Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Cates, Clifton B.

Cates, Clifton B.

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General, USMC (Retired). (1893-1970)

General Clifton B. Cates, USMC (Retired), (1893-1970)

19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 

1 January 1948-31 December 1951


Clifton Bledsoe Cates was born on 31 August 1893 in Tiptonville, Tennessee. Appointed from that same state in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in August 1917. During World War I, he served with the Sixth Marine Regiment in France, where he was promoted to First Lieutenant. Following the war, he was assigned as a White House aide and Aide-de-Camp to the Commandant of the Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. A year later, he was promoted to Captain and ordered as Aide to Commanding General, Department of the Pacific located at San Francisco, California. In June 1923, he received orders to USS California, serving on board until transferred to the Fourth Marine Regiment at San Diego, California. Reporting for recruiting duty in March 1928, he served at Spokane, Washington, followed with duty at Omaha, Nebraska. In April 1929, he rejoined the Fourth Marines at Shanghai, China. In October 1931, he was promoted to Major and later reported to the War Plans Division at Headquarters, Marine Corps. In July 1935, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.


In August 1937, Cates returned to Shanghai, China, as a battalion commander with the Sixth Marine Regiment, later transferring to Fourth Marines. While attending the U.S. Army War College in April 1940, he was promoted to Colonel and later reported as the Director of The Basic School at Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In May 1942, he commanded the First Marine Division, leading them at the Guadalcanal Campaign. In September, he was promoted to Brigadier General. Returning to the U.S., he became Commandant of the Marine Corps School at Quantico, Virginia. In February 1944, he was promoted to Major General. During that Summer, he led the Fourth Marine Division, participating in the Mariana and Tinian Island campaigns. In February-March 1945, he the Fourth Marine Division during the Battle for Iwo Jima.


In December 1945, Cates briefly served as the President of the Marine Corps Equipment Board at Quantico, Virginia, then was assigned as the Commanding General of the Marine Barracks at that location. In January 1948, he was promoted to General and became the Commandant of the Marine Corps leading the Marines during the Korean War. In 1952, he was reverted to the rank of Lieutenant General and returned as Commandant of the Marine Corps School at Quantico. In June 1954, he retired and was promoted to General on the retired list. Clifton B. Cates died on 4 June 1970 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.


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