Chesty Puller was one of the most iconic and decorated United States Marine Corps officers in history, an American Hero, known for his courage, leadership, and battlefield heroics. Born on June 26, 1898, in West Point, Virginia, Lewis Burwell Puller, Jr., would go on to serve in the Marine Corps for 37 years, including in some of the most significant military engagements of the 20th century.
After completing high school, Puller attended Virginia Military Institute for a year before dropping out to join the Marine Corps in 1918 during World War I. He was sent to France but did not see combat, as the war ended before he arrived in Europe. Puller was then assigned to various Marine Corps units throughout the United States and the Caribbean during the interwar period, earning a reputation as a tough and dedicated Marine.
In 1940, Puller was promoted to Marine Corps Captain and sent to Nicaragua to train and command the National Guard there. He would serve in Nicaragua until 1941, when he was recalled to the United States as the country prepared for war. Puller was promoted to major and assigned to the 1st Marine Division, which would see extensive combat in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Puller’s first combat experience came during the Guadalcanal campaign in 1942. He led his company in several successful engagements against Japanese forces and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He then led his battalion in the Battle of Cape Gloucester in 1943, where he distinguished himself with his tactical acumen and personal bravery.
In 1944, Puller led his battalion in the Battle of Peleliu, which was one of the bloodiest battles of the war in the Pacific. Despite heavy casualties, Puller’s battalion held their position against fierce Japanese resistance and eventually secured the island. Puller was awarded the Navy Cross for his leadership and bravery during the battle.
Puller continued to serve in the Marine Corps after World War II, including in the Korean War. He led the 1st Marine Regiment in several major engagements, including the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, where he earned his fifth Navy Cross for his leadership under difficult circumstances. During the battle, Puller famously quipped, “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.”
After the Korean War, Puller was promoted to major general and served as the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Division in Japan. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1955 but remained active in veterans’ organizations and politics, campaigning for veterans’ rights and supporting conservative candidates.
Chesty Puller died on October 11, 1971, at the age of 73. He remains a legend in the Marine Corps and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Marines in history. He received numerous awards and decorations for his service, including the Navy Cross (5), the Silver Star (2), the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” (2), the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, and the Purple Heart (2), among others. His leadership and bravery continue to inspire Marines to this day, and he is remembered as a true American hero.