Few of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s residents are native to the area, which is true for almost any military town. MCB Camp Lejeune and Onslow County are currently home despite where you are from. There is a rich history at MCB Camp Lejeune and every road tells a story.
Running through Mainside is Holcomb Boulevard, perhaps the most travelled road on MCB Camp Lejeune. That is fitting, as the man who it is named for is perhaps the most vaunted Commandant of the Marine Corps next to John A. Lejeune. Thomas Holcomb was named the 17th Commandant of the Marine Corps in 1936. The United States was coming off what would be the worst year of the Great Depression and on the way to World War II, a defining conflict in Marine Corps history.
The New Castle, Deleware native was selected to serve as commandant by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for having distinguished himself as a battalion commander in France. Holcomb was also the first Marine to be awarded the four stars of a full general. His role in expanding the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) was essential to defining the Marine Corps that won World War II. In his tenure, the force expanded from 16,000 to 400,000 Marines, including 20,000 commissioned officers and over 8,000 aviators. The FMF expanded from two undermanned brigades to three divisions and four aircraft wings.
Holcomb also carried out the order to bring African Americans and women into the Marine Corps. In a 1942 correspondence to Secretary of the Navy Frank Cox, Holcomb wrote, “in furtherance of the war effort, it was believed that as many women as possible should be used in noncombatant billets, thus relieving a greater number of the limited manpower available for essential combat duty.”
Noted as a pioneer in amphibious assaults, Holcomb was a driving force in the new face of the Marine Corps. In 1944, Holcomb retired and would go on to serve as Minister to South Africa from 1944 to 1948. Holcomb passed away in 1964 at age 85. He is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.