Guide to the Holland M. Smith Papers, RG 41

Listed by: Dieter C. Ullrich
Date: June 2003

Date Span:

0.5 cubic feet; 13 items.

Number of Boxes:
1 Letter Document Box

Historical or Biographical Sketch:
General Holland McTyeire Smith, sometimes called "the father of modern U. S. amphibious warfare," was one of America's top commanders in the Pacific during World War II. He retired in 1946 after a 41-year career that included sea duty, expeditionary service from the Philippines to Haiti and World War I combat In France.

On the eve of World War II General Smith directed extensive Army, Navy and Marine amphibious training which was a major factor in successful U.S. landings in both the Atlantic and Pacific. Later he helped prepare U. S. Army and Canadian troops for the Kiska and Attu landings, then led the 5th Amphibious Corps in the assaults on the Gilberts, the Marshalls, and Saipan and Tinian in the Marianas.

In the latter operation, besides the 5th Amphibious Corps, he commanded all Expeditionary Troops in the Marianas, including those which recaptured Guam. After that he served as the first Commanding General of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and headed Task Force 56 (Expeditionary Troops) at Iwo Jima, which Included all the assault troops in that battle.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his part in training America's amphibious forces on both coasts; a Gold Star in lieu of a second for his planning and execution of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands operations; a Gold Star in lieu of a third for similar service in the Marianas; and a Gold Star in lieu of a fourth for his part in the invasion and capture of Iwo Jima.

Son of Mr. and Mrs. John V. Smith, the general was born April 20, 1882, in Beale, Alabama. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1901,obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Alabama in 1903 and practiced law In Montgomery for a year before he was appointed a Marine second lieutenant March 20, 1905. (Later he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Alabama Polytechnic Institute.)

In April of 1906, after completing the School of Application at Annapolis, Md., General Smith sailed for the Philippines, where he served on expeditionary duty with the lst Marine Brigade until September of 1908. He returned to the United States the following month and was stationed at the Marine Barracks at Annapolis, until December of 1909, when he embarked for expeditionary duty in Panama. Returning from there in April of 1910, he served at Annapolis; Puget Sound, Wash.; San Diego, Calif., and the Recruiting Station, Seattle, Wash., before sailing in September of 1912, to rejoin the 1st Marine Brigade in the Philippines.

This time the general remained with the 1st Brigade until April of 1914, when he took command of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Galveston. He served in that capacity in Asiatic waters until July, 1915, and returned to the United States the following month for duty at the Navy Yard, New Orleans, La. From there he was ordered to the Dominican Republic in June of 1916, as a member of the 4th Marine Regiment. During that unit's operations against rebel bandits he saw action in the march to Santiago and engagements at La Pena and Kilometer 29. Returning to the United States May 30, 1917, he sailed for France just two weeks later as commander of the 8th Machine Gun Company, 5th Marines.

In France, General Smith was detached from the 5th Marines and sent to the Army General Staff College at Langres, from which he was graduated in February, 1918. He was then named Adjutant of the 4th Marine Brigade, in which capacity he fought in the Verdun Sector and the Aisne-Marne Defensive, including the epic Battle of Belleau Wood. Transferred to the 1st Corps, 1st Army, in July of 1918, he served as assistant operations officer in charge of liaison during the Aisne-Marne, Oisne-Aisne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives. After the Armistice he participated in the march to the Rhine through Belgium and Luxembourg as an assistant operations officer with the 3rd Army, and served with the General Staff, U. S. Army, during the occupation of Germany.

For his service at Belleau Wood the general was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm by the French government. He also received a Meritorious Service Citation from the Commander in Chief, American Expeditionary Forces, for which he was later awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

Returning to the United States in April, 1919, General Smith's assignments in the next four years included duty at Norfolk, Va., study at the Naval War College, Newport, R. I., and service in Washington, D. C., with the War Plans Section of the Office of Naval Operations. There he was the first Marine officer to serve on the Joint Army-Navy Planning Committee. Leaving Washington in May of 1923, he served aboard the battleships Wyoming and Arkansas as Fleet Marine Officer, U. S. Scouting Fleet, until September of that year.

In February of 1924, after serving at Marine Corps Headquarters and in the West Indies in connection with joint Army-Navy maneuvers, the general joined the Marine Brigade on expeditionary duty in Haiti, serving as that unit's Chief of Staff and Officer in Charge of Operations and Training. He returned from that country in August of 1925, to serve as Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Brigade at Quantico, VA., until September of 1926; as a student in the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, from then until June of 1927; and as Post Quartermaster of the Marine Barracks, Philadelphia Navy Yard, from July of 1927, to March of 1931.

In April of 1931, the general began another tour of sea duty, this time aboard the USS California as Aide to the Commander and Force Marine Officer of the Battle Force, U.S. Fleet. He served in those capacities until June of 1933, commanded the Marine Barracks at the Washington Navy Yard from then until January of 1935, and served the following two years at San Francisco, Calif., as Chief of Staff, Department of the Pacific. From there he was ordered to Marine Corps Headquarters in March of 1937, to serve two years as Director of the Division of Operations and Training, after which he was Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps under Major General Thomas Holcomb from April to September of 1939.

After the latter assignment General Smith assumed command of the 1st Marine Brigade at Quantico, taking that unit to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for extended amphibious training in October of 1940. In February of 1941, when the brigade was re-designated the 1st Marine Division, he became that organization's first commander. He returned with the division to Quantico in April of 1941, and in June of that year he was detached from it to take command of the organization which eventually became the Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet. Under this command, the 1st Marine Division and the 1st and 9th Army Divisions received their initial training in amphibious warfare.

Moving to San Diego in August of 1942, the general took command of the Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, under which he completed the amphibious indoctrination of the 2nd and 3rd Marine Divisions before they went overseas and the 7th Army Division and other units involved in the Aleutians operation. The Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, was later re-designated the 5th Amphibious Corps, and in September of 1943, as commander of that unit, General Smith arrived at Pearl Harbor to begin planning for the Gilberts campaign. He continued to head the 5th Amphibious Corps until August of 1944, when he was named Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, at Pearl Harbor. In addition to that post, he commanded Task Force 56 at Iwo Jima before returning to the United States in July of 1945, to head the Marine Training and Replacement Command at Camp Pendleton, Calif. A lieutenant general when he was retired May 15, 1946, at the age of 64, he was promoted to general on the retired list for having been specially commended in combat.

As already mentioned, the general holds the Distinguished Service Medal with three Gold Stars in lieu of additional awards, the Croix de Guerre with palm and the Purple Heart Medal. His other medals and decorations include the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with three bronze stars; the Mexican Service Medal; the Dominican Campaign Medal; the World War I Victory Medal with five sector clasps; the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the American Area Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the World War II Victory Medal; the Dominican Order of the First Merit; and the British Order of Commander of the Bath.

General Smith died on January 12, 1967, at the age of 84. Funeral services were held on 14 January, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Chapel, and the general was interred with full military honors in Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Scope and Content: Collection contains biographical and personal material related to Holland M. Smith's college days at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (presently Auburn University) and his United States Marine Corps service, newspaper articles about Smith, notices of awards, commendations, and promotions, general and official correspondence particularly with Lt. Gen. Archer Vandergrift, and official military papers, 1905-1967.

Item list:
Box 1

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