View Full Version : Major General Wendell Cushing Neville

07-08-04, 10:05 AM
Major General Wendell Cushing Neville
(1870 - 1930)


Few Marines have seen more action in widely scattered parts of the world than the late Major General Wendell C. Neville, fourteenth Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1929 and 1930. The Virginian, who became a "soldier of the sea" chiefly because no one else in his district desired an appointment to Annapolis back in 1886, was one of the most decorated Marines in the history of the Corps

Outlining the military activities of General Neville is similar to reviewing major Marine Corps activities from 1898 through 1918. During that period, he spent 14 years on military assignments on foreign soil, was in the thick of a dozen military campaigns and expeditions, fought in 14 major engagements recorded as battles, and participated in numerous skirmishes recorded in history as minor incidents.

Major General Wendell Cushing Neville, 14th Commandant of the Marine Corps and Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on 12 May 1870. He entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1886 chiefly because no one else in his district desired an appointment to Annapolis that year. He received his diploma in 1890 and following a two-year cruise aboard a warship, as was the practice of the era, was commissioned a Marine Corps second lieutenant.


Major General Wendell Cushing Neville

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Lt Neville was assigned to the 1st Marine Battalion, hurriedly organized under LtCol W.R. Huntington for service in Cuba. The battalion staged a daring attack under heavy gunfire at Guantanamo Bay, established a beachhead and routed enemy forces in that area. For outstanding valor and leadership in that action, Lt Neville was awarded the Brevet Medal, highest Marine Corps decoration at that time, and was promoted to the brevet rank of captain.

Promoted to the permanent rank of captain a few months after the war, he was assigned to a battalion of Marines ordered to China to relieve the hard-pressed garrison at Peking during the Boxer Rebellion. He took part in four battles in that area and was again commended for his gallantry.

In the Philippine Islands not long afterwards, he was appointed military governor of Basilin Province. Following that assignment he served in Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama and Hawaii. While in command of Marines landing at Vera Cruz, Mexico, on 21 April 1914, he displayed conspicuous gallantry. In that operation, LtCol Neville was awarded the Medal of Honor for his distinguished conduct.

Prior to his embarkation for France in 1917, Col Neville returned to China where he was chosen to command the combined Allied guard at Peking.



07-08-04, 10:08 AM
On 1 January 1918, he was placed in command of the 5th Marine Regiment in France and in May moved his regiment into action at Belleau Wood where Germany’s big drive was decisively halted. In July, BGen Neville’s command was enlarged to include the 4th Marine Brigade, which he directed during the remaining days of the war and during its occupation service in Germany.

After service with the Army of Occupation in Germany, BGen Neville and his brigade returned to the United States in July 1919. Promoted to major general in March 1920, he served as assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps and later became Commanding General, Department of the Pacific with headquarters in San Francisco. He also commanded the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia.


The Marine Guard of the USS Texas, circa 1896, commanded by 1st Lieutenant W.C. Neville, who later commanded the 4th Brigade of Marines in France during World War I, and, from 1929-30, was Major General Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Courtesy of Colonel Wendell Neville Vest USMC (Ret)

Major General Neville succeeded MajGen Lejeune as Commandant of the Marine Corps on 5 March 1929. MajGen Neville’s sudden death on 8 July 1930 at Edgewater Beach, Maryland, while in office as Major General Commandant, closed one of the most brilliant military careers of his day - a career of faithful service that extended through many important chapters of Marine Corps history; Guantanamo Bay, the Siege of Peking, Tientsin, the Philippine Insurrection, Panama, Vera Cruz, Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, the Rhine and Coblenz. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Marines of Vera Cruz. Left to right: Captain F.H. Delano, Sergeant-Major John H. Quick, Lieutenant W.C. Neville, Colonel J.A. Lejeune, and Major S.D. Butler.
U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps University Archives.


At Belleau Wood


07-08-04, 10:10 AM
Devil Dogs' Defining Battle Still Resonates
Modern Marines Learn the Heritage of Belleau Wood


BELLEAU WOOD, France -The morning sun grew hot and sounds of cows were heard across the field Saturday as the group of Marines listened to the details of the famous battle that occurred here in 1918. On these wooded hills and rolling fields, more Marines would lose their lives in any single day of battle than on any other to date. Still, many believe the battle at Belleau Wood was the turning point for the Allies during World War. For the U.S. Marine Corps, however, this was the battle that proved their mettle to themselves and the world, and in the process garnered them the nickname "Devil Dogs." Their mascot, the bulldog, came from a town fountain.

"Every Marine should come here," said Maj. James Bell, the force protection officer for U.S. Marine Forces Europe. "This is what it's all about."

Bell was one of about 60 Marines and their families from Europe who toured the battle site -about 50 miles east of Paris - on Saturday. A contingent of six Marines from the 6th Regiment at Camp Lejeune, N.C., which fought in 1918, also attended and will be part of the Memorial Day ceremony Sunday at nearby Aisne-Marne Cemetery. William Anderson, a retired Marine colonel who now works for SHAPE in Brussels, guided the daylong expedition through the hills, dirt roads, fields and ravines.


Devil Dog Fountain


French First Day Cover with Commemorative Stamp Honoring The Marine Corps


07-08-04, 10:13 AM
"There was no lack of heroism," said Anderson, who has been leading the annual Memorial Day weekend tour since 1996. "There was lack of communication, confusion, but the Marines didn't give up." The...

07-08-04, 10:15 AM
For distinguished conduct in battle engagements of Vera Cruz 21 and 22 April 1914. In command of the 2d Regiment Marines, Lt. Col. Neville was in both days' fighting and almost continually under fire from soon after landing, about noon on the 21st, until we were in possession of the city, about noon of the 22d. His duties required him to be at points of great danger in directing his officers and men, and he exhibited conspicuous courage, coolness, and skill in his conduct of the fighting. Upon his courage and skill depended, in great measure, success or failure. His responsibilities were great and he met them in a manner worthy of commendation.

Additional Sources:

On May 28th, 1918, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines of the 4th Marine Brigade were sent to help in the Belleau Wood sector. As they were approaching they were met by the French Commander of the troops that were already there who advised Marine Colonel Wendell C. Neville that the discreet thing to do was retreat. Neville's reply was a characteristic "Retreat Hell! We just got here!" They stayed and drove the numerically superior Germans out of Belleau Wood and other strong holds. It was here that the ferocious fighting that the Marines displayed caused the Germans to start referring to the Marines as "Teufelhunden", which means, "Devil Dogs".