David Monroe Shoup was born on December 30, 1904 in an Indiana town whose name portended his future: Battle Ground. His family was poor, and after graduating from high school in 1921, he was able to attend DePauw University thanks only to a scholarship. While at DePauw, he joined the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps to earn extra money for living expenses.
Shoup graduated from DePauw and received a commission in the Army Reserve as a Second Lieutenant in 1926. Around that time, he had seen United States Marine Corps Major General John A. Lejeune, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, speak and offer opportunities and positions with the Corps for officer candidates. Shoup applied for transfer to the Marines, was accepted, and began serving with them on August 26, 1926.
He served two tours of duty overseas in China druing 1927-28 and in 1934. In between them, he was assigned to the Marine detachment aboard the battleship USS Maryland (BB-46) from 1929-31.
In May 1941, Shoup arrived in Iceland as part of a provisional Marine brigade sent there to deter a possible Nazi German attack on the strategically located island in the Atlantic. He was there on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was plunged into World War II.
He would soon leave Iceland for the United States and California, and from there, to war in the Pacific with the rest of his Corps.
Shoup, then a Major, was first assigned as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. He was transferred to the staff of the 2nd Marine Division in July 1942 as the operations and training officer and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel the following month. In addition to his duties preparing the 2nd Marine Division for combat, he was briefly attached to the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal as an observer during October 1942. In June 1943, he was sent also as an observer to the United States Army‘s 43rd Infantry Division, then in combat at New Georgia. During that assignment, Shoup received his first wounds of the war, and was awarded the Purple Heart.
Upon returning to the 2nd Marine Division, his next task was to help develop the plan of attack and training scheme for Operation GALVANIC, the attack on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. The atoll’s Betio Island would be the primary attack point, and it would be assaulted by a reinforced regiment from the division, the 2nd Marine Regiment. As Shoup was intimately associated with both the officers and men of the 2nd Marines from the planning and training supervision for GALVANIC, when the regiment’s commander suffered a nervous breakdown just before the attack on Tarawa, he was promoted to Colonel and appointed to command the assault forces going ashore.
Shoup, aboard his old ship the Maryland, cast his gaze ashore at Betio at 0610 hours on November 20, 1943 as the assembled task force began shelling the Japanese defenders. Shoup’s Devil Dogs of the 2nd Marines began their assault at 0900.
When Shoup reached the shore at about 1100, the Marines’ assault was in trouble. Inaccurate predictions of the tides surrounding the atoll meant that many landing craft didn’t reach shore and the Marines aboard had to wade in through deep water. Others were badly shot up. Casualties were mounting.
Colonel Shoup himself was wounded not long after he got onto the beach, but he ignored his injuries and, with his trademark cigar stuck firmly in his jaw, started getting his Marines organized, motivated, and fighting their way inland. For three days, Shoup repeatedly personally led attacks on Japanese strong points, and inspired his Marines to keep moving forward from objective to objective, never giving the enemy a break.
By the time Shoup was relieved after darkness on November 22 so his now-infected wounds could be cared for, victory was assured as was his position on the roster of the Marine Corps’ and the United States’ greatest heroes.
|1943 Photo from Tarawa on the Web|
SHOUP, DAVID MONROE
Rank and organization: Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, commanding officer of all Marine Corps troops on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, and Gilbert Islands from 20 to 22 November 1943. Entered service at: Indiana
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of all Marine Corps troops in action against enemy Japanese forces on Betio Island, Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, from 20 to 22 November 1943. Although severely shocked by an exploding enemy shell soon after landing at the pier and suffering from a serious, painful leg wound which had become infected, Col. Shoup fearlessly exposed himself to the terrific and relentless artillery, machine gun, and rifle fire from hostile shore emplacements. Rallying his hesitant troops by his own inspiring heroism, he gallantly led them across the fringing reefs to charge the heavily fortified island and reinforce our hard-pressed, thinly held lines. Upon arrival on shore, he assumed command of all landed troops and, working without rest under constant, withering enemy fire during the next 2 days, conducted smashing attacks against unbelievably strong and fanatically defended Japanese positions despite innumerable obstacles and heavy casualties. By his brilliant leadership daring tactics, and selfless devotion to duty, Col. Shoup was largely responsible for the final decisive defeat of the enemy, and his indomitable fighting spirit reflects great credit upon the U.S. Naval Service.
The ultimate success of GALVANIC, and Shoup’s leadership during the planning of the attack, saw him decorated by our ally the British Empire with their Distinguished Service Order. He also eventually received the Legion of Merit for his efforts during the planning and preparation for the attack.
The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Legion of Merit to Colonel David Monroe Shoup (MCSN: 0-4133), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Operations and Training Officer of the SECOND Marine Division during the period 15 September 1942 to 7 November 1943. Colonel Shoup, during this period, effectively planned and coordinated the training of the units of the SECOND Marine Division. His comprehensive grasp of the tactics and logistics of both land and amphibious operations; his originality, energy, initiative, and whole-hearted devotion to duty; his comprehensive knowledge of weapons and equipment, and untiring efforts to insure the procurement of the best types available, were, to a very great extent, responsible for the high states of training and efficiency of the Division and contributed immeasurably to the achievement of the victory at Tarawa. His outstanding performance of duty during the period of training leading up to the action on Tarawa was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Colonel Shoup also received his second Purple Heart for wounds he received during the battle. After Tarawa, Shoup became the Chief of Staff for the 2nd Marine Division and remained in that capacity through October 1944, after which he returned to the United States for staff work at Marine Corps headquarters. He continued serving in various staff roles – including establishing a Marine Corps office for fiscal responsibility – in the immediate post war years and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1953 and Major General in 1955.
As a Major General, Shoup served as the Inspector General of the Marine Corps (1956-57), Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division (1957-58), the 3rd Marine Division (1958-59), and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island (1959).
In late 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, on the advice of Secretary of Defense Thomas S. Gates, nominated Shoup to become the 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps. The appointment was controversial as Shoup would be promoted over many more senior Marine general officers (four fellow Major Generals and five Lieutenant Generals) into the position at the head of the service and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Eisenhower and Gates wanted Shoup in the Corps’ top role because the Marines were suffering from a lack of confidence in leadership, and they believed he would right the ship. Eisenhower also admired Shoup for his dedication and emphasis to training and readiness, and his lack of political connections and influence building in the nation’s capital, which Eisenhower saw as an extension of the “military-industrial complex.”
He was confirmed by the Senate, promoted to Lieutenant General on November 2, 1959, and was promoted to General coincident with his assumption of the Commandant’s duties on January 1, 1960. His service continued into the administration of President John F. Kennedy, during which he was outspoken in favor of positions not popular with the other services and their leadership: restraint during the Cuban Missile Crisis and no invasion or military intervention in Cuba, approval of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and opposition to American involvement in Vietnam.
Shoup was said to be Kennedy’s favorite general, and the 35th President asked him in 1963 to take on a second term as Commandant. He refused, not wanting to stand in the way of the advancement of his fellow Marines to senior offices. One can only speculate though that had Shoup accepted, and had Kennedy lived and been reelected to a second term, he could well have been the President’s choice in 1964 to replace Army General Maxwell Taylor as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over Army General Earle Wheeler, and what the implications that would have had for the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, given Shoup’s opposition.
At his retirement on December 31, 1963, Shoup was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his time and service as Commandant of the Marine Corps. Throughout the duration of the conflict until the American withdrawal in 1973, General Shoup remained an outspoken and widely quoted critic of our involvement in the Vietnam War.
After the Vietnam withdrawal, General Shoup opted to stay out of the public’s eye as his health declined. He passed away at age 78 on January 13, 1983 and today rests in peace among America’s most honored in Arlington National Cemetery.
Since her commissioning on June 22, 2002, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Shoup (DDG-86) has carried the name of the fourth Medal of Honor recipient from Tarawa and the 22nd Commandant of the Marine Corps as she sails in defense of the United States with the Pacific Fleet from her home port of Naval Station Everett, Washington.
The core force for Operation GALVANIC and Shoup’s combat command, the 2nd Marine Regiment, persists as part of the modern 2nd Marine Division and II Marine Expeditionary Force from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The regiment’s crest today honors both the battle of November 20-23, 1943, and the spirit of its commander during it, with the simple word “Tarawa” and the regimental motto “Keep Moving”.