Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Merrill

Last Name: Twining

Birthplace: Monroe, WI, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Barber

Date of Birth: 28 November 1902

Date of Death: 11 May 1996

Rank: General

Years Served: 1923-1959
Merrill Barber Twining

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1923

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


Merrill Barber Twining
General, U.S. Marine Corps
(Tombstone General)

Merrill Barber Twining was born on 28 November 1902 at Monroe, WI. (He is the brother of U.S. Air Force General Nathan F. Twining and the nephew of U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Nathan C. Twining.) He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps upon graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1923. During the next two years, he completed the Marine Officers' Basic School; served at Quantico; participated in Caribbean maneuvers with the 10th Marine Regiment; and was stationed at the Marine Barracks, Pensacola, FL.

Twining was ordered to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor in November 1925 and, after six months in Hawaii, he sailed for China via the Philippine Islands. In China he served with the 4th and 12th Marine Regiments at Shanghai, Taku, Hsin Ho, Tientsin, and Peking. He returned to the U.S. in August 1928. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in December 1928 while serving as Commander of the Marine Barracks at the Pacific Coast Torpedo Station, Keyport, WA. He then served briefly as editor and publisher of Leatherneck Magazine in Washington, DC.

In September 1929, Lieutenant Twining was assigned to the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. While stationed there, in 1932 he obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from George Washington University. He reported again to the Marine Barracks at Pearl Harbor in November 1932, remaining there until January 1935. In March 1935, while attached to the Marine Barracks at the Naval Air Station, Sunnyvale, CA, he earned the Distinguished Pistol Shot's Gold Badge in the Western Division Rifle and Pistol Matches at San Diego, CA. He was promoted to Captain in May 1935.

From July 1935 to August 1936, Captain Twining was a student in the Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA. During the next year he served at Philadelphia as an Instructor in the Marine Officers' Basic School. Moving to Quantico in June 1937, he served as a Company Commander with the 5th Marines, and two years later became an instructor in the Marine Corps Schools. He also participated in Caribbean maneuvers in 1938 and 1939. He was promoted to Major in July 1939.

In November 1941, Major Twining joined the 1st Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, NC. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in January 1942 and moved with the Division to the Pacific area in May 1942. He earned his first Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for meritorious service from 25 June to 10 December 1942 as the Division's Assistant Operations Officer and later, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3. In that capacity he helped prepare and execute plans for the Guadalcanal Campaign.

During the planning phase, Lieutenant Colonel Twining and Major William B. McKean were flown over the then Japanese-held island on 17 July 1942, for the first sighting of Guadalcanal by U.S. Marines in World War II. Following the Guadalcanal Campaign, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, of I Marine Amphibious Corps, commanded by General Alexander A. Vandegrift.

Returning to the U.S. in November 1943, Twining remained at the Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, until 1947. While there, he served successively as Chief of Operations and Training, Executive Officer, and as a member of the Schools' Administrative Staff. He was promoted to Colonel in February 1945.

In August 1947, Colonel Twining reported to Pearl Harbor as Chief of Staff, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. The following June, he was named Fleet Marine Officer on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. He served in that capacity until July 1949, when he returned to the Marine Corps Schools as Senior Resident Member of the Marine Corps Board.

In August 1950, he reported to Camp Pendleton and the following month was promoted to Brigadier General. He served there as Commanding General, Marine Corps Training and Replacement Command, until November 1951, and later as Commander of Fleet Marine Force Troops and Commanding General, 3rd Marine Division.

Upon leaving Camp Pendleton, Twining joined the 1st Marine Division in Korea in March 1952. For outstanding service as Assistant Division Commander from March - May 1952, he received a Gold Star in lieu of his second Legion of Merit with Combat "V." He returned to the U.S. that June and subsequently served in the Office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was promoted to Major General in September 1952. He was named Deputy Chief of Staff at Headquarters Marine Corps in January 1954.

General Twining returned to Korea in January 1955 as Commander of the 1st Marine Division. In March of '55 he accompanied the Division to Camp Pendleton, where he served until August 1956. In September 1956, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and assumed duties as Commandant, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico; the twenty-fifth Marine officer to head the Schools. He served in that capacity until his retirement.

Lieutenant General Twining retired from active duty with the Marine Corps on 31 October 1959. He retired at the rank of four-star general, being advanced in rank for having been specially commended for heroism in combat. He thus became the 15th 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

Legion of Merit w/ Valor Device & 1 Award Star
Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Navy Presidential Unit Citation
Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal
Yangtze Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ 2 Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal w/ 2 Service Stars
Order of Orange-Nassau w/ Crossed Swords
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal

General Twining also received the Faciat Georgius Commemorative Medal for service on Guadalcanal.


General Merrill Barber Twining died on 11 May 1996 in Fallbrook, CA.

Honoree ID: 427   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image