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The Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) is the highest-ranking officer in the United States Marine Corps and is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The CMC reports directly to the Secretary of the Navy—but not to the Chief of Naval Operations—and is responsible for ensuring the organization, policy, plans, and programs for the Marine Corps as well as advising the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy on matters involving the Marine Corps. Under the authority of the Secretary of the Navy, the CMC designates Marine personnel and resources to the commanders of Unified Combatant Commands. The commandant performs all other functions prescribed in Section 5043 in Title 10 of the United States Code or delegates those duties and responsibilities to other officers in his administration in his name. As with the other joint chiefs, the commandant is an administrative position and has no operational command authority over United States Marine Corps forces.

The Commandant is nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate and is appointed as a four-star general. "The Commandant is directly responsible to the Secretary of the Navy for the total performance of the Marine Corps. This includes the administration, discipline, internal organization, training, requirements, efficiency, and readiness of the service. The Commandant is responsible for the operation of the Marine Corps material support system." Since 1801, the home of the Commandant has been located in the Marine Barracksmarker in Washington, D.C.marker and his main offices are in Arlington, Virginiamarker.


The responsibilities of the Commandant are outlined in Title 10, Section 5043 the U.S. Code of Law and is "Subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of the Navy". As stated in the US Code the Commandant shall preside over the Headquarters, Marine Corps, transmit the plans and recommendations of the Headquarters, Marine Corps, to the Secretary and advise the Secretary with regard to such plans and recommendations, after approval of the plans or recommendations of the Headquarters, Marine Corps, by the Secretary, act as the agent of the Secretary in carrying them into effect, exercise supervision, consistent with the authority assigned to commanders of unified or specified combatant commands under chapter 6 of this title, over such of the members and organizations of the Marine Corps and the Navy as the Secretary determines, perform the duties prescribed for him by section 171 of this title and other provisions of law and perform such other military duties, not otherwise assigned by law, as are assigned to him by the President, the Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of the Navy.

List of commandants

As of 2008, thirty-four men have served as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, including the current Commandant James T. Conway. The first Commandant was Samuel Nicholas, who took office as a captain. The longest-serving was Archibald Henderson, sometimes referred to as the Grand old man of the Marine Corps due to his thirty-nine year tenure. In the 234-year history of the United States Marine Corps, only one Commandant has ever been fired from the job: Anthony Gale, as a result of a court-martial in 1820.

# Picture Name Rank Start of tenure End of tenure Notes
1 NicholasSamuel Nicholas O-04 Major The first Commandant of the Marine Corps
2 BurrowsWilliam W. Burrows O-05 Lieutenant Colonel Started many important organizations within the Marine Corps, including the United States Marine Band
3.03 WhartonFranklin Wharton O-05 Lieutenant Colonel Was the first Commandant to occupy the Commandant's House at the Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.marker
3.5 Henderson1Archibald Henderson (acting) O-05 Lieutenant Colonel Acting Commandant, served as Commandant from 1820 to 1859
4 GaleAnthony Gale O-05 Lieutenant Colonel The only Commandant to be fired
5 Henderson2Archibald Henderson O-07 Brevet Brigadier General The longest-serving Commandant; known as the "Grand old man of the Marine Corps"
6 HarrisJohn Harris O-06Colonel Commandant during the start of the American Civil War
7 ZeilinJacob Zeilin O-07 Brigadier General Became the Marine Corps' first general officer, officially approved of the design of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor as the emblem of the Marine Corps
8 McCawleyCharles G. McCawley O-06Colonel Chose "Semper Fidelis, Latin for 'Always Faithful', as the official Marine Corps motto"
9 HeywoodCharles Heywood O-08 Major General Was the first Marine to hold the rank of Major General
10 ElliottGeorge F. Elliott O-08 Major General Successfully resisted attempts to remove seagoing Marines from capital ships and to merge the Corps into the United States Army
11 BiddleWilliam P. Biddle O-08 Major General Established the Advanced Base Force, forerunner of today's Fleet Marine Force
12 BarnettGeorge Barnett O-08 Major General Served as Commandant during World War I, which caused a huge increase in personnel during his term
13 LejeuneJohn A. Lejeune O-08 Major General Started the tradition of the birthday ball with Marine Corps Order 47, still read annually
14 NevilleWendall C. Neville O-08 Major General Recipient of the Medal of Honor and Marine Corps Brevet Medal
15 FullerBen H. Fuller O-08 Major General Consolidated the Fleet Marine Force concept
16 RussellJohn H. Russell, Jr. O-08 Major General The system of seniority promotions of officers was changed to advancement by selection, the 1st Marine Brigade was withdrawn from Haiti, and the number of ships carrying Marine detachments continued to increase.
17 HolcombThomas Holcomb O-09 Lieutenant General Expanded the Corps almost 20 times in size for World War II and integrated women into the Corps
18 VandegriftAlexander A. Vandegrift O-09 General Recipient of the Medal of Honor. Was the first Marine to hold the rank of General, resisted attempts to merge the Corps with the Army
19 CatesClifton B. Cates O-10General Recipient of the Navy Cross
20 ShepherdLemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. O-10General First Commandant to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff
21 PateRandolph M. Pate O-10General
22 ShoupDavid M. Shoup O-10General Recipient of the Medal of Honor
23 GreeneWallace M. Greene, Jr. O-10General Oversaw the proliferation of the Corps in the Vietnam War
24 ChapmanLeonard F. Chapman, Jr. O-10General Was the Commandant during the Vietnam War
25 CushmanRobert Everton Cushman, Jr. O-10General Saw the last of the Marines leave Vietnammarker and the peacetime strength fall to 194,000 while still maintaining readiness
26 WilsonLouis H. Wilson, Jr. O-10General Recipient of the Medal of Honor
27 BarrowRobert H. Barrow O-10General Was the first Commandant to serve a regular four-year tour as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acquired approval of production of the American-modified Harrier aircraft, and several other improvements to enhance the effectiveness of the Marine Corps
28 KelleyPaul X. Kelley O-10General In 2007, in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, General Kelly spoke against President George W. Bush's executive order concerning the interrogation and torture of terrorism suspects.
29 GrayAlfred M. Gray, Jr. O-10General The Alfred M. Gray Research Center at Marine Corps Base Quanticomarker houses the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections, the Quantico Base Library, and the research library for the Marine Corps University.
30 MundyCarl E. Mundy, Jr. O-10General Is currently on the board of directors for General Dynamics and is the Chairman of the Marine Corps University foundation
31 KrulakCharles C. Krulak O-10General Was the son of Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak
32 JonesJames L. Jones O-10General Oversaw the Marine Corps' development of MARPAT camouflage uniforms and the adoption of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program; later became the first Marine officer to serve as Commander, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and NATOmarker's Supreme Allied Commander Europemarker (SACEUR), then as National Security Advisor for the Obama Administration.
33 HageeMichael W. Hagee O-10General Guided the Corps through the initial years of the Iraq War
34 ConwayJames T. Conway O-10General Incumbent The current serving Commandant

See also



Inline citations
  1. Joint Chiefs of Staff: composition; functions.
  2. Combatant commands: administration and support.
  3. Commandant of the Marine Corps.

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