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Puller, “Chesty” (Lewis B.)

Puller, “Chesty” [Lewis B.] (1898–1971), Marine Corps combat leader.Born in the peaceful village of West Point, Virginia, where his father had a wholesale grocery business, Puller was reared on tales of Confederate glory. His grandfather, Maj. John Puller, a heroic cavalryman, was killed in 1863. Determined on a military career, Puller completed one year at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in August 1918. VMI may have given him the exaggerated military bearing for which he was nicknamed, but it was during more than four years as a Marine NCO and concurrent lieutenant of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti (1919–23) that Puller developed his distinctive leadership techniques: perfectionism; mission overachievement; and fearless, inspirational conduct under fire. Varied assignments followed his commissioning in 1924, including two tours in Nicaragua, in each of which he was awarded the Navy Cross. His third and fourth Navy Crosses came during World War II at the Battle of Guadalcanal and at Cape Gloucester on New Britain Island; and the fifth in Korea where Puller commanded the 1st Marine Regiment in the assault landing at Inchon, the seizure of Seoul, and the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.

Fuller was promoted to brigadier general in 1951 and to lieutenant general upon retirement in 1955. During the 1950s, the colorful and outspoken Puller gained attention as a champion of tough, realistic training; a defender of the basic soundness of American youth; and a critic of higher leadership. His legend continued to grow; photographs of his bulldog visage hung in homes and service clubs across the country as a symbol of invincible heroism and fidelity to traditional military standards.
[See also Marine Corps, U.S.: 1914–45; Marine Corps, U.S.: Since 1945.]


Burke Davis , Marine! The Life of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, USMC (Ret.), 1962.

Gerald C. Thomas, Jr.

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