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 Merritt Austin Edson

Merritt Austin Edson

Birth
Rutland, Rutland County, Vermont, USA
Death 14 Aug 1955 (aged 58)
Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
Plot Section 2, Lot 4960-2
Memorial ID 11167 · View Source
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World War II United States Marine Corps General, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Known as “Red Mike”, he was famous for his exploits as the leader of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion, which was known as “Edson’s Raiders”. He enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War I, and served in that service for the next 30 years. In the years between the two World Wars he served in the Marine expeditions into Nicaragua, where he developed jungle fighting tactics which he would employ against the Japanese in future years. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism the Central American jungles. He then served in China with the 4th Marine regiment, where he was able to view Japanese land tactics first hand. In 1941, while on duty at the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC, he was detailed to develop and train a unit of Marines as ‘commandos”. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, this unit, made up entirely of volunteers, were designated as the 1st Raider Battalion. He led his unit in successful operations in the Solomon Island, where he would receive his 2nd Navy Cross for his leadership on the island of Tulagi. In the Marine assault on Guadalcanal, he commanded his Marines in 10 hours of heavy fighting in defense of the island’s vitally important Henderson Field during the night of September 13-14, 1942. He exposed himself to enemy fire the entire time while rallying his Marines against wave after wave of Japanese attacks. When it was over, the Field remained in Marine hands, thousands of Japanese were dead, and only 20 percent of the Marine defenders were still standing. For his bravery there he was awarded the CMOH. Shortly after the conclusion of the Guadalcanal Campaign he was promoted to command of the 5th Marine Regiment, whom he led in the assaults on Matanikau River. He would serve as Chief of Staff of the 2nd Marine Division during the bloody assault on Tarawa Island, and as Assistant Division Commander (being promoted to Brigadier General) in the 1944 operations against Siapan-Tinian. When those operations concluded in August 1944 he was detailed to serve as first Chief of Staff for the Pacific Fleet Marine Force, then as Commanding General of the Pacific Fleet Marine Forces’ Service Command. In that last capacity he ended the War, being promoted to Major General, USMC. He served 44 months in the Pacific Combat zone, far more than any other United States Marine Officer. He was awarded one Silver Star, two Presidential Unit Citations, and two Legions of Merit in addition to his other Medals. When the United States Military forces were reduced and re-organized post-War, he spearheaded the drive to keep the Marine Corps from being vastly reduced and incorporated into the Navy (thereby ending it as a separate branch of the military). His tenacity in convincing Congressional leaders of the vital importance the role the Marine Corps plays in National Defense produced legislation that insured the Corps survival. He retired in 1947, worn out by his Congressional fight. He served as Director of the Vermont State Police and as Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association before his death in 1955. His Medal of Honor citation reads “For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the 1st Marine Raider Battalion, with Parachute Battalion attached, during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands on the night of 13-14 September 1942. After the airfield on Guadalcanal had been seized from the enemy on 8 August, Col. Edson, with a force of 800 men, was assigned to the occupation and defense of a ridge dominating the jungle on either side of the airport. Facing a formidable Japanese attack which, augmented by infiltration, had crashed through our front lines, he, by skillful handling of his troops, successfully withdrew his forward units to a reserve line with minimum casualties. When the enemy, in a subsequent series of violent assaults, engaged our force in desperate hand-to hand combat with bayonets, rifles, pistols, grenades, and knives, Col. Edson, although continuously exposed to hostile fire throughout the night, personally directed defense of the reserve position against a fanatical foe of greatly superior numbers. By his astute leadership and gallant devotion to duty, he enabled his men, despite severe losses, to cling tenaciously to their position on the vital ridge, thereby retaining command not only of the Guadalcanal airfield, but also of the 1st Division's entire offensive installations in the surrounding area”. In 2001 historian James H. Alexander published “Edson’s Raiders: The 1st Marine Battalion in World War II”, a work that detailed the exploits of General Edson and his men.

Bio by: Russ Dodge


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 25 Jul 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11167
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Merritt Austin Edson (25 Apr 1897–14 Aug 1955), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11167, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .