Commandant of the Marine Corps

Commandant of the Marine Corps

a red flag with four white stars and a grey/yellow Eagle, Globe, and Anchor insignia centered

Flag of the Commandant of the Marine Corps
General Robert B. Neller

since September 24, 2015
Department of the Navy
Member of Joint Chiefs of Staff
Reports to Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Navy
Seat The Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Appointer The President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length 4 years
Renewable once (In time of war or during a national emergency declared by Congress)
Constituting instrument 10 U.S.C. § 5043
Formation November 28, 1775de facto,
July 12, 1798de jure
First holder Samuel Nicholas
Deputy Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps
Website Commandant of the Marine Corps (official website)

The Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) is normally the highest-ranking officer in the United States Marine Corps and is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1] The CMC reports directly to the United States Secretary of the Navy and is responsible for ensuring the organization, policy, plans, and programs for the Marine Corps as well as advising the President, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council,[1] the Homeland Security Council,[1] and the Secretary of the Navy on matters involving the Marine Corps. Under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, the CMC designates Marine personnel and resources to the commanders of Unified Combatant Commands.[2] The Commandant performs all other functions prescribed in Section 5043 in Title 10 of the United States Code[3] or delegates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in his administration in his name. As with the other joint chiefs, the Commandant is an administrative position and has no operational command authority over United States Marine Corps forces.

The Commandant is nominated by the President for a four-year term of office and must be confirmed by the Senate.[3] By statute, the Commandant is appointed as a four-star general while serving in office.[3] "The Commandant is directly responsible to the Secretary of the Navy for the total performance of the Marine Corps. This includes the administration, discipline, internal organization, training, requirements, efficiency, and readiness of the service. The Commandant is also responsible for the operation of the Marine Corps material support system."[4] Since 1801, the official residence of the Commandant has been located in the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. and his main offices are in Arlington County, Virginia.


The responsibilities of the Commandant are outlined in Title 10, Section 5043 the United States Code[3] and the position is "subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of the Navy." As stated in the U.S. Code, the Commandant "shall preside over the Headquarters, Marine Corps, transmit the plans and recommendations of the Headquarters, Marine Corps, to the Secretary and advise the Secretary with regard to such plans and recommendations, after approval of the plans or recommendations of the Headquarters, Marine Corps, by the Secretary, act as the agent of the Secretary in carrying them into effect, exercise supervision, consistent with the authority assigned to commanders of unified or specified combatant commands under chapter 6 of this title, over such of the members and organizations of the Marine Corps and the Navy as the Secretary determines, perform the duties prescribed for him by section 171 of this title and other provisions of law and perform such other military duties, not otherwise assigned by law, as are assigned to him by the President, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of the Navy."[3]

List of commandants

Thirty-seven [5] men have served as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The first Commandant was Samuel Nicholas, who took office as a captain,[5] though there was no office titled "Commandant" at the time, and the Second Continental Congress had authorized that the senior-most Marine could take a rank up to Colonel.[6] The longest-serving was Archibald Henderson, sometimes referred to as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps" due to his thirty-nine-year tenure.[5] In the 236-year history of the United States Marine Corps, only one Commandant has ever been fired from the job: Anthony Gale, as a result of a court-martial in 1820.[5]

# Picture Name Rank Start of tenure End of tenure Notes
1 black & white portrait of Samuel Nicholas Samuel Nicholas Major November 28, 1775 August 27, 1783 The first de facto Commandant for his role as the senior-most officer of the Continental Marines.[7]
2 black & white portrait of William W. Burrows William W. Burrows Lieutenant Colonel July 12, 1798 March 6, 1804 The first de jure Commandant, he started many important organizations within the Marine Corps, including the United States Marine Band
3 black & white portrait of Franklin Wharton Franklin Wharton Lieutenant Colonel March 7, 1804 September 1, 1818 The first Commandant to be court-martialed (acquitted) and the first to occupy the Commandant's House at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
black & white portrait of Archibald Henderson Archibald Henderson (acting) Major September 16, 1818 March 2, 1819 Acting Commandant, would later serve as Commandant from 1820 to 1859
Anthony Gale Lieutenant Colonel March 3, 1819 October 8, 1820 The second Commandant to be court-martialed and the only Commandant to be fired. Burial location is unknown and no photos have ever been located.
5 black & white portrait of Archibald Henderson Archibald Henderson Brevet Brigadier General October 17, 1820 January 6, 1859 The longest-serving Commandant; known as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps"; known for his role in expanding the Marine Corps' mission to include expeditionary warfare and rapid deployment[8]
6 black & white photograph of John Harris John Harris Colonel January 7, 1859 May 1, 1864 Commandant during most of the American Civil War
7 black & white photograph of Jacob Zeilin Jacob Zeilin Brigadier General June 10, 1864 October 31, 1876 Became the Marine Corps' first general officer, officially approved of the design of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor as the emblem of the Marine Corps
8 black & white photograph of Charles G. McCawley Charles G. McCawley Colonel November 1, 1876 January 29, 1891 Chose "Semper Fidelis", Latin for "Always Faithful", as the official Marine Corps motto
9 black & white portrait of Charles Heywood Charles Heywood Major General June 30, 1891 October 2, 1903 Was the first Marine to hold the rank of Major General
10 black & white portrait of George F. Elliott George F. Elliott Major General October 3, 1903 November 30, 1910 Successfully resisted attempts to remove seagoing Marines from capital ships and to merge the Corps into the United States Army
11 black & white photograph of William P. Biddle William P. Biddle Major General February 3, 1911 February 24, 1914 Established the Advanced Base Force, forerunner of today's Fleet Marine Force
12 black & white portrait of George Barnett George Barnett Major General February 25, 1914 June 30, 1920 Served as Commandant during World War I, which caused a huge increase in personnel during his term
13 black & white portrait of John A. Lejeune John A. Lejeune Major General July 1, 1920 March 4, 1929 Started the tradition of the birthday ball with Marine Corps Order 47, still read annually. Commanded a US Army division (the 2nd Infantry Division) in combat during World War I.
14 black & white portrait of Wendall C. Neville Wendell C. Neville Major General March 5, 1929 July 8, 1930 Recipient of the Medal of Honor and Marine Corps Brevet Medal
15 black & white photograph of Ben H. Fuller Ben H. Fuller Major General July 9, 1930 February 28, 1934 Consolidated the Fleet Marine Force concept
16 black & white photograph of John H. Russell, Jr. John H. Russell, Jr. Major General March 1, 1934 November 30, 1936 The system of seniority promotions of officers was changed to advancement by selection, the 1st Marine Brigade was withdrawn from Haiti, and the number of ships carrying Marine detachments continued to increase.
17 black & white photograph of Thomas Holcomb Thomas Holcomb Lieutenant General December 1, 1936 December 31, 1943 Expanded the Corps almost 20 times in size for World War II and integrated women into the Corps. The first Marine to be advanced (after retirement) to the rank of General
18 black & white photograph of Alexander A. Vandegrift Alexander Vandegrift General January 1, 1944 December 31, 1947 Recipient of the Medal of Honor. Was the first active duty Marine to hold the rank of General, resisted attempts to merge the Corps with the Army
19 black & white photograph of Clifton B. Cates Clifton B. Cates General January 1, 1948 December 31, 1951 Recipient of the Navy Cross. Commandant during early stage of the Korean War.
20 black & white photograph of Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. General January 1, 1952 December 31, 1955 First Commandant to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Commandant during the Korean War.
21 black & white photograph of Randolph M. Pate Randolph M. Pate General January 1, 1956 December 31, 1959 Commandant between U.S. involvement in the Korean War and Vietnam War.
22 black & white photograph of David M. Shoup David M. Shoup General January 1, 1960 December 31, 1963 Recipient of the Medal of Honor. Opposed U.S. involvement in South Vietnam based on strategy and undue influence of corporations and military officials in foreign policy. Historians consider Shoup's criticisms to be among the most pointed and high-profile leveled by a veteran against the Vietnam War.
23 black & white photograph of Wallace M. Greene, Jr. Wallace M. Greene, Jr. General January 1, 1964 December 31, 1967 Oversaw the expansion of the Corps role in the Vietnam War
24 black & white photograph of Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. General January 1, 1968 December 31, 1971 Was the Commandant during the final years of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. During his period in command, the III Marine Amphibious Force withdrew from Vietnam and the strength of the Corps dropped from a peak of 289,000 to 198,000.
25 black & white photograph of Robert Everton Cushman, Jr. Robert E. Cushman, Jr. General January 1, 1972 June 30, 1975 Oversaw the withdrawal of the Marines from Vietnam and a decline in the Corps' peacetime strength to 194,000
26 Color of Louis H. Wilson, Jr. Louis H. Wilson, Jr. General July 1, 1975 June 30, 1979 Recipient of the Medal of Honor for capture of Guam
27 color photograph of Robert H. Barrow Robert H. Barrow General July 1, 1979 June 30, 1983 Last World War II veteran to be Commandant. Was the first Commandant to serve as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acquired approval of production of the American-modified Harrier aircraft, and several other improvements to enhance the effectiveness of the Marine Corps
28 Color photograph of Paul X. Kelley Paul X. Kelley General July 1, 1983 June 30, 1987 Commandant when the Marine Barracks bombing occurred in Beirut during the 1982-84 multinational force peacekeeping mission under the Reagan Administration. In 2007, General Kelley published in the Washington Post an opinion piece that had a negative opinion on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques
29 color photograph of Alfred M. Gray, Jr., the only Marine in this list wearing utilities instead of a service or dress uniform Alfred M. Gray, Jr. General July 1, 1987 June 30, 1991 The Alfred M. Gray Research Center at Marine Corps Base Quantico houses the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections, the Quantico Base Library, and the research library for the Marine Corps University.
As a reminder that the primary role of every Marine is a rifleman, he had his official photograph taken in the Camouflage Utility Uniform, the only Commandant to have done so.
30 color photograph of Carl E. Mundy, Jr. Carl E. Mundy, Jr. General July 1, 1991 June 30, 1995 After retirement, he served as president and CEO of the United Service Organizations (USO), and was the chairman of the Marine Corps University Foundation.
31 color photograph of Charles C. Krulak Charles C. Krulak General July 1, 1995 June 30, 1999 Was the son of Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak. Came up with the concept of the 'Strategic Corporal' and the 'Three Block War'. Introduced The Crucible, a final test of Marine recruits.
32 color photograph of James L. Jones James L. Jones General July 1, 1999 January 12, 2003 Oversaw the Marine Corps' development of MARPAT camouflage uniforms and the adoption of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program; later became the first Marine officer to serve as Commander, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), then as National Security Advisor for the Obama Administration.
33 color photograph of Michael W. Hagee Michael W. Hagee General January 13, 2003 November 13, 2006 Guided the Corps through the initial years of the Iraq War
34 color photograph of James T. Conway James T. Conway General November 13, 2006 October 22, 2010 Commanded Marines forces in the Iraq War and oversaw expansion of the Corps to 202,000 personnel.
First Commandant in nearly 40 years to have not served in the Vietnam War.
35 Official portrait from Amos, 2010 James F. Amos General October 22, 2010 October 17, 2014 First United States Naval Aviator to serve as Commandant.[9]
36 Official portrait from Dunford, 2014 Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. General October 17, 2014 September 24, 2015 First Commandant to be promoted to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The first Marine officer to have served as the Chairman, General Peter Pace, did not serve as Commandant of the Marine Corps.
37 Official portrait from Neller, 2015 Robert B. Neller General September 24, 2015 Incumbent


Robert Neller Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. James F. Amos James T. Conway Michael Hagee James L. Jones Charles C. Krulak Carl Epting Mundy, Jr. Alfred M. Gray, Jr. Paul X. Kelley Robert H. Barrow Louis H. Wilson Jr. Robert E. Cushman, Jr. Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. Wallace M. Greene David M. Shoup Randolph M. Pate Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr. Clifton B. Cates Alexander Vandegrift Thomas Holcomb John H. Russell, Jr. Ben Hebard Fuller Wendell Cushing Neville John A. Lejeune George Barnett William P. Biddle George F. Elliott Charles Heywood Charles Grymes McCawley Jacob Zeilin John Harris (USMC) Anthony Gale Archibald Henderson Franklin Wharton William Ward Burrows I Samuel Nicholas

See also



  1. 1 2 3 10 U.S.C. § 151 Joint Chiefs of Staff: composition; functions.
  2. 10 U.S.C. § 165 Combatant commands: administration and support
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 10 U.S.C. § 5043 Commandant of the Marine Corps
  4. "Appendix A: How the Marines Are Organized". Marine Corps Concepts and Programs 2006 (PDF). United States Marine Corps. p. 252. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Commandants of the U.S. Marine Corps". Historical Topics: Frequently Requested. Reference Branch, History Division, United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  6. Journal of the Continental Congress (10 November 1775). "Resolution Establishing the Continental Marines". United States Marine Corps History Division. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  7. Hoffman, Col Jon T. (2002). Marine Corps Association, ed. USMC: A Complete History. Beth L. Crumley (illustration editor), Charles J. Ziga (design), Col John Greenwood (editor), James O. Muschett (editor). Hugh Lauter Levin Associates. ISBN 0-88363-650-6.
  8. Krivdo, Michael E. (2009). "Harpers Ferry: Last Action of "Henderson Era"". Fortitudine. Quantico, VA: United States Marine Corps Historical Program. 34 (4): 7–11. ISBN 0-16-010404-1. Retrieved 2010-02-01.
  9. Shea, Sgt Jimmy D. (22 October 2010). "Taking the Reins: Marine Corps Welcomes New Commandant". Headquarters Marine Corps. United States Marine Corps. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.


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