Bennet Puryear, Jr., was born in Richmond, Virginia, and attended public schools there until 1895 when his family moved to a farm in Madison County, Virginia. His education continued informally, including instruction by his father, who was a Greek and Latin scholar, and his older brother, who was a mathematics professor. Later he attended Texas A & M University.
This oral interview documents many aspects of Puryear's career as a U.S. Marine Corps officer. Prior to World War I, topics include commissioning as a U.S. Marine second lieutenant (1905) and service in Cuba and the Isle of Pines (1907-1909), a teaching assignment at the Marine School of Applications in Port Royal, S.C. (1909-1911), quartermaster's duty at Cavite in the Philippines (1911-1914), and return to Mare island, S.C. (1914-1917).
In 1917 Puryear was sent to France as a quartermaster under the command of General Pershing. Comments pertain to the wartime command in France and incidents of military justice. After returning from France (1919), Puryear was assigned to Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C. (1919-1925). He was later transferred to Haiti as quartermaster of the gendarmerie (1925-1928), and in 1936 moved to the West Coast where he was assigned to the staff of General McDougal. Later assignments included post quartermaster at Quantico (1937-1942) and representative of theQuartermaster Department in New Zealand (1942). Puryear retired from active duty in 1943, having achieved the rank of major general.
Among other noteworthy topics are Puryear's attitude about U.S. policy in Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia; the handling of the attack on Tarawa during World War II; and civilian participation in decision-making about the Vietnam War. Among the individuals he discusses are Marine Generals Holland M. Smith, Julian C. Smith, John A. Lejeune, and Omar Bundy.
Gift of Bennet Puryear, Jr.
Processed by D. Beard, April 1985
Encoded by Apex Data Services
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