Keith B. McCutcheon – General, United States Marine Corps

Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps



General Keith B. McCutcheon, who received his fourth star and was placed on the retired list 1 July 1971, died of cancer 13 July 1971, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. He was 55.

A highly decorated Marine aviator, General McCutcheon was nominated for his fourth star and appointed Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1970 by President Nixon. He was unable to assume the post because of ill health. However, because of his distinguished career as a Marine, Congress passed special legislation which provided that he be placed on the retired list with the rank of General.

Born 10 August 1915, in East Liverpool, Ohio, he graduated from East Liverpool High School and received his B.S. degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1937. An honor graduate of the schools' ROTC unit, he resigned a U.S. Army Reserve commission to accept appointment as a Marine Second Lieutenant, 1 July 1937.

His first assignment upon completion of Basic School was with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Yorktown. In 1940, he completed flight training, was designated a Naval Aviator, and subsequently served with a Marine Observation Squadron aboard the aircraft carriers USS Ranger, USS Wasp, and USS Yorktown. He later completed aeronautical engineering courses at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning his Master's degree in 1944.

In September 1944, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he departed for the Pacific area. He served as Operations Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 24 at Bougainville, and at Luzon and Mindanao in the Philippine Islands. Additionally, he saw duty as Operations Officer of Marine Aircraft Groups, Dagupan on Luzon and, later, Zamboanga, on Mindanao. During the period 1 November 1944 to 26 May 1945, he earned the Army Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat “V”, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and six Air Medals in the Solomons, New Guinea, and Philippine Islands area.

In November 1945, he returned to the United States to serve as an instructor in the Aviation Section, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. From October 1946 until December 1949, he was assigned to the Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, in Washington. He served in the Guided Missiles (then Pilotless Aircraft) Division of the Design and Engineering Group, and was Branch Chief at various times of the Liaison, Experimental Projects, and Target Drone branches. He also performed additional duty in 1947 as Senior Marine Corps Aide to the White House.

Lieutenant Colonel McCutcheon was transferred to Norfolk in January 1950 and
completed the course at the Armed Forces Staff College that June. He was then ordered to Quantico for duty as Commanding Officer of Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-One), the Corps' only helicopter squadron at that time. During the next 18 months, HMX-One served as a focal point for the expansion of the Marine Corps Helicopter program. He was promoted to Colonel in June 1951.

In December 1951, Colonel McCutcheon took command of Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 in Korea. He earned his second Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and his seventh through tenth Air Medals in this capacity. In October 1952, he reported to Headquarters, United States European Command, in Frankfurt, Germany, where he served successively as Operations Officer, Assistant Chief, and later Chief, Operations Branch, J-3 Division until May 1954.

Colonel McCutcheon assumed duties in June 1954 as Chief, Air Section, Marine Corps Equipment Board, Quantico. In August 1957, he reported as Commanding Officer, MAG-26, at New River, North Carolina. He commanded the helicopter group until June 1959, when he was detached to enter the National War College in Washington.

Following graduation, he was assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in July 1960 as Assistant Director of Aviation, becoming Director of Aviation in September 1961. In March 1962, he was promoted to Brigadier General and assumed command of the Hawaii-based 1st Marine Brigade. Remaining in Hawaii, General McCutcheon joined the Staff of the Commander in Chief, Pacific, in January 1963 as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations. For exceptionally meritorious service in this capacity from 1963 to 1965, he was awarded his third Legion of Merit.

Ordered to the Republic of Vietnam in June 1965, General McCutcheon earned his first Distinguished Service Medal for service as Commanding General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and as Deputy Commander, III Marine Amphibious Force. He was also awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Vietnamese Medal of Honor (First Class). In January 1966, he was promoted to Major General while serving in Vietnam.

Upon his return to the United States in June 1966, General McCutcheon served almost four years as Deputy Chief of Staff (Air), at Headquarters Marine Corps, and earned a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal.

Nominated for promotion to Lieutenant General, his nomination was approved by
President Nixon on 5 February 1970, and confirmed by the Senate on 24 February. After his promotion to that rank on 26 February 1970, he returned to the Republic of Vietnam for duty as Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force. For exceptionally meritorious service in this assignment through January 1971, he was awarded his third Distinguished Service Medal. At the time of his retirement, he was Special Assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.

A complete list of his decorations and medals include: the Distinguished Service Medal with two Gold Stars in lieu of second and third awards; the Silver Star Medal (Army); the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and two Gold Stars in lieu of second and third awards; the Distinguished Flying Cross; ten Air Medals; three Navy Unit Commendations; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Europe clasp; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars; the Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze stars; the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm; the Vietnamese Medal of Honor (First Class); the United Nations Service Medal; the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with bronze star; the Korean Presidential Unit Citation; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Survived by his wife, former Marion Thompson of East Liverpool; a daughter, Marion Louise; and a son, Keith B. Jr.

The General is buried in Section 5 of Arlington National Cemetery.


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