View Full Version : Gen. Kenneth McLennan -- retired as No. 2 man in Marines

09-22-05, 07:37 AM
Gen. Kenneth McLennan -- retired as No. 2 man in Marines
- Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, September 22, 2005

Retired Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McLennan, the only graduate of San Francisco's Lowell High School to be awarded four-star rank, died Tuesday from the effects of lung cancer at a hospital in San Diego County. He was 80.

Gen. McLennan, who had served as the Marine Corps' assistant commandant, the second highest post in that service, was an expert in logistics and was known throughout the Corps as a calming influence, a man who led by example and, in the process, attracted other good leaders to work for him.

Besides being Lowell's (class of 1943) only full general, he once took over command of the 2d Marine Division in North Carolina from yet another Lowell graduate, Maj. Gen. William Joslyn (class of 1940). Joslyn, now retired, said Wednesday that the 1976 change of command ceremony, in which a unit was transferred from one Lowell grad to another, might be unique in the annals of the Marine Corps.

Gen. McLennan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. His parents moved to San Francisco when he was 6 months old -- his father was a driller at Bethlehem Steel Works. After graduating from Lowell, he joined the Marine Corps reserves and was commissioned a second lieutenant in July 1945. He married his wife, Marion, in 1947, and they lived in San Francisco and began raising a family.

Gen. McLennan graduated from the University of San Francisco in 1948 with a degree in business administration.

In 1951, during the Korean War, he was a reservist called to active duty. He was sent to various training posts and by 1952 was a combat supply officer in Korea. When the Korean conflict ended, he returned to the United States and began his career as a peripatetic Marine officer, serving in Utah, Virginia, Southern California, Okinawa, Georgia, Rhode Island and Marine Corps headquarters in Washington.

By 1970, the then-Col. McLennan was a logistics officer in Vietnam and later served in Hawaii. He became a brigadier general in 1972, and after his two-year stint commanding the 2d Marine Division in North Carolina, he returned to the Pentagon. He was promoted to full, four-star rank in July 1979, when he became Marine Corps assistant commandant. He retired from the Corps in July 1981.

Although the public largely knows of the Marine Corps through tales of its combat heroes, Gen. McLennan was one of those generals who had an enormous impact on the way the Corps is run, but his contributions were largely behind the scenes.

"He was a master of logistics," said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Mike Myatt, president of the Marines' Memorial Association in San Francisco. "The Marine Corps prides itself on being the organization that does the most with the least. Logistics is everything."

Myatt, who was commanding general of the 1st Marine Division during the 1991 Gulf War, said Gen. McLennan was one of the chief proponents of a system of pre-positioned ships, stationed not far from the Arabian Gulf and containing all the ammunition, rations and other supplies needed to equip three brigades of Marines.

"That whole concept was conceived and approved when he was assistant commandant of the Marine Corps," Myatt said, adding that Gen. McLennan had a substantial influence on the plan.

Gen. McLennan was also one of the Corps' calming influences, Myatt said, a general who, when things went wrong, elected not to fly into a tantrum and "start throwing things around the room." Instead, Myatt said, "his reaction was: 'Things like that happen; let's learn from it so it doesn't happen again.' "

Gen. McLennan is survived by his wife, Marion, of Carlsbad; a daughter, Catherine Tague of San Diego; two sons, Scott of San Marcos and Bruce of Richmond, Va.; and two grandchildren.