PEOPLE--UNITED STATES

Major General Merritt A. Edson, USMC, (1897-1955)

Merritt Austin Edson was born on 25 April 1897 in Rutland, Vermont. He graduated from the University of Vermont and was appointed from the same state in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Second Lieutenant in the spring of 1917. During WWI, he served with the Eleventh Marines in France. In June 1920, he was promoted to First Lieutenant and was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, Virginia. In 1922, following flight training at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, he became a Naval Aviator and received orders to the Marine Air Station at Guam. Edson returned to the U.S. in 1925 for flight training, but due to physical reasons, he continued his military career as a ground officer and served at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In December 1927, he was promoted to Captain and reported as the Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment on board USS Denver.

In the fall of 1929, Edson returned to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as an instructor at The Basic School and was later assigned to the shipyard's Depot of Supplies. Completing the Senior Officers Course at Quantico, Virginia, he was promoted to Major in February 1936. Relocating to Shanghai, China in June 1937, he served with the Fourth Marines. In May 1939, Edson was assigned to the Adjutant and Inspector's Department at the Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in April 1940. In June 1941, he returned to Quantico, Virginia, and commanded the First Battalion, Fifth Marines, which was later designated as First Marine Raider Battalion. In May 1942, he was promoted to Colonel. Reporting for combat duty in the Pacific, Edson led his battalion at the Battle of Guadalcanal.

On 13-14 September 1942,when the Japanese enemy forces unexpectedly attacked in an attempt to regain Henderson Air Field, Edson continually exposed himself to weapons fire while directing his men as they withdrew to a reserve position. In this fierce battle, he led his men against a fanatical enemy and enabled them to hold their position. For his "extraordinary heroism" on this occasion, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Following this action, he assumed command of Fifth Marines on Guadalcanal. In August 1943, he became Chief of Staff of the Second Marine Division and brilliantly led his troops in the Tarawa Invasion at the Gilbert Islands. For his action in that battle, he was promoted to Brigadier General in December 1943. Edson was then assigned as Assistant Division Commander of Second Marine Division and served at the Battles of Saipan and Tinian. In October 1944, he became the Chief of Staff to Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. In December 1945, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. In August 1947, he retired and was promoted to the rank of Major General on the retired list. Merritt A. Edson died on 14 August 1955 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

USS Edson (DD-946), 1958-1989, was named after Major General Merritt A. Edson.

This page features the only images we have concerning Merritt A. Edson.

Photo #: NH 105392

Brigadier General Merritt A. Edson, USMC


Halftone reproduction of a photograph, copied from the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 178.
Merritt A. Edson was awarded the Medal of Honor for "extraordinary heroism" while serving as Commanding Officer of the First Marine Raider Battalion when Japanese forces unexpectedly attacked in an attempt to regain Henderson Air Field, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 13-14 September 1942. Withdrawing to a reserve position, Edson continually exposed himself to weapons fire as he directed the defense. During this fierce battle, he led his men against a fanatical enemy and enabled them to hold their position. Edson was a Colonel during this time.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 71KB; 620 x 765 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 58249

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

(Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet)

Presents the Navy Cross to Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC, and medals to other officers and men at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, January 1943.

Personnel in attendance are:
Behind the Admiral:
Major General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC
Bending over table:
Lieutenant Howell A. Lamar, USNR,
Aide to Admiral Nimitz.
This print is the reverse of NH 62279.

Collection of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN (Retired).

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 95KB; 740 x 585 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 62279

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

(Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet)

Awards the Guadalcanal Medal to Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC, and his Marine Raiders at Guadalcanal, January 1943.
Officers present are left to right:
Lieutenant Howell A. Lamar, USN;
Major General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC;
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN;
Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC; and
Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, USMC

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 85KB; 740 x 585 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 62280

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

(Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet)

Awards the Guadalcanal Medal to one of the Marine Raiders at Guadalcanal, January 1943.
Officers present are left to right:
Major General Alexander A. Vandergrift, USMC; and
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN
Two unidentified officers
Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, USMC; and
Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC
In the background:
Lieutenant Colonel E. V. Carlson, USMC

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 94KB; 740 x 615 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 62710

Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN

(Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet)

On a dark, gloomy, and rainy morning, awards Guadalcanal Medals to First and Second Marine Raiders at Guadalcanal, January 1943.
On the Admiral's right is his aide,
Lieutenant Howell A. Lamar, USNR
The first two in line, center, are:
Brigadier General William H. Rupertus, USMC; and
Colonel Merritt A. Edson, USMC
The rest of the men are unidentified.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph

Online Image: 92KB; 740 x 585 pixels

 
Photo #: 80-G-284245

Tinian Flag Raising Ceremony, August 1944


The Navy and Marine Corps officers present are
left to right:

Vice Admiral Richmond K. Turner, USN;
Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN;
Rear Admiral Harry W. Hill, USN;
Brigadier General Merrit A. Edson, USMC; and
Brigadier General Graves B. Erskine, USMC

Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives collection

Online Image: 67KB; 740 x 600 pixels

Reproductions may be available at National Archives.

 


Medal of Honor citation of Colonel Merritt Austin Edson, USMC (as printed in the official publication "Medal of Honor, 1861-1949, The Navy", page 178):

"For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the First Marine Raider Battalion, with Parachute Battalion attached, during action against the 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, Colonel Edson, with a force of 800 men, was assigned to 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 causalities. 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, Colonel 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 FIRST Division's entire offensive installations in the surrounding area."


For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.



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