Major General William Rupertus: The Marine Rifleman’s Creed

Michael E. Haskew

Major General William Rupertus was a tough old school Marine. He grudgingly refused to relinquish the preeminence of his 1st Marine Division on Peleliu to the Army’s 81st Infantry Division. Commissioned into the Marine Corps in 1913, Rupertus had served as commander of a ship’s Marine troop detachment during World War I, and later in Haiti and China.

Major General William Rupertus

William H. Rupertus was the Major General of the United States Marine Corps. By U.S. Marine Corps. Image is in the public domain via Wikimedia.com

By the time of Operation Stalemate II, Major General William Rupertus had been with the 1st Marine Division since early 1942, serving as its assistant commander during the Guadalcanal Campaign. He took command of the division prior to the landings at Cape Gloucester, and after it was withdrawn from Peleliu he was placed in command of the Marine Corps School at Quantico, Virginia. Just four months later he suffered a massive heart attack and died on March 25, 1945.

In addition to his command of the 1st Marine Division, Major General William Rupertus is best known as the author of the famed Marine Rifleman’s Creed. It reads:

The Marine Rifleman’s Creed by Major General William Rupertus

“This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life.

I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…

My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit…

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!”


Michael E. Haskew is the editor of WWII History Magazine and the former editor of World War II Magazine . He is the author of a number of books, including THE MARINES IN WORLD WAR II. The Sniper at War and Order of Battle. Haskew is also the editor of The World War II Desk Reference with the Eisenhower Center for American Studies. He lives in Hixson, Tennessee.

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