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Leo D Hermle

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Nickname(s)  "Dutch"
Years of service  1917 - 1949

Rank  Lieutenant General
Name  Leo Hermle
Allegiance  United States of America
Battles/wars  World War IWorld War II*Invasion of Iceland*Battle of Tarawa*Battle of Iwo Jima
Died  January 1, 1976, San Diego, California, United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps
Awards  Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal
Unit  2nd Marine Division, 5th Marine Division
Leo D. Hermle.jpg

Leo David "Dutch" Hermle (June 30, 1890 – January 21, 1976) was a highly decorated officer in the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Lieutenant General. He was a recipient of Army and Navy second highest decorations, Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross, which he earned during his service in both World Wars.


World War I

Leo Hermle was born in 1890 in Hastings, Nebraska. He attended the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, California, where he earned first Bachelor of Arts degree and then degree of Doctor of jurisprudence. He subsequently reported for active duty in the Marine Corps and was commissioned Second lieutenant on August 15, 1917.

Hermle was assigned to the 74th Company, 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, and sent to the France. His company was sent to the frontline in the Toulon Sector near Verdun in March 1918. A month later Germans used combat gas and Hermle personally was wounded by its effects. After recovery, Hermle was promoted to the rank of First lieutenant and appointed a Platoon leader in the 74th Company within 1st Battalion. He participated in Battle of Saint-Mihiel and was decorated with Silver Star for heroism in action near the town of Thiaucourt. He continued to command his platoon and at the beginning of the October 1918, he led successful assault up the hill at Blanc Mont and was decorated with his second Silver Star Citation.

During the ongoing Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Hermle commanded his platoon in the combats near the town of Saint Georges, where he showed a great courage and own initiative, when he maneuvered the large number of the enemy and captured the town of Saint Georges together with 155 prisoners and seventeen machine guns. Although he was wounded, he remained in command for next two days, until he was ordered to the infirmary in the rear area. For his actions, Hermle was decorated with Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal on November 1, 1918. He was also made the Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur and decorated with Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with palm and Fourragère by the Government of France.

Interwar period

Hermle stayed with the occupation forces in Germany until July 1919, when he was ordered back to the United States. Following his return to his country, Hermle was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California, where he was appointed an Intelligence officer and legal aide to the commander of the Barracks. Because of his law education, he was transferred to the office of Judge Advocate General of the Navy in Washington, D.C. in November 1921.

Hermle, now a Captain, was transferred to the armored cruiser USS Seattle in June 1924. There he was appointed Commanding officer of the Marine Detachment.

Following his return home from the sea duties, Hermle attended Company Officers course and Field Officers course at Marine Corps Schools at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Upon graduation in June 1928, Hermle served as an instructor at that base.

In May 1930, Hermle was assigned to the Constabulary Detachment within Garde d'Haïti and spent next four years as Assistant Chief of Staff of the Constabulary Detachment at Port-au-Prince. Later he also served as Chief of the Inspector Department. When the United States occupation of Haiti has been ceased, Hermle sailed home with last Marine units in August 1934. For his service there, he was awarded with Haitian Distinguished Service Medal with Diploma and Haitian Order of Merit in the Grade of Officer.

With his return to the United States, Hermle was assigned to the Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C. and appointed Assistant Adjutant and Inspector. After four years of service there, he was assigned as a student at the Army War College in Washington, D.C. in 1938.

World War II

After graduation from Advanced course at Army War College in June 1939, he was transferred to the 6th Marine Regiment stationed at Marine Corps Base in San Diego, where he became regimental Executive officer. In this capacity, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel on April 1, 1940 and appointed commanding officer of 8th Marine Regiment. A year later, in May 1941, Hermle was made a commanding officer of the 6th Marine Regiment.

The 6th Marines was subsequently sent to Iceland in June 1941 as a part of 1st Provisional Marine Brigade under the command Brigadier General John Marston. Hermle later also served additional duty as Chief of Staff of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade. He stayed on Iceland until the end of March 1942, when the whole brigade was transferred back to the United States. For his service in this capacity, Colonel Hermle was decorated with Navy Commendation Medal.

When 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was disbanded, 6th Marine Regiment with Colonel Hermle in command was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division again under General John Marston's command. In August 1942, Marston chose Hermle as his Division's Chief of Staff.

Hermle sailed with 2nd Marine Division to the Pacific Theater in November 1942 and participated in the Guadalcanal Campaign. Hermle was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in September 1942 and was appointed Assistant Division Commander of the 2nd Division under Major General Julian C. Smith's command.

During the initial part of the Tarawa Battle, Brigadier General Hermle was sent ashore by his commanding officer, Major General Smith, to collect information and took over tactical command. Hermle stayed in the landing zone in the lagoon awaiting further instructions. All communications failed and Hermle was unable to reached Colonel David M. Shoup's Headquarters, where the defense was coordinated. He remained in the lagoon and supervised arrival of reserve troops and supplies, as well as evacuation of wounded under heavy enemy fire. He later planned and commanded the landing operations at Abemama. For his efforts during Tarawa and Abemama operations, Hermle was decorated with Legion of Merit with Combat "V". He also received the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, when the President decorated 2nd Marine Division for its efforts at Tarawa.

In January 1944, Hermle was transferred to the staff of the V Amphibious Corps under command of Lieutenant general Holland M. Smith, where he served as Administrative Deputy. He served in this capacity until April 1944, when he was transferred back to the United States. He was then assigned to 5th Marine Division stationed at Camp Pendleton, California. There he was appointed Assistant Division Commander under the command of Major General Keller E. Rockey.

The 5th Marine Division was sent to the Pacific Theater in August of the same year. After few months of additional training at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii, 5th Marine Division left for Iwo Jima in January 1945. Hermle landed with the first waves of troops of his division on February 19, 1945. He established Advanced Division Command Post and led his troops toward the Motoyama Airfield Number One. When his units was pinned down by the enemy fire. He wasn't hesitatant to go directly to the frontline foxholes to obtain first-hand information.

When the most of the enemy units retreated to the north of the island, where they took last-stand defensive positions, Brigadier general Hermle directed a coordinated attacks which caused heavy losses to the enemy.

For his leadership of the 5th Marine Division's troops during the Battle of Iwo Jima and its capture, General Hermle was decorated with the Navy Cross. He also received his second Navy Presidential Unit Citation and also Navy Unit Commendation. He was subsequently transferred to Mariana Islands, where he was appointed Deputy Island Commander of Guam Island Command in June 1945. For his service in this capacity, he was decorated with Bronze Star Medal.

Postwar career

Hermle was appointed Island Commander in February 1946 and served in this capacity until July 1946, when he was ordered back to the United States. After his arrival, he was appointed Commanding officer of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. He replaced Brigadier General Gilder D. Jackson Jr. in this capacity. He was promoted to the rank of Major General during his service in this capacity.

Hermle retired from the Marine Corps on September 1, 1949. He was also advanced to the rank of Lieutenant General on the retired list for having been specially commended in combat. Following his retirement from the Military, Hermle served as Professor of Law at University of San Diego. He also served at state Recreation Commission for 11 years. He retired again in 1973.

Leo Hermle died on January 21, 1976 in La Jolla near San Diego, California. He is buried together with his wife Venepha P. Hermle (1897-1986) at El Camino Memorial Park.


Leo D. Hermle Wikipedia