J. ARNOLD, S. SINTON, illustrated by DARKO PAVLOVIC
US COMMANDERS OF WORLD WAR II. NAVY AND USMC
Lemuel Shepherd Jr was born in 1896 in Norfolk, Virginia. Most male members of his family had fought for the Confederacy so it was no surprise when the young man chose to attend the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). When the United States entered World War One, Shepherd volunteered for the Marine Corps. He won the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and the Silver Star for his conduct during battles at Belleau Wood and Mont Blanc. Shepherd also received three wounds during this process of earning a heroic reputation. He explained his leadership style to a reporter: "You can't find out how a battle is going sitting in a command post."
General Lemuel Shepherd in a 1952 photo, at the time this distinguished World War Two veteran became Marine Corps Commandant. (US Naval Historical Center)
Between the wars. Shepherd served as an aide to the Marine Corps Commandant and was with the 4th Marine Regiment in China from 1927 to 1929. Four years of duty in Haiti followed. He graduated from the Naval War College in 1937. Shepherd's most notable interwar service involved testing the Marine Corps' newly developed doctrine for amphibious warfare. A colonel serving on the staff of the Marine Corps Schools when World War Two, after Pearl Harbor Shepherd applied for a combat command. In March 1942, he became commander of the 9th Marine Regiment. He served as Assistant Divisional Commander in the 1st Marine Division and saw action at Cape Gloucester in New Britain in December 1942. Dense jungle, deep mud, and stiff Japanese opposition characterized the three-week Cape Gloucester campaign. In the campaign, Shepherd renamed the savagely contested Aogiri Ridge "Walt's Ridge," after the lieutenant-colonel whose battalion had taken it. Throughout the campaign, Shepherd performed admirably and won the favorable attention of General Douglas MacArthur. As a reward, he received command of the 1st Provisional Brigade in April 1944.
This unit took part in the difficult Guam invasion in July 1944. During a well-designed Japanese nocturnal counterattack, Shepherd characteristically led from the front. When the American flag was raised over the recaptured former site of the marine barracks, Shepherd said, "On this hallowed ground, you officers and men of the 1st Marine Brigade have avenged the loss of our comrades ... Under our flag this island again stands ready to fulfill its destiny as an American fortress in the Pacific." For his exemplary conduct on Guam, he received promotion to major-general and command of the newly formed 6th Marine Division. This unit would take part in the Okinawa campaign. To prepare it, Shepherd conducted a rigorous training program that earned him the nickname "the Driver" from his men. On Okinawa, the division confronted the heavily defended hills near the city of Naha, including the infamous "Sugarloaf." It took two weeks of heavy fighting to capture this height. Later in the campaign, Shepherd avoided a frontal assault by designing an amphibious flanking move that succeeded brilliantly.
When the war ended, Shepherd held a series of increasingly important commands until June 1950. He worked closely with MacArthur, who well remembered his conduct on Cape Gloucester, to help plan the Inchon landing. At Inchon, and later during the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir, Shepherd continued to circulate among the front-line troops to inspire and lead. In 1952, Shepherd advanced to four- star general and assumed command of the entire Marine Corps. Showing that he was not only a brave combat soldier, Shepherd reorganized marine headquarters into a modern general staff. He also promoted the development of new amphibious tactics based upon helicopters and high-speed naval transports. President Dwight Eisenhower pulled him out of retirement to assume an important administrative duty involving a 21-nation anti- communist coalition. For four years. Shepherd combined his habitual drive with unsuspected tact to tighten the bonds of the coalition. He retired permanently in 1959.
General Lemuel Shepherd studies a map on Okinawa. The captured capital of Naha is in the background. Throughout the Okinawa campaign, Shepherd led from the front. Each day he determined where the hardest fighting was taking place and then spent as much time there as possible. His conduct prompted an admiring marine officer to claim, with only slight hyperbole, that Shepherd was in the front lines as much as any private. (National Archives)
Shepherd exemplified the Marine Corps at its best. His leadership style inspired men and won battles. He died in 1990.
Admiral Leahy was an officer of considerable naval experience prior to World War Two and a personal friend of President Franklin Roosevelt. In this capacity, he was recalled from retirement to serve as special naval advisor to the president. His uniform consists of the dark blue double-breasted service dress jacket and trousers, with white cap cover and shirt. His position as advisor to the president is denoted by the addition of a heavy gold bullion aiguillette worn on the right side of his service dress jacket, unlike other aides, who wore their aiguillettes on the left side of their coats.
Admiral Nimitz was originally from the submarine branch of the US Navy. He is pictured here in the working dress of that service, namely cotton khaki long-sleeve shirt and trousers, with black tie. This style of uniform came about in the US Navy because service aboard a submarine often made the wearing of service dress uniforms impractical, due to the "roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty" nature of the early submarines.
Submarine service officers needed a style of dress that gave them the ability to take off their coats and still be recognized as officers, hence, the introduction of rank insignia on the collar and the removable metal submarine qualification dolphin insignia for the breast. Of some note is the introduction of the non-regulation five-star tie keeper on Admiral Nimitz's uniform. US admirals, like their counterparts in the army, were given considerable leeway in their choice of uniform.
Before World War Two, the US Navy had adopted khaki as a working dress uniform for warm climates and summer service dress. While this shade was practical for shore service, some senior officers thought it unsuitable for service aboard ships, due to its highly visible light coloration. Perhaps the best explanation lies in the fact that many of these officers, being "Old Navy." disliked khaki because it was not considered a "traditional" navy color. Admiral King was instrumental in the adoption of a new working dress uniform for the navy. When on a trip to England, he had a private tailor make up a new service dress uniform from a gray cotton twill material and he submitted it to the navy for adoption. Eventually, by 1942, the new gray uniform was selected to replace the khaki service dress.
All rank insignia, cap devices, and buttons on the uniform were in a subdued black finish to keep to the low visibility criteria of the new uniform. This uniform was very unpopular with most officers, many of them complaining that the gray color made them look like postal service employees or, as one officer quipped, "We look like Confederate sailors." By 1943, admirals at least, began to wear the gray service dress, with bright gold cap devices and shoulder boards to show rank insignia.
Lieutenant-Commander John D. Bulkeley's PT boat carried General MacArthur from Corregidor to safety. At this time, the US desperately needed heroes, so President Roosevelt awarded Bulkeley the Congressional Medal of Honor for this exploit. The US Navy named a new warship for Bulkeley in 2001. (US Naval Historical Center)
When a Japanese destroyer sliced through Lieutenant John F. Kennedy's PT-109 in August 1943, Kennedy thought, "This is what it feels like to be killed." Instead, Kennedy, the future 35th president of the United States, managed a four-hour swim to land while towing a crewman. (US Naval Historical Center)
Major Devereaux was commander of the marine detachment on Wake Island in 1942. He is shown in the marine officer's early field dress, basically unchanged since World War One. He wears the khaki officer's shirt (always without shoulder straps), brown leather Sam Brown belt, khaki breeches and high black boots. He wears the M1917 steel helmet and a web belt with leather holster for the M1917 Colt automatic pistol.
Lieutenant-Commander Bulkeley was commander of PT (Patrol Torpedo) Squadron 3. For enlisted personnel exposed to extreme conditions, special protective clothing was authorized. Such clothing was quite popular and was shared and traded widely, resulting in its use by personnel not originally intended by the Regulations. Thus, Lieutenant-Commander Bulkeley wears the submarine protective jacket, made of blue-black wool, fastened with six black composition buttons. Pictures show him wearing such a jacket with an extremely large collar, possibly a hood. His cap is the service dress combination cap, so-called because ft consisted of a lower portion, the frame, and a removable top. The tops could be changed for various orders of dress; blue tops were always of wool, while white, khaki, and gray tops were made of cotton.
Admiral Kimmel was Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet in November of 1941. He wears full dress blue, which was only worn on special occasions. The frock coat was double-breasted with five gilt USN buttons in two rows, the lower four of which were functional. The coat was made from blue-black wool, and the skirts reached to the top of the knee. Each cuff carried gold braid rings, as on the blue service coat. The trousers would have been of the same material as the coat, with two-inch gold stripes down the outside seams. The black silk cocked hat was edged with 1½-inch gold braid, with the cockade (obscured here) trimmed similarly. The tops of the epaulets were gold braid, with hanging bullions 5/8 inch in diameter. An embroidered anchor and three stars on the top of the epaulet showed flag rank.
Vice Admiral Lockwood was Commander of Submarine Forces Pacific (COMSUBPAC). He wears the service dress blue C uniform. His coat is made of lightweight, navy blue Palm Beach (woolen) cloth. Blue service coats could be made up in serge, elastique, or lightweight material at the individual officer's option. White cotton trousers of the same material as those worn with the dress white uniform were worn in this order of dress, also with white shoes. Ribbons were worn only with service dress blue C. Unlike the army, navy ribbons were to be ½ inch in width, worn three per row with ½ inch between rows. Ribbons were worn in a specific order of precedence, with the highest in precedence on the top and to the right (when facing the wearer).
Commodore Burke commanded Destroyer Squadron 23 "the Little Beavers" and was chief of staff to the commander of Fast Carrier Task Force 58, Admiral Marc Matcher. Service dress white was often worn, especially in warm climates. The coat was unlined, starched cotton duck, worn over the undershirt; no shirt was worn with this coat. The trousers were also white cotton, unlined, with two hip pockets and two rear pockets with optional pocket flaps. Standard gilt US Navy buttons were worn, as on the blue service coat. These were not sewn on, however, but were removable for laundering. White lace-up shoes, either of leather or canvas, were worn with white socks. White gloves and white cap cover were authorized for wear with this uniform. Shoulder boards with the same rank distinctions as were worn on the khaki service coat were of stiff black wool, 2¼ × 5½ inches, covered with two-inch gold braid, with an anchor and rank stars in silver embroidery. The end nearest the collar was pointed and displayed a small button. Medal ribbons were almost always worn on dress whites. However, here Burke has taken the unusual step of leaving them off.
Lieutenant-Commander Morton was the commander of the submarine, USS Wahoo, and was one of the navy's top submarine aces. As a working uniform, the wearing of the khaki shirt and trousers without the coat was widespread. The khaki shirt was made of cotton and cut as a commercial dress shirt, with a yoke in the back panel and no shoulder straps. However, the shirt had two breast pockets with buttoned flaps. The shirt buttons were of tan composition material. Above the left breast pocket, Morton wears the submarine qualification badge. As a line officer, he wears the insignia of rank, a gold oak leaf on both collar ends. He has removed the stiff dress band from his cap. better to negotiate the narrow confines of the submarine.
Admiral Spruance (right) is aboard his flagship, the heavy cruiser Indianapolis, off Saipan in 1944. Admiral King is in the middle, Admiral Nimitz on the left. (National Archives)
Admiral Mitscher was the commander of Carrier Task Force 18 during both the Doolittle raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway. A special aviation working uniform of "forestry green" was authorized for "men of the aeronautic organization." The coat was of the same cut as the khaki working uniform except that the aviation green coat had shoulder straps of the same material. This coat was usually made of wool elastique, though serge, gabardine, and whipcord were also authorized. Black embroidered stars and mohair rank rings of the same size and arrangement as those on the blue service coat were worn on the cuffs of the green coat. Aviation branch officers wore brown shoes with this and the khaki working uniform exclusively, giving rise to the expression "brown shoes" to indicate aviators.