-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general
Commands held1st Raider Battalion
3rd Marine Regiment
U.S. Marine Forces, Tsingtao
Battles/warsBanana Wars
*Occupation of Nicaragua
World War II
*Guadalcanal campaign
*Battle of New Georgia
AwardsNavy Cross
Distinguished Service Cross
Purple Heart

Brigadier General Samuel B. Griffith II (May 31, 1906 – March 27, 1983), was an officer and commander in the United States Marine Corps. Griffith entered the Marines in 1929 after graduating from the United States Naval Academy. He served in and commanded Marine units in the Pacific theater of World War II and retired from service in 1956. After his retirement, Griffith wrote several books and numerous articles on military history and lectured widely. He died on March 27, 1983, in Rhode Island.

Early life through World War II[edit]

Griffith was born May 31, 1906, in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy with a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1929, he accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Prior to World War II, he took part in the Second Nicaraguan Campaign, and served in China, Cuba, and England. From 1935 to 1938, he studied the Chinese language while attached to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he mastered Chinese.

During World War II, following a period observing British commando training in England and Scotland, he returned to the 1st Marine Division and served as executive officer and later commander of the 1st Marine Raiders Battalion on Guadalcanal, and executive officer of the 1st Raider Regiment in operations on New Georgia. He received the Navy Cross on Guadalcanal in September 1942 for "extreme heroism and courageous devotion to duty" during the fighting near the Matanikau River. During this action, Griffith suffered wounds for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. For his exploits in July in New Georgia, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[1]

Post-war career[edit]

From 1946 to 1947, he held staff positions in Qingdao, China, giving him a front-row seat to observe the escalating Chinese Civil War. After participating in the post-World War II occupation of North China, where he commanded the 3rd Marine Regiment and later the U.S. Marine Forces in Qingdao, he was a student and then a faculty member at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport from 1947 to 1950. From 1951 to 1952, he was chief of staff, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, and from 1953 to 1956, General Griffith was on the staff of the U.S. Commander in Chief, Europe. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1956, after completing more than 25 years of active service.[1]

Post-retirement career[edit]

Following his retirement, General Griffith entered Oxford University (New College) and was awarded his D.Phil. in Chinese Military History in 1961. With an interest in China and the Chinese language dating back to pre-World War II days, he translated Mao Zedong's On Guerrilla War in 1961 and Sun Tzu's The Art of War in 1963. The latter is much more than a mere translation. It incorporates numerous ancient Chinese commentaries on "The Art of War," and also culls a variety of ancient sources for the chapters on Sun Tzu's biography, the evolution of the text, the Warring States period, ancient warfare, and a comparison with Mao Zedong's military thought. Griffith is the first translator to use the English term "death ground" for "[g]round in which the army survives only if it fights with the courage of desperation" (Book XI, 10). The word choice is perhaps evocative of both the hard work of translation and of the author's experiences at Guadalcanal and New Georgia. Other translators of Sun Tzu lack the insights derived from Griffith's long military experience

Griffith also wrote the definitive The Battle for Guadalcanal, The Chinese People's Liberation Army, and, his last major work, In Defense of the Public Liberty, a book concerned with the Revolutionary War. He was a research fellow, China Study, at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Institute for Defense Studies in London. General Griffith published widely in such journals as The New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Town & Country, Marine Corps Gazette, and Foreign Affairs. He has also lectured widely at such establishments as the Armed Forces Staff College, United States Military Academy, Foreign Policy Association, and Marine Corps Schools. General Griffith was a life member of the 1st Marine Raider Association and the 1st Marine Division Association. He died unexpectedly on March 27, 1983, in Newport, Rhode Island.[1]

See also[edit]


  • Mao Tse-tung on Guerilla Warfare. Praeger Publishers. 1963. ASIN: B000BWCGJ0.
  • Sun, Wu; Griffith, Samuel B. (trans.) (1963), Sun Tzu: The Art of War, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-501476-6, ASIN: B000PT0BGY
  • The Battle for Guadalcanal. Champaign, Illinois, US: University of Illinois Press. 1963. ISBN 0-252-06891-2.
  • History of the Second World War. Hicksville, NY, USA: BPC Publishing. 1974.


  1. ^ a b c History Division, USMC