Military Wiki
William Wallace Ashurst
Born (1893-10-30)October 30, 1893
Died February 18, 1952(1952-02-18) (aged 58)
Allegiance United States
Service/branch USMC logo.svg United States Marine Corps
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Commands held Marine Detachment Beijing
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Silver Star
Legion of Merit

William Wallace Ashurst (October 30, 1893 - February 18, 1952) was a Brigadier General in the United States Marine Corps, who served as a last commander of the North China Marine Detachment.


William W. Ashurst was born on October 30, 1893. During World War I, he fought with the 5th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division within American Expeditionary Force in France. He was decorated with Silver Star for his gallantry in action during the Battle of Château-Thierry in July 1918.[1] He also earned Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with Guilt Star by the government of France.

In the interwar era, Ashurst attended the advanced course at Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in June 1935 and served on the various marine post. In 1939, Ashurst served as a battalion commander in the 6th Marine Regiment stationed in San Diego, California. In this capacity, his direct superior was Samuel L. Howard, also prisoner of war from the Battle of Corregidor.[2]

In December 1941, Ashurst served with the rank of Colonel as Commander of the North China Marine Corps Detachment and also as a Commander of the Guard Unit at the United States Embassy in Beijing, China.

When Japan attacked United States, U.S. Marine units in China were easy targets. He was captured on December 8, 1941 by Japanese forces and subsequently held in Prisoner of War Camp in Shangai until June 1945.

For his service in prison camp, Ashurst was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and decorated with the Legion of Merit.

Brigadier general William W. Ashurst died on February 18, 1952 at the age 58 and he is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.[3]

Legion of Merit citation

Action Date: February 1, 1942 - June 19, 1945
Name: William Wallace Ashurst
Service: United States Marine Corps
Rank: Colonel
Division: Prisoner of War (China)
Citation: The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Legion of Merit to Colonel William W. Ashurst (MCSN: 0-28), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while serving as the Intermediary of the Shanghai War Prisoners Camp, Shanghai, China, from 1 February 1942 to 15 May 1945, and of the War Prisoners Camp, Fentai, China, from 15 May 1945 to 19 June 1945. Colonel Ashurst displayed outstanding skill, diplomacy and superior judgment in performing his duties, and by his intrepidity in conducting official matters with the Japanese Camp Authorities under extremely unpleasant and humiliating conditions imposed, he contributed greatly in the alleviation of the harsh treatment received by the prisoners at the hands of the Japanese and in the improvement of conditions under which the prisoners were forced to live, thereby being instrumental in lowering the mortality rate of prisoners of war interned. His devotion to duty and tireless effort throughout the long period of imprisonment while suffering from poor health and hardships imposed by the Japanese were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.[4]


Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Prisoner of War Medal (Awarded posthumously)
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with two battle clasps
China Service Medal
Bronze star
American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Gold star
French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with Gilt Star


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