General Robert H. Barrow, 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was born 5 February 1922 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After attending Louisiana State University, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and was commissioned a second lieutenant 19 May 1943.
Lieutenant Barrow subsequently served as Officer-in-Charge of an American team attached to a group of Chinese Nationalist guerrillas. He entered China via India and after many months of operations along the periphery of the area held by the Japanese in central China, his team entered Japanese occupied territory and conducted intensive guerrilla operations for the last seven months of World War II. For this service, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”. After the war, Lieutenant Barrow remained in China for another year, six months of which was spent in Shanghai and six months in the Tientsin-Peking area.
He returned to the United States in October 1946, and served as Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force (FMF), Atlantic, until September 1948. Captain Barrow then completed the Amphibious Warfare School, Junior Course, Quantico, Virginia.
From 1949 until 1950, he served as Commanding Officer of Company A, 1st Battalion, 2d Marines, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
During the Korean War, he led Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, in the Inchon-Seoul operation and the Chosin Reservoir campaign. For the latter he was awarded the Navy Cross for holding a pass near Koto-ri on 9-10 December 1950.
In February 1956, he commenced an eighteen month tour with the 2d Battalion, 6th Marines, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. From the summer of 1957 to the summer of 1960, he served as the Marine Officer Instructor, NROTC Unit at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. In September 1959, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
Colonel Barrow graduated from the National War College in June 1968. He then served in the Republic of Vietnam, as Commanding Officer, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division (Rein), and as Deputy G-3, III Marine Amphibious Force. During the nine months he served as Commanding Officer of the 9th Marines, his regiment participated in numerous combat actions in the vicinity of the DMZ, Khe Sanh, Da Krong Valley, and A Shau Valley. For extraordinary heroism in Operation Dewey Canyon, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross.
After promotion to brigadier general, he served as Commanding General at Camp Butler, Okinawa. On further promotion to major general, he became Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1975 and assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower. In 1976, he was named Commanding General, FMF, Atlantic, at Norfolk.
General Barrow became the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps in July 1978, so serving until appointed the Corps’ Commandant on 1 July 1979.
General Barrow was the first Commandant to serve, by law, a regular four-year tour as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was instrumental in acquiring approval of production for the Marine Corps of the American-modified Harrier aircraft, in awakening interest in new and improved naval gunfire support, in getting amphibious ships included in the Navy’s new construction programs, and in returning hospital ships to the fleet, especially on station with Marine Corps amphibious task forces.
General Barrow retired as Commandant on 30 June 1983 and returned to his native state of Louisiana. Upon retirement he was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal.
General Barrow died in his sleep on 30 October 2008 and was laid to rest at Grace Episcopal Church Cemetery in Saint Francisville, Louisiana.
In addition to the Distinguished Service Medal, a complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Navy Cross; the Army Distinguished Service Cross; the Silver Star Medal; three Legions of Merit; the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the China Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars; the Vietnamese Service Medal with one bronze star; four Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry with Palm; the Republic of Vietnam National Order, Fifth Class with Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the United Nations Service Medal; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Source: United States Marine Corps History Division
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