William K. MacNulty

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William Kirk MacNulty (May 22, 1892 - August 3, 1964) was a U. S. Marine with a long and distinguished record. He was a young U.S. Marine Corps Second Lieutenant during World War One and saw action at the Battle of the Argonne Forest. He served as a captain during the Second U.S. Nicaraguan Campaign (1926–33). During the Second World War as Lieutenant Colonel he commanded the U.S. Marine Corps defense of Guam against overwhelming Imperial Japanese forces during the First Battle of Guam. He was incarcerated by the Japanese as a prisoners of war.[1][2] He was promoted to Brigadier General during captivity and retired from military service in 1946. He is buried at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, San Mateo County, California.[3]

WWI (U.S. 1917–18)[edit]

As a Second Lieutenant, William K. McNulty (MCSN: 0-587) was awarded the silver star for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while serving with the Sixth Regiment (Marines), Second Division, American Expeditionary Forces during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (also known as the Battle of the Argonne Forest) September 30 to November 11, 1918.[4]

Second U.S. Nicaraguan Campaign (1926–33)[edit]

In 1930, Capt. William K. MacNulty (in original caption McNulty) (second from viewers far left) and 3 other U.S. Marine Corps officers are awarded the Navy Cross for their service in the Banana Wars by Ass. Secretary of Navy Ernest Lee Jahncke (second from viewers far right). At far right is Maj. Gen. Ben H. Fuller, Commandant of the Marine Corps.

As a U.S. Marine Corps Captain, MacNulty was awarded the Navy Cross for heroic action in combat at the Battle of El Bramadero during the Second U.S. Nicaraguan Campaign.[5]

“Navy Cross is presented to William K. MacNulty for distinguished service in the line of his profession as commander of a patrol operating in the vicinity of Bromoderos, Nicaragua, on 27 February 1928. Captain MacNulty, while on a mission assigned by his Battalion Commander, upon receiving word that a platoon of the 57th Company had been ambushed by a numerically superior force, immediately upon his own initiative proceeded to the scene, made a night march over unknown, most difficult terrain, in a bandit-infested area. Upon arrival at the spot, Captain MacNulty disposed his patrol with such military ability and strategy as to successfully defeat and put to rout the bandit force, thereby saving the lives of the remaining few of the beleaguered patrol, which were at that time greatly outnumbered.[6][7]

Battle of Guam[edit]

At the very outbreak of World War II, during the Battle of Guam on December 8, 9 and 10, 1941, then, Lt. Col. MacNulty’s 153 man U.S. Marine barracks of a tiny U.S. Armed Forces island garrison of 424, outfitted with only small arms and mounted .30 caliber machine guns, defended Guam against the successful attack of then Japanese Maj. Gen. Tomitarō Horii’s 5,500 man ground force, supported by the Japanese Fourth Fleet’s heavy cruiser Japanese cruiser Aoba, destroyers Yuzuki, Kihuzuki, Uzuki and Oboro, 12 naval transports, 4 gunboats, 5 subchasers, a minesweeper squadron and other auxiliaries, which under command of Japanese Adm. Shigeyoshi Inoue, prior, surrounded Guam, and, also, air forces from then Japanese Saipan. Guam was the first piece of American soil surrendered during the war. MacNulty’s 153 Marines suffered 13 dead and 37 wounded (losses and other casualties of near one third their compliment) before ordered to surrender by a beleaguered U.S. Naval Captain and Guam Governor George Johnson McMillin, who was, then, himself, confronting 400 armed Japanese ground troops with defense of only an 80 man native Insular Force Guard. MacNulty’s U.S. Marines, however, could take comfort that with the Japanese attack forces preparations, deployment and predominant withdrawal, the U.S. Marines’ tiny, otherwise, insignificant, presence at Guam, because of a Japanese intelligence mistake, had tied down 6,000 first-class Japanese enemy combat troops, a cruiser and support ships and aircraft for well over a month.[8][9]

Promotion as P.O.W. and, subsequent, retirement[edit]

MacNulty was promoted to brigadier general in 1942. He retired from military service in 1946.[10] As earlier noted, he died in 1964 in much later life at the age of 72.

Medals and decorations[edit]

Here are some medals and decorations of Brigadier General MacNulty:

Silver Star
Navy Cross
Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal
Prisoner of War Medal
World War II Victory Medal (United States)


  1. ^ Marquis Who’s Who in America, Vol. 26 (1950–1952), Chicago, A.N. Marquis Co., © 1950, p. 1709
  2. ^ [1], corrected copy of list of Guam forces taken captive by Imperial Japanese forces, originally, compiled by Gov. McMillin
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=8827 Gannet Military Times Hall of Valor
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ Authority - USMC Communiqué: 0587-1-3 ACE-fjb (18 July 1930)
  7. ^ See also Bernard C. Nalty, The United States Marines in Nicaragua (1958, as reprinted in 1968 and out of any copyright), (Doc.) Marine Corps Historical Reference Series, Historical Branch, G-3 Division Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. "A pack train guarded by Marines was returning empty from Yali to Esteli on the afternoon of 27 February. One hundred yards west of the tiny village of Bromaderos, a dozen bullets cracked over the head of 1st Lieutenant Edward F. O'Day, the officer in charge. The 35 Marines and their mule drivers took cover. Easing to the left of the trail, they worked their way to the crest of a small ridge. From this excellent position, they managed to break up two enemy attacks, neither of which was well planned or aggressively executed. … While O'Day's column was being attacked, a powerful combat patrol was moving toward Yali. Captain William K. MacNulty had 88 Marines under his command, a sufficient force to accomplish his mission of suppressing rebel activity along the route to Yali. At dawn of 28 February, reinforcements reached the beleaguered O'Day. Although MacNulty's patrol had suffered no casualties, three were killed and ten wounded in the other group. Two more were to die before they could be evacuated. Enemy losses were placed at 10 dead and 30 wounded.", pp. 22 and 23, (Internal cite "Combat Operations in Nicaragua", Marine Corps Gazette, v. 14, no. 3(Sep 1929), pp. 170–179.) [4]
  8. ^ Thomas Wilds, "The Japanese Seizure of Guam", Marine Corps Gazette, July, 1955 (out of copyright) “With the island softened up by 2 days of bombing and strafing (and U.S. Marine machine gun and small arms counter fire, which, remarkably, actually, struck and disabled enemy aircraft), … His (Maj. Gen. Horii’s) assumption that the main resistance would be on Orote was well founded, for the Marines under Lt. Col William K. MacNulty, less 28 men on patrols at scattered points, took up positions at the butts of their rifle range near Sumay. The Insular Force Guard, however, formed in Agana Plaza, and Capt McMillin kept his headquarters at Government House in Agana. … The Hayashi Detachment became the pride of the (Japanese) Imperial Navy (after their seizure of Guam, the first United States territory occupied by the Japanese during WWII). But their pride lasted no longer than Japan's hold on Guam. When the Marines landed in 1944, the Hayashi Detachment, still on the island, was annihilated.”
  9. ^ [5], "Victory and Occupation", Appendix A, "Marine POWs", p. 734, from book History of the U.S. Marine Corps in WWII, Vol. V
  10. ^ Again, Marquis Who’s Who in America, Vol. 26 (1950–1952), Chicago, A.N. Marquis Co., 1950, p. 1709

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