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First Name: Gerald

Last Name: Thomas

Birthplace: Slater, MO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Carthrae

Date of Birth: 29 October 1894

Date of Death: 07 April 1984

Rank: General

Years Served: 1917-1956
Gerald Carthrae Thomas

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Gerald Carthrae Thomas
General, U.S. Marine Corps
(Tombstone General)

Gerald Carthrae Thomas was born on 29 October 1894 in Slater, MO. Thomas was attending Illinois Wesleyan University at the start of World War I. When the U.S. entered the war and a call was made for men, Gerald, then a sophomore, enlisted for military service.

Marine Corps Career

Gerald enlisted in the Marine Corps on 28 May 1917. He completed boot camp at Parris Island and then joined the 1st Battalion 6th Marines.

World War I

Sailing for France in September 1917, Thomas saw action with the 6th Marines at Verdun; Belleau Wood; Soissons; and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive (Champagne). He was promoted to Sergeant and served as an Intelligence Sergeant. During the battle in Belleau Wood, he led a squad of Marines and received the Silver Star and Purple Heart; and as a member of the 6th Marine Regiment, he became entitled to wear the French Fourragère. At Soissons, his company sustained heavy losses and he became the acting platoon leader. In September 1918, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. After participating in the occupation of Germany, he returned to the U.S. in July 1919.


In November 1919, Thomas joined the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in Haiti, taking part in action against Haitian bandit forces until May 1921. In August 1921, he was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Quantico, where he remained for the next two years. During that time he was detached for several months of duty with the guard company at the Disarmament Conference in Washington. He also completed the Company Officer's Course at the Marine Corps Schools.


From November 1923 to October 1925, Thomas commanded the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Tulsa. He was then stationed for two years at the Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Charleston, SC, and for a year at Camp Holabird, MD, where he completed a course in the Army Motor Transport School. In December 1928, after serving as Officer-in-Charge of Land Transportation at the Marine Barracks, Parris Island, SC, he joined the 1st Brigade Marines in Haiti, and became Aide to the Commanding General. He returned to the U.S. in June 1931, entering the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA, the following September.

Graduating in June 1932, Thomas was made an instructor in the Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He remained there until August 1934, when he was ordered back to Quantico as a student in the Senior Course. After completing that course, he was ordered to China in July 1935, for duty with the Marine Detachment at the American Embassy in Peiping. He returned to the U.S. two years later to attend the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, and after graduating in June 1938, he joined the staff of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico.

World War II

In May 1941, Thomas was transferred to Cairo, Egypt, as a naval observer, but he was recalled to Quantico two months later to become Assistant Operations Officer of the 1st Marine Division. Named Operations Officer of the Division in March 1942, he sailed for the South Pacific in that capacity two months later. He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts in the assault and capture of Guadalcanal and Tulagi. He was appointed Chief of Staff of the Division in September 1942, at Guadalcanal, and in July 1943, he became Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps, where he was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" in the Treasury-Bougainville operation. After participating in the Empress Augusta Bay operation at Bougainville, he returned to Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC, where he was made Director of Plans and Policies in January 1944.

Korean War

In July 1947, Thomas was named Commanding General of Fleet Marine Force, Western Pacific. After that unit was disbanded in March 1949, he became Chief of Staff of the Marine Corps Equipment Board at Quantico, later serving there as Commanding General of the Landing Force Development Center.

He took command of the 1st Marine Division during the Korean War in April 1951. He served in that capacity until January 1952, when he returned to the U.S.. The following month he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and designated by President Truman as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps. He served in that billet until June 1954, and the following month became Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico.

Lieutenant General Thomas retired from the Marine Corps and, upon retirement, was promoted to the rank of four-star General on 1 January 1956. He thus became the eighth Marine to become a "Tombstone General." *

* The Act of Congress of 4 March 1925, allowed officers in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to be promoted one grade upon retirement if they had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. Combat citation promotions were colloquially known as "tombstone promotions" because they conferred the prestige of the higher rank, but not the additional retirement pay, so their only practical benefit was to allow recipients to engrave a loftier title on their business cards and tombstones. The Act of Congress of 23 February 1942, enabled tombstone promotions to three- and four-star grades. Tombstone promotions were subsequently restricted to citations issued before 1 January 1947, and finally eliminated altogether effective 1 November 1959.

Any general who actually served in a grade while on active duty receives precedence on the retirement list over any tombstone general holding the same retired grade. "Tombstone generals" rank among each other according to the dates of their highest active duty grade.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit w/ Valor Device & 1 Award Star
Purple Heart
Air Medal w/ 2 Award Stars
Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Navy Presidential Unit Citation w/ 1 Service Star
Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
World War I Victory Medal w/ 5 Clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal w/ Base Clasp
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 2 Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal
China Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal w/ 1 Service Star
Order of Orange-Nassau, Commander w/ Crossed Swords
Order of National Security Merit, Gugseon Medal
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal

French Fourragère


He was awarded a degree of Doctor of Laws by his alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University, on 10 February 1954.

Death and Burial

General Gerald Carthrae Thomas died on 7 April 1984 at his home in Washington, DC. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA in Section 2, Site 4967-A-1.

Honoree ID: 425   Created by: MHOH




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