Melvin Hancock Silverthorn, Jr. – Colonel, United States Marine Corps

July 17, 2008:

Colonel Merwin Hancock Silverthorn, Jr., United States Marine Corps (Retired)


On July 12, 2008, God called home his child, Colonel Merwin Hancock Silverthorn, Jr. Colonel Silverthorn had been waiting to meet his Maker and join his wife of 63 years, who had preceded him.

Colonel Silverthorn entered this world on September 24, 1920, in Vallejo, California. Merwin grew up in locales far and wide, including Guam and Haiti where his Marine Corps officer father fulfilled tours of duty. Merwin’s achievement of earning the rank of Eagle Scout was a sign of his future commitment to serve his country in the United States Marine Corps. Merwin, inspired by his father, Lieutenant General M. H. Silverthorn, and grandfather, who was wounded at Gettysburg, joined the United States Marine Corps upon graduation from the University of California, Berkeley in 1942.

He married his sweetheart, Ruth Lamborn whom he had met in his 10th grade geometry class at Wilson High School in Washington D.C.

His deployment to the Pacific, in World War II in 1943, was the first of many long and arduous tours of duty while serving 26 years in the Marine Corps. Merwin’s unwavering dedication to the United States Marine Corps was exemplified in multiple ways during his stellar Marine Corps career. As a young officer, Colonel Silverthorn fought in five campaigns in the Pacific, earning two Navy Commendation Medals (with Valor), a Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars (with Valor), and a Silver Star.

Colonel Silverthorn, then a 23 year old Second Lieutenant and a Company Commander in an amphibious reconnaissance squadron, earned the Silver Star for playing a vital role in the landing on Tinian. He participated in the landings of Saipan, Tarawa and several other major Pacific Islands. He also fought on Okinawa, as one of the 80,000 men under his father, Lieutenant General M. H. Silverthorn.

Colonel Silverthorn continued his distinguished career after World War II. With a growing family, then-Major Silverthorn was assigned to the duty of Professor of Military History at the University of Colorado. He was one of very few Lieutenant Colonels to be selected to attend the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. From 1963-1965, Colonel Silverthorn was the Fleet Marine Officer for the 7th Fleet, under Vice Admiral Thomas Moorer. During the height of the Vietnam War, Colonel Silverthorn was the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Infantry Training Regiment located at Camp Pendelton, California, where he trained 10,000 Marines each month on their way to Vietnam. Although he was known as an extremely demanding commander, it was his commitment to his troops that gave them the skills they needed to survive.

Colonel Silverthorn also fought in the Korean War.

He retired from the Marine Corps on July 31, 1968 after serving 26 distinguished years. After raising four children he moved with his wife to Japan where they lived for 19 years. Colonel Silverthorn conducted business in fluent Japanese in Tokyo for U.S. and Japanese companies. It was while living in Japan that he realized his long held dream of becoming a pilot. Ruthie and “Silver”, as his friends called him, retired on the Big Island of Hawaii, where Silver taught Sunday School, volunteered for the Coast Guard Air Patrol and enjoyed gardening.

A two hour documentary was produced and aired about Colonel Silverthorn’s life, and his World War II amphibious reconnaissance landings are featured in the book Swift, Silent, and Deadly.

Colonel Silverthorn lived in Morgan Hill near his daughter, Diane Jensen, the last three years and attended St. Catherine’s every Sunday. He is also survived by his three other children, Dr. Andrew Silverthorn, Steven Silverthorn and Debbie Silverthorn; four grandchildren; and brothers Robert Silverthorn and Lieutenant Colonel Russell Silverthorn.  The Colonel will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on 26 August 2008 with his wife, his mother and his father.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/28/1921
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/03/2006

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