John Robert Chaisson – Lieutenant General, United States Marine Corps

Born at Swampscott, Massachusetts, September 27, 1916, he graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1939. He married Marguerite Martin, February 22, 1946.

He was commisioned a Second Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps, in 1941 and was promoted through the grades to Lieutenant General in 1971. He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division in World War II, 1942-45 and was assigned to that unit again in Korea, 1953-54. He served as Chief of Staff, United States Marine Corps, 1971-72 and retired in 1972. Thereafter he served as Deputy Director for Regulations, Atomic Energy Commission in 1972.

His decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and the Navy Commendation Medal. In his career he served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

He died suddenly on September 20, 1972 and was buried in Section 5 of Arlington National Cemetery on September 25, 1972.

Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps:

Lieutenant General John R. Chaisson, who retired from active duty on July 31, 1972, died of a heart attack, September 20, 1972. He had served his last tour of duty as Chief of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, from May, 1971 until his retirement.

Born September 27, 1916, in Swampscott, Massachusetts, he graduated from Swampscott High School in 1934. He received his BA degree upon graduation from Harvard College in June, 1939, then attended Boston College Law School for one year.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in October, 1940, and was assigned to the Officer Candidates' School, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve on February 20, 1941, and was commissioned in the regular Marine Corps on August 4, 1941.

At the outbreak of World War II, Lieutenant Chaisson was a battery officer with the 1st Battalion, Eleventh Marines, serving at Parris Island, South Carolina, and New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina.

Embarking with his unit for the Pacific area in April, 1942, he saw combat in the Guadalcanal, New Guinea, New Britain, and Peleliu campaigns. The Legion of Merit with Combat “V” was awarded him for outstanding service as Plans and Training Officer of the 1st Battalion, Eleventh Marines, 1st Marine Division, during the seizure of the Peleliu Island airfield. He also earned the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for meritorious service as Artillery Observer of the 1st Battalion, Eleventh Marines, in action on Cape Gloucester, New Britain. He was promoted to major in May, 1943.

Major Chaisson returned to the United States in November, 1944, and the following month was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, where he completed the Instructors' Orientation Course and later served as Officer in Charge of the Course and Academic Inspector until April, 1948.

Following this assignment, he departed the United States in June, 1948 for Tsingtao, China, where he served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1, and Public Information Officer of Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific, until March, 1949. After a brief assignment with the 1st Marine Division, at Camp Pendleton, California, he joined the Naval ROTC unit at Tufts College, Medford, Massachusetts, for a two-year tour as Officer Instructor. While serving as Officer Instructor, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January, 1951.

Colonel Chaisson reported to Headquarters Marine Corps in June, 1951, where he served as Enlisted Coordinator, then as Head of the Enlisted Coordinator Section, Detail Branch, Personnel Department, until October, 1953. Upon his detachment, he completed cold weather training with the Cold Weather Training Battalion, Bridgeport, California, and embarked for duty in the Far East in December, 1953.

In Korea, Chaisson joined the 1st Marine Division, and served consecutively as Commander of the 4th Battalion, Assistant G-3, and Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, from December 1953 until September 1954. For meritorious achievement while commanding the 4th Battalion in Korea, he was awarded the Navy Letter of Commendation.

In October, 1954, he was assigned duties in Washington, D.C., as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Personnel and Reserve Forces), and later, served as Special Assistant for Manpower Utilization and for Marine Corps Matters. In August, 1957, he returned to Marine Corps Schools, where he completed the Senior School, then served successively as Chief, Landing Force Instruction Team, Advanced Base Problem Section; Assistant Director and later, Director of the Junior School until June, 1961. While serving there, he was promoted to colonel in March, 1959.

From July, 1961 until July, 1963, Colonel Chaisson served as Fleet Marine Officer on the Staff of the Commander, Sixth Fleet. Upon his return to the United States, he began a tour of duty with the 2d Marine Division, at Camp Lejeune, serving as Chief of Staff, Plans Officer and, again as Chief of Staff, until December, 1965.

He was assigned to South Vietnam in February, 1966, and served there for twenty-nine months. The Legion of Merit with Combat “V” was awarded him for his service as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, III Marine Amphibious Force. Following his promotion to brigadier general in November, 1966, he was reassigned duty as Director, Combat Operations Center, Headquarters, MACV, and earned the Distinguished Service Medal.

Detached in June, 1968, he returned to Headquarters Marine Corps where he was assigned duty as Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans and Programs). He was promoted to major general, October 1, 1968. Nominated for promotion to lieutenant general by President Nixon, his nomination was confirmed by the Senate on June 17, 1970. He received his third star on July 1, 1970 and was designated Deputy Chief of Staff (Plans and Programs). In May, 1971, he became Chief of Staff and served in this capacity until he retired from active duty. General Chaisson earned a second award of the Distinguished Service Medal for his service at Headquarters Marine Corps, from July, 1968 through July, 1972.

A complete list of his medals and decorations include: two awards of the Distinguished Service Medal; the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and one gold Star in lieu of a second award, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, the Navy Commendation Medal, three Presidential Unit Citations, the Navy Unit Commendation, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the China Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star, the Korean Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the United Nations Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Ex-Corps Chief of Staff, 53, Had A.E.C. Post Since July

WASHINGTON, September 21, 1972 – Lieutenant General John R. Chaisson, former Chief of Staff o the Marine Corps, died of a heart attack while playing badminton at the Officers Club at the Pentagon.  He was 53 years old and lived in Silver Spring, Maryland.

General Chaisson had been Deputy Director of Regulations for the Atomic Energy Commission since his retirement last July.

He is survived by his widow, Marguerite, four children and three grandchildren.

General Chaisson held the second-ranking post in the Marine Corps when General Leonard F. Chapman was preparing to retire last year and many expected that he would be named Commandant.  The appointment went, however, to General Robert E. Cushman, Jr., whom President Nixon had made Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1969.

The General had earned the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 09/27/1916
  • DATE OF DEATH: 09/20/1972
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 09/25/1972



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