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Historically Speaking

Historically Speaking: The Nation’s Largest Military Base More Popular than it’s Namesake

By Tom Morrow

For the past 75 years, the name “Pendleton” has become legendary because of the nation’s largest military base hugging the northern city limits of Oceanside, Calif. Truth be known, most people haven’t a clue as to who was “Pendleton.”

The man was Marine Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton. He was born before the Civil War and who died in 1924 – between World War I and World War II.

General Pendleton had a long career of major and minor Marine Corps engagements and commands throughout the U.S., as well as Cuba, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic and other various top military assignments and commands in the U.S..

During his 40-year career, Pendleton probably was one of the most traveled and assigned Marine in the history of the service. Nothing of note that would go down in the history books, but his most lasting legacy is having his name branded on a base where thousands of young Marines trained and passed through on their way to the battlefields in the South Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. For many Marines, leaving the gates of Pendleton was the last they ever saw of America.

Joseph Henry Pendleton was born on June 2, 1860 in Rochester, Pa. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1878.

His first duty was performed at the Marine Barracks, Brooklyn Navy Yard where he served from Aug. 31, 1884 to Feb. 7, 1885. After a variety of assignments, in 1904, then a major, Pendleton reported to Mare Island in the Bay area, On May 28, 1904, he joined the First Brigade of Marines in the Philippines. From there he assumed command of the Marines stationed on Guam. Later he was moved on to various overseas assignments until being placed in command of the 4th Regiment on North Island in San Diego. In 1916, he would take command of the Marine Barracks in San Diego. Later that year he was promoted to brigadier general and was placed in command of all Naval forces during the occupation of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

The Navy Cross, the highest honor the Navy can award, was presented to Brigadier General Pendleton for “exceptionally meritorious service as Commanding Officer of the Second Provisional Brigade of Marines in support of the Government of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic).

From November 11, 1918 to September 25, 1919, Brigadier General Pendleton commanded the Marine Barracks at Parris Island, S. C., and on October 1, 1919, joined the Second Advanced Base Force at San Diego, as its Commanding General.

From Oct. 1, to Nov. 7, 1921, General Pendleton was in command of the Department of the Pacific at San Francisco. Upon the establishment of the 5th Brigade of Marines on Oct. 4, 1921, he was assigned as the commanding officer. In addition to these duties he was assigned the additional duty as Commanding General Department of the Pacific in the absence of General Barnett, from May 13, 1922 to Sept. 2, 1922. Pendleton was promoted to major general on Dec. 10, 1923.

From February 9, to March 29, 1924, General Pendleton was on duty inspecting Marine Corps stations and organizations in Central America and West Indies. After this inspection trip, he was on a short tour of duty at Headquarters Marine Corps and on May 12, 1924, he resumed duties at San Diego, as Commanding Officer of the Fifth Brigade Marines.

On June 2, 1924, at the age of 64, Pendleton retired after 40 years of service in the Marine Corps. He settled in Coronado, Calif., and served as mayor from 1928 to 1930. He died on Feb. 4, 1942, at his home at age 81.


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