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Cates, Clifton Bledsoe (1893-1970)


Photograph of Clifton B. Cates

USMC

Cates earned his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1916. He received a direct commission as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in June 1917 and went to France with 6 Marine Regiment. He fought with distinction at Belleau Wood, at Saint-Mihiel, and in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, being gassed and wounded. Something of a daredevil, he burst into laughter when his pants were blasted off by a shell at Aisne-Marne. He subsequently served as aide to Woodrow Wilson and was twice stationed at Shanghai. He was a graduate of the Army Industrial College, the Marine Corps School, and the Army War College.

The outbreak of war found Cates a colonel serving as director of the Marine Officers Basic School. Given command of 1 Marine Regiment, 1 Marine Division in May 1925, he led his unit into combat in the Guadalcanal campaign, and in 1943 he was promoted to brigadier general and command of the Marine Corps School. In mid-1944 he was promoted to major general and command of 4 Marine Division, which fought at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima.

Cates served as commander of Quantico in 1946 and as Commandant of the Corps, the highest Marine commander, in 1952-1954. Few Marine officers had as much experience under fire. Cates had commanded a platoon, company, battalion, regiment, and division in combat. As Commandant of the Corps, Cates worked for passage of a law fixing the postwar Marine strength at three divisions and three air wings, and he helped pioneer the use of helicopters and the development of the doctrine of vertical envelopment.

Cates was "a leader of invincible aplomb" (Leckie 1962) but was realistic about the hazards of the landing at Iwo Jima:

You know, if I knew the name of the man on the extreme right of the right-hand squad of the right-hand company of the right-hand battalion, I'd recommend him for a medal before we go in.

Service record

1893-8-31     

Born at Tiptonville, Tennessee
1916

Bachelor of Laws, University of Tennessee
1917-6-13     
Second lieutenant     
6 Marine Regiment, France
1919-9
First lieutenant
Aide-de-camp, Commandant of the Corps
1920-10

Aide-de-camp, Commander, Department of the Pacific
1923-6

Commander, Marine Detachment, California
1925-5

4 Marine Regiment, San Diego
1928-3
Captain
American Battle Monuments Commission, Washington
1929-5

4 Marine Regiment, Shanghai
1932

Army Industrial College
1933-6
Major
7 Marines; Senior Course, Marine Corps Schools
1935-9

War Plans Section
1937-8
Lieutenant colonel
6 Marine Regiment, Shanghai
1938-3

4 Marine Regiment, Shanghai
1939

Army War College
1940-7

Director, Marine Officers Basic School, Philadelphia
1941
Colonel

1942-5

Commander, 1 Marine Regiment
1943-3
Brigadier general
Commandant, Marine Corps School, Quantico
1944-7-12     
Major general
Commander, 4 Marine Division
1945-12

President, Marine Corps Equipment Board
1946-5

Commander, Marine Barracks, Quantico
1948-1-1
General (temporary)     
Commandant of the Corps
1952
Lieutenant general
Commandant, Marine Corps School, Quantico
1954-6-30
General
Retires
1970-6-4

Dies at Navy Hospital, Annapolis

References

Arlington National Cemetary Website (accessed 2008-1-28)

Dupuy et.al. (1992)

Leckie (1962)

Rottman (2002)

U.S. Marine Corps Historical Division (accessed 2008-1-28)

Wheeler (2007)



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