Henry Louis Larsen

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Lieutenant General
Henry Louis Larsen
Henry Larsen as Governor of Guam
2nd Military Governor of Guam
In office
August 15, 1944 – May 30, 1946
Preceded byRoy Stanley Geiger
Succeeded byCharles Alan Pownall
Military Governor of American Samoa
In office
January 12, 1942 – April 25, 1942
GovernorLaurence Wild (alongside as the Governor)
Succeeded byJohn Gould Moyer
Personal details
Born(1890-12-10)December 10, 1890
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedOctober 2, 1962(1962-10-02) (aged 71)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
SpouseElizabeth Ammons Larsen
Alma materArmy and Navy Academy
OccupationMilitary officer, Governor of American Samoa, Governor of Guam
AwardsNavy 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)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Marine Corps seal United States Marine Corps
Years of service1913–1946
Rank Lieutenant general
CommandsDepartment of the Pacific
Camp Lejeune
8th Marine Regiment
3rd Battalion 11th Marines
3rd Battalion 5th Marines
Battles/warsWorld War I

Banana Wars

World War II

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.


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]

He was fluent in French, Spanish, and Norwegian and served as a certified interpreter for all three.[4]

Military service[edit]

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.[5] 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 to maintain all of the ground they had taken. For Larsen's heroic command during the two-day defense he was awarded the Navy Cross and a second Citation Star.[5] 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.[5] 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, France 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.[5] He earned the Presidential Medal of Merit from President of Nicaragua José María Moncada Tapia and his first Navy Distinguished Service Medal in 1929.[6] 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 went 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] In 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 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 which he helped pioneer, and other topics.[6] He earned the Navy Distinguished Service Medal twice, and the Bronze Star Medal once.[2]


American Samoa[edit]

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.[7] Larsen negotiated the American occupation of Western Samoa with New Zealand during World War II.[8]


Larsen served as Governor of Guam from August 15, 1944, to May 30, 1946.[1][9] Larsen mainly concerned himself with military and construction affairs, leaving the day-to-day administration of the island to Commander James Barton, the Deputy Chief Military Government Officer.[1] The government was restructured into a martial one with ten departments to oversee things like education, labor, and public wealth. Much of this remained similar to the naval government in place before the Japanese invasion of the island, though Larsen had increased power to change governmental organization or law by decree. During his tenure, the term Guamanian first became popular as opposed to referring to the natives as Chamorro as the 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[edit]

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
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 one service star
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

First Navy Cross citation[edit]


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Major Henry L. Larsen (MCSN: 0-540), United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as Battalion Commander, Third Battalion, 5th Regiment Marines. On 4 October 1918, Major Larsen's battalion was leading in the attack made by the Fifth Marines, while operating with the 4th French Army, east of Rheims. The French troops on his left not being advanced, and the Brigade on his right being somewhat in rear of the advance, his battalion had both flanks exposed. In spite of this, his coolness and personal bravery enabled him to hold on to the ground gained. The Germans repeatedly counter-attacked, in one instance directly from his left rear, and his position throughout the whole day was under a most severe artillery and machine-gun fire. Major Larsen constantly visited the most exposed parts of his lines and encouraged his men by his inspiring example.[5]

Second Navy Cross citation[edit]


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Award of the Navy Cross to Major Henry L. Larsen (MCSN: 0-540), United States Marine Corps, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Brigade Inspector, Second Brigade, U.S. Marine Corps, in Nicaragua from 1 April 1928 to 26 March 1929. Major Larsen's duties in upbuilding and maintaining the morale of the forces, then engaged in a most difficult mission, were performed in a highly distinguished manner, always displaying zeal, activity, thorough understanding and discretion. His successful performance of these duties contributed greatly to the accomplishment of the mission of the naval forces engaged in the pacification of Nicaragua.[5]

Personal life[edit]

On November 25, 1913, Larsen married Elizabeth Ammons, daughter of Elias M. Ammons, who served as governor of Colorado, in Denver, Colorado.[18]

On October 2, 1962, Larsen died of a heart attack at his home in Denver, Colorado.[2]

Larsen is interred with his wife Elizabeth Ammons Larsen (1893–1990) at Arlington National Cemetery.[19][20][18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ballendorf, Dirk (9 August 2010). "Governor Henry Larsen". Guampedia. Guam: University of Guam. Archived from the original on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Lieut. Gen. Henry Larsen Dies; Served Marine Corps 33 Years". The New York Times. October 3, 1962. p. 41. Retrieved November 2, 2021. (Subscription required)
  3. ^ Norwegian Sailors in American Waters. Northfield, Minnesota: Norwegian-American Historical Association. 1933. p. 214. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  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. Society for Military History. 57 (3): 492, 503. doi:10.2307/2943989. JSTOR 2943989.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Valor Awards for Henry L. Larsen". Military Times. Gannett Government Media. 2011. Archived from the original on 30 August 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  6. ^ a b "General Larsen to Leave Marines After 33-year Record as Fighter". The New York Times. 29 September 1946. p. 23.
  7. ^ Sorensen, Stan (11 January 2011). "Historical Notes" (PDF). Tapuitea. American Samoa: Government of American Samoa. VI (2): 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  8. ^ Sorensen, Stan (21 March 2008). "Historical Notes" (PDF). Tapuitea. American Samoa: Government of American Samoa. III (12): 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  9. ^ "Guam in World War II - War In The Pacific National Historical Park". nps.gov. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Rogers, Robert (1995). Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 200–201. ISBN 0-8248-1678-1. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  11. ^ Associated Press (17 August 1945). "Jap Prisoners Hunt Stragglers". The Miami News. Miami, Florida. Cox Enterprises. p. 5. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  12. ^ Astor, Gerald (2001). The Right to Fight: A History of African Americans in the Military. Da Capo Press. p. 262. ISBN 0-306-81031-X. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  13. ^ MacGregor, Morris (1981). Integration of the Armed Forces, 1940–1965. Fort Lesley J. McNair: United States Army Center of Military History. pp. 92–93. ISBN 0-16-001925-7. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  14. ^ "Guam is Declared New Pearl Harbor". The New York Times. 22 April 1945. p. 20.
  15. ^ "Navy Rule in Guam is Defended Here". The New York Times. 3 April 1946. p. 11.
  16. ^ Associated Press (18 December 1952). "Defense Chiefs Accuse Truman". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Spokane, Washington. p. 5. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  17. ^ Associated Press (18 December 1952). "Charges Neglect of Civil Defense". Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee. Journal Communications. p. 1. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  18. ^ a b "Henry Louis Larsen Lieutenant General, United States Marine Corps". arlingtoncemetery.net. Retrieved November 2, 2021.
  19. ^ Burial Detail: Larsen, Henry L (Section 1, Grave 951-A) – ANC Explorer
  20. ^ Patty, Mike (27 July 1990). "Elizabeth Ammons Larsen Dies at 96; Father and Brother Were State Governors". Rocky Mountain News. Denver, Colorado. p. 34.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commanding General of the Department of the Pacific
May 1946 - September 1946
Succeeded by
Preceded by Military Governor of Guam
August 15, 1944 – May 30, 1946
Succeeded by