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Throughout the early years of the twentieth century, a Beaver County personality was making an impact on military society. Joseph Pendleton, a Rochester native born in 1860, whose family resided in Rochester, Pennsylvania, at Pennsylvania Avenue and Washington Street and owned one of the first area fire brick furnaces, was steadily honing his skills as soldier in various tours of duty throughout the western hemisphere, eventually becoming one of the Marine Corps' most outstanding officers of this century. He began as a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in 1878, and served as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps aboard the USS Pensacola and the Al-Ki off the Alaskan coast in the Bering Sea. During the Spanish-American War, aboard the USS Yankee, he was reputed to have given the order to commence bombardment of the Spanish positions at Santiago, Cuba and is credited with firing the last shot in that engagement. It was during that battle that Pendleton suffered a detached retina in his right eye from the concussions of the big guns he commanded." At one time, in 1903, a board of officers unsuccessfully attempted to force him into premature retirement because of his eyesight."
Following the Spanish-American War, Pendleton was stationed in the Philippines, Guam, and Puget Sound from 1904 to 1912. That year Colonel Pendleton was placed in command of all Marine forces occupying Nicaragua. His job initially was to protect United States' interests (coffee, cocoa, and rubber) by controlling the railroads between Corinto and Granada and keeping them out of military hands, particularly from the insurrectionists who sought the overthrow of Federal (Nicaraguan) troops friendly to the United States. Flying the American flag on trains traveling through the country seemed sufficient action at first, but a continual buildup of resistance by the Liberals (rebels) along the railroad routes stepped up American involvement, particularly when Liberal troops began taking pot shots at U.S.-protected trains. Pendleton's two Marine and bluejacket battalions eventually were used to spearhead assaults on Liberal positions at Managua and the "impregnable positions" at Coyotepe and Barranca Hill (taken in thirty-seven minutes). In effect this action broke the Liberal opposition and restored peace in Nicaragua even though the Americans under Pendleton still conducted mop-up campaigns against "drunken rabble" at Leon and organized a mounted military campaign from Managua to Matagalpa in the interior where American forces encountered only taken resistance and soon established control of that sector of Nicaragua."
In 1916, Colonel Pendleton commanded American naval forces at Santa Domingo. There he was military governor for the next two years and later became Brigadier-General and received the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal. On June 24, 1916, Pendleton's forces moved inland with orders not to antagonize the natives in any way, and to fire only when fired upon. Despite these precautions, American forces were once again drawn into the fray. Under the covering fire of artillery, the heavily fortified positions at Las Trencheras were taken within an hour. Pendleton's regiment then proceeded to advance in a flying column at Guayacanas on July 3, despite poor roads, downed bridges, and continual sniper fire, and while incurring only nine casualties of his own, took the enemy positions there. By July 5, Santiago, despite its defender's desperate plan to torch the city, surrendered without a fight, discouraged by the unexpected rapid advance of Pendleton's forces. Soon after the capital was secured, Pendleton requested transfer to join the American Expeditionary Force in France since the United States had recently entered World War I, but much to his chagrin, was kept in Santo Domingo until October of 1918.
It was back in 1916, the same year he went to Santa Domingo, that Pendleton commanded the Marine barracks in San Diego and constructed that monument that was, despite his notable military achievements, to become the remembrance most people have about him - Camp Pendleton. That camp in southern California was to become a vital staging area for the embarkation of Marines from the west coast. The Camp will probably be remembered by most Marines for its Spartan atmosphere of rough huts, latrines, and overbearing heat, nurturing a concept developed by Pendleton and the United States Marine Corps to harden their men for whatever might confront them in the tropics. While Camp Pendleton is not likely to endear itself to the men who were stationed there, they can likely appreciate it more in retrospect after their tours of duty in trying circumstances in places like Guadalcanal, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and others in the Pacific during World War 11. Camp Pendleton was found to be extremely appropriate during that war when the base was utilized for the preparation of Marines training for the Pacific Theater of Operations."
Before Joseph Henry Pendleton retired in 1924, he was promoted to Major General at age 64. He retired to his home in Coronado, California, and he lived there until 1942, where at the age of 81 he died.
It is difficult to estimate the contribution of Joseph Pendleton to the Marine Corps when one looks simply at things such as battles, tours of duty, and the construction of training camps. Things might be placed a little more in perspective if we realize that Pendleton and men like him were forming the image of toughness and preparedness for which the "leathernecks" of the Marine Corps have come to be known in this century. That more than anything must be the legacy of this truly great man.