BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. – David Monroe Shoup was born on December 30, 1904 in Battle Ground, Indiana. He holds the distinction of rising from a second lieutenant U.S. Army grunt to a four star Marine General and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Shoup graduated from DePauw University in 1926. Whilst at DePauw he became a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He also became a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He served for a month as a second lieutenant in the Army Infantry Reserve before he was commissioned a Marine officer.
Shoup received his commission as a Marine second lieutenant on July 20, 1926 (service number O4133). He reported to Marine Officers Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. During his time there Shoup’s training was interrupted twice. He was assigned to temporary duty elsewhere in the United States and by overseas duty with the 6th Marine Regiment in Tientsin, China. After returning from China at the end of 1927, he completed Marine Officers Basic School in 1928. He then served at Quantico, Virginia; Pensacola, Florida; and San Diego, California.
As a colonel in World War II, General Shoup earned the Nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, while commanding the Second Marines, 2d Marine Division, at Betio, a bitterly contested island of Tarawa Atoll. The British Distinguished Service Order was also awarded him for this action. Colonel Shoup was the only Tarawa Medal of Honor recipient who survived to wear his award.
Shoup was promoted to colonel on November 9 1943, and was placed in command of the 2d Marines, the spearhead of the assault on Tarawa. It was during this action he earned the Medal of Honor as well as a second Purple Heart. He earned the Medal of Honor at Betio, a bitterly contested island of Tarawa Atoll, November 20-22 1943, while commanding all ground troops ashore. The British Distinguished Service Order was also awarded him for this action.
Colonel Shoup was one of the giants of American military history. As the operations officer of the 2nd Marine Division, he was one of the key planners for Operation GALVANIC. Shortly before the operation, he was reassigned as the commanding officer for the 2nd Marine Regiment. In this billet, he was the senior Marine on Betio Island until Colonel Merritt Edson arrived ashore to take command on the evening of November 21 1943. Shoup’s inspiring leadership was critical to the success of the invasion. On D+1 (21 November 1943) Shoup sent a message to divisional headquarters detailing the situation on Tarawa. This transmission has become one of the most famous of the war. Shoup radioed: “Casualties many. Percentage dead not known. Combat efficiency — we are winning.”
This gallant Marine survived the war, and later served as the 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Lieutenant General Shoup was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 12, 1959 to be the 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps. Upon assuming his post as Commandant of the Marine Corps on January 1, 1960, he was promoted to four-star rank.
His time in office saw the beginning of limited operations in Vietnam with Marine helicopter units flying from Soc Trang, an abandoned airstrip south of Saigon.
On January 21, 1964, shortly after his retirement, General Shoup was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by President Lyndon B. Johnson for exceptionally meritorious service as Commandant of the Marine Corps.
After his retirement, Shoup became an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War. He publicly supported the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) VVAW by 1971. In May 1966, he said about the building war in Vietnam:
|“||I believe if we had, and would, keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own. That they design and want. That they fight and work for… and not the American style, which they don’t want. Not one crammed down their throats by the Americans.||”|
This statement ties back to an assessment made by Shoup that “in every case… every senior officer that I knew… said we should never send ground forces into Southeast Asia.”
General Shoup died on January 13, 1983 after a long illness and was buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery.
Shoup’s awards include:
In 2009, the Indiana War Memorial renamed a meeting room in honor of General Shoup.
The following citation accompanied his award of the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, commanding officer of all Marine Corps troops on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, and Gilbert Islands, from 20 to November 22, 1943.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to COLONEL DAVID M. SHOUP, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of all Marine Corps troops in action against enemy Japanese forces on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, from 20 to November 22, 1943. Although severely shocked by an exploding enemy shell soon after landing at the pier and suffering from a serious, painful leg wound which had become infected, Colonel Shoup fearlessly exposed himself to the terrific and relentless artillery, machine gun, and rifle fire from hostile shore emplacements. Rallying his hesitant troops by his own inspiring heroism, he gallantly led them across the fringing reefs to charge the heavily fortified island and reinforce our hard-pressed, thinly held lines. Upon arrival on shore, he assumed command of all landed troops and, working without rest under constant, withering enemy fire during the next 2 days, conducted smashing attacks against unbelievably strong and fanatically defended Japanese positions despite innumerable obstacles and heavy casualties. By his brilliant leadership, daring tactics, and selfless devotion to duty, Colonel Shoup was largely responsible for the final decisive defeat of the enemy, and his indomitable fighting spirit reflects great credit upon the U.S. Naval Service.