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Florida highway named for Marine

By | | July 11, 2002

BLOUNT ISLAND COMMAND Jacksonville, Fla. Clay County, Fla., officials and the Old Hickory Detachment of the Marine Corps League dedicated the Gen. Roy Stanley Geiger Memorial Parkway in honor of the late Marine hero  June 29.

The dedication ceremony, held near Fleming Island Elementary School, dedicated the section of highway formerly known as Clay County Road 220. The new parkway extends from Fleming Island, Fla., to Middleburg, Fla.

Geiger's son, retired Army Col. Roy Stanley Geiger Jr., and retired Marine Lt. Gen. Bob Milligan, State of Florida Comptroller,  spoke at the ceremony. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. J.L. Jones' message on the dedication was also read during the ceremony.

"Honoring General Geiger with a memorial to his name is a stunning tribute to a true hero of our Corps, and an honor to all Marines," Jones wrote to Geiger's family and friends at the dedication. Those who travel the General Roy S. Geiger Memorial Parkway will have an opportunity to remember our nation's heroes, who inspire us and remind us to seek to live our own lives selflessly and honorably."

Unveiling one of the signs placed at each end of the parkway concluded the ceremony.

Both signs, erected near U.S. 17 on Fleming Island and Florida Highway 21 in Middleburg, are in the Marine Corps colors of red and gold and feature the Marine Corps emblem alongside the new name of the parkway.

The Clay County Commission approved the name change in December of 2001 at the request of retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Gayward Hendry, a past president of the Clay County Historical Commission and coordinator of the project.

"The whole idea for the project was set into motion a few years ago," said Hendry.
"Upon reading General Geiger's biography Unaccustomed to Fear, I discovered that General Geiger was originally from Clay County and thought that it would be fitting to have a memorial in his home community."

Col. Allen Coulter, commanding officer of Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Fla.; Maj. Kent Ralston, commanding officer of B Company, 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion, Jacksonville, Fla.; and Clay County Commission Chairman Pat McGovern were among the ceremony's honored guests.
Gunnery Sgt. Richard L. Bickford of Jacksonville, Fla.; Cpl. Frank B. Batchelor of Crescent City, Fla.; Sgt. Robert A. Houston of Orange Park, Fla.; Cpl. Douglas W. Hook of Lake City Fla.; Capt. David W. Jones of Gainesville, Fla.; Navy Corpsman Bill G. Lynne of St. Marys Ga.; and Capt. John Lanahan of Jacksonville, Fla., all World War II veterans who served on Okinawa under Geiger and all members of the Northeast Florida Chapter of the First Marine Division Association, also attended the dedication ceremony.

Geiger was born Jan. 25, 1885, in Middleburg, Clay County, F la. His father, Marion Francis Geiger, served as  Tax Assessor and Clay County School Superintendent. Geiger's childhood home was located at the present site of the Middleburg First Baptist Church. After earning a teacher's certificate in 1905, Geiger followed in his father's footsteps as an educator when he became a Clay County school principal. In 1907, he received his law degree from Stetson University and opened a law office in Green Cove Springs, Fla. Finding it distasteful to represent people whom he felt to be guilty, he soon closed his law practice and enlisted in the Marine Corps.

In 1907 Geiger joined the Marine Corps as a private and earned his commission as a  second lieutenant just 15 months later. He attended the Marine OfficersÕ School at Port Royal, S.C., and in August 1912, he was assigned to foreign shore duty in Nicaragua  where he participated in the bombardment, assault and capture of Coyotepe and Barranca during the Banana Wars.

Further foreign shore duty followed in the Philippines and China with the "Horse Marines."  Geiger was a member of the First Brigade and the Marine Detachment, American Legation, Peking, China, from 1913 to 1916.

In March 1916, Geiger joined the Naval Aeronautic Station at Pensacola, Fla., as a naval student aviator. He successfully completed the course and became the fifth Marine to graduate from the Naval Flight School as a naval aviator in June 1917.

In July 1918, Geiger arrived in France. During World War I he served with Group Number Five, Royal Air Forces, at Dunkerque, commanded a squadron of the First Marine Aviation Force, and was attached to the Day Wing, Northern Bombing Group. During these campaigns he flew numerous bombing missions.
He was detached to the United States in January 1919 where he was awarded the Navy Cross for distinguished service while leading bombing raids against the enemy.

Between wars, Geiger graduated from both the Army and Navy War College, and in 1929 he returned to Washington for duty with Aeronautics, Navy Department, as officer-in-charge, Marine Corps Aviation.
He led the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Sept. 3-Nov. 4, 1942, while stationed at Guadalcanal. For extraordinary heroism in this capacity and as commander of all aircraft, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Navy Cross.

Geiger was recalled to Headquarters Marine Corps in May 1943 to become director of Aviation. In November 1943, he returned to the field, this time as commanding general of the I Amphibious Corps, which he led from Nov. 9 until Dec. 15, 1943, in the Bouganville Operation, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

Geiger led the organization, renamed III Amphibious Corps in April 1944, in the invasion and subsequent recapture of Guam during July and August of 1944, and in the assault and capture of the southern Palau Islands in September and October of that year.  For those operations he was awarded two Gold Stars in lieu of a second and third Distinguished Service Medals.

In 1944, Geiger led his amphibious corps into action for the fourth time as part of the 10th Army in the invasion and capture of Okinawa. After the death of Army Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner Jr. on Okinawa, Geiger became the first Marine Corps officer to command a field army when he took the reins of the 10th Army.

In July 1945, he assumed duties as commanding general of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. He was later promoted to lieutenant general and became the senior Marine on the deck of the USS Missouri when Japanese leaders signed the document of surrender that ended World War II.

Geiger was promoted to four-star general posthumously by the 80th Congress, effective on the day of his bereavement, Jan. 23, 1947. The "Father of Marine Corps Aviation" died at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.