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Richard Fagan (officer)

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Richard Fagan
BornSeptember 8, 1902
El Paso, Texas
DiedNovember 4, 1973(1973-11-04) (aged 71)
Dallas, Texas
Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1925–1946
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Commands held1st Parachute Battalion
1st Parachute Regiment
3rd Battalion, 26th Marines
Battles/warsBanana Wars
  • Occupation of Nicaragua

World War II

  • Bougainville campaign
  • Battle of Iwo Jima
AwardsNavy Cross
Purple Heart

Richard Fagan (September 8, 1902 – November 4, 1973) was a highly decorated United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. He was awarded the Navy Cross during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Early life and career[edit]

Richard Fagan was born on September 8, 1902, in El Paso, Texas.[1][2][unreliable source?] Fagan commissioned in the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant and served on board the USS West Virginia from 1925 to 1927. He later saw combat during deployments to Nicaragua and China.[3][unreliable source?]

World War II[edit]


Shortly after the United States entered World War II, Fagan underwent Paramarine training. In May 1943, he was given command of the 1st Parachute Battalion.[4]

On November 23, 1943, the 1st Parachute Battalion arrived at Bougainville to take part in operations there. Fagan then led his battalion on a raid at Koiari at 04:00 hours on November 29, with the intent to disrupt Japanese communications and artillery. While Fagan landed ashore with his battalion at their assigned objective, the headquarters company and an accompanying Marine Raider company landed about 1,000 yards to the east. Fagan advanced his Marines 180 yards inland, overrunning a lightly defended Japanese supply dump. He then set up a perimeter as he was concerned about the separation of his unit from the Raiders.[5][6][7]

As the sun rose, the Japanese began to pour continuous machine gun, rifle, and mortar fire on the Marines. The Marines called in artillery support and also fought off the occasional enemy banzai charge. While the Marine Raider and headquarters company were able to fight their way back to Fagan's battalion by mid-morning, the battalion radio set malfunctioned. Fagan was able to send messages to I Marine Amphibious Corps but was unable to receive them. The Raider company also had a radio and were communicating with I MAC, unbeknownst to Fagan.[5][6]

By noon, Fagan sent a radio message requesting evacuation for his beleaguered battalion. I MAC approved the request and sent a reply with instructions, which Fagan did not receive due to his malfunctioning radio. Fagan instead continued to request for ammunition and evacuation by boat.[5][6]

The evacuation boats arrived offshore around 16:00 hours. The boats made two attempts to reach the shore, but were driven back by heavy enemy fire both times. The boats managed to reach shore on the third attempt, eventually evacuating all of the Marines by 21:00 hours. The raid was largely a failure as Fagan's battalion lost approximately 20 percent of its strength after just one day of fighting. Approximately 17 Marines were killed, 7 missing, and another 97 were wounded out of a force consisting of just over 700 men.[5][6][7]

Fagan's battalion conducted numerous patrols in December before ultimately withdrawing from Bougainville in January 1944. Fagan then assumed command of the 1st Parachute Regiment as they returned to San Diego, California. However, the Paramarines were disbanded on February 29, 1944.[4][5]

Battle of Iwo Jima[edit]

Major Richard Fagan (left) examining aerial photographs during the battle of Iwo Jima.

The Paramarines were reassigned to the newly formed 5th Marine Division, with Fagan himself assigned to 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines. 3/26 landed on the beaches of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. On February 22, 3/26 was attacking Japanese positions near airfield number two when the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Tom M. Trotti, was killed by a Japanese mortar shell. Major Fagan assumed command of the battalion shortly afterwards.[8][9]

On February 24, 3/26 was pinned down by enemy fire after advancing 500 yards. Fagan personally moved to the front lines under heavy fire, repositioned his Marines and moved his reserves to fill in a gap on the right flank. He then retrieved a company from an adjacent battalion to further reinforce his battalion's position. Fagan remained on the front lines until his unit’s position was secured and the gap on the right flank was closed. Fagan continued to lead 3/26 until the end of the battle in March 1945.[1][10]

Later life[edit]

Fagan retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel in 1946. In 1947, he was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jima.[1][3][unreliable source?]

Richard Fagan died on November 4, 1973, in Dallas, Texas. He was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.[2][unreliable source?]

See also[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Robert C. McDonough
Commanding Officer of the 1st Parachute Battalion
May 10, 1943 – January 10, 1944
Succeeded by
Robert C. McDonough
Preceded by
Robert H. Williams
Commanding Officer of the 1st Parachute Regiment
January 16, 1944 – February 29, 1944
Succeeded by
Unit disbanded


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Richard Fagan". Military Times.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Richard Fagan". Find A Grave.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Richard Fagan". USS West Virginia.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Charles L. Updegraph Jr. "Special Marine Corps Units of World War II" (PDF). History and Museums Division Headquarters USMC.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Jon T. Hoffman. "Silk Chutes and Hard Fighting: U.S. Marine Corps Parachute Units in World War II" (PDF). History and Museums Division Headquarters, USMC.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Henry I. Shaw Jr. & Major Douglas T. Kane. "Isolation of Rabaul (Part 4): History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II" (PDF). Historical Branch, G-3 Branch, Headquarters, USMC.
  7. 7.0 7.1 John C. Chapin. "Top of the Ladder: Marine Operations in the Northern Solomons" (PDF). History and Museums Division Headquarters, USMC.
  8. "NH 104292 Iwo Jima Operation, 1945". Naval History and Heritage Command.
  9. "Iwo Jima". ibiblio.
  10. Henry I. Shaw Jr. & Major Douglas T. Kane. "Western Pacific Operations (Part 4): History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II" (PDF). Historical Branch, G-3 Branch, Headquarters, USMC.

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