American Marine Corps lieutenant general Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller fought in both World Wars II and the Korean Conflict. He is the most decorated marine in the annals of his country. Puller, who was up in a blue-collar household, lost his father when he was 10 years old. He grew up listening to Civil War tales and looking up to Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson. Even though he never participated in combat during World War I, he joined the Marine Corps at that time. The Officer Candidates School (OCS) was his next stop after that. He was transferred to Nicaragua, where he earned his first two Navy Crosses, after serving as a lieutenant in Haiti at the start of his military career. He traveled extensively in China in the middle of the 1930s before coming back to the US to work as an educator. Puller was one of the most well-known individuals in the Pacific Theater of World War II and was crucial to the United States’ resounding triumph over the Axis forces in the Pacific and Asia. Puller served his nation well and was elevated to the rank of major general during the Korean War. After the Korean War was over, he remained a member of the Marine Corps until his retirement in 1955 due to a stroke. After a protracted illness, Puller passed away in 1971. Age-wise, he was 73.
Early Childhood & Life
Chesty Puller, one of the four children of Matthew and Martha Puller, was born on June 26, 1898, in West Point, Virginia, United States. Pattie and Emily were his two sisters, while Samuel was his brother. When Puller was ten years old, his father passed away. He adored hearing ancient Civil War tales as a child and looked up to Confederate general Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson.
His aspirations from infancy resulted in a strong desire to enlist in the military. Puller indicated interest in entering the US Army in 1916, during the Border War with Mexico, but was turned down because he was too young and his mother had not given him parental approval.
He nevertheless enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute in 1917 despite it. He left the school the next year to “go where the guns are!” He got training in the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, after joining the Marine Corps as a private.
Later, he attended Quantico, Virginia’s Officer Candidates School (OCS) and non-commissioned officer school. He received his diploma and was appointed a second lieutenant in the reserves on June 16, 1919. He was eventually promoted to corporal after being made inactive as a result of the force reduction from 73,000 to 1,100 officers and 27,400 men.
Earlier Military Career
As a lieutenant in the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, Chesty Puller was dispatched to Haiti. It was his first experience in battle. He participated in more than 40 encounters with the Caco insurgents throughout the course of his five years of service there. On March 6, 1924, he was appointed as the second lieutenant after returning to the United States somewhere in the early part of that year. He was assigned to marine barracks across America over the ensuing few years, including those in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, San Diego, California, Norfolk, Virginia, and Quantico, Virginia.
He traveled to Nicaragua in 1928 as a detachment of the Nicaraguan National Guard. Puller oversaw five successive operations against the outnumbered armed bandit groups between February 16 and August 19, 1930. He received his first Navy Cross as a result.
After returning to the US in July 1931 to complete a one-year Company Officers Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, he returned to Nicaragua in September 1932. For leading American Marines and members of the Nicaraguan National Guard in the final engagement against the Sandinista insurgents on December 26, 1932, he was awarded his second Navy Cross.
Puller served as the leader of an entire unit of Chinese Marines while stationed with the marine detachment at the American embassy in Beijing, China, following his time in Nicaragua. Following that, he was assigned to the cruiser USS Augusta in the Asiatic Fleet. Then he was given the responsibility of overseeing Ben Robertshaw, Pappy Boyington, and Lew Walt’s instruction at The Basic School in Philadelphia.
He served aboard the Augusta once more in May 1939 before returning to China. He was given the command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines (1/7) of the 1st Marine Division, stationed at New River, North Carolina (later Camp Lejeune), after his return to the United States in August 1941.
The Big Wars
At the start of the Pacific theater, the 3rd Marine Brigade sent the 7th Marines to protect Samoa. On May 8, 1942, they touched down. In September, they were transferred to the 1st division and sent back to Guadalcanal. Puller led his battalion in hard combat along the Matanikau with his customary flair. While providing cover fire, he made his way to the shore, signaled the USS Ballad, and then gave the Navy destroyer the order to send in rescue teams for his men.
Puller received his third Navy Cross and Purple Heart medal for the “Battle for Henderson Field” later, in Guadalcanal. In 1943, he was chosen to serve as the executive officer of the 7th Marine Regiment, and he led his troops in a victorious assault against the well-defended Japanese positions. He was promoted to colonel on February 1st, 1944, and was appointed commander of the 1st Marine Regiment.
The Marine unit engaged in the drawn-out conflict on Peleliu. One of the bloodiest engagements in US Marine Corps history took place there. Out of nearly 3,000 guys, they lost 1,749 of them. Puller nevertheless instructed the Marines to engage in frontal assaults against a well-established foe.
He was given the position of Director of the 8th Reserve District at New Orleans after the war’s end, and he eventually oversaw the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor.
Puller returned to fight in the 1st Marine Regiment when the Korean War began. On September 15, 1950, he was present when the landing at Inchon took place.
In January 1951, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned the title of assistant division commander (ADC) of the 1st Marine Division. In February 1951, Puller briefly assumed command of the 1st Marine division after Major General O.P. Smith, his immediate superior, was hastily promoted to head the IX Corps following the death of its commander. He received a promotion to major general in 1953.
Awards of Chesty Puller
Chesty Puller received numerous honors over his nearly four decades of service. During the Nicaraguan campaign, he received the first two Navy Crosses. He received his third award ten years later, on October 24, 1942, at Guadalcanal, for successfully holding a mile-long front against a bigger enemy force.
He was awarded the fourth Navy Cross for his role in turning the tide of a combat against the Japanese forces in Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Papua New Guinea in December 1943. He received the fifth and final Navy Cross for protecting the division’s supply lines in subzero conditions against an overwhelming enemy during the Korean War in December 1950.
Puller had also been awarded his lone Purple Heart for the Guadalcanal conflict.
He received the Silver Star Medal for his involvement in the landing at Inchon on September 15, 1950.
Because of his leadership during an onslaught by enemy aggressor troops in Korea that lasted from November 29 to December 4, 1950, Puller was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the US Army.
Individual Life of Chesty Puller
In 1937, Puller wed Virginia Montague Evans in Saluda, Middlesex County, Virginia. She was 29 years old. She traveled with him as he served in China, Hawaii, and all around the United States. She relocated back to Saluda at the start of World War II to raise their three children: twins Martha and Lewis Jr., and daughter Virginia. The couple moved into the home where Mrs. Puller was raised after Puller’s retirement from the Marine Corps.
Puller was an aggressive, coarse, and outspoken Marine Corps officer. He was fiercely devoted to his service and his country, and he always carried a pipe with him. He hated when guys were weak. He instilled loyalty in his subordinates unlike any other because he was the most decorated marine in American history.
He continues to be one of the longest-lasting myths in Marine Corps folklore, a perfect synthesis of reality and hyperbole. He was given the moniker “Chesty” because of his large, protruding chest, according to some stories. It was a misconception that a steel chest had been installed in his place after being shot out.
Lewis Jr. enlisted in the Marine Corps and served as a marine lieutenant in the Vietnam War, following in his father’s footsteps. In a mine explosion, he lost both of his legs and some of his hands. Puller started crying when he saw how his son was suffering. Following the publication of his memoirs, “Fortunate Son: The Healing of a Vietnam Vet,” Lewis Jr. won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize.
Later Life and Death
In July 1954, following the conclusion of the Korean War, Puller was chosen to lead the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He received a promotion to Deputy Camp Commander in February 1955. However, he had a stroke, which effectively took him out of the fight. Puller fought to return to active duty but was finally turned down as a result of a medical and administrative dispute.
Puller wanted to stay in the military longer, but on November 1, 1955, he was forced to resign. He received a tombstone promotion to the rank of lieutenant general on the day of his retirement. After the Vietnam War began, he sought to rejoin the military but was denied due to his advanced age.
On October 11, 1971, Puller passed away at a Virginia care facility. He had been significantly impacted by the stroke in 1955. A second stroke struck him sometime in 1970. He left behind his wife and three kids.
Net Worth of Chesty Puller
The estimated net worth of Chesty Puller is around $1 million.