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First Name: Lewie

Last Name: Merritt

Birthplace: Ridge Springs, SC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Griffith

Date of Birth: 26 June 1897

Date of Death: 24 March 1974

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Lewie Griffith Merritt

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  Occupation of Dominican Republic (1916 - 1924)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Lewie Griffith Merritt
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps

Lewie Griffith Merritt was born on 26 June 1897 in Ridge Springs, SC. Merritt's early education was in the local public schools in Saluda County, SC. He then attended Furman University, then a preparatory school where he graduated in 1913 at sixteen years old.

It was his aspiration to attend The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina and it was there that he began his college freshman class in 1913. He graduated on 31 May 1917 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Shortly after graduation, he reported to Marine Corps Infantry School on Parris Island, SC, and was subsequently assigned as an infantry officer and platoon commander in the Dominican Republic. Lieutenant Merritt was assigned to France during World War I where he became a part of the famous "Devil Dogs" of Marine Corps legend at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918.

After the conclusion of World War I, he was assigned to Marine Corps Quantico, VA, and Marine Corps Headquarters working on the staff of Major General George Barnett, Commandant of the Marine Corps. In 1920 Merritt, now a Captain, was selected by Major General John A. Lejeune, the new Marine Corps Commandant, to serve on his staff. By 1924 Merritt was designated a Naval Aviator and, during this assignment, was credited with developing special tactics which recognized that Marine air power was an integral part of the Marine air, land and sea mission. Included in his achievements was his contribution to the development of dive bombing as well as being among the first Marine Corps Aviators to qualify for aircraft carrier landings. Shortly before being selected by the Marine Corps to attend George Washington University, he was promoted to Major and graduated from George Washington with a Law degree in 1928.

By 1941 when the U.S. entered World War II, Colonel Merritt was one of the senior ranking naval aviators. At the time of Pearl Harbor, he was in command of Marine Corps Air, Fleet Marine Force at Naval Air Station, San Diego, CA. He was transferred to London, England, and assigned to the U.S. Embassy as Air Attaché. In 1942, Merritt was promoted to Brigadier General and re-assigned to fly on a top secret mission with the British Royal Air Force in the Northern Africa Campaign. On 7 January 1942 while en route to a then secret location in North Africa, his plane was shot down by German anti-aircraft artillery. He and his crew were rescued by British commandos who fought their way from behind enemy lines while under constant fire.

Upon completion of his mission in Europe, he was reassigned to command the Fourth Marine Air Wing in the Central Pacific. His leadership was instrumental in the success of the Tarawa and Kwajalein Air Campaign, and the critical air support of amphibious operations in the Pacific. Merritt was the only Marine Corps Aviator to serve in both the European and Asian Theaters of battle during World War II.

After the war, Merritt served on President Harry S. Truman's Strategic Bombing Survey, which examined U.S. bombing successes against Japanese targets. He retired from the Marine Corps as a Major General in 1947.

Post-Military Life

After the war, Merritt returned to South Carolina and briefly practiced law. In 1949 he was appointed Director of the South Carolina Legislative Council by Governor Strom Thurmond and in 1954 was selected by then Lt. Governor George Bell Timmerman to manage his successful run for Governor. After twenty years in public life along with his thirty years of military service, Merritt retired to private life. 


In 1975, the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort at Beaufort, SC, was renamed in his honor; it is now known as Merritt Field.

Death and Burial

Major General Lewie Griffith Merritt died on 24 March 1974 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX, after a lengthy illness. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2858   Created by: MHOH




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