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Henry Louis Larsen

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Title: Henry Louis Larsen  
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Henry Louis Larsen

Henry Louis Larsen
Larsen as Governor of Guam
2nd Military Governor of Guam
In office
August 15, 1944 – May 30, 1946
Preceded by Roy Stanley Geiger
Succeeded by Charles Alan Pownall
Military Governor of American Samoa
In office
January 12, 1942 – April 25, 1942
Governor Laurence Wild (alongside as the Governor)
Succeeded by John Gould Moyer
Personal details
Born (1890-12-10)December 10, 1890
Died October 2, 1962(1962-10-02) (aged 71)
Denver, Colorado
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Alma mater Army and Navy Academy
Occupation Military officer
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps seal United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1913–1946
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands 3rd Battalion 5th Marines
3rd Battalion 11th Marines
8th Marine Regiment (United States)
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune
Battles/wars World War I

Banana Wars

World War II

Awards Navy Cross (2)
Silver Star (3)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Bronze Star Medal
Nicaraguan Presidential Medal of Merit
Legion of Honour (France)
Croix de guerre (France)

Lieutenant General Henry Louis Larsen (December 10, 1890 – October 2, 1962) was a United States Marine Corps officer, the second Military Governor of Guam following its recapture from the Empire of Japan, and the first post-World War II Governor of Guam. He also served as the Military Governor of American Samoa alongside civilian Governor of American Samoa Laurence Wild. Larsen was among the first troops overseas in both World Wars. During World War I, he commanded the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and participated in numerous battles in France, earning the Navy Cross, three Silver Stars, the Croix de guerre with palm, and the French Legion of Honour. In between the World Wars, he served during the United States occupation of Nicaragua, where he earned his second Navy Cross, the Presidential Medal of Merit from President of Nicaragua José María Moncada Tapia, and his first Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

He served as the Director of Plans and Policies for the Marine Corps until the United States became involved in World War II. He commanded the first troops to leave the United States – the 8th Marine Regiment. During the war he served as military governor of both American Samoa and Guam. On Guam he faced an island with large infrastructure damage from the two battles that had taken place there and undertook a project to transform Guam into a forward military base housing large numbers of troops. In the single largest construction project ever undertaken by the United States Navy, Larsen converted the island into an air and sea base that frequently launched attacks on the main Japanese islands. He also oversaw the capturing of remaining guerrilla Japanese forces and contended with race rioting between white and African American sailors and Marines.


  • Life 1
  • Military service 2
  • Governorships 3
    • American Samoa 3.1
    • Guam 3.2
  • Post-military career 4
  • Decorations 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Larsen was born on December 10, 1890 in Chicago to Andrew A. Larsen, a builder, and his wife.[1] He moved with his family to Denver, Colorado when at the age of 16.[2] He attended the Army and Navy Academy boarding school.[3] In 1913, he married Elizabeth Ammons, who was the daughter of Colorado Governor Elias M. Ammons and the sister of another Colorado Governor, Teller Ammons.[2] He was fluent in French, Spanish, and Norwegian and served as a certified interpreter for all three.[4] He died on October 2, 1962 of a heart attack at his home.[2] He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[5]

Military service

Larsen joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 23; he earned top marks in a class of 75 at Officer Candidates School.[2] He commanded the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines during World War I. Shortly after being field promoted to the rank of Major, he led a liaison mission on June 25, 1918 during the Battle of Belleau Wood, for which he received a Citation Star.[6] On October 4, 1918, the battalion's flanks became exposed while operating alongside the Fourth French Army near Rheims. The Germans attacked multiple times, but despite this the battalion managed for maintain all of the ground they had taken. For Larsen's command during the two day defense he was awarded the Navy Cross and a second Citation Star.[6] He received a third Citation Star during the war; all three were later converted to Silver Stars, making him the recipient of three Silver Star awards.[6] He participated in every major action undertaken by the Marine Corps during the First World War, and was the only member of the 3rd Battalion to serve during the war without being wounded.[2] In 1919, he French awarded him the Croix de guerre with palm and the Legion of Honour for his actions during the war.[2]

After the First World War, he served in a number of posts on both American Samoa, United States holdings in the Caribbean, and in Mexico.[1] He participated in the United States occupation of Nicaragua from April 1, 1928 to March 26, 1929 as the Brigade Inspector of the 2nd Brigade and commander of the 3rd Battalion 11th Marines. He earned his second Navy Cross while in this position.[6] He earned the Presidential Medal of Merit from President of Nicaragua José María Moncada Tapia and his first Navy Distinguished Service Medal in 1929.[7] He was among a few Marine officers who were instructed at the École Militaire in France as part of an officer training exchange program in the 1930s[4]

From 1938 to 1940, Larsen served as the Director of Plans and Policies at the Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.. He oversaw the immediate expansion of the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor and soon after preceded to American Samoa as the commander of the 8th Marine Regiment, the first combat troops to leave the Continental United States during the war.[1] On June 1943 he assumed command of the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.[1] He left the post to become Island Commander of Guam on July 21, 1944, shortly before becoming governor of the island.[1]

Following the war and his governorship, Larsen assumed the position of Commanding General of the Marine Corps Department of the Pacific. He retired a Lieutenant General on November 1, 1946.[1] He wrote several military texts on amphibious warfare, a style of warfare that he helped pioneer, and other topics.[7] He earned the Navy Distinguished Service Medal twice, and the Bronze Star Medal once.[2]


American Samoa

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Larsen the first and only Military Governor of American Samoa on January 15, 1942.[1] He served alongside the Naval Governor Laurence Wild. This led to an odd situation where Larsen outranked Wild militarily while, at the same time, Wild held a position of senior authority to Larsen.[8] Larsen negotiated the American occupation of Western Samoa with New Zealand during World War II.[9]


Larsen served as Chamorro people of Guam and the Japanese held island of Saipan had to be differentiated.[10] He oversaw an effort to round up the remaining Japanese forces who remained on the island. This included a plan in which some senior Japanese prisoners were released under the promise that they would round up other hidden forces and order them to surrender.[11]

A number of altercations involving the service of African American serviceman alongside whites ensued while Larsen commanded the island's forces. These included the shooting of an African American Marine by a white sailor and attacks on African American barracks by whites with smoke grenades. Despite Larsen issuing a statement calling for respect toward military members of "various races and colors", the violence continued. It culminated in the commandeering of automatic weapons and trucks by 43 African American sailors in the short-lived Agana race riot, prompting their arrest by Marine Military Police and sentencing of up to four years in prison each.[12] The men eventually obtained their freedom after Walter Francis White, a NAACP leader, advocated for them by claiming the situation was created by discrimination toward the men mixed with poor leadership in their unit.[13]

During the war, he commanded over 215,000 personnel on the island and oversaw the development of the island into a major air and sea military base in the single largest construction project in the history of the United States Navy. By the time the war ended, the island contained five air bases and eight air strips, from which many planes made bombing runs on the Japanese mainland.[1] The medical facilities on the island were also revamped, and many of the wounded from engagements like the Battle of Iwo Jima were routed through Guam before returning home.[14] Larsen planned to convert the heavily damaged capital of Agana into a more modern American city with a grid plan similar to Santa Monica, California, but never achieved his "New Agana".[10] Larsen contended that these improvements also provided easily discernible living condition improvements for the native Chamorro people of the island.[15]

Post-military career

After Larsen retired from the Marine Corps, Governor of Colorado Daniel I.J. Thornton appointed him Colorado Civilian Defense Director, a position he held from 1949 through 1959.[1] Larsen also served as the president of the National Association of State Civil Defense Directors.[16] He used the position to advocate for greater civil defense spending, accusing President Harry Truman of neglecting to fully prepare the nation for war should it come again.[17]


Lieutenant General Larsen´s ribbon bar:

Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Navy Cross with Gold Star Navy Distinguished Service Medal with Gold Star Silver Star with two Gold Stars Fourragère
2nd Row Legion of Merit with Gold Star Bronze Star Medal Navy Commendation Medal Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with three service stars
3rd Row Mexican Service Medal Dominican Campaign Medal World War I Victory Medal with four battle clasps Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
4th Row Nicaraguan Campaign Medal (1933) American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two service stars
5th Row World War II Victory Medal Chevalier of the Legion of Honour French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with Palm Nicaraguan Medal of Merit with Silver star


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ballendorf, Dirk (9 August 2010). "Governor Henry Larsen". Guampedia.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g  
  3. ^ Norwegian Sailors in American Waters.  
  4. ^ a b Bittner, Donald (July 1993). "Foreign Military Officer Training in Reverse: U. S. Marine Corps Officers in the French Professional Military Education System in the Interwar Years". The Journal of Military History ( 
  5. ^ Patty, Mike (27 July 1990). "Elizabeth Ammons Larsen Dies at 96; Father and Brother Were State Governors".  
  6. ^ a b c d "Valor Awards for Henry L. Larsen". Military Times.  
  7. ^ a b "General Larsen to Leave Marines After 33-year Record as Fighter".  
  8. ^ Sorensen, Stan (11 January 2011). "Historical Notes". Tapuitea ( 
  9. ^ Sorensen, Stan (21 March 2008). "Historical Notes". Tapuitea ( 
  10. ^ a b Rogers, Robert (1995). Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam.  
  11. ^  
  12. ^ Astor, Gerald (2001). The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military. De Capo Press. p. 262.  
  13. ^ MacGregor, Morris (1981). Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940–1965.  
  14. ^ "Guam is Declared New Pearl Harbor".  
  15. ^ "Navy Rule in Guam is Defended Here".  
  16. ^  
  17. ^  

External links

  • Lieutenant General Henry Louis Larsen, United States Marine Corps, Arlington
Military offices
Preceded by
Roy Geiger
Military Governor of Guam
Succeeded by
Charles Alan Pownall
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