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George Clifton Axtell
Axtell GC.jpg
Lieutenant General George C. Axtell
Nickname Big Axe[1]
Born (1920-11-29)November 29, 1920
Died August 20, 2011(2011-08-20) (aged 90)
Place of birth Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Place of death Landrum, South Carolina
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch USMC logo United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1940-1974
Rank US-O9 insignia Lieutenant General
Commands held
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Okinawa
Korean War
Vietnam War

Lieutenant General George C. Axtell (November 29, 1920 – August 20, 2011) was a retired United States Marine Corps general officer and a World War II ace and Navy Cross recipient. During World War II, he was the youngest commanding officer of a Marine Fighter Squadron.[2] He also served in the Korean War and Vietnam War.


Okinawa1945 senior Marines

On Okinawa in April 1945: Maj Axtell, CMC Vandegrift, MajGen Mulcahy, Maj Dorroh, and Lt O'Keefe (left to right).

Axtell was born in the Pittsburgh suburb of Ambridge, Pennsylvania on 29 November 1920 and graduated from high school there in 1938. He attended the University of Alabama before enlisting in the Marine Corps in July 1940 as a Marine Aviation Cadet. He held a Bachelor of Laws degree and a Master of Arts degree (Comptroller) from George Washington University.

Axtell was assigned to flight school and was commissioned as a second lieutenant and designated a Naval Aviator in May 1941. From May until December 1941, he was an instructor at Naval Air Station Pensacola, and then was transferred to the U.S. Naval Academy's Postgraduate School where he studied meteorological engineering, graduating in March 1943. He was promoted to first lieutenant in June 1942, and to captain in August 1942.

Promoted to major in May 1943, Axtell saw duty from that July until June 1945, as Commanding Officer, Marine Fighter Squadron 323 (VMF-323), from the date of its formation at Cherry Point, North Carolina, and then throughout the Okinawa campaign from March to June. During the Okinawa campaign, VMF-323 scored 124 enemy planes led by Axell who was credited with destroying 6 enemy planes on April 22 with his F4U Corsair and was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism. Following the Okinawa campaign, he was assigned as the Commanding Officer, Marine Carrier Air Group-16, operating from the USS Badoeng Strait. Following the deactivation of MCVG-16 in March 1946, he served as Commanding Officer, VMF-452 until the following January.

Axtell completed the Junior Course at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, early in 1947, and began his first tour of duty at Headquarters Marine Corps as Naval Aviator Detail Officer, followed by a two-year tour with the Judge Advocate General's Office. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1951.

In 1952, Axtell was ordered to Korea where he again saw combat in an F4U Corsair with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing as Tactical Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 12, and later, as Commanding Officer of Marine Attack Squadron 312. He served next with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, North Carolina, as Assistant to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, for a year, then as Commanding Officer, Marine Air Control Group 1. In 1955, Axtell reported to Headquarters Marine Corps for four years' duty as Assistant Head of Aviation Training and Distribution Branch, and Head of Program Planning, Division of Aviation. He was promoted to colonel in July 1959.

From 1959 until 1960, Axtell served in Japan as 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Legal Officer and, later, as Commanding Officer, MAG-12. Returning to MCAS, Cherry Point, for a three-year period, he was initially assigned as 2nd Wing Legal Officer and then reassigned as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3.

After completing the National War College, Washington, D.C., in June 1964, Axtell was assigned in July as Chief of Staff, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific until September 1965. Ordered to the Far East in September 1965, he served as Chief of Staff, III Marine Amphibious Force until March 1966 and was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V".

Marine general officers symposium group photo 1967

Axtell (4th from right, top row) at the 1967 General Officers Symposium

During March 1966, he organized and commanded the Force Logistics Command, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, located in the in South Vietnam until October 1966. He was awarded a second Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for exceptionally meritorious conduct during this assignment.

Upon his return to the United States in December 1966, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, and assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps. For his service as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4, from December 1966 until June 1970, he was awarded a third Legion of Merit medal. He was promoted to major general on 7 August 1969.

From late June 1970 to March 1972, he served as Commanding General, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Cherry Point, North Carolina.

On 10 March 1972, it was announced that President Nixon had nominated Axtell for appointment to the grade of lieutenant general and assignment as the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, in Norfolk, Virginia. He was advanced to three-star rank on 1 April 1972. He received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal upon his retirement on 1 September 1974.

Military awards and decorationsEdit

Axtell's awards and decorations include:

Naval Aviator Badge
Navy Cross ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg
Gold star
Gold star
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Gold star
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Silver star
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png
Bronze star
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
American Defense Service ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg
Presidential Unit Citation (Korea).svg Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg United Nations Service Medal Korea.png Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon.png
Naval Aviator insignia
1st Row Navy Cross Navy Distinguished Service Medal
2nd Row Legion of Merit w/ Combat "V" and two gold 5/16 inch stars Distinguished Flying Cross w/ one gold 5/16 inch star Air Medal w/ one silver and one gold 5/16 inch star Presidential Unit Citation w/ two bronze service stars
3rd Row Navy Unit Commendation w/ one bronze service star American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal w/ one bronze campaign star
4th Row World War II Victory Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ one bronze service star Korean Service Medal w/ two bronze service stars Vietnam Service Medal w/ three bronze service stars
5th Row Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation w/ palm United Nations Service Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal

See alsoEdit


  1. Dechant Devilbirds, p. 227.
  2. Dechant, Devilbirds, p.227.


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  • De Chant, John A. (1947). Devilbirds - The Story of United States Marine Aviation in World War II. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 4–5. 

External linksEdit

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