Upshur, William Peterkin

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Upshur, William, born 28,-10-1881 in Richmond, Virginia and graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1902, age 20. After graduating from VMI he was appointed a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps  on 01-02-1904 and subsequently served aboard several vessels of the United States Navy, at foreign stations throughout the world, and at various posts and stations in the United States.

His foreign shore duty included service with an expeditionary force to Havana, Cuba, in October 1906, and duty at Camp Evans, Deer Point, Guantanamo, Cuba, from January 9, to February 8, 1907. He again was detailed to expeditionary duty with a force of Marines on the Isthmus of Panama from June 19, to August 8, 1908. Arriving at Olongapo, Philippine Islands, in January 1912, he joined the 1st Brigade of Marines  and was again detached in February 1914, this time to the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peking, China, where he served until 16-10-1914.

On 04-08-1915, he assumed command of the 15th Company, 2nd Regiment, Port-au-Prince, Haiti where he participated in engagements against Haïtian rebels known as cacos. Decorations earned during this deployment included the Haitian Campaign Medal and the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal. For his bravery during six day mission against the cacos, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was one of six men, including Smedley Butler to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during the occupation of Haiti.

When the United States entered World War I, he was again detailed for foreign shore duty, this time with the 13th Regiment in France from September 1918 to August 1919, during which time he was in command of the American Military Prison, Casino des Lilas, Bordeaux and the American Guard Camp.

He was on temporary duty at the Naval Station, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands  in July and August 1921. He also served in Haiti for a period of two years with the 1st Brigade of Marines, from 1922-24. In January and March 1929, he was on temporary duty as Chief Umpire, Fleet Training Exercise No. 5, Culebra, Puerto Rico, and again in January, February, and March 1940. In September 1939 he was assigned to the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, California. In addition to his foreign shore stations he served aboard the USS Maine (BB-10), USS Kearsarge (BB-5), USS Rainbow (AS-7), USS Buffalo (AD-8) and the USS California (BB-44) . On 17 September, the California sailed to Manus to ready for the invasion of the Philippinnes. From 17 October to 20 November, she played a key role in the Leyte operation, including the destruction of the Japanese fleet in the Battle of Surigao Strait on 25 October. On 01-01-1945, she departed the Palaus for the Luzon landings. Her powerful batteries were an important factor in the success of these dangerous operations driven home into the heart of enemy-held territory under heavy air attack. On 6 January, while providing shore bombardment at Lingayen Gulf, she was hit by a kamikaze; and 44 of her crew were killed and 155 were wounded. Undeterred she made temporary repairs on the spot and remained carrying out her critical mission of shore bombardment until the job was done.

Upshur’s other duties consisted of Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia; Director of the Marine Corps Reserve; on duty with the War Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department; and as Commanding General of the Marine Corps Base in San Diego.

He was a graduate of the Marine Corps School of Application, the Army Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and of the Army War College and the Naval War College. His last station of duty was that of the Department of the Pacific, where he served as Commanding General with headquarters in San Francisco, California, from 01-01-1942 until the time of his death.

Death and burial ground of Upshur, William Peterkin.

Major General William Upshur died from injuries suffered in a  21-07-1943 airplane crash near Sitka, Alaska, while on an inspection tour of his command which included Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands. In September 1948, his remains were removed from his Alaskan burial plot and reinterred at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery at Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Lucy, born Muntford, who died age 74 in 1952.

 

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