Randolph McCall Pate – General, United States Marine Corps


General Randolph McCall Pate, who served as the twenty-first Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1956 to 1960, died on July 31, 1961 at the U. S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland.

A Marine officer since September 1921, General Pate was a veteran of the Korean fighting, World War II action on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, and pre-World War II expeditionary service in Santo Domingo and China.

In Korea, the general commanded the 1st Marine Division from June 15, 1953 to May 12, 1954, earning the Distinguished Service Medal and the Republic of Korea’s Order of Military Merit Taiquk in that capacity. The citation for the Distinguished Service Medal states in part:

“Moving the 1st Marine Division from corps reserve to position on line shortly after he assumed control of the 1st Marine Division, he was responsible for a sector that was far greater in size than is normally the area of responsibility for a division. He employed the most astute military judgment and discretion in the deployment of his troops, and was able to contain the enemy and maintain the integrity of the United Nations line during the final enemy offensive.

“Subsequent to the armistice agreement, he initiated an intensive salvage program of the old battle position, realizing a savings of thousands of dollars for the command, and then personally supervised and guided the construction of new main battle positions, again on a greatly extended front. Aware of the necessity for maintaining combat readiness throughout the post armistice period, he implemented an aggressive, realistic and comprehensive training program of dual purpose consisting of orientation and indoctrination in the battle techniques of both ground warfare and amphibious assault operations. In addition, he cooperated and coordinated with interest units during the unprecedented “Big Switch” prisoner of war exchange. This sensitive project fell within the Division area of responsibility, and through his foresight and organizational process, the repatriation program was completed without any untoward incidents.”

In World War II, General Holland M. Smith, USMC (Retired), awarded General Pate the Legion of Merit for outstanding service as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. Serving in that capacity from September 11, 1944 to November 1, 1945, General Pate, then a colonel, was cited in particular for his performance of duty during amphibious operations on Palau, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
In 1947 General Alexander A. Vandegrift, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented him a Gold Star in lieu of his second Legion of Merit. The award was for exceptionally meritorious service at Guadalcanal as Assistant Chief of Staff for Supply of the 1st Marine Division during the United States’ first offensive against Japan.

Randolph McCall Pate was born at Port Royal, South Carolina, on February 11, 1898. After a brief tour of enlisted service with the U. S. Army in 1918, he entered the Virginia Military Institute, graduating in June 1921, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve that September, and the following May accepted his commission in the Regular Marine Corps.

In addition to expeditionary duty in Santo Domingo in 1923 and ’24 and in China from 1927 to ’29, General Pate served at various post in the United States and Hawaii. He was promoted to first lieutenant in September 1926, to captain in November 1934, and to major in October 1938. In the spring of 1939, he became Assistant Chief of Staff for Supply, 1st Marine Division, at New River (later Camp Lejeune), North Carolina, and while there was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1942. He began his World War II service in this capacity, participating in the planning and combat phases of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was promoted to colonel in December 1943, and later saw further service in the Pacific area.

Returning to the United States after the war, he was named Director of the Division of Reserve at Marine Corps Headquarters in January 1946. The following year he assumed duties as a member of the General Board Navy Department, Washington. In July 1948, he became Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, and two years later was named Director of the Marine Corps Educational Center. While stationed at Quantico in September 1949, he was promoted to brigadier general.

In July 1951, General Pate was assigned to the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he served as Deputy Director of the Joint Staff for logistic Plans. He was named Director of the Marine Corps Reserve for a second time that November, and in August 1952 was promoted to major general. The following month, he took command of the 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. Ordered to Korea in June 1953, he commanded the 1st Marine Division until May 1954.

In July 1954, General Pate was appointed Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chief of Staff, serving in that capacity with the rank of lieutenant general for eighteen months. On January 1, 1956, he was promoted to the rank of general and executed the oath of office as Commandant of the Marine Corps, succeeding General Lemuel C. Shepherd. Following four years as Commandant, he retired with the rank of general. At his retirement ceremonies, December 31, 1959, General Pate was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as Commandant of the Marine Corps from January 1, 1956 to December 31, 1959.”

The general’s medals and decorations include: the Navy and Army Distinguished Service Medals; the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Purple Heart (Guadalcanal, 1942); the Presidential Unit Citation (Guadalcanal, 1942); the Navy Unit Commendation (Korea, 1953); the World War I Victory Medal; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with two bronze stars (Santo Domingo), 1923-24 and China, 1927-29); the Yangtze Service Medal (China, 1927); the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star; the United Nations Service Medal; the Korean Presidential Unit Citation; and the Korean Order of Military Merit Taiguk.

Following a brief illness, General Pate died at the U. S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, July 31, 1961. Funeral services were held on August 3 in the Fort Myer Chapel, Arlington, Virginia, and the general was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

His wife, Mary Elizabeth Bunting Pate, who he married on July 2, 1926 (July 4, 1899-December 31, 1975), is buried with him.

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