Military Wiki
James N. Mattis
Mattis during his tenure as the commander of U.S. Central Command.
Nickname "Chaos" (callsign)
"Warrior Monk"
"Mad Dog Mattis"[1]
Born September 8, 1950(1950-09-08) (age 72)
Place of birth Pullman, Washington, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1969–2013
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held U.S. Central Command
U.S. Joint Forces Command/Supreme Allied Commander Transformation
I Marine Expeditionary Force
U.S. Marine Forces Central Command
Marine Corps Combat Development Command
1st Marine Division
7th Marine Regiment
1st Battalion, 7th Marines

Persian Gulf War

War in Afghanistan

Iraq War

Awards Defense Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
US Defense Superior Service Medal ribbon.svg Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal with Valor device

James N. Mattis (born September 8, 1950)[2][3] is a retired United States Marine Corps general who last served as the 11th commander of United States Central Command. Having replaced David Petraeus on August 11, 2010, he previously commanded United States Joint Forces Command from November 9, 2007 to August 2010 and served concurrently as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007 to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War.[4] General Mattis retired on May 22, 2013 after more than 41 years of service.

Early life and education

Mattis was born in Pullman, Washington on September 8, 1950. He graduated from Richland High School in 1968, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969.[5] He attended Central Washington University[6] and was commissioned a second lieutenant on January 1, 1972.[7]


As a lieutenant, Mattis served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he commanded a rifle company and a weapons company in the 1st Marine Regiment, then Recruiting Station Portland, Oregon, as a major.

Persian Gulf War

Upon promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Mattis commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, which was one of Task Force Ripper's assault battalions during the Persian Gulf War.

War in Afghanistan

As a colonel, Mattis commanded 7th Marine Regiment, then 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Task Force 58 during the War in Afghanistan in the southern part of the country. Later being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, he was the commander of TF-58, and became the first U.S. Marine officer to ever command a Naval Task Force in combat.[8]

Iraq War

Letter written by Mattis on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, addressed to members of the 1st Marine Division.

As a major general, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and subsequent stability operations during the Iraq War.[9] Mattis played a key role in the April 2004 battle of Fallujah, Operation Vigilant Resolve, by negotiating with the insurgent command inside of the city, as well as playing an important part in planning the subsequent Operation Phantom Fury in November. Following a U.S. Department of Defense survey that showed only 55% of American soldiers and 40% of U.S. Marines would report a colleague for abusing civilians, Mattis told U.S. Marines in May 2007, that, "Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it's a victory for al-Qaeda and other insurgents." Reflecting an understanding of the need for restraint in war as key to defeating an insurgency, he added that, "Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, al-Qaeda rolls over in its grave."[10]

Mattis popularized the 1st marine division's motto, "no better friend, no worse enemy" (A paraphrase of the famous self-made epitaph for the Roman dictator Sulla), in his open letter to all men within the division for their return to Iraq. This phrase later became widely publicized during the investigation into the conduct of Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, a platoon commander serving under General Mattis.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Combat Development Command

After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking ad libitum at a forum in San Diego, he said "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." Mattis's remarks sparked controversy and General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement suggesting that Mattis should have chosen his words more carefully, but would not be disciplined.[18]

U.S. Joint Forces Command

The Pentagon announced on May 31, 2006 that Lieutenant General Mattis was chosen to take command of I Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.[19] On 11 September 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that President George W. Bush had nominated Mattis for appointment to the rank of general to command U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. NATO agreed to appoint Mattis as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. On 28 September 2007, the United States Senate confirmed Mattis's nomination, and he relinquished command of I MEF on 5 November 2007 to Lieutenant General Samuel Helland. Mattis was promoted to four-star general and took control of JFCOM/SACT on 9 November 2007. He transferred the job of SACT to French General Stéphane Abrial on 9 September 2009, but continued in command of JFCOM.[20]

U.S. Central Command

In early 2010, Mattis was reported to be on the list of U.S. Marine generals being considered for selection to replace James T. Conway as the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.[21] In July, he was recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates for nomination to replace David Petraeus as commander of United States Central Command,[22] and formally nominated by President Barack Obama on July 21.[23] His confirmation by the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 5 marks the first time that Marines have held billets as commander and deputy commander of a Unified Combatant Command.[24] He took command at a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base on August 11.[25][26][27]

Mattis has stepped down as head of Central Command, which oversaw wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was responsible for a region that includes Syria, Iran, Yemen.[28]

Personal life

Mattis is a graduate of the U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College. Mattis is also noted for his intellectualism and interest in military history,[9] with a personal library that once included over 7,000 volumes,[29] and a penchant for publishing required reading lists for Marines under his command.[30][31]

Awards and decorations

Mattis holds four expert rifle badges and two expert pistol badges.

Medals and ribbons

Bronze oak leaf cluster
ribbon ribbon
Gold star
Gold star
ribbon ribbon ribbon
ribbon ribbon ribbon
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
ribbon ribbon ribbon
ribbon ribbon
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
ribbon ribbon

Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge.png

First row Defense Distinguished Service Medal w/ 1 oak leaf cluster Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Second row Defense Superior Service Medal Legion of Merit Bronze Star Medal w/ valor device Meritorious Service Medal w/ 2 award stars
Third row Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Combat Action Ribbon Presidential Unit Citation Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Fourth row Navy Unit Commendation Navy and Marine Corps Meritorious Unit Commendation Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal National Defense Service Medal w/ 2 service stars
Fifth row Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ 2 service stars Afghanistan Campaign Medal Iraq Campaign Medal Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Sixth row Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Humanitarian Service Medal Sea Service Ribbon w/ 7 service stars Marine Corps Recruiting Service Ribbon w/ 1 service star
Seventh Row NATO Meritorious Service Medal[32] NATO Medal for Service with ISAF[32] Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)
Badge Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge

In popular culture

  • Mattis is portrayed by Robert John Burke in the 2008 HBO mini-series Generation Kill.[33]

See also


  • Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). ‘’Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond - The U.S. Marine Corps in the Second Iraq War.’’p. 5. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-717-4


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

  1. Boot, Max (March 2006). "The Corps should look to its small-wars past". Armed Forces Journal. Retrieved 2007-06-12. 
  2. "You searched: James Mattis 19500908". Public Background Checks. Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  4. Garamone, Jim (August 11, 2010). "Gates: Mattis brings experience, continuity to Central Command". American Forces Press Service. Headquarters Marine Corps.,continuitytoCentralCommand.aspx. Retrieved 18 August 2010. 
  5. "James Mattis speech, "In the Midst of the Storm: A US Commander's View of the Changing Middle East"". 
  6. "Official website". United States Joint Forces Command. 
  7. Reynolds, Nicholas E. (2005). Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond. p. 4. ISBN 9781591147176. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  8. Reynolds Basrah, Baghdad and Beyond, p. 5.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Thomas E. Ricks (2006). Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin Press. p. 313. 
  10. "General Urges Marines To Add A Friendly Wave To Their Arsenal". Los Angeles Times. 17 May 2007. 
  11. "Top 10 Stories of 2005: Pantano, roads, Olchowski are 10-7". Star News Online. December 28, 2005. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  12. Quinn-Judge, Paul (February 28, 2005). "Did He Go Too Far?". Time magazine.,9171,1032357-1,00.html. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  13. Phillips, Stone (April 26, 2005). "Marine charged with murders of Iraqis: Lieutenant claims self-defense in shooting of detainees". MSNBC. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  14. Jeff Schogol (November 16, 2005). "Marine acquitted in Iraqi shootings will publish a book". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  15. Walker, Mark (July 1, 2006). "Pantano case has parallels to Hamdania incident". North County Times. Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  16. Phillips, Phillips (June 14, 2006). "Sending A Message". Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  17. Charen, Mona (February 25, 2005). "Is the Marine Corps P.C.?". Retrieved January 24, 2007. 
  18. Guardiano, John R. (February 11, 2005). "Breaking the Warrior Code". The American Spectator. 
  19. Lowe, Christian (June 12, 2006). "Popular commander to lead I MEF". Marine Corps Times. p. 24. 
  20. Allied Command Transformation Public Affairs Office (September 9, 2009). "French general assumes command of Allied Command Transformation". United States Joint Forces Command. Retrieved September 10, 2009. 
  21. Gearan, Anne (June 22, 2010). "Gates announces nomination of Amos for CMC". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  22. Cavallaro, Gina (July 8, 2010). "Pentagon picks Mattis to take over CENTCOM". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 8 July 2010. 
  23. "Obama backs Mattis nomination for CENTCOM". Marine Corps Times. July 22, 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2010. 
  24. "Petraeus' replacement at Central Command confirmed". The Fayetteville Observer. August 6, 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  25. "Mattis takes over Central Command, vows to work with Mideast allies in Afghanistan, Iraq". Los Angeles Times. August 11, 2010.,0,3331254.story. Retrieved 12 August 2010. [dead link]
  26. Mitchell, Robbyn (August 12, 2010). "Mattis takes over as CentCom chief". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  27. "Mattis assumes command of CENTCOM". U.S. Central Command. August 11, 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  28. Mattis interview: Syria would fall without Iran's help April 12, 2013 USA Today
  29. Gretel C. Kovach (19 January 2013). "Just don't call him Mad Dog: Influential Marine general prepares to retire after four decades in uniform". 
  30. "LtGen James Mattis' Reading List". Small Wars Journal. 5 June 2007. 
  31. Ricks, p. 317
  32. 32.0 32.1 "French general assumes command of Allied Command Transformation". Allied Command Transformation Public Affairs Office. USS George Washington (CVN-73): NATO. 2009-09-18. Retrieved 2009-09-28. [dead link] close up image of awards
  33. "Character Bio". HBO. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
David Petraeus
Commander of United States Central Command
August 11, 2010-March 22, 2013
Succeeded by
Lloyd Austin

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