Christian Franklin Schilt – General, United States Marine Corps

Schilt, Christian Franklin

General, US MARINE CORPS. Rank-Organization: First Lieutenant, US MARINE CORPS. Place-Date: Quilali, Nicaragua, 6-7-8 January 1928. Entered Service: Illinois. Born at Richland County, Illinois. Pioneer of US Marine Corps Aviation, winner of the Medal of Honor for bravery. Retired April 1, 1957.

He saw action with the US Marine Corps Air Units in World War I and World War II, Haitian and Nicaraguan campaigns, Korean fighting, and most recently at the US Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington, DC, as Director of Aviation and Assistant Commandant of the US Marine Corps for Air.

He received the Medal of Honor for heroism on January 6-8, 1928, Quilali, Nicaragua, where two US Marine Corps patrols were ambushed and cut off by rebel bandits. Then a Lieutenant, he voluntarily risked his life to make ten flights into besieged town, evacuating 18 casualties and carrying in a replacement commander and badly needed medical supplies. To make a landing strip on the village's rough, rolling, main Street, Marines on the ground had to burn and level part of the town, and since the plane had no brakes had to stop it by dragging from wings as soon as it touched down. Hostile fire on landings and take-offs, plus low-hanging clouds, mountains, and tricky air currents, added to the difficulty of the flights, which the citation describes as feats of “almost superhuman skill combined with personal courage of highest order.”

In Korea, where he commanded 1st US Marine Corps Aircraft Wing from July 1951 to April 1952, he earned the US Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and his fifth Air Medal. He also holds Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Combat “V” and 4 Air Medals for WWII service. During that conflict he participated in the Guadalcanal campaign, the consolidation of Southern Solomons and the air defense of Peleliu and Okinawa.

He was born March 19, 1895, Richland County, Illinois. After attending Rose Poly Institute, Terre Haute, Indiana, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps on June 23, 1917. As an enlisted man he served at Ponta Delgada, Azores, with 1st US Marine Corps Aeronautical Company, a seaplane squadron assigned to anti-submarine patrol. This was the first organized US air unit of any service to go overseas during WWI.

Returning to the US as a Corporal, he entered flight training at US Marine Corps Flying Field, Miami, Florida. He was designated an aviator June 5, 1919, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant 5 days later. That October he began his first tour of expeditionary duty as a member of Squadron “D”, US Marine Corps Air Forces, 2nd Provisional Brigade, Santo Domingo.

He returned to US February 1920, to enter the US Marine Corps Officers Training School, Quantico, Virginia. Completing the course in August 1920, he went overseas again following month, joining Squadron “E” of US Marine Corps Aviation Forces, 1st Provisional Brigade, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Transferred to the 2nd Brigade the following month to make an aerial survey and mosaic map of coast line of Dominican Republic. After completing that assignment he returned to Quantico in October 1922.

Except for service at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, from January to July 1923, and completion of a 3-month photographic course at Air Service Technical School, Chanute Field, Illinois, in 1925, he remained at Quantico for next 5 years. While attached to that post he won second place in Schneider International Seaplane Race, Norfolk, Virginia, in November 1926, flying a special Curtiss Racer at a speed of 231.3 miles per hour over 7 laps of a triangular 50-kilometer course.

In November 1927, ordered to Managua, Nicaragua, where joined Observation Squadron 7-M. It was during this tour of duty that he won Medal of Honor. He returned to the US in August 1929, and after commanding Fighter Squadron 5-N at Quantico, was named Chief Test Pilot and Flight-Aeronautical Officer at the USN Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served in that capacity for 2 years before returning to Quantico in June 1932 to enter the Company Officers Course at the US Marine Corps Schools. He completed that course, July 1933, and a month later he entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Montgomery, Alabama. Graduating from the tactical school in June 1934, he began another 4 years at Quantico, where was Air Officer on the Staff of the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force. He then served from May 1938 to June 1940 as Executive Officer of the US Marine Corps Air Station at St Thomas, Virgin Islands. After that returned to Quantico to complete Senior Course in the US Marine Schools Schools and serve with Base Detachment 1, Fleet Marine Force.

He left Quantico in May 1941 when he was assigned to US Embassy in London, England, as Assistant US Naval Attaché for Air. In that capacity he traveled through England and Scotland and served as a US Navy observer in North Africa and the Middle East. He returned to the US in August 1941, and was assigned to Quantico as Engineer and Supply Officer of the 1st US Marine Corps Aircraft Wing.

In September 1942 he arrived on Guadalcanal as Assistant Chief of Staff, 1st US Marine Corps Air Wing. After that he was Commander of US Marine Corps Aircraft Group 11, Chief of Staff of the 1st Air Wing and Commander of Strike and Search Patrol Commands, Solomon Islands.

He returned to the US, September 1943, and commanded the US Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina, until March the following year. From April-June 1944, he headed the 9th US Marine Corps Aircraft Wing during reorganization of that unit. He then served for six months as Chief of Staff of the Wing and for another month as its Commander before returning to the Pacific Theater, February 1945. This time he was Island Commander, Peleliu, March-August 1945, and Commanding General, Air Defense Command, 2nd US Marine Corps Air Wing, on Okinawa until taking command of 2nd Wing. Returning from Okinawa in March 1946 reported to the Naval Air Station at Glenview, Illinois, the following month. There he headed the US Marine Corps Air Reserve Training Command until July 1949, when he was ordered to Norfolk as Chief of Staff, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic. He served in that capacity until took he command of the 1st US Marine Corps Air Wing in Korea, July 1951.

In April 1952, he returned from Korea to serve in Hawaii as Deputy Commander, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, until February 1953 when he became Commanding General, Aircraft FMC, Pacific, at US MARINE CORPS Air Station, El Toro, California. He left El Toro in July 1955, and assumed duties at HQ US Marine Corps as Director of Aviation, August 1, 1955, as a Lieutenant General. He Served in this capacity until retired from the US Marine Corps when he was promoted to General.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, he holds the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and Air Medal with Gold Stars in lieu of 4 additional awards, medals and decorations include Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with Bronze Star, US Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, WWI Victory Medal with Overseas Clasp, US Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with 1 Bronze Star, 2nd Nicaraguan Campaign Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, USN Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp, National Defense Service Medal with one Silver Star, UN Service Medal, Nicaraguan Medal of Merit with Silver Star, Nicaraguan Cross of Valor, Korean Order of Military Merit TAIGUK, and Korean Presidential Unit Citation. Married to the former Elizabeth Weber of Olney, Illinois.

From a contemporary press report:

Christian F. Schilt, 91, a retired US Marine Corps General who won the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest decoration for gallantry, died January 8, 1987 at the Lafayette Villa nursing home in Norfolk, Virginia. He had Alzheimer's disease.

General Schilt, who lived in Norfolk, was born in Olney, Illinois. He began his career in the US Marine Corps in 1917 and became one of the early pilots in that service. During World War I, he served in France. He won the Medal of Honor in January 1928, while serving in Nicaragua. The Marine Corps had been sent there because of a civil war that threatened the lives and property of US citizens and other foreign nationals. The citation accompanying the medal said he was part of a Marine Corps Detachment that had suffered heavy casualties at insurgent hands. He volunteered “under almost impossible conditions” to evacuate wounded by air and to bring in a new commanding officer. He “bravely undertook this dangerous and important task and, by taking off a total of 10 times in the rough, rolling Street of a partially burning village, under hostile infantry fire on each occasion, (he) succeeded in accomplishing his mission, thereby actually saving 3 lives and bringing supplies and aid to others in desperate need,” the citation said.

During World War II, General Schilt commanded the Marine Corps aviation element on Guadalcanal in the Pacific in 1942. He later commanded the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and then returned to the Pacific.

In 1951 and 1952, he was Commanding General of the First Marine Air Wing in the Korean War. He was assistant commandant of the Marine Corps for air when he retired in 1957; he was promoted to 4-star rank at that time.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, his medals included the Distinguished Service Medal, 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Legion of Merit.

His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1985. Survivors include 4 daughters, Martha Stewart, Alice McGee and Susan Lawless, all of Norfolk, and Eleanor Hill of McLean, and 2 sons, John Schilt of Frankfort, KY, and Christian F. Schilt Jr. of Boston.

March 1, 1895-January 8, 1987.

He was buried in Section 2, Grave 151-2, Arlington National Cemetery.


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Rank and organization: First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps. Place and date: Quilali, Nicaragua, 6, 7 and 8 January 1928. Entered service at: Illinois. Born: 1 March 1895, Richland County, Illinois. Other Navy awards: Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with 1 gold star.


During the progress of an insurrection at Quilali, Nicaragua, 6, 7, and 8 January 1928, 1st Lt. Schilt, then a member of a marine expedition which had suffered severe losses in killed and wounded, volunteered under almost impossible conditions to evacuate the wounded by air and transport a relief commanding officer to assume charge of a very serious situation. 1st Lt. Schilt bravely undertook this dangerous and important task and, by taking off a total of 10 times in the rough, rolling street of a partially burning village, under hostile infantry fire on each occasion, succeeded in accomplishing his mission, thereby actually saving 3 lives and bringing supplies and aid to others in desperate need.


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