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First Name: William

Last Name: Upshur

Birthplace: Richmond, VA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Peterkin

Date of Birth: 28 October 1881

Date of Death: 21 July 1943

Rank: Major General

Years Served: 1904 - 1943
William Peterkin Upshur

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  Occupation of Haiti (1915 - 1934)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


William Peterkin Upshur
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient

Major General William Peterkin Upshur (28 October 1881 - 21 July 1943) was the recipient of his nation's highest military decoration-the Medal of Honor-for his actions in 1915 during the Haitian Campaign.

William Peterkin Upshur was born on 28 October 1881 in Richmond, VA, and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in 1902.

He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps on 1 February 1904 and subsequently served on the high seas aboard vessels of the Navy, at foreign stations throughout the world, and at various posts and stations in the United States.

His foreign shore duty included service with an expeditionary force to Havana, Cuba, in October 1906, and duty at Camp Evans, Deer Point, Guantanamo, Cuba, from 9 January to 8 February 1907. He again was detailed to expeditionary duty with a force of Marines on the Isthmus of Panama from 19 June to 8 August 1908. Arriving at Olongapo, Philippine Islands, in January 1912, he joined the 1st Brigade of Marines and was again detached in February 1914, this time to the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peking, China, where he served until 16 October 1914.

On 4 August 1915 he assumed command of the 15th Company, 2d Regiment at Port au Prince, Haiti, where he participated in engagements against hostile Cacos bandits. It was during this action that he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Other decorations for service in Haiti include the Haitian Campaign Medal and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal.

Medal of Honor citation


In company with members of the Fifteenth Company of Marines all mounted, Captain Upshur left Fort Liberte, Haiti, for a 6-day reconnaissance. After dark on the evening of 24 October 1915, while crossing the river in a deep ravine, the detachments was suddenly fired upon form three sides by about 400 Cacos concealed in bushes about 100 yards from the fort. The Marine detachment fought its way forward to a good position, which it maintained during the night, although subjected to a continuous fire from the Cacos. At daybreak, Captain Upshur, in command of the three squads which advanced in three different directions, led his men forward, surprising and scattering the Cacos, and aiding the capture of Fort Dipitie.

Upon this country's entry into World War I, he was again detailed for foreign shore duty, this time with the 13th Regiment in France from September 1918 to August 1919, during which time he was in command of the American Military Prison, Casino des Lilas, Bordeaux and the American Guard Camp.

He was on temporary duty at the Naval Station, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, in July and August 1921. He also served in Haiti for a period of two years with the 1st Brigade of Marines, from 1922-24. In January and March 1929, he was on temporary duty as Chief Umpire, Fleet Training Exercise No. 5, Culebra, Puerto Rico, and again in January, February, and March 1940. In September 1939 he was assigned to the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, CA. In addition to his foreign shore stations he served aboard the USS Maine, USS Kearsarge, USS Rainbow, USS Buffalo, and the USS California.

Other duties consisted of Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, VA; Director of the Marine Corps Reserve; on duty with the War Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department; and as Commanding General of the Marine Corps Base in San Diego.

He was a graduate of the Marine Corps School of Application, the Army Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, KS, and of the Army and Navy War Colleges.

His last station of duty was that of the Department of the Pacific, where he served as Commanding General with headquarters in San Francisco, CA, from 1 January 1942 until the time of his death.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart
Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
Army of Cuban Pacification Medal
Philippine Campaign Medal
China Service Medal
Haitian Campaign Medal (1917)
World War I Victory Medal
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
Haitian Campaign Medal (1921)


• Camp Upshur, dedicated to Medal of Honor recipient Captain William P. Upshur, was a training area in Virginia for the Basic School/ROC during World War II. It became the official location of the Basic School in 1947 and remained in that capacity until 1958.

• The USS Upshur (T-AP-198), a troop and dependent transport which was placed into service with the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) during the Korean War, was named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Major General William Peterkin Upshur died from injuries suffered in a 21 July 1943 airplane crash near Sitka, AK, while on an inspection tour of his command which included Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands. In September 1948, his remains were removed from his Alaskan burial plot and re-interred at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, MD. His grave is located in Lot 250-A.

Honoree ID: 1971   Created by: MHOH




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