Lt. General Alan Shapley, USN

Lieutenant General Alan Shapley, who earned the Navy Cross and the Silver Star Medal during World War II, died 13 May 1973 at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

The Silver Star Medal was awarded to him for heroism in action as commander of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Arizona when that ship was sunk at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. He was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism as a lieutenant colonel, commanding the Fourth Marines (Reinforced) on Guam from 21 July to 10 August 1944. His Navy Cross citation states in part:

“Courageously leading his regiment in an assault landing against strong enemy beach defenses, Lieutenant Colonel Shapely rapidly seized the assigned beachhead and defended the area against fanatical hostile counterattacks. Upon relief of the force beachhead line, he valiantly led his troops in a determined assault upon the left half of the Orote Peninsula and, despite the difficult terrain and strong enemy defenses, seized an important enemy airfield and annihilated the Japanese in that area. Vigorously patrolling in the southern half of the island to eliminate hostile elements there, he then directed his men in the vital attack on the northern half of the island…”

The general, who competed in football, basketball and track at the Naval Academy, was active in athletics throughout his career. He coached and played on the All-Marine Corps football teams of 1927 and 1928, refereed U.S. Fleet boxing events for three years, and coached or participated in football, basketball, baseball and boxing at most of his duty stations before World War II.

General Shapley was born 9 February 1903, in New York City. His early schooling was received at Vallejo, California, and he was graduated from the Peddie School at Highstown, New Jersey, in 1922. He then entered the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating on 2 June 1927, with his commission as a Marine second lieutenant.

After further training at the Academy, duty at Quantico, Virginia, and completion of the Marine officers’ Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Lieutenant Shapley sailed for Hawaii in January 1929 to begin almost three years of duty at the Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor. He returned to the United States in October 1931, and served in various capacities at San Diego, California, before taking command of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS San Francisco in January 1934. He was promoted to first lieutenant that same month. Detached from the USS San Francisco in June 1936, he returned to Quantico where he served as aide-de-camp to the Commanding General of the Marine Barracks. He was promoted to captain in July 1936.

In June 1937, Captain Shapley entered the Junior Course of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico. He completed the course in May 1938, and was ordered to San Francisco, California, as aide-de-camp to the Commanding General, Department of the Pacific. After serving in that capacity until July 1939, he served as Operations, Training and Intelligence Officer of the Department of the Pacific until May 1940. A month later he departed for Hawaii where he took command of the Marine Detachment on the USS Arizona. He was promoted to major in August, 1941.

Major Shapley was awarded the Silver Star Medal for heroism on 7 December 1941, when the USS Arizona was sunk at Pearl Harbor. There, in the water after the ship had been bombed and set afire by the Japanese, he disregarded his own exhaustion and the enemy’s bombing and strafing to rescue one of his men from drowning.

Two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he sailed for San Diego to become personnel officer to the Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in August 1942.

Lieutenant Colonel Shapley assumed a similar post with the 1st Amphibious Corps in October 1942, and that same month he sailed with the 1st Corps for the Pacific area. There he commanded the 2d Raider Battalion, First Marine Raider Regiment from March to September 1943. Later, he led the crack Second Marine Raider Regiment in the fighting at Bougainville, earning the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for outstanding service at Bougainville in November 1943.

After the Bougainville campaign, Lieutenant Colonel Shapley was given command of the First and Second Marine Raider Regiments from which he organized the Fourth Marines, which he commanded at Emirau, Guam, and Okinawa. Besides the Navy Cross for heroism on Guam, he was also awarded a second Legion of Merit with Combat “V” for outstanding service at Okinawa from April to June 1945. He was promoted to colonel in November 1944.

Following the Okinawa campaign, Colonel Shapley returned to the United States in July 1945 to become Assistant Inspector in the Inspection Division at Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In that capacity he accompanied Admiral William F. Halsey on an official goodwill tour of Central and South America from June to August 1946, receiving decorations from Chile and Peru during that assignment. In September he entered the National War College in Washington.

After graduation from the War College in June 1947, Colonel Shapley served for two years at Norfolk, Virginia, as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations and Training), of Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic. Subsequently, he was ordered to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego in June 1949, and after serving as personnel officer of the depot, became its chief of staff in September 1949.

In January 1951, Colonel Shapley was ordered again to Washington where he served on the International Planning Staff of the Standing Group, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, until June, 1953. Ordered to Korea, he served as Chief of Staff, 1st Marine Division, earning the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for meritorious achievement during this period. For subsequent service as Senior Advisor to the Korean Marine Corps, he was awarded the Republic of Korea’s Ulchi Medal with Silver Star.

From Korea, Colonel Shapley was ordered to Japan in May 1954. He served there as Commanding Officer and, subsequently, Commanding General, Troop Training Team, Amphibious Group, Western Pacific. He was promoted to brigadier general in July 1954.

In July 1955, on his return to the United States, General Shapley became Assistant Commander of the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California. Following his detachment from the 1st Division in May 1956, he commanded the Recruit Training Command at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, for a brief time prior to being ordered to the Far East. Upon his promotion to major general in September 1956, he assumed duties on Okinawa as Commanding General, 3d Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force.

General Shapley returned to the United States in July 1957, reporting to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, as Director of the Marine Corps Reserve. After holding this post for over two years, he returned to the West Coast in November 1959, and served as Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, until March 1961. He was promoted to his final rank of lieutenant general in April 1961 upon assuming duties as Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, with headquarters at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, and served in this capacity until his retirement on 1 July 1962.

A complete list of the general’s medals and decorations included: the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of second award, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation with two bronze stars indicative of second and third awards, the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet clasp, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with one bronze star, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the Ulchi Medal with Silver Star (Republic of Korea), the Chilian “Al Merito” in the grade of “Comendador”, and the Peruvian “Orden Militar de Ayacucho (de Comendador).”