General Christian F. Schilt, a pioneer of Marine aviation and recipient of the Nation's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor for bravery, retired from the Marine Corps on 1 April 1957. He saw action with Leatherneck air units in World Wars I and II, the Haitian and Nicaraguan campaigns and the Korean War. He also served at Marine Corps Headquarters, Washington, D.C., as Director of Aviation and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps for Air.
He was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism from 6-8 January 1928, in Quilali, Nicaragua, where two Marine patrols were ambushed and cut off by rebel bandits. Then a lieutenant, he voluntarily risked his life to make ten flights into the besieged town, evacuating 18 casualties and carrying in a replacement commander and badly-needed medical supplies. To make a landing strip on the village's rough, rolling, main street, the Marines on the ground had to burn and level part of the town, and since the plane had no brakes they had to stop it by dragging from its wings as soon as it touched down.
Hostile fire on landings and take-offs, plus low-hanging clouds, mountains and tricky air currents, added to the difficulty of the flights, which the citation describes as feats of "almost superhuman skill combined with personal courage of the highest order."
In Korea, where he commanded the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from July 1951 to April 1952, he earned the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal and his fifth Air Medal. He also holds the Legion of Merit with Combat "V," the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and four Air Medals for World War II service. During that conflict he participated in the Guadalcanal campaign, the consolidation of the Southern Solomons and the air defense of Peleliu and Okinawa.
Christian Frank Schilt was born 19 March 1895, in Richland County, Illinois, and after attending Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute, Indiana, he enlisted in the Marine Corps 23 June 1917. As an enlisted man he served at Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, with the 1st Marine Aeronautical Company, a seaplane squadron assigned to anti-submarine patrol. This was the first organized American air unit of any service to go overseas during World War I.
Returning to the United States as a corporal, he entered flight training at the Marine Flying Field, Miami, Florida. He was designated an aviator 5 June 1919, and commissioned a second lieutenant five days later. That October, he began his first tour of expeditionary duty as a member of Squadron "D," Marine Air Forces, 2d Provisional Brigade, in Santo Domingo. He returned to the United States in February 1920, to enter the Marine Officers' Training School, Quantico, Virginia.
Completing the course in August 1920, he went overseas again the following month, joining squadron "E" of Marine Aviation Forces, 1st Provisional Brigade, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was transferred to the 2d Brigade the following March to make an aerial survey and mosaic map of the coast line of the Dominican Republic. After completing that assignment he returned to Quantico in October 1922.
Except for service at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, from January to July 1923, and completion of a three-month photographic course at the Air Service Technical School, Chanute Field, Illinois, in 1925, he remained at Quantico for the next five years. While attached to that post he won second place in the Schneider International Seaplane Race in Norfolk, Virginia, in November 1926, flying a special Curtiss racer at a speed of 231.3 miles per hour over seven laps of a triangular 50-kilometer course.
In November 1927, He was ordered to Managua, Nicaragua, where he joined Observation Squadron 7-M. It was during this tour of duty that he earned the Medal of Honor. He returned to the United States in August 1929, and after commanding Fighter Squadron 5-N at Quantico, was named Chief Test Pilot and Flight and Aerological Officer at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia. He served in that capacity for two years before returning to Quantico in June 1932, to enter the Company Officers' Course at the Marine Corps Schools. He completed that course in July 1933, and a month later entered the Air Corps Tactical School at Montgomery, Alabama.
Graduating from the tactical school in June 1934, he began another four years at Quantico, where he was Air Officer on the Staff of the Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, and later a squadron commander with Aircraft One, Fleet Marine Force. He then served from May 1938 to June 1940, as Executive Officer of the Marine Corps Air Station at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. After that he returned to Quantico to complete the Senior Course in the Marine Corps Schools and serve with Base Air Detachment 1, Fleet Marine Force.
He left Quantico in May 1941, when he was assigned to the American Embassy in London, England, as an Assistant Naval Attache for Air. In that capacity he traveled through England and Scotland and served as a naval observer in North Africa and the Middle East. He returned to the United States in August 1941, and was assigned to Quantico as Engineer and Supply Officer of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
In September 1942, he arrived on Guadalcanal as Assistant Chief of Staff, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. After that he was commander of Marine Aircraft Group 11, Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and Commanding Officer of the Strike and Search Patrol Commands, Solomon Islands. He returned to the United States in September 1943, and commanded the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, until March of the following year.
From April to June 1944, he headed the 9th Marine Aircraft Wing during the organization of that unit. He then served for six months as Chief of Staff of the wing and for another month as its commander before returning to the Pacific theater in February 1945. This time he was Island Commander, Peleliu, from March to August 1945, and Commanding General, Air Defense Command, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, on Okinawa until October 1945, when he took command of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing.
Returning from Okinawa in March 1946, he reported to the Naval Air Station in Glenview, Illinois, the following month. There he headed the Marine Air Reserve Training Command until July 1949, when he was ordered to Norfolk as Chief of Staff, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic. He served in that capacity until he took command of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Korea in July 1951.
In April 1952, he returned from Korea to serve in Hawaii as Deputy Commander, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, until February 1953 when he became Commanding General, Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, at the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, California. He left El Toro in July 1955, and assumed his duties at Headquarters Marine Corps as Director of Aviation on 1 August 1955, as a lieutenant general. He served in this capacity until retirement from the Marine Corps when he was promoted to general.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal with Gold Stars in lieu of four additional awards, the general's medals and decorations include the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon with one bronze star; the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal; the World War I Victory Medal with Overseas clasp; the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with one bronze star; the Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal; the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Area Campaign Medal with two bronze stars; the American Area Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia clasp; the National Defense Service Medal; the Korean Service Medal with one silver star; the United Nations Service Medal; the Nicaraguan Medal of Merit with silver star; the Nicaraguan Cross of Valor; the Korean Order of Military Merit TAIGUK; and the Korean Presidential Unit Citation.
General Schilt died 8 January 1987 and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
Second Nicaraguan Campaign 1928-1932 Medal of Honor