View Full Version : Brig. Gen. Edwin Howard Simmons; 'Collective Memory' of Marine Corps

05-09-07, 05:45 AM
Brig. Gen. Edwin Howard Simmons; 'Collective Memory' of Marine Corps

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 9, 2007; B07

Edwin Howard Simmons, 85, a brigadier general who wrote a well-received military history and was considered the memory of the Marine Corps, died of heart ailments May 5 at his Alexandria home.

Gen. Simmons, the director emeritus of Marine Corps History and Museums, served in the Marines for 53 years: 36 in uniform and 17 as a civilian. He was a veteran of three wars, a prolific writer and skilled enough in bureaucratic battles to create a single command from the scattered records, history and museums units.

He fought on Guam during World War II, participated in the Inchon landing and the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea and served two tours in Vietnam.

Because of his longevity and reputation, newly promoted generals often sought him out for consultation, said Charles Melson, chief historian of the Marine Corps. Melson said Gen. Simmons was respected as the "collective memory" of the service, someone who experienced a significant portion of its history and researched the rest.

"He wasn't the broken-nose, crew-cut, vaguely profane marine," Melson said. "It's a hackneyed phrase, but he was an officer and a gentleman."

Gen. Simmons's most significant work, "The United States Marines: A History" (1974), is a standard reference text and remains in print in its fourth edition. He also was editor in chief and principal contributor to a large-format illustrated history, "The Marines" (1987); a pamphlet history, "Over the Seawall: U.S. Marines at Inchon" (2000); and a book written for the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, "Frozen Chosin: U.S. Marines at the Changjin Reservoir" (2002).

He also wrote a novel, "Dog Company Six" (2001), which Leatherneck magazine called "the best autobiographical novel to come out of the Korean War."

The year before, in a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial marking the 50th anniversary of the Chosin Reservoir campaign, Gen. Simmons addressed those who insist on calling the Korean War forgotten.

"Forgotten by whom? Certainly not by those who were there," Gen. Simmons said. As a 29-year-old major, he had commanded a weapons company and assisted in the defense of Hagaru-ri at the southern tip of the reservoir. He recalled the enormous Nov. 27, 1950, Chinese attack in sub-zero temperatures on the 1st Marine Division and the Army's 31st Regimental Combat Team, which were positioned around the reservoir.

"We remember the night of the 27th. . . . We remember the terrible fate of the 31st RCT. . . . We remember the rows of grotesquely frozen corpses. . . . We remember the breakout from Hagaru-ri. . . . We remember the rescue of 100,000 refugees. . . .

"There's a great deal to remember," Gen. Simmons concluded. "It's not the forgotten war, for us."

He was born in Paulsboro, N.J., graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He accepted a commission as a Marine second lieutenant in 1942 and served in the Pacific theater, fighting on Guam and later serving in Okinawa, Japan and China.

After World War II ended, he served as managing editor of the Marine Corps Gazette. After completing amphibious warfare school, he was ordered to Korea, where he was a weapons company commander, battalion operations officer and executive officer.

In 1955, he received a master's degree in journalism from Ohio State University.

He was in Vietnam from mid-1965 to mid-1966 and returned in 1970 for another year's tour as assistant division commander of the 1st Marine Division, then deputy commander of the 3rd Marine Amphibious Brigade.

In 1971, he became director of Marine Corps History and Museums, an organization he put together on a shoestring, Melson said. Gen. Simmons retired from active duty in 1978 but became a civilian employee in the same position.

Upon his 1996 retirement, he was named director emeritus and kept office hours at the Marine Corps Historical Center at Washington Navy Yard. At the time of his death, he was at work on a history of Marines in World War I.

Gen. Simmons wrote more than 300 articles and contributed to histories and books such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Dictionary of American History.

His military awards include a Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, three awards of the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and a Purple Heart.

Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Frances G. Bliss Simmons of Alexandria; four children, Edwin H. Simmons Jr. of Hanover, Va., and Clark V. Simmons, Bliss Robinson and Courtney Simmons Elwood, all of Alexandria; and five grandchildren.

Rest In Peace


05-10-07, 07:19 AM
To the core, he was of the Corps
Thursday, May 10, 2007

A noted Marine died the other day. Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Simmons, 85, died May 5 at home in Alexandria, Va.

Some people considered Simmons the memory of the Marine Corps. He wrote "The United States Marines: A History" in 1974 and it has been reprinted and updated several times. He wrote several books, including a novel in 2001 called "Dog Company Six." He was the director emeritus of Marine Corps History and Museums. He served in the Corps for 53 years 36 in uniform, 17 as a civilian. He served on Guam during World War II. He was part of the Inchon landing and the Chosin Reservoir campaign in Korea. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam.

He was a Marine's Marine.

But he wasn't always a general or a Marine.

Back when he was little Eddie Simmons in Paulsboro, in fact, his mom wanted to make sure he had the right kind of friends, the kind that might make him tougher.

"His mom, Nettie, came to me and said, I don't want him to grow up being a sissy,'" recalled Bob Cassel, who lived across the street from Eddie Simmons on Billings Avenue.

"Back in the '20s and '30s, it was all fields in Billingsport down around 4th," he said.

Bob is 92, which means he was seven years older than Eddie Simmons. Was he that rough-and-tumble a guy, that Nettie Simmons would choose him to help toughen up her son?

"We played ball on the dirt street," he said. Not only were the streets unpaved, but the boys used silver maple trees to mark the bases.

"I was the only one who would play catcher. We didn't have masks, so I'd get hit in the face," said Bob, who now lives in Mantua Township.

"I took him under my wing. We introduced him to everything in the neighborhood."

Bob started to recall some of the things they did as kids, but soon realized he was reciting a list of activities that would be considered dangerous by today's standards.

"Oh, I wouldn't want kids to do that," said Bob.

Bob's sister asked Eddie once what he was going to be when he grew up. Eddie answered, "I'm going to be a policeman."

"Oh, no," said Bob's sister. "I don't want to marry a policeman."

Bob's dad moved out of a duplex in Paulsboro to a whole house in Woodbury for the same rent of $28 a month when Bob was about 14. The boys went their separate ways.

Years later, Bob discovered Simmons was living about a mile from his daughter in Virginia.

"We'd visit (my daughter) and he'd say, Come over,'" said Bob. Wasn't the important general too busy to visit?

No. He even insisted they come visit him the night before Thanksgiving.

"He wanted to talk old times," he said.

Bob said he feels some small sense of pride when he considers what kind of man old Eddie Simmons became.

"He helped MacArthur on the Inchon landings. He started the Marine Museum," said Bob. "He looked up to me because I was an older kid."


05-12-07, 11:18 AM
‘Memory of the Marine Corps’ dies at 85
By Philip Ewing - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday May 12, 2007 8:09:18 EDT


Marine Corps
Commandant Gen. David Shoup pins the Legion of Merit onto Lt. Col. Edwin Simmons in 1962. Simmons also received the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Medal during his long military career.

Retired Brig. Gen. Edwin H. Simmons, a historian who was called “the collective memory of the Marine Corps,” died May 5 of heart disease at his home in Alexandria, Va.

He was 85.

Simmons, director emeritus of Marine Corps History and Museums, was author of its official history and several other books about the exploits of leathernecks through the ages, and also a heavily decorated combat vet.

“Both his military and historical careers probably are going to be very hard to repeat,” said Charles Melson, chief historian of the Marine Corps, who described himself as a disciple of Simmons in and out of uniform. Melson called Simmons the “collective memory of the Marine Corps,” someone other general officers consulted for his vast knowledge and experience.

Born in 1921, Simmons was commissioned in 1942.

His many uniformed exploits included fighting on Guam during World War II; landing at Inchon and participating in the Chosin Reservoir campaign during the Korean War; and commanding 9th Marines in Vietnam, where he served two tours.

He was decorated dozens of times; his awards included the Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Medal.

Simmons’ academic background was in journalism — in which he had bachelor and master’s degrees — and Melson said that perspective informed Simmons’ emphasis on producing readable, engaging histories, as opposed to more fusty, academic stuff. But that didn’t mean he sacrificed accuracy, Melson said.

“He wasn’t given to telling sea stories and inflating things. He laid it out.”

His best-known work, “The United States Marines: A History” (1974), remains a standard reference text.

He retired in 1978 but continued to serve the Marine Corps as a civilian in his old position.