Clifton B. Cates was born in Tiptonville, Tennessee on August 31, 1893. In 1917 he was commissioned asa second lieutenant in the Marines after attened the Missouri Military Academy and the University of Tennessee Law School. After spending some time in the states, he went to France with the 6th Marines. Cates was involved in 5 campaigns and was twice wounded. On June 6, 1918, he was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism in action.

After the war he served as an aide in the White House and also aide-de-camp to Commandants Barnett and Lejeune. Cates spent some time in China and aboard USS California.

In May of 1942, then Colonel Cates was given command of the 1st Marines, which he led in Guadalcanal. After spending some time at Quantico in charge, he returned to the war and lead the 4th Marines at Tinian and Iwo Jima.

In 1948, Cates was promoted general and commandant. Before the Korean War started, the Corps was down in strength, however within nine days of the start of the war, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was on its way to South Korea. Following tradition, Cates helped with the passage of Public Law 416 which set the Corps' active strength to three divions and three aircraft wings. Also as commandant, he helped with the development of doctrine for use of helicopters in vertical envelopment.

After his tour of duty as commandant, Cates retired to command Marine Corps Schools again and returned to the rank of lieutenant general. Cates retired in 1954 and on June 4, 1970 he passed away. He is buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.

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