Cleland E. Early – Colonel, United States Marine Corps

From a contemporary news report

June 8, 2004

Cleland E. Early, who took part in one of the longest forays behind Japanese lines during World War II with the elite Carlson’s Raiders, died June 2 in Galveston, Texas, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

A 26-year veteran of the Marine Corps who rose to the rank of Colonel, Early took part in the conquest of Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Iwo Jima.

For gallantry in action on Guadalcanal, Early received the Silver Star and Purple Heart. At the time, he was member of the Raiders, a volunteer unit founded by Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson, who learned guerrilla warfare tactics while observing Chinese communists battle Japanese forces in the 1930s.

As a 22-year-old Lieutenant in November 1942, Early was a platoon leader with a Raiders battalion during a monthlong patrol behind Japanese lines on Guadalcanal.

From this mission, known in the corps as “the long patrol,” the Marines emerged emaciated, starving, and suffering from malaria and diarrhea.

In 1943 on Tarawa, Early was in charge of the identification and burial of more than 1,000 Americans, an experience from which he never fully recovered, said his brother, Thomas Early of The Woodlands.

During the Korean War, Early helped plan and carry out amphibious campaigns, including the landings at Inchon and Pohang-Dong. For gallantry during these campaigns, Early received the Bronze Star with the Combat V device representing valor.

In 1964, Early, as commander of the 9th Marine Regiment in the 3rd Marine Division, trained his command for service in Vietnam. Early spent the remaining three years of his military service in the Pentagon working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency. For these services, Early was awarded the Legion of Merit.

After retiring in 1967, Early served for 12 years as senior military instructor in the Marine Corps Junior ROTC at Pasadena High School.

A native of Colorado, Cleland Edward Early was the son of Jacob Edward and Myrtle Weaver Early. As a boy, Cleland Early moved with his parents to Stinnett in Hutchinson County in the Texas Panhandle. In 1936, he graduated as valedictorian of his class from Stinnett High School. After graduating from Texas Christian University in 1941, Early, who had joined the Marine Reserves in college, went on active duty shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Early’s wife, Bettye Williams Early, died in 2002.

In addition to his brother, Early is survived by two daughters, Mary Devlin of Studio City, California, and Lisa Montgomery of Galveston; two sons, Cleland E. Early Jr. of The Woodlands and James Early of Pasadena; and a sister, Ethellea Robison of San Antonio.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Pasadena Funeral Chapel, 2203 Pasadena Blvd., Pasadena. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.



  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 06/01/1942 – 06/01/1967
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/13/1919
  • DATE OF DEATH: 06/02/2004
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 06/24/2004

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