Legend of the United States Marine Corps. Lewis “Honor” Puller: from rank and file to general









Second Lieutenant USMC Lewis B. Puller, 1926

The Marine Corps has regularly fought and is involved in various wars, and its personnel are constantly receiving awards. Lewis Barwell “Honor” Puller is still the winner of the largest number of awards in the ILC. For several decades of service, which involved major wars, he went from private to lieutenant general and earned all the main military awards of the United States.

Carier start

The future hero of several wars was born on June 26, 1898 in West Point (Virginia) in the family of a grocer. Since childhood, he listened to the stories of the veterans of the Civil War and over time began to dream of a military career. His idol was General Thomas Jackson.

L. Puller made his first attempt to enter the service in 1916, during the Border War with Mexico. However, his mother did not allow him to join the army, and the recruiting center was refused due to insufficient age. However, the future general did not give up trying to get into the service. In 1917, he entered the Virginia Military Institute, where he studied for about a year.


Nicaragua, 1931 L. Puller second from left

In August 1918, Puller dropped out and went to the KMP as a private – he wanted to get to the front as soon as possible. However, he did not succeed. The First World War ended before L. Puller’s unit was prepared for service. Despite the end of the war, the private entered the School of NCOs, and then transferred to the School of Officer Candidates at Quantico. In June 1919 L. Puller became the second lieutenant in the reserve.

Exactly 10 days after this, the second lieutenant received the rank of corporal, but did not get into active service. In connection with the end of the war, the reduction of the ILC began, and Puller did not find a place in the new structure.

Wars between wars

However, the corporal did not have to return to a peaceful life. He was transferred to Haiti to serve as a lieutenant in the local Gendarmerie, working in collaboration with the US Expeditionary Force. At that time, the so-called. Banana Wars, and American troops were active in several Latin American countries.


Marines led by L. Puller on the deck of the cruiser USS Augusta, 1940

Service in Haiti continued until 1924, after which some of the officers and soldiers were returned home. For several years, L. Puller took part in 40 battles with local armed groups fighting for independence. In parallel, he tried to reinstate himself in the rank of second lieutenant of the ILC – but to no avail.

In March 1924, L. Puller was returned to active service in the KMP with the rank of 2nd lieutenant. In the new rank he was sent to serve in Norfolk. Then the young officer was transferred to Quantico (first to the School, then to the artillery regiment), from there to Pearl Harbor, and then to San Diego. Thus, in less than four years, the officer changed five places of service.

In late 1928, Lieutenant Puller was sent to Nicaragua to serve in the occupying National Guard. He again had to fight with a real enemy, and success in this matter was noted by the command. For five difficult battles in February-August 1930, L. Puller received the Naval Cross – the first such award.

Legend of the United States Marine Corps.  Lewis
1942, Guadalcanal

In mid-1931, L. Puller was transferred to the Fort Benning base to undergo a company officer course. In September 1932, he returned to Nicaragua, where the war was drawing to a close. Puller took part in several battles, incl. at El Sos – the last major battle with the Sandinistas. In early 1933, the American contingent left Nicaragua.

Immediately after that, Puller received a new appointment. He was sent to China to command a part of the ILC responsible for protecting the diplomatic mission in Beijing. He then commanded the Marines aboard the cruiser USS Augusta (CL-31), commanded by the future Admiral Chester Nimitz. Service in China lasted until mid-1936.


Business is time – fun is an hour. Colonel Puller at the Neptune Festival

After that, L. Puller headed the training unit of the ILC in Philadelphia, and in 1939 he was returned aboard the Augusta. A few months later, the officer became the commander of the 2nd battalion of the 4th marines regiment, and in the fall of 1941 he received the rank of major and became the commander of the 1st battalion of the 7th regiment.

World War II

With the outbreak of World War II, the 3rd Marine Brigade was formed on the basis of the 7th Regiment. In May 1942 she arrived in Samoa to organize a defense. In the fall, the brigade retreated to about. Guadalcanal. During these battles, Major, and then Lieutenant Colonel Puller showed his skills and abilities as a commander, organizing the defense, and then the evacuation of personnel in the face of a massive enemy offensive. In addition, several interesting stories about the personal qualities of an officer belong to this period.


7th Marine Regiment commanders, January 31, 1944

So, they said that during one of the Japanese attacks, Puller organized a shelter for the fighters, but he himself remained calm, did not hide and calmly smoked in the trench. In another battle, the Marines were surrounded, but the lieutenant colonel encouraged them: “the enemy from all sides – this time he has nowhere to get away from us.” For the battles on Guadalcanal, L. Puller was awarded the third Naval Cross.

Later, the 7th regiment was transferred to about. New Guinea, where the battalion commander was again able to show his skills. At the turn of 1943-44. serious battles took place on the island, as a result of which Puller received the fourth Naval Cross, and then the rank of colonel and the post of commander of the 1st regiment of the KMP.

A few months later, the 1st regiment took part in the battle for Peleliu. Despite the high losses, the regiment solved the assigned tasks – until the command of the ILC ordered it to retreat to the rear for recovery and replenishment. As a result of this operation, the personnel of the 1st regiment received many awards. The regiment commander was presented to the first order “Legion of Honor”.


1946 Celebrations at Pearl Harbor

In November, Colonel Puller was transferred to the Camp Legend Training Regiment in the United States. Two weeks later, he became a regiment commander and held this position until the end of the war. Shortly after the victory over Japan, new assignment orders were issued.

War in korea

Almost immediately after the start of the Korean War, L. Puller was returned to the post of commander of the 1st Marine Regiment. On September 15, 1950, the regiment landed at Incheon and went into battle. For further battles, Puller received a second Order of the Legion of Merit. In early December, there was a defeat at the Chosin reservoir. The Marines were unable to defeat the enemy, but held up well and managed to evacuate with moderate losses. For heroism and professionalism during this operation, Puller received the fifth Naval Cross.

In early 1951, Colonel Puller became a brigadier general and was sent to the headquarters of the 1st Marine Division. In February-March, he had to temporarily take over the command of this unit, and then move to the post of deputy commander.


General Puller in Korea, November 1950

In May of that year, General Puller was transferred to California and appointed commander of the 3rd Marine Division. He then led the command center of the ILC in the Pacific. The general never returned to Korea.

Retired general

In 1953, L. Puller was promoted to Major General while retaining the position of Chief of the Troop Training Unit Pacific. A year later, he had to take command of the division again, and at the beginning of 1955 – to become the deputy chief of the Camp Lejen base.

A few months later, the hero of several wars suffered a stroke. On November 1, he retired, receiving a final promotion to lieutenant general.


Awards L.B. Puller for 37 years of service

After his retirement, General Puller and his family settled in Saluda, where he spent his last years. His son Lewis also became an ILC officer. He fought in the Vietnam War and returned home disabled.

Lieutenant General Lewis Barwell Puller passed away on October 11, 1971 at the age of 73. He was buried in the cemetery at Christ Church next to his wife.

Part of folklore

During his lifetime, L. Puller became an integral part of the folklore of the US Marine Corps. In this role, he symbolizes the very spirit of the ILC. This perception of an officer and general is directly related to his personal and professional qualities – courage in battle, skills in command and a kind of humor. Puller was also remembered for his benevolent but demanding attitude towards personnel.


Memorial at West Point

The ILC still retells various stories about L. Puller, both real and probably fictional. At the same time, he is called by the nickname “Honor”, the origin of which is also very interesting. According to legend, during the Banana Wars, Puller was seriously wounded, his chest was removed and replaced with a steel prosthesis – hence the nickname “Busty”. Another version refers to the loud command voice that drowned out the noises of the battles.

However, Puller himself found out about such a nickname only shortly before his resignation. At the same time, as he argued, during his service he really had different nicknames – but he was not called Honor.

As often happens, the folklore image of a legendary person can seriously differ from a real person. However, it is based on real facts – Lewis Puller has come a long way from private to general, took part in several wars and always showed courage, which was marked by many awards. That is why he is still considered a real symbol of the ILC and an example to follow.

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