General Thomas Holcomb
General Thomas Holcomb the first Marine to hold the rank of lieutenant general (3-star) and general (4-star). During his tenure as the 17th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Holcomb took the Marine Corps from a small force of 17,000 tasked primarily with pulling guard duty for the Navy to a fierce fighting force of 385,000 well trained Marines.
In her book The Sixth Marine Division on Okinawa author Laura Lacey stated “Holcomb championed the new amphibious doctrine, established the Raiders, the Fleet Marine Force, and authorized the Higgins boat and Alligator tractor, the use of the Navajo language to transmit coded messages and many other innovations. On a small amount of time, he transformed the force from a small band of brothers into the modern Marine Corps.”
A first test of the Corps' new capabilities came when it attacked Guadalcanal located in the Solomon Island in August of 1942. This was the first encounter of U.S. forces with a determined defense that Japanese soldiers put up on every island.
The Marines endured bombings, constant rain and tropical diseases — and won. The Japanese evacuated their last 10,000 troops from the island in February 1943. From that point on the Japanese would be fighting a defensive war.
On August 5, 1943 when General Holcomb reached the mandatory retirement age President Roosevelt announced he was continuing General Holcomb as Commandant of the Marine Corps, in recognition of his outstanding service in that capacity.
After 44 years as a Marine, Holcomb was retired on January 1, 1944.
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