William J. Van Ryzin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
William John Van Ryzin
William John Van Ryzin.jpg
LTG William J. Van Ryzin, USMC
Born (1914-04-20)April 20, 1914
Appleton, Wisconsin
Died July 1, 2002(2002-07-01) (aged 88)
Washington, D.C.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1935-1971
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Service number 0-5143
Commands held Chief of Staff, HQMC
Deputy, III MEF
2nd Marine Division
18th Defense Battalion

Yangtze Patrol
World War II

Vietnam War

Awards Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal

William John Van Ryzin (April 20, 1914 – July 1, 2002) was a highly decorated officer of the United States Marine Corps with the rank of lieutenant general. He is most noted as Chief of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.

Early career[edit]

Van Ryzin was born in Appleton, Wisconsin[1] and attended local high school there. Van Ryzin subsequently enrolled at University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, and graduated with Bachelor degree in June 1935. During his university years, he gained his first experiences with the military as a member of ROTC unit. Upon his graduation, Van Ryzin entered the Marine Corps service and was commissioned second lieutenant on July 8, 1935.

To be a Marine officer, he was sent to the Basic School at Philadelphia Navy Yard, where he earned his officer education. Van Ryzin finished the school in May 1936 and almost immediately was sent to China, where he was assigned to the Marine Detachment at American Embassy in Peiping. He spent almost next three years with guard duties and was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant in August 1938.

In February 1939, Van Ryzin returned to the United States and was posted to the garrison at Marine Corps Base at San Diego, California. While in San Diego, he was assigned to the 1st Defense Battalion, which was activated there at the beginning of November 1939 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bertram A. Bone. For this assignment, Van Ryzin was ordered for the antiaircraft artillery course at Coast Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia in August 1940.

He finished the course in December of that year and following a short Christmas leave, he rejoined 1st Defense Battalion at the beginning of January 1941, which meanwhile relocated to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Van Ryzin was promoted to the rank of captain in May 1941 and appointed commanding officer of the Three-inch antiaircraft artillery group stationed at Palmyra Island within 1st Defense Battalion. When Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, his unit participated in the in antiaircraft artillery defense and Van Ryzin was later decorated with Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for meritorious service in this capacity. Meanwhile, he was promoted to the rank of major in May 1942.

Van Ryzin was transferred back to Pearl Harbor and assigned to the staff of Marine Garrison Forces, 14th Naval District under Major General Harry K. Pickett. His new command was responsible for all Marine barracks and detachments securing Pacific naval bases, stations, and installations.[2]

His next orders brought him to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in May 1943 and after his promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel during the following month, he was appointed commanding officer of 18th Antiaircraft Battalion, which was later re-designated 18th Defense Battalion. Van Ryzin led his unit overseas in August 1944 and took part in the occupation and defense of Tinian within Marianas Islands Campaign.

Lieutenant Colonel Van Ryzin was transferred to 12th Marine Regiment under Colonel Joseph W. Earnshaw in April 1945. He served first as 3rd Battalion commander and later as regimental executive officer, before he was appointed assistant chief of staff for personnel of 3rd Marine Division under Major General William E. Riley.

During this time, his division was stationed on Guam and trained for the upcoming Operation Downfall, Allied invasion to Japan. But following the Surrender of Japan in September 1945, 3rd Division received deactivation orders.

Later career[edit]

Following World War II, he participated in the occupation of North China. Afterward, he served in a variety of staff assignments, including several billets at Headquarters Marine Corps, and later, as chief of staff for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. Gen Van Ryzin commanded the 2d Marine Division from 1963-1965, and during the Vietnam War, served for three months as Deputy Commander, III Marine Amphibious Force. He retired from active duty with the Marine Corps in 1971.[1][3]


Following retirement, he was involved in various professional and charitable activities in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. He was a founding member of the Historic Shepherdstown Commission and helped restore the historic Entler Hotel. For his volunteer work with the Jefferson County United Way, he was awarded the Tocqueville Award.[1]

Van Ryzin married twice and had two children, one of whom became a colonel in the military. He was also active in the United Way of America, the Forty and Eight, and was a member of the Trinity Episcopal Church. Van Ryzin died on July 1, 2002 in Washington, D.C.


Here is the ribbon bar of Lieutenant General William J. Van Ryzin:

Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal with one 516" Gold Star Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and one 516" Gold Star
2nd Row Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" Joint Service Commendation Medal China Service Medal with one star American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp
3rd Row American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one 3/16 inch service star World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal with one star
4th Row Vietnam Service Medal with two 3/16 inch service stars National Order of Vietnam, Grade Knight Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Vietnam Campaign Medal

Military offices
Preceded by
Henry W. Buse Jr.
Chief of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps
May 1, 1971 - July 31, 1972
Succeeded by
John R. Chaisson
Preceded by
Rathvon M. Tompkins
Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division
September 27, 1963 - April 11, 1965
Succeeded by
Ormond R. Simpson


  1. ^ a b c "Lt General USMC William Van Ryzin's Dog Tag Returned to Son, Retired Col Peter Van Ryzin". Vietnam Dog Tag Project. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  2. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2001). U.S. Marine Corps World War II Order of Battle: Ground and Air Units in the Pacific War, 1939-1945. Greenwood. p. 608. ISBN 0313319065. Retrieved October 14, 2017. 
  3. ^ Aquilina, Robert V. (2003). "LtGen William J.Van Ryzin Passes" (PDF). Fortitudine. Marine Corps Historical Center. XXIX (4). Retrieved 10 March 2015.