William W. Ashurst

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William Wallace Ashurst
William Wallace Ashurst.jpg
Colonel Ashurst while in Japanese captivity
Born (1893-10-30)October 30, 1893
Green Ridge, Missouri
Died February 18, 1952(1952-02-18) (aged 58)
Beaufort, South Carolina
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1917–1946
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Service number 0-28
Commands held China Marines

World War I

World War II
Awards Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Purple Heart

William Wallace Ashurst (October 30, 1893 – February 18, 1952) was a Brigadier General in the United States Marine Corps, who served as a last commander of the North China Marine Detachment. He was captured by Japanese forces on December 8, 1941 and was held in captivity for the rest of the war.

Early years[edit]

William W. Ashurst was born on October 30, 1893 in Green Ridge, Missouri. Ashurst attended the Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri and was commissioned a Second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on May 21, 1917. He was assigned to the Marine Corps Rifle Range in Winthrop, Maryland, before he embarked for France. Ashurst also received the regular Marine Corps commission in September of the same year.

During World War I, he fought with the 5th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division within American Expeditionary Force. In June 1918, Ashurst was wounded, while leading an attack on a German machine gun post during the Battle of Belleau Wood. For his service during the battle, Ashurst was decorated for gallantry in action with the Silver Star[1] He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre 1914–1918 with Gilt Star by the government of France.

Interwar period[edit]

Ashurst returned to the United States in April 1920 and was assigned to Marine Barracks Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He also attended the advanced course at Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in June 1935 and served on the various marine post. In 1939, Ashurst served as a battalion commander in the 6th Marine Regiment stationed in San Diego, California. In this capacity, his direct superior was Samuel L. Howard, also prisoner of war from the Battle of Corregidor.[2]

World War II[edit]

In December 1941, then-Colonel Ashurst served as Commander of the North China Marine Corps Detachment and also as a Commander of the Guard Unit at the United States Embassy in Beijing, China.

When Japan attacked the United States, Ashurst and the Marines and U.S. Navy personnel under his command were captured on December 8, 1941 by Japanese forces and interned in a prisoner of war camp in Shanghai until June 1945.

For his actions during the internment in Shanghai, Ashurst was awarded the Legion of Merit. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of Brigadier General


Brigadier General William W. Ashurst, USMC, died on February 18, 1952, aged 58. Ashurst is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.[3]

Legion of Merit citation[edit]

Action Date: February 1, 1942 – June 19, 1945
Name: William Wallace Ashurst
Service: United States Marine Corps
Rank: Colonel
Division: Prisoner of War (China)
Citation: The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit to Colonel William W. Ashurst (MCSN: 0-28), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while serving as the Intermediary of the Shanghai War Prisoners Camp, Shanghai, China, from 1 February 1942 to 15 May 1945, and of the War Prisoners Camp, Fentai, China, from 15 May 1945 to 19 June 1945. Colonel Ashurst displayed outstanding skill, diplomacy and superior judgment in performing his duties, and by his intrepidity in conducting official matters with the Japanese Camp Authorities under extremely unpleasant and humiliating conditions imposed, he contributed greatly in the alleviation of the harsh treatment received by the prisoners at the hands of the Japanese and in the improvement of conditions under which the prisoners were forced to live, thereby being instrumental in lowering the mortality rate of prisoners of war interned. His devotion to duty and tireless effort throughout the long period of imprisonment while suffering from poor health and hardships imposed by the Japanese were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[4]


Here is the ribbon bar of Brigadier General William W. Ashurst, USMC:

Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Silver Star Legion of Merit
2nd Row Purple Heart Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal World War I Victory Medal with two battle clasps Yangtze Service Medal
3rd Row American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with Gilt Star


  1. ^ "Valor Awards for William W. Ashurst". militarytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  2. ^ "Marine Corps HQ and Unites, October 1, 1939". fleetorganization.com. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  3. ^ "William Wallace Ashurst (1893 - 1952) - Find a Grave Memorial". findagrave.com. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  4. ^ "Valor Awards for William W. Ashurst". militarytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-08-19.