Robert Barrow, 86, a retired four-star general who was a former commandant of the Marine Corps and was decorated for heroism and recognized for reforms, died Thursday (Oct. 30, 2008) at his home in St. Francisville, La. He had heart and circulatory problems.
Gen. Barrow served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars and received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross, among the highest awards for valor.
Later, as commanding general of the Marine Corps recruit depot at Parris Island, S.C., and as the Marines' deputy chief of staff for manpower at corps headquarters, Gen. Barrow became known for efforts to raise recruiting standards and reduce training abuses.
"Success in battle is not a function of how many show up but who they are," he once said. He championed bringing in recruits who had high school diplomas and created screening programs for drill instructors, according to a Marine Corps statement.
"My father believed that people and the quality of people transcends everything else that you do in an organization," said a son, retired Marine Lt. Col. Robert H. Barrow Jr. In addition, his son said, "he had zero tolerance on drug abuse."
Named to the Marines' top job by President Jimmy Carter, Gen. Barrow served through the early part of the Reagan administration and retired in 1983. He was the first Marine commandant to serve a full four-year term on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Some of his greatest challenges came after his years in combat. While he was manpower chief in 1976, reports surfaced of brutal incidents during training, and he was called on to institute reforms.
The rigorous physical regimen would stay, he said. But the "excess stress," which was of questionable value, would go. Some scoffed, but the revamped training was said to have proved effective.