CHESTERVILLE –Brig. Gen Samuel Blair Griffith II, 76, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), died at his Newport, R.I., home, March 27 . The family summer residence the past several years was at Norcross Pond Lodge here with mailing address, Mt. Vernon. He was a recipient of an honorary doctor”s degree from the University of Maine at Farmington in 1974.
Born May 31, 1906, in Lewistown, Pa., he grew up in Pittsburgh and attended Shadyside Academy and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.
Along with his outstanding military career of more than 25 years of active service, Griffith was a noted author, lecturer and expert on China. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1929 with a commission of 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Prior to World War II, he was engaged in the Second Nicaraguan campaign and served in China, Cuba and England. During his first tour of duty in China, he was a language officer at the American Embassy in Peiping.
During World War II, following a period of observing British commando training, he returned to the First Marine Division and served as executive officer and later commander of the First Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal and executive officer of the First Raider Regiment in operations on New Georgia. He earned the Navy Cross on Guadalcanal in September, 1942, for “extreme heroism and courageous devotion to duty,” during the fighting near the Matanikau River. During this action Griffith suffered wounds for which he was awarded the Purple Heart, and for his exploits in July in New Georgia, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1956.
Gen. Griffith, following his retirement from the Corps, matriculated in Oxford University (New College), England, where he was awarded his doctor of philosophy in Chinese Military History in 1961. With an interest in China, dating back to pre-war days, he translated Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in 1963 and Mao Tse-tung’s On Guerrilla Warfare in 1978. He also wrote the definitive The Battle of Guadalcanal and The Chinese People’s Liberation Army. His last major work was In Defense of the Public Liberty: Britain, America and the Struggle for Independence From 1760 to the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781, described as a “thoroughly researched, sensitive, and excellently written account of the political events on both sides of the Atlantic which led up to the American Revolution.”
His stories and articles were published widely in journals including The New Yorker, Town and Country, the Saturday Evening Post, the Marine Corps Gazette, the Naval Institute Proceedings, and Foreign Affairs. He lectured widely at such establishments as the Armed Forces Staff College, U.S. Military Academy, Foreign Policy Association and Marine Corps schools.
He is survived by his wife, Belle Gordon Nelson Griffith of Newport, R.I., and Chesterville; two daughters, Gordon G. Heneberger of New York City and Jane Griffith, Chicago, Ill.; a sister, Jane G. Rettew of Pensacola, Fla; five grandchildren and a great-grandchild.