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First Name: Claude

Last Name: Larkin

Birthplace: Garfield, WA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Arthur

Date of Birth: 21 June 1891

Date of Death: 02 November 1969

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served:
Claude Arthur Larkin

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Claude Arthur "Sheriff" Larkin
Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps

Claude Arthur Larkin was born on 21 June 1891 in Garfield, WA.

As a young man, he spent a good bit of his time riding the range in the northwestern states of Washington and Oregon, where he grew up. However, for a short period he did take the time to attend the University of Washington. But he was back in "cowboy mode" when he traveled to Chicago with a load of cattle in 1915. World War I had just started so, while he was in Chicago, Claude enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on 21 December 1915.

Larkin's first duty as a Marine in World War I was aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma, and he was aboard her when she was commissioned on 2 May 1916, at Philadelphia, PA. After a year and a half as an enlisted man, he was selected to attend Officer Candidate School in Washington, DC. Larkin was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 6 July 1917. His first assignment as a Marine officer was listed this way in the Official Bulletin dated 17 July 1917: Second Lieutenant (Provisional), Marine Corps Reserve, Claude A. Larkin assigned to Marine Corps rifle range at Winthrop, MD.

Between the two World Wars, Larkin served in Cuba, Haiti, and with expeditionary forces in China. In 1930, he transferred to aviation. He received his flight training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL, and was designated a Naval Aviator on 6 April 1930. He flew with an air unit based at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and spent considerable time at domestic stations. He also attended the Army Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, AL, and the Navy War College at Newport, RI.

Shortly before the U.S. entered World War II, Larkin served for a brief time as Assistant Naval Attaché, and Assistant Naval Attaché for Air, in London, England, and Cairo, Egypt, during the course of an around-the-world inspection tour of United Nations facilities.

For the first eight months of World War II, Lieutenant General Larkin was Senior Naval Aviator Present (SNAP) for Marines in the Pacific war zones. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Larkin was a Lieutenant Colonel and in command of Marine Aircraft Group 21 (MAG-21) based on Ewa Field, near Honolulu.

Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941

Ewa Field was near the Japanese attack wave "rotation point," which meant that after planes dropped their bombs, they circled over the area waiting for the rest to finish their attack runs. These waiting planes then used the Ewa Field area to empty their machine guns on targets! The Japanese aircraft that were strafing cars moving along the roads that led to Ewa Field, shot at everybody. Lieutenant Colonel Claude A. "Sheriff" Larkin, MAG-21's Commanding Officer was enroute from Honolulu and was about a mile away from Ewa in his 1930 Plymouth when a Zero shot at him. He momentarily abandoned the car for the relative sanctuary of a nearby ditch; not even bothering to turn off the engine. Then, as the plane roared out of sight, he sprinted back to the vehicle, jumped in, and sped off. He reached Ewa at 0805 - just in time to be machine-gunned by another of Admiral Nagumo's fighters. A short time later, Larkin's good fortune at remaining unwounded amidst the attack ran out. He suffered several penetrating wounds, the most painful of which included one on the top of the middle finger of his left hand and another on the front of his lower left leg, just above the top of his shoe. Refusing immediate medical attention, Larkin continued to direct the defense of Ewa Field against further enemy attacks.

All 48 Marine planes were knocked out of action in the first attack on Ewa Field. Two squadrons of Japanese fighters swept in from the northwest at 1,000 feet and dived down to rake the aircraft parked near the runways with machine-gun and cannon fire. Pilots and air crewmen ran to their planes in an attempt to get them into the air or drag them out of the line of fire, but the Japanese returned again and again to complete the job of destruction. When the enemy fighters drew off at about 0825, they left behind a field littered with burning and shot-up aircraft. The men of MAG-21 recovered quickly from their initial surprise and shock and fought back with what few rifles and machine guns they had. Salvageable guns were stripped from damaged planes and set up on hastily improvised mounts; one scout-bomber's rear machine gun was manned to increase the volume of antiaircraft fire.

World War II

Less than a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Larkin was promoted to Colonel and, on 5 October 1942, he was promoted to Brigadier General. In November 1943, he was awarded the Legion of Merit for outstanding service in planning, arranging, and operating air activities as "SNAP" of Marine Aviation Units in the Hawaiian areas; in the defense of Wake Island; and in the battles of Midway and the Solomon Islands.

Larkin was Commanding General of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, NC, from December 1943 until April '44. He was, from 21 May - 14 June '44, Commanding General, Marine Aircraft South Pacific. Then, in August of 1944, he was placed in command of air operations in the Northern Solomon Islands as Deputy Commander, and later Acting Commander of AirNorSols.

Now a Major General, Larkin was Commanding General of the 1st Marine Air Wing at Okinawa, Japan, from 11 August - 31 October 1945. After that, Larkin served as Commanding General of Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, until he retired from active duty on 1 March 1946.

Upon his retirement, Larkin was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General under an Act of Congress dated 23 February 1942, which allowed the promotion in recognition of his combat citations. Recipients of these promotions were known as "Tombstone Generals."

Medals and Awards

Legion of Merit
Purple Heart
Victory Medal with West Indies Clasp
Yangtze Medal
Expeditionary Medal, China
American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp, Egypt
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Naval Aviator Badge


Lieutenant General Claude Arthur Larkin died on 2 November 1969 at the Base Hospital at March Air Force Base, Riverside, CA. He was 78.

Honoree ID: 3287   Created by: MHOH




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