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Lore of the Corps - Charles Dodson Barrett

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  • Lore of the Corps - Charles Dodson Barrett

    The Lore of the Corps

    Leatherneck’s bright future cut short by tragic death
    By Fred L. Borch and Robert F. Dorr - Special to the Times
    Posted : September 29, 2008

    Charles Dodson Barrett, the first commanding general of 3rd Marine Division, seemed destined for greatness until his life was cut short under questionable circumstances during World War II.
    Born in Kentucky in 1885, Barrett was commissioned a second lieutenant in August 1909. He saw his first war service April 22, 1914, when he embarked from the battleship New Jersey and landed with his fellow Marines at Vera Cruz, Mexico. He took part in the capture of the city and safeguarded a pumping station that supplied it with fresh water.
    In “United States Marine Corps Generals of World War II,” historian George B. Clark wrote that Barrett returned to the U.S. in December 1914, and four years later was part of the American Expeditionary Force in France.
    He commanded the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 367th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division, an all-black unit known as the “Buffaloes.” Barrett fought with the unit in the Meuse Argonne offensive, and the Buffaloes went on to achieve one of the most celebrated combat records of World War I.
    When the 92nd Division returned to the U.S., Barrett remained behind in the occupation of Germany until 1919. He had been promoted to major in July 1918 but was reduced to captain like many of his contemporaries who received temporary advances in rank during the war.
    In the 1920s, Barrett had many postings, including a year in Santo Domingo, in today’s Dominican Republic, (1921-1922) and two years as a student at the French war college (1927-1929).
    After returning from France, Barrett, then a major, was assigned to Quantico, Va., and spent four years as an instructor at Marine schools.
    Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1934, Barrett served on the battleship California and in the War Plans section of the Chief of Naval Operations’ office.
    In August 1939, then-Col. Barrett took command of 5th Marines, 1st Marine Brigade. Promoted to brigadier general in 1941, he assumed command of 3rd Marine Brigade. In August 1942, Barrett received his second star and took over the newly formed 3rd Marine Division.
    In September 1943, Barrett left the division in Guadalcanal and journeyed to New Caledonia, where he assumed command of the First Marine Amphibious Corps. But his command was short-lived.
    Clark wrote that on Oct. 8, 1943, Barrett died after breaking his neck in an accidental fall from a second-story window. In the August 2008 Naval History magazine, Alan Rems wrote that Barrett took his own life.
    Whether his death was an accident or suicide, historians consider Barrett’s untimely end a disaster for the Corps. He demonstrated tremendous abilities as a wartime commander and had the makings of a future commandant.
    Barrett was buried in New Caledonia until the end of hostilities, when he was re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
    Fred L. Borch, an Army veteran, is the author of “The Silver Star,” a history of America’s third-highest award for combat heroism. His e-mail address is [email protected]. Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, is co-author of “Hell Hawks,” a history of an American fighter group. His e-mail address is [email protected].

    ...And shephards we shall be. For thee my lord, for thee. Power hath descended forth from thy hand. That our feet may swiftly carry out thy command. So we shall flow a river forth to thee. And teeming with souls shall it ever be. E Nomini Patri, E Fili, E Spiritu Sancti.

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