Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., 94, a retired Marine Corps general who served as a company officer in World War I, as a division commander in World War II and as commandant of the corps in the closing stages of the Korean War, died Aug. 6 at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He had cancer.
A trainer and combat leader rather than a theorist or innovator, Gen. Shepherd was regarded by many as an embodiment of the best characteristics of what is nostalgically called "the old Corps." First, he had impeccable Marine credentials: a combat record that stretched from the trenches of World War I to the jungles of the Pacific in World War II, and peacetime service that took him from the mountains of Haiti to the dusty plains of North China in the 1930s.
Beyond that, he was noted for a personal style that seemed to be aimed at making the hard edges of military life a little less hard. A slender, courtly figure who carried a swagger stick long after many military men had abandoned these devices as useless affectations, he was noted for his kindly manners toward subordinates and the interest he took in the welfare of junior officers and enlisted men. He was devoted to horses.
Born in Norfolk and educated at Virginia Military Institute, as were many Marine officers of his generation, he was proud of his Virginia connections. His sense of things past and the niceties of life extended to professional as well as personal matters. While serving at Quantico in the 1930s, he wrote a manual for the Marine drum and bugle corps.
As commandant, he observed a custom under which the holder of that office spends Memorial Day at Belleau Wood, the bloody French battleground where so many Marines fell in World War I and where he himself was wounded and decorated. Finding no appropriate monument there during a visit in 1953, he started a subscription for one, and the result is a bas relief by the sculptor Felix de Weldon of Marines in the assault.
A transitional figure, Gen. Shepherd was the last Marine commandant who had served in World War I, and he was the first to sit with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a courtesy extended to him by his friend, Adm. Arthur W. Radford, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time. (The commandant of the Marine Corps had no statutory right to sit with the Joint Chiefs until 1979.)
In 1960, Gen. David M. Shoup became commandant. He disliked swagger sticks, and one of his first acts was to announce that Marine officers could dispense with them unless, of course, they felt they needed them. Gen. Shepherd told friends he regarded this as an aspersion on his own command. But no swagger sticks have been seen in the Marine Corps since then.
Gen. Shepherd was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps on April 11, 1917. His first assignment was to the Fifth Marine Regiment, and within a month he sailed to France as part of the Marine brigade that served with the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in World War I. In addition to Belleau Wood, he took part in the battles at Chateau Thierry and in the St. Mihiel and Argonne campaigns. In all he was wounded three times. His decorations included the Navy Cross and the Army's Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's highest awards for gallantry after the Medal of Honor. The citation accompanying the Navy Cross said "he declined medical treatment after being wounded and continued courageously to lead his men."
During the interwar years, Gen. Shephard lived a typically peripatetic military life: occupation duty in Germany, a period as a White House aide under President Warren G. Harding, sea duty aboard the battleship Idaho and service at the Marine Barracks in Norfolk, the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, and in Haiti and China.
Early in World War II, as a colonel, he commanded the Ninth Marine Regiment and took it to the Pacific. In 1943, he joined the 1st Marine Division as assistant division commander and served with it in the Cape Gloucester operations on New Britain. In 1944, he led the 1st Provisional Brigade through the recapture of Guam and then oversaw the brigade's expansion into the 6th Marine Division. He commanded this formation throughout the fight for Okinawa in 1945, the last major battle of the war.
When the war ended, the 6th Marine Division was ordered to China, where Gen. Shepherd accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in the Tsingtao area.
Gen. Shepherd's postwar duty included a period in Washington and another as commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico. On June 16, 1950, he was appointed to command the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, the corps' amphibious forces in the Pacific. He was on his way to take up this post in Hawaii when the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950.
He hurried to Tokyo to confer with Gen. of the Armies Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. and United Nations commander in the Far East. The 1st Marine Division was ordered to the war zone. It took part in the amphibious landing at Inchon in September 1950, one of the brilliant strokes of the war, and served until the end of the conflict in July 1953.
On Jan. 1, 1952, Gen. Shepherd became the 20th commandant of the Marine Corps. He served until the end of 1955 and retired in January 1956. A few months later, he was recalled to active duty as chairman of the Inter-American Defense Board. He retired again three years later and lived in Warrenton until moving to La Jolla in 1968.
His military decorations also included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the French Croix de Guerre. He wore the fouragere, the braided shoulder rope signifying his service in the Fifth Marines at the time the unit received the Croix de Guerre as a unit citation from France in World War I.
Gen. Shepherd's wife of 67 years, Virginia, died in 1989.
Survivors include three children, retired Marine Col. Lemuel C. Shepherd III of La Jolla, Wilson E. D. Shepherd of Coronado, Calif., and Virginia Ord of Nantucket, Mass.; seven granchildren; and three great-grandchildren.