Major General William H. Rupertus, a staunch advocate of expert marksmanship and accredited author of “My Rifle – The Creed of a United States Marine”, was born in Washington, D.C., on 14 November 1889. After his graduation from high school, he joined the District of Columbia National Guard for three years. He then entered the U.S. Revenue Cutter School of Instruction at Sparrow’s Point, Maryland, with the intention of preparing himself for a commission in what is now the Coast Guard. He graduated second in his class in 1913. However, on 14 November 1913, he accepted appointment as second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. During the summer of 1915, 2dLt Rupertus was a member of the Marine Corps Rifle Team whose captain was 1stLt Calvin B. Matthews. The Inspector of Target Practice was Captain Thomas Holcomb, later Commandant of the Marine Corps. The team participated in several matches during the year and fared exceedingly well. Lieutenant Rupertus won a Distinguished Marksman’s badge for his summer work. At Sea Girt, New Jersey, he won the Remington Arms-Union Metallic Company Expert Match and the Libbey Match.
Early in 1917, he was assigned duty as Commanding Officer of the Guard, USSFlorida. The outbreak of World War I found the Florida assigned to the 6th Battle Squadron of the British Grand Fleet. After he was promoted to the rank of captain in October 1917, he was detached from the ship to take command of a detachment forming at Quantico, Virginia, for special duty overseas. An urgent radiogram from the USS Florida requested his return because of his knowledge of the Fire Control Secondary Batteries, so imperatively needed in the vessel’s future assignment.
In June 1919, Major Rupertus was assigned duty with the 1st Provisional Brigade at Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was an Inspector of Constabulary with the Gendarmerie d’Haiti and later became Chief of Police of Port-au-Prince.
In June 1926, he graduated with the high mark of a “Distinguished Graduate” from the Army’s Command and General Staff at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In January 1927, he became Inspector of Target Practice in the Operations and Training Division at Marine Corps Headquarters. He later had two separate tours of duty in China. He was battalion commander of the 4th Marines at Shanghai when the Japanese attacked that city in July 1937. He was commended for his “display of excellent tact, judgement and leadership” during the Sino-Japanese hostilities in that area.
In World War II, he was named Assistant Division Commander under his old friend, Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, who commanded the 1st Marine Division. He commanded the Landing Task Force Organization which attacked the islands of Tulagi, Gavutu and Tanambogo in the Solomon Islands. When MajGen Vandegrift was detached in July 1943, MajGen Rupertus assumed command of the 1st Marine Division. He participated in the Cape Gloucester and Peleliu campaigns with distinction. In November 1944, he was named Commandant of the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia.
Major General Rupertus died of a heart attack while still in active service on 25 March 1945.
His decorations consisted of the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Service Medals, the Presidential Unit Citation with one blue star, the Victory Medal with the Grand Fleet Clasp, Haitian Campaign Medal, Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star, China Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal with one bronze star, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, American Theatre Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the Haitian Distinguished Service Medal.