William H. Rupertus

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William H. Rupertus
William H. Rupertus.jpg
MajGen William H. Rupertus, author of the "Rifleman's Creed"
Born (1889-11-14)November 14, 1889
Washington, D.C.
Died March 25, 1945(1945-03-25) (aged 55)
Quantico, Virginia
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch District of Columbia National Guard
Seal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1907–1910 (D.C. National Guard)
1913–1945 (USMC)
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Unit 4th Marine Regiment
Commands held 1st Marine Division

World War I
Banana Wars

Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II

Awards Navy Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Relations Capt. Patrick Hill Rupertus USMC(Son)

William Henry Rupertus (November 14, 1889 – March 25, 1945) was a major general in the United States Marine Corps and the author of the Rifleman's Creed.

Military career[edit]

Rupertus began his military career immediately after graduating high school, serving in the District of Columbia National Guard from 1907 to 1910. Originally, he intended to serve as a cutter captain in the United States Revenue Cutter Service, the earlier version of the modern U.S. Coast Guard. He was accepted to the U. S. Revenue Cutter School of Instruction on April 28, 1910. He graduated academically second in his class on May 15, 1913, but failed the physical examination. Because he was physically unqualified, he resigned from the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service on June 18, 1913.[1]

However, his excellent marksmanship led to his being recruited by the Marine Corps. He accepted a commission in November 1913, then attended the Marine Corps Officers School, graduating first in his class of 1915. Rupertus served on the Marine Corps rifle team, earning the Distinguished Marksman badge and winning a number of shooting matches.

Rupertus was serving aboard the battleship USS Florida when the United States entered World War I and was subsequently recalled up to the U.S. to command a detachment of Marines headed for Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Rupertus served in Haiti until after the war, when he was sent to staff officer training and then made Inspector of Target Practice in the Operations and Training Division at Marine Corps Headquarters.

In July 1937, Rupertus was a battalion commander in the 4th Marines when the Japanese attacked Shanghai in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Then LtCol Rupertus (bottom left) at a party in Shanghai in 1937.

During World War II, he served as Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Marine Division under Major General Alexander Vandegrift. It was around this time that Rupertus is said to have penned the Rifleman's Creed, with the intent of encouraging expert marksmanship and Marines' trust in their weapons.

Rupertus commanded the Landing Task Force Organization which captured the islands of Tulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo in the Guadalcanal campaign. After Vandegrift left the division in 1943, Rupertus took command. He led the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Cape Gloucester and the Battle of Peleliu. Rupertus' leadership in this latter battle was marred by his overconfidence, arrogance, stubbornness and insensitivity to his marines' increasing casualties, especially those of the First Marine Division, which resulted in the battle of Peleliu becoming the costliest and bloodiest for the US Marines in the Pacific islands campaign. Rupertus repeatedly rejected the Army's offer of sending in the 81st Infantry Division to relieve his battered and exhausted men until he was finally overruled by his own corps commander. [2]

In November 1944, Major General Rupertus became the commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia. His tenure was short, however, as he died of a heart attack on March 25, 1945, just four months later. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Major General Rupertus' decorations included:

Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal Army Distinguished Service Medal Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 2 service star Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal w/ 1 service star
World War I Victory Medal w/ Grand Fleet clasp Haitian Campaign Medal (1921) China Service Medal American Defense Service Medal w/ Base clasp
American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 4 service stars World War II Victory Medal Haitian Distinguished Service Medal

In 1945, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Rupertus (DD-851) was named in his honor.[4]

MajGen Rupertus also received the Faciat Georgius commemorative medal for service on Guadalcanal.


  1. ^ Register of Officers of the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service 1790–1915, National Archives
  2. ^ Military History Online–Bloody Peleliu:Unavoidable Yet Unnecessary http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/peleliu/ default.aspx
  3. ^ "William Henry Rupertus", ArlingtonCemetery.net, 2006.
  4. ^ "Rupertus", Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships 2005.


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

External links[edit]

  • Naltyin, Bernard C. (1994). "Cape Gloucester: The Green Inferno". Marines in World War II Commemorative Series. Washington, D.C.: Marine Corps Historical Center, United States Marine Corps.  |chapter= ignored (help)
Military offices
Preceded by
Alexander Vandegrift
Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division
8 July 1943 – 2 November 1944
Succeeded by
Pedro del Valle