Valor Friday

| January 31, 2020

Apparently Mason’s curiosity was piqued when the subject of three war veterans came up last week, so he did his usual amazing due diligence, and came up with the criteria of those who could claim such a confusing but credible honor, considering all the variables. So without further ado…


The US has, since the turn of the Twentieth Century, been unable to stay out of a war for less than about 20 years (the largest gap is WWI to WWII, a period of 23 years) we have quite a few people that have served in three different wars.

The most common war vet trifecta of the 20th Century would be WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Many men came into service during the Second World War, and with the Cold War keeping a large standing army, became career servicemen. Enlisting in 1944 at age 18, probably the latest enlistees to see combat or overseas service, a soldier would only have 24 years time in service and be 42 by the time of the Tet Offensive in ‘68. We’ve explored some, such as Pascal Poolaw, who did just that. The US Army Infantry Museum has a list of more than 300 men who received three combat infantryman badges, which has only been possible for service during each of these three wars. There are certainly many more who served during all three.

Since Vietnam, there are some men who, due to gaps in service or time in the reserve components after Vietnam, can claim to have participated in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the War on Terror. Combat ended in 1972 in Vietnam, so a 19 year old soldier would have been 37 with nearly 20 years time in service when Saddam invaded Kuwait. By 2001 when 9/11 happened, said soldier would be under 50. In my post-9/11 service in the reserves I worked with more than a handful of Vietnam-era men.

Looking back to that large gap between World Wars One and Two, how many men would have been able to serve in both and then see followup service in Korea? That’s the question posed to me in last week’s article’s comments. The gap from the end of WWI to the start of Korea is 32 years. That would mean that even those who lied about their age to enlist for the First World War would be around 50 by the time Korea kicked off. Certainly not out of the realm of possibility to have seen service in all three, but how many have? This can’t be a comprehensive list, but I’ll highlight a few men who did.

The most famous American figure to see service in all three would be General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Starting his service in 1903, he was part of the occupation of Veracruz, Mexico in 1914. When WWI started, he was a field grade officer, eventually rising to the rank of brigadier general at just the age of 38 in 1918. During the war he received two Distinguished Service Crosses, seven Silver Stars, two wound chevrons, the French Croix de Guerre twice, and made a commander of the French Légion d’honneur.

He continued to serve after the war, in posts all the way up to Chief of Staff of the Army. When WWII started, he was in the Philippines, which were invaded by the Japanese hours after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. MacArthur would rise to command all Allied ground and air forces in the Pacific Theater of the war and became military governor of Japan after their surrender. During the war he received the Medal of Honor, a third Distinguished Service Cross, and several other awards.

When North Korea invaded South Korea on 25 June, 1950, MacArthur was made supreme commander of all UN forces on the peninsula. His greatest victory came when he lead the audacious attack at the Battle of Inchon, a decisive victory for the UN forces. The next year, however, his ego and inability to keep his mouth shut about disagreements with President Truman led to his being fired. The old soldier then faded away, having served in combat in all three wars.

General Walton Walker began his Army career in 1912. He was also at Veracruz before seeing combat in WW1 on the western front. He received two Silver Stars during the war. During WWII he moved from the infantry to armor, serving under Patton. Commanding the 3rd Armored Division and then the IV Corps (which became the XX Corps) he landed at Normandy and was part of Patton’s Third Army’s dash across Europe. He ended the war a lieutenant general with a third Silver Star and the Distinguished Service Cross.

After the war, Walker was in command of the Eighth Army when North Korea invaded the South. His command was sent to South Korea where he was under orders to push the invaders back across the 38th Parallel. He received a second Distinguished Service Cross for his leadership during this time. He died in a Jeep crash in December, 1950 and was posthumously promoted to full general.

General Mark Clark was commissioned into the Army in 1917 and was with the American Expeditionary Force in Europe, where he was wounded in combat. As a major general, Clark served under Eisenhower in Europe during WWII. He went on to command the 5th Army, which fought up Italy. Clark received the Distinguished Service Cross. During the Korean War, Clark took charge of United Nations Command in 1952 and held the post until the armistice. He retired in 1954 and subsequently was president of The Citadel until 1965. He died in 1984 and was the last living American four star general from WWII.

General James Van Fleet was commissioned from the USMA class of 1915, the “class the stars fell on” since that year produced more Army generals than any other in history (including Eisenhower and Bradley). During WWI he was a battalion commander as part of the AEF in France and received a Silver Star. He commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment (part of the 4th Infantry Division) during D-day, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross for it, and held higher commands later in the war. He received two more DSCs during the war, as well as two more Silver Stars. During the Korean War Van Fleet commanded the US Eighth Army.

On the Navy side, Admiral Arthur Struble was commissioned in 1915. He saw service aboard USS California (BB-44) during the First World War. In World War II he commanded the Seventh Fleet amphibious group during their invasion of Leyte. After the war he served as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations. When Korea erupted into war, he again led the Seventh Fleet, this time at their landings at Inchon and Wonson. He received the Army Distinguished Service Cross for his contributions to the fight. A vice admiral, he was promoted to full admiral at his retirement in 1956 in light of his war record.

Admiral Arthur Radford, an aviator, started his Navy career in 1916. He was aboard USS South Carolina (BB-26) escorting convoys during WWI. During World War II he was part of the vast Navy aviation expansion, coordinating training for thousands of new aviators. In 1943 he was sent to the Pacfic Theater of Operations where he remained for the rest of the war, participating in many of the major operations in the theater and receiving seven battle stars. During the Korean War he was in command of the Seventh Fleet when the war began, but was replaced by Admiral Struble days later. After the war he became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Eisenhower. Here he would help usher in the Cold War strategy of nuclear deterrence and an emphasis on air power.

Admiral C. Turner Joy graduated Annapolis in 1916, serving aboard USS Pennsylvania (BB-36) during WWI. The Second World War saw him command the heavy cruiser USS Louisville (CA-28) in the Aleutians and Pacific Theater. Later he commanded a cruiser division in the Pacific. When the Korean War started, he was placed in command of Naval Forces, Far East for the first two years of the war. He received the Army Distinguished Service Cross for his command of the Navy forces in support of the Army’s war effort. He was then the senior UN delegate to the Korean armistice negotiations. He retired in 1954 and died in 1956 at age 61.

Marine Corps General Lemuel Shepard Jr was a young lieutenant with the 5th Marine Regiment assigned to the AEF in France. Fighting in the Aisne-Marne and Belleau Wood campaigns, he would receive the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Montenegrin Silver Medal for Bravery. He was wounded in combat three times, once through the neck by machine gun fire. He held a series of commands in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Shepard was in command of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific when the Korean War started. He led the amphibious assault at Inchon, receiving a Silver Star. He saw first hand the usefulness of the helicopter here and said they, over any other weapon, should be prioritized. After the Korean War Shepard served as Commandant of the Marine Corps, retiring in 1956.

There are also many who served through all three conflicts, but who didn’t see active overseas service during one or more. For example;

General Matthew Ridgway was in for all three, but didn’t make it to Europe during WWI. He was in plenty of shit for WWII and Korea though. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for the Invasion of Sicily, another one for D-Day, and two Silver Stars for action through the rest of Europe. After MacArthur’s dismissal, Ridgway took over command of UN forces in Korea.

General of the Army Omar Bradley was in during WWI, WWII, and Korea, but didn’t leave the US during the First World War and was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during Korea.

General Clifton Cates (USMC) was a junior officer in WWI and served in the Aisne defensive and at Belleau Wood. He received the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star, the French Legion of Honor, and French Criox de Guerre with gilt star and two palms while there. During WWII he commanded the 4th Marine Division from the Marianas Campaign, through the Solomons, and onto Iwo Jima. He was Commandant of the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

Lieutenant General William Wallace (USMC) is a legendary Naval Aviator. He was commissioned in the summer of 1918 so didn’t see overseas service in WWI. He commanded several Marine air groups in the Pacific during WWII at several key battles. He was Director of Marine Corps Aviation at the outbreak of the Korean War, and last served as commanding general, aviation, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. So he would have been responsible for some of the Korean-tasked Marines, but his HQ was at El Toro in California.

General Alfred Noble (USMC) fought with the AEF in France, receiving the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, and two Silver Stars. He commanded Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He was in command of the Parris Island MCRD when the Korean War started. He was then commanding general of the Department of the Pacific in San Francisco for the rest of the war, retiring in 1956.

General Nathan Twining (USAF) served with the Oregon National Guard and achieved the rank of first sergeant, before securing appointment to West Point. He graduated 1 Nov, 1918, just 10 days before the armistice. Later transferring to the air service, commanding the Thirteenth Air Force in the Pacific and then the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean during World War II. After the war he took over as Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force during the Korean War. He was then Chief of Staff of the Air Force and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Also, there are four men who can lay a technical claim to being veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. None of them can claim to have seen active service during Vietnam and certainly not overseas, but they were on active duty during the Vietnam War (from 1961 onwards). These men are Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, and Chester Nimitz.

When Congress created the five star ranks of General of the Army and Fleet Admiral, these officers were to revert to their permanent rank six months after the conclusion of the war and only receive 75% pay once on the retired list. After WWII, Congress modified the law to make the five star ranks permanent and allowed for these officers to remain on full active duty with full pay and benefits for the rest of their lives. It is, in essence, a lifetime appointment. Eisenhower, who had to resign his commission as a General of the Army to run for president, had his commission and position as a five star restored after leaving office in 1961.

All five-star officers retired from active duty in that they no longer held a command billet or worked for the Army, Navy, or Air Force daily, but they all remained on the rolls as active duty officers until their death. Therefore, MacArthur (d. 1964), Nimitz (d. 1966), Eisenhower (d. 1969), and Bradley (d. 1981) all qualify for the National Defense Service Medal for active service during the Vietnam War. So while none of them are Vietnam veterans, they are “Vietnam-times” veterans.

Hand salute. Ready, Two!
Thanks again, Mason.

Category: Guest Post, Valor

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“Therefore, MacArthur (d. 1964), Nimitz (d. 1966), Eisenhower (d. 1969), and Bradley (d. 1981) all qualify for the National Defense Service Medal for active service during the Vietnam War.”

The brotherhood.

Mike Kozlowski


Hack Stone

Wasn’t Chesty Puller on active duty during WWI? Hack recalls reading the biogeography him, and although that was 30 some years ago, he recalls Chesty serving but not being in combat at the time of the armistice.

Hack Stone

Wikipedia says that Chesty Puller enlisted in August 1918, so he should be included as serving during WWI, WWII and Korea.


He did and is on my list to get his own article. This couldn’t be a comprehensive list, and I was worried it was getting too long.


Col. Puller enlisted in 1918, but was too late to see service in Eourope. He did see significant (and decorated) service in the “banana wars” in Haiti and Nicaragua, finishing his pre-WWII time in China.

Hack Stone

So Puller is a WWI times veteran. (A tip of the hat to Nathan Phillips for introducing “times” as a veteran qualifier to the world).

Some Guy

Amazing stories!
I don’t know anyone personally who was a three-war veteran, but a friend’s grandpa did serve in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. Something we forgot today, but at the start of his career, the Army was still segregated. And, as a northener, he didn’t know not to use the “colored” latrines until someone knocked out a tooth over it at Basic Training.
After Korea, he had left the service, working as a civilian when his wife “urged” him to reenlist to get their PX and commissary privileges back. Not long after he had done so, the Vietnam war broke out. He came back with a Purple Heart and an alcohol addiction that took many years to beat, but eventually retired as a MSG.

Veritas Omnia Vincit

Well written, well researched and well done. Great read thank you for this.

Some Guy

Btw, check out the Wiki page for McArthur’s service:
The number of awards he earned is unbelievable. He spent over 50 years(!) on AD and was a General for more than 30 of those.


And shit all over it at the Veteran’s March, then again by crapping all over his men in the Philippines. Not a MacArthur fan.


McArthur was one of a kind, that’s for sure. A man of extremes in many ways.

He was in turns brilliant, foolish, proud, vain, generous, liberal, and insubordinate and insufferably arrogant. A truly unique person, there was never anybody like him before or after.

William Manchester’s book “American Caesar” should be at the top of anybody’s military reading list. It is by no means a hagiography – Manchester mercilessly shreds McArthur for his failings (which were many) but also recognizes him for his genius as a commander, particularly during the SW Pacific campaign.


He’s definitely unique. I thought this quote about him was funny; “Arthur MacArthur was the most flamboyantly egotistical man I had ever seen, until I met his son.”

He’s one of a small group of people that can say they spent the entirety of WWII overseas.

jon spencer

MacArthur and Montgomery, two of a kind.
Brilliant, egotistical and grandiose.

Some Guy

Same, not a fan either, especially after reading about how he received (I don’t think earned is the right word) his Medal of Honor. Just find the length of service and sheer number of awards noteworthy.


MacArthur was promoted to temporary BG during WW1 & unlike most of his contemporaries who were made temporary generals, never suffered the indignity of reverting to their permanent lower ranks after the war.

Steve 1371

My uncle Jim served aboard the USS Massachusetts down in the powder magazine during WW2. After his enlistment in the Navy was up he joined the Air Corp. Not liking that he transferred to the Army where he rose to the rank of WO4, learned several languishes and took up photography as a hobby. After 32 years of service he retired . Taking photos of Heavens scenes now.


That’s probably another great article idea. People who served in all the branches. I remember hearing about a four branch vet a while back.

Here he is;

AD Marine, USNR, after 9/11 and wanting to deploy got released to join the Army Reserve, and, when they didn’t deploy him, he got released and went ANG.

5th/77th FA

Another fine history lesson Mason. You da Man! Thanks Brother, always look forward to these.

Wilted Willy

Another great article! There were some pretty brave men back then, truly the greatest generation!! BZ! to all of them!!!!

Mustang Major

I met a three award CIB man once. Col Frank Dietrich. He was the post commander of Ft. Stewart in the mid ’70s. I was a “dumb SP5 Huey crew chief at the time, and I thought of him as a decorated infantryman. My CO saw me talking with him, and later told me about the significance of his service and contributions. I saw hm a few more times on post, and gave hime one of the sharpest salutes I could.

I understand that when the 1st BN, 75th Rangers completed their organization at Ft. Benning, they jumped into Ft. Stewart, their first post of assignment. LTC Luer was the battalion commander, As each soldier landed, they packed their gear and ran to Col. Dietrich and reported with a hand salute then fell into formation. Very impressive.


Colonel Frank Dietrich, was indeed a triple CIB recipient. WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Got a Silver Star in WWII, another in Korea, and the DSC in Vietnam.

Just look at this guy. I don’t think I’d want to cross him.

I wouldn’t even tell him he’s wearing the wrong device on his NDSM. Looking at the rest of his rack, he’s wearing a third Silver Star, four Bronze Stars (at least one for valor), the DFC, an Air Medal, Purple Heart, five PUCs and three mustard stains on his master jump wings! Also has a GCM, so he must have started in WWII as enlisted.


“wrong device on his NDSM” Perhaps not./s

Check out the Wiki pictures of the first seven (of 16) SMAs. All are wearing an OLC on the NDSM to denote service in Korea and Vietnam.

Not exactly sure of the exact time, but I think when DOD designated another period of eligibility for Desert Storm, the subsequent award was changed from the OLC to a BSS.


You could be right, but I’ve never seen it worn with oak leaves. Looks like the 1966 EO expanding it to Vietnam specifies a bronze star for a second award. Since oak leaves are the default for Army, AF, and DoD awards, I wouldn’t give too much fault to someone wearing one.


Roger, Roger. 1966. Always was a BSS, not a OLC. Thank You for the link. ((Over))


Mason, thanks for that 327th Airborne link. I hadn’t seen the updated site and discovered that I’m no longer listed on the rosters for either Bravo or Headquarters companies although my poem, The Sheepdogs, and other of my writings are included.

For some reason, I can’t get the “Contact” links to work.

By the way, another three-war infantry officer, COL. Joseph Wasco, was my boss in the 2d Battalion. Here’s his obit verifying that–you can see the two stars on his CIB:

I was his staff CBR NCO in the S-3 shop, and can attest that he was a tough, hard-drinking, movie-star handsome old warhorse with the appropriate call sign, Wild Gypsy.


My college accounting professor was a veteran of all 3 wars and had a belt buckle with the 3 CIB’s. Sadly, I can’t remember his name. There is also another man in the city where I live in Alabama that served in all 3 but I do not think that he was an infantryman. I have to ask him the next time I see him.


I met a Retention SGM back in 1973 at Fort Campbell, KY with 3 awards of the CIB. He was also wearing the Glider Badge from WWII.

At the time I was waiving my enlistment contract for stabilization after jump school to take a levy assignment to Berlin. After WWII he served in the Occupation Forces in Berlin and met his wife there. He gave me a lot of good info on Berlin.

The Other Whitey

I always thought the interaction between MacArthur and Harl Pease showed a rarely-seen side of MacArthur’s character. Pease was a B-17 pilot in the 19th BG. MacArthur only met Pease once, when he refused to board Pease’s aircraft at Del Monte Field while evacuating from the Philippines—in fairness, MacArthur’s wife and child were with him and Pease’s plane, a battle-scarred B-17D of the badly-undersupplied and nearly cutoff 19th, was running on three engines, no radio, and was literally held together with duct tape. Some months later, Pease and his crew were still in action with the 19th, which by now had pulled back to Australia. The barely-airworthy D-model he had flown to Del Monte had long since been written off and stripped for what few parts she had left. Pease had made a name for himself volunteering for the most dangerous missions handed to the 19th. On August 6, 1942, Pease and his crew returned from a recon flight with a bad engine to find that the 19th has been ordered to make a maximum-effort strike against Rabaul. With their own plane in no shape to fly, Pease and his guys, on their own initiative, spent the night scavenging and installing parts to get a hangar queen airworthy. Running on less than three hours sleep, they loaded their own ordnance and took off with the Group on the morning of the 7th. They were attacked by fighters while making their bomb run. Pease’s gunners knocked down several Japanese fighters, but… Read more »


I still think we did not hang enough Japs and Nazis for their war crimes. We were especially lenient with the Japanese. But many a Nazi war criminal escaped retribution, as well.


Wait, I have to ask about this:

General James Van Fleet was commissioned from the USMA class of 1915, the “class the stars fell on” since that year produced more Army generals than any other in history (including Eisenhower and Bradley). During WWI he was a battalion commander as part of the AEF in France and received a Silver Star.

He went from getting a commission in 1915 to commanding a BATTALION in WW1? How does that happen? What rank was he when he commanded a battalion?

For civilians and non-army types, a battalion is typically commanded by a LT. Col. In WW1 it wasn’t unusual for a battalion to be commanded by a Major. But Van Fleet couldn’t have been but a Captain by 1918 could he?

IIRC the Army did away with “brevet promotions” at the turn of the century, so it wouldn’t have been like Custer receiving a brevet promotion to general during the civil war.


Not brevet promotions, but he (like many officers including Eisenhower and MacArthur) were advanced in the National Army very quickly during the build up of the war.

Van Fleet and Eisenhower were both made majors on June 17, 1918. MacArthur was made a brigadier general July 11, 1918. Eisenhower was made a Lieutenant Colonel in October 1918.

MacArthur was sent to command the USMA so he didn’t have to give up his star, but most such fast promotions reverted to their permanent US Army rank after the war.

Same thing happened in the Civil War. At that time the volunteer/draft army was called the US Volunteers. By WWII the name had changed again to the Army of the United States.

The most famous Civil War fast burner was George Armstrong Custer. He graduated dead last in his USMA class in 1861. By 1865 he was a substantive captain in the regular army, a substantive major general in the USV, and a brevet major general in both the USV and regular army.


IIRC, the Temporary/Permanent rank thing went out with DOPMA in the mid 80s. At one time my records showed I was a temporary 1st Lt but a permanent 2nd Lt. (no rude remarks as I’ve heard them all). If memory serves I was later a temporay Capt and permanent 1LT.

That ranks right up there with the USAF personnel system classifying me as a “career bachelor”.


Mason, I think you missed one that merits mention.

Fleet Admiral William Leahy was the first US military officer appointed to 5-star rank. His career included service during the Spanish American War; the Philippine Insurrection; World War I; and World War II. He qualified for campaign medals from each war.

As a five-star officer, he technically was considered to be still serving during the Korean War as well (he died in 1959) – and thus also rated the NDSM for Korea.

Depending on whether you count the Philippine Insurrection, Leahy is arguably a veteran of five US wars. The same would also be true of MacArthur, since like Leahy he also served during the Philippine Insurrection.

The Other Whitey

Would the various interventions in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, et al, be fair to count as well, Hondo? If memory serves, Dan Daly got his second Medal of Honor in Haiti.


Yes, the period of “peacetime” between WW1 and WW2 included a lot of combat in places like China, Nicaragua, Haiti and (I think) Guatemala, mostly by the Marines.

Didn’t Smedley Butler get a MoH in Haiti? I’m too lazy to google it.


Butler’s MoHs were for Veracruz and Haiti. Got the Brevet Medal for the Boxer Rebellion.


That is an oversight. I didn’t even think to look at Spanish American War service, since it was more than 40 years before WWII. Leahy was pulled out of retirement by FDR in 1942, but had only retired a few years earlier.


Because of Army-Navy animosity, geography and MacArthur’s personality, the general commanded the Southwest Pacific Theater, not all of the Pacific.

Retired Grunt

Dont forget about Colonel Sherman Potter….. he served in WW1 and 2 and Korea…. lol

Mike B USAF Retired

I’ve got the helmet I found in an antique store with a ASN on the liner. The number didn’t follow what I thought the norm was for them. Turned out the individual enlisted in 1937 (So a pre war ASN, and he had his nickname and last listed on it, hence the confusion).

At the end of WWII he was a First Sergeant, during Korea he was listed as a Master Sergeant, and received a battlefield commission to 2 Lt, advancing to the rank of Capt. Reverted back to Master Sergeant I’m assuming after the Korean War and retired in 1962 as a Sergeant Major. He was awarded the Bronze Star in WWII, Silver Star in Korea, and a total of 3 purple hearts.

WWII veteran, 79th Infantry Division, 313th Infantry Regiment, Korean War veteran, 2nd Infantry Division, 23rd Infantry Regiment, Heavy Mortar Battalion and technically a Vietnam War Era Veteran.

Service dates: Jan 1937 – Oct 1962

His name was Chester “Pomp” Corley. I found his Silver Star Citation online. A true hero and badass in my eyes that is for sure.


I had a 24+ year career in the USAF and was pretty much a feather merchant. My father a career Marine had service during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam though he only was overseas/in country during the latter.

My father’s uncle was a pre WWII Marine who was in the First Marines at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu. He later served in the 1st Marines at Inchon/Wonsan/Chosin Reservoir.

He was awarded the Silver Star for actions at Cape Gloucester. I have copies of the “classified” citation, the “non-classified” citation as well as his Purple Heart citation. While they are only copies, the historical significance to me is unworldly. There is a cover letter of transmittal signed by General Vandegrift (as Commandant) accompanying the citations. There is a separate letter from one each L.B. Puller CO 1st Marine Regt forwarding the citations as well as congratulating him.

The actual “classified” Citation is signed by SECNAV Forrestal. The “non-classified” citation was signed by Vice Adm T.C. Kincaid. And the Purple Heart citation was signed by MGen Rupertus.

jon spencer

The Vietnam Service Medal was last awarded April 30, 1975, so the age of service members is off by three years as the article says 1972.

Mike B USAF Retired

Another long serving enlisted person, Rudy Boesch served 1944–1990. Merchant Marines in 44 and the US Navy 45-90.