Vandegrift took command of the 1st Marine Division in April 1942 and led it on Guadalcanal from August to December 1942. The division's success was due largely to the training program that he instituted. In three months of hard fighting, despite the haphazard nature of air and naval support, Vandegrift and his men gradually pushed back the Japanese forces. For his actions at the Battles of Tenaru River (21 August) and Bloody Ridge (12 September), Vandegrift received the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor.
Promoted to lieutenant general in June 1943, Vandegrift commanded the I Marine Amphibious Corps during its assault on Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, in November 1943. Using deception and a careful choice of landing sites, his forces surprised the Japanese ashore and quickly established a beachhead. On the successful completion of this operation, Vandegrift returned to the United States in January 1944 to serve as commandant of the Marine Corps. He was promoted to general in March 1945, becoming the first Marine to achieve that rank. He served as commandant until December 1947, when he left active service. He was placed on the retired list in April 1949. Vandegrift died in Bethesda, Maryland, on 8 May 1975.
C. J. Horn
Shaw, Henry I. First Offensive : The Marine Campaign for Guadalcanal. Washington, DC: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1992.; Vandegrift, Alexander A. Once a Marine: The Memoirs of General A. A. Vandegrift, United States Marine Corps, as Told to Robert B. Asprey. New York: Norton, 1964.