Military Wiki
Paul X. Kelley
General Paul Xavier Kelley, United States Marine Corps
28th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps (1983-1987)
Birth name Paul Xavier Kelley
Born November 11, 1928(1928-11-11) (age 94)
Place of birth Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1950-1987
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held 2nd Battalion 4th Marines
1st Marine Regiment
4th Marine Division
Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force
Assistant Commandant
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (3)
Bronze Star (2)
Other work Cassidy & Associates
American Battle Monuments Commission (Chairman)

Paul Xavier Kelley (born November 11, 1928) is a retired United States Marine Corps general who served as the 28th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, from July 1, 1983 to June 30, 1987.

Kelley served 37 years active duty in the Marine Corps. After his commission in 1950, he served as an infantry officer in a wide variety of billets. His first assignment after receiving his commission through Villanova College's Naval ROTC program was with Aircraft Engineering Squadron 12 (AES-12) at Marine Corps Air Station Quantico, Virginia. He then served as an exchange officer with the Royal Marines. He then joined the Marine Force Reconnaissance community and served with distinction during the Vietnam War. His final assignments were as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and then Commandant of the Marine Corps until his retirement in 1987.

Following his retirement from the Marine Corps, Kelley has served on a number of corporate boards.


Paul Kelley was born on November 11, 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Villanova University in 1950.

Kelley was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in June 1950. After The Basic School in March 1951, he served with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as an infantry officer in a wide variety of billets, including his first assignment to Aircraft Engineering Squadron-12 (AES-12) out of Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. In September 1952, he was assigned to the USS Salem (CA-139) where he served for 20 months, first as Executive Officer and then as Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment on the Salem. In December 1953, he was promoted to captain.

From July 1956 to December 1957, Kelley served as the Special Assistant to the Director of Personnel at Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.. He then completed the Airborne Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In February 1958, he was assigned to the newly activated 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, Force Troops, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Camp Lejeune, when he served as the Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer.

From September 1960 to May 1961, he was the U.S. Marine Corps Exchange Officer with the British Royal Marines, becoming one of the few foreigners to earn the Royal Marines Commandos' coveted green beret. During this tour, he attended the Commando Course in England, served as Assistant Operations Officer with 45 Commando in Aden, and as Commander "C" Troop, 42 Commando in Singapore, Malaya and Borneo. On March 1, 1961, he was promoted to major. From June 1964 until August 1965, Kelley became Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, Newport, R.I.

In 1965, he deployed to Vietnam. He first served as the Combat Intelligence Officer for the 3rd Marine Amphibious Force, FMF, Pacific. Following this assignment, he served as the Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment in combat. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on January 20, 1966. During his tour as battalion commander, he earned the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with Valor device and two awards of the Bronze Star with Valor device.

Four years later, 1970 to 1971, Kelley commanded the 1st Marines, which was the last Marine regiment in combat in Vietnam; earning a second Legion of Merit.

In 1974, Kelley was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. As a general officer, he served as Commanding General of the 4th Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force; Director, Marine Corps Development Center; Director, Marine Corps Education Center; and Deputy Chief of Staff for Requirements and Programs, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.

In February 1980, Kelley was promoted to lieutenant general and named as the first Commander of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force.[1]

From July 1, 1981, Kelley was promoted to the rank of General and became the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chief of Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps. On July 1, 1983 Kelley was named Commandant of the Marine Corps, succeeding General Robert H. Barrow.

Promotion record

  • June 1950 — commissioned as Second Lieutenant
  • December 16, 1953 — Captain
  • March 1, 1961 — Major.
  • January 20, 1966 — Lieutenant Colonel
  • April 1, 1970 — Colonel
  • August 6, 1974 — Brigadier General
  • June 29, 1976 — Major General
  • February 4, 1980 — Lieutenant General
  • July 1, 1981 — General

Post-Marine Corps career

In 1989, General Kelley joined the Washington, D.C. public policy firm Cassidy & Associates; he is the Vice Chairman Emeritus.[2] From 1989 to 1994, he served as Chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission.[2] Kelley is on the board of directors for a number of corporations, including Allied Signal, Inc., GenCorp, Inc., Saul Centers, Inc., Sturm Ruger & Co., Inc.; and the Wackenhut Corporation.[2][3]

On July 26, 2007, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Kelley and Robert F. Turner, in which they warned that the July 20, 2007 executive order issued by President George W. Bush, purporting to define torture and allowable interrogation methods, appeared to violate Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and thus expose the President and other persons to potential liability for war crimes. On Nov. 9, 2010, he was named an honorable Reagan Fellow from Eureka college.[4] General Kelley currently sits on the Honorary Board for the 501 (c) (3) Non Profit Wine Country Marines [5]

Medals, decorations, honors


Kelley's personal decorations and awards include:

United States Navy Parachutist Badge.png
Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Gold star
Gold star
US Army Airborne master parachutist badge.gif
Marine Corps Parachutist badge
1st Row Defense Distinguished Service Medal Navy Distinguished Service Medal Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
2nd Row Army Distinguished Service Medal Air Force Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Legion of Merit w/ valor device and 2 stars
3rd Row Bronze Star w/ valor device and 1 star Joint Service Commendation Medal Navy Commendation Medal Army Commendation Medal
4th Row Combat Action Ribbon Navy Presidential Unit Citation Navy Unit Commendation Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
5th Row Navy Occupation Service Medal National Defense Service Medal Vietnam Service Medal Order of National Security Merit,Tong-il Medal
6th Row Vietnam Army Distinguished Service Order, 2nd Class Vietnam Gallantry Cross w/ 2 palms and 2 gold stars Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal 1st class Vietnam Staff Service Medal 1st class
7th Row Vietnam Technical Service Medal 1st class Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation Vietnam Campaign Medal
Army Master Parachutist Badge
Pathfinder Badge


General Kelley has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Villanova University, Norwich University, Webster University, Jacksonville University, and the United States Sports Academy.

He is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s Major General O.A. Anderson Award, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ National Armed Forces Award, the American Academy of Achievement’s Gold Eagle Award, the Navy League’s Admiral John M. Will Award, the Ireland Fund’s Irishman of the Year for Southern California Award, the Reserve Officers Association’s Minuteman Hall of Fame Award, and the Marine Corps Scholarship Fund’s Semper Fidelis Award.

In December 2006, Kelley chaired a panel of military and business leaders looking to improve the U.S.’s energy security. They recommended tougher emission standards and greater access to offshore U.S. gas and oil reserves.[5]

In 2007, in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, General Kelly and Robert F. Turner, a Reagan Administration lawyer, spoke out against President George W. Bush's executive order interpreting Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions — concerning the interrogation and torture of terrorism suspects.[4]

Eureka College, alma mater of President Ronald Reagan, named General Kelley as its third "Honorary Reagan Fellow" to celebrate his lifetime of service and leadership on November 9, 2010 at the Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. The date was chosen to correspond with the 21st anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

See also



Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. Robert H. Barrow
Commandant of the United States Marine Corps
Succeeded by
Gen. Alfred M. Gray, Jr.

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