Colonel Richard Rothwell
Legion of Merit
with combat V Saipan Tinian
Col Richard Rothwell, United States Marine Corps, Retired, a gallant warrior and a kind, gentle man died of natural causes on May 7, 2012 in Catonsville, Maryland. He was 99 years old. For almost ten decades he lived a full and rewarding life, serving his country with distinction during perilous times, building a strong and loving family, and earning the respect and admiration of the many who knew him.
He was born on November 23,1912 in South East Washington DC, not far from Barney Circle, at the eastern end of the old Pennsylvania Avenue trolley line. His ancestors came to Washington, DC before the Civil War as stonemasons and helped to build the wings on the U.S. Capitol Building, the top of the Washington Monument, what is now the Building Museum and a host of other public and private buildings in the District. Col Rothwell was the first member of his family to attend college. After graduating from Eastern High School in 1931 he entered a then new Washington preparatory academy, The Bullis School, which he credited with preparing him to pass the entrance examinations for the United States Naval Academy. Graduating from Annapolis in 1936, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Marines.
His first duty station was the Washington Navy Yard. In keeping with service etiquette of the day, he paid personal calls on the President, Vice President, and other senior government and military officials in the area. In 1938, while still a lieutenant, he served with the Fourth Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China, helping protect U.S. citizens and property from the bitter nearby fighting between Japanese and Chinese forces. Returning to San Diego, California with his regiment in 1938, then Lieutenant Rothwell met and married Phyllis Elizabeth Bowlby. Shortly after the ceremony, he and his bride sailed for Marine Barracks, Olongapo, Philippine Islands, where their first child, Richard, was born. A short time later, he returned to Shanghai for duty, this time with his new family. Rumors of war between Japan and the United States prompted the evacuation of military families from the Far East in 1940. His wife and son returned to San Diego. Captain Rothwell followed several months later, shortly before the war began.
In 1943 Marjor Rothwell reported to the newly formed 4th Marine Division at Camp Pendleton as Executive Officer, 2d Battalion, 24th Marines. Following its initial training the 4th Division sailed for the Pacific Theater and some of the most difficult battles of the war. He served as the battalion executive officer during the amphibious assault to capture Roi Namur. Upon promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, he assumed command of his battalion, leading his Marines through the victorious assaults on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. He received the Legion of Merit with Combat V and the Silver Star for his leadership and bravery during those actions. Shortly after he departed for the Pacific Theater, his wife gave birth to their second son, Charles.
Following World War II Col Rothwell served in various posts and stations. In the Mid-1950's he served as Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division and as Commanding Officer 5th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California. When he retired from the Marine Corps in 1961 Col Rothwell was a member of the National Security Council staff at the White House in Washington D.C.
After his Marine Corps career, Col Rothwell and his wife, Phyllis, settled in Massachusetts for 16 years while he held positions with AVCO and Raytheon Corporation. Upon his full retirement in 1977 the two settled in Phyllis’ hometown of San Diego, where they lived until her death in 1998.
In 2003 Col Rothwell married Rebecca Guthrie Hopkins, the widow of a retired U.S. Army officer. The two and their original spouses had met and become good friends several years earlier during a trip to the Soviet Union. Col and Mrs. Rothwell lived in Catonsville, Maryland until his death.
Col Rothwell is survived by his wife, Rebecca, two sons; Col Richard B. Rothwell USMC (Ret) (Ann) of Escondido, California and Charles John Rothwell (Sandra) of Bethesda, Maryland; four grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.