When Jonas Platt graduated high school at just 16, he was determined to be an officer in the military. Little did he know that 34 years later he would retire as a major general in the Marine Corps, having served through three wars.
The young Platt knew nothing about Norwich except that a great-great-grandfather had been a roommate of Admiral Dewey’s. An uncle, for whom he was named, was a career Marine who had commanded a company at Belleau Wood during WWI.
During his sophomore year at NU, Platt received an appointment to Annapolis, but turned it down, preferring to finish his civil engineering degree. He was active as cadet captain of D troop and belonged to Skull and Swords, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers), the Guidon staff, the War Whoop, Pegasus Players, and the Drill Team. If that wasn’t enough, he was on the Dean’s List all four years and earned his private pilot’s license while at Norwich.
Graduating magna cum laude at 20, Platt had a choice between Army and Marine commissions. He took the Corps appointment and never regretted it.
Platt was promoted rapidly from lieutenant to major while serving in the Marine detachment aboard the battleship USS Washington during WWII. As a member of the 1st Marines, Platt participated in the assault landings on Peleiu and Okinawa.
Following the war, he earned a master’s degree at Ohio State University in 1948 and taught infantry tactics at Quantico, among other postings. During the Korean War, he earned the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” as commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and Assistant G-3, 1st Marine Division.
Subsequent assignments included brief service in the Mediterranean during the Suez Crisis in 1956; holding the oldest post in the Corps as commander of the Marine Barracks, Washington D.C.; and deploying with the 2nd Marine Division for the Cuban Missile Crisis.
General Platt was promoted to brigadier general in 1965 while en route to Vietnam. In March 1966, he became chief of staff for Lieutenant General Walt—commander of the 50,000 Marines in Vietnam.
Upon his return, General Platt reported to Headquarters Marine Corps and was promoted to major general in 1968. He retired from the Corps in 1970 but stayed very busy. He spent seven years on the civilian side, working in the Department of Defense. Beginning in 1981, he served as an advisor on professional education for the Marine Air Ground Training and Education Center at Quantico, one of his favorite positions. From 1986 to 1987 he served on the board of the Vermont Veterans Home.
Platt’s service to his alma mater was no less ambitious. He was a founding member of the NU Board of Fellows; a 1971 “Outstanding Alumnus”; recipient of an honorary Doctor of Military Science in 1982; co-chair of major gifts for the Norwich 2000 capital campaign; and a trustee from 1982 to 1993. He was also an avid sailor and canal enthusiast. General Platt passed away in 2000 and requested that donations be made in his name to his beloved NU.
Adapted from an article appearing in the April 1989 edition of the Norwich Record.