REMEMBERING A HIGHLY DECORATED MARINE OF SERBIAN DESCENT: COLONEL MITCHELL PAIGE (PEJIC) USMC / "United States Marine Corps History Division"
Mitchell Paige was born on 31 August 1918 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1936 from McKeesport High School at McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 1 September 1936at Baltimore, Maryland.
Completing his “boot camp” training at Parris Island, South Carolina, in November 1936, he was transferred to Quantico, Virginia. Later he served aboard the USS Wyoming as a gunner and took part in maneuvers via Panama to San Clemente Island off the coast of California.
In February 1937, he was transferred to Mare Island Navy Yard for guard duty, and two months later was ordered to Cavite in the Philippine Islands. While on Cavite he became a member of the All-Navy-Marine baseball team, which gained prominence throughout the island and the orient.
He served in China from October 1938 to September 1939. During his tour he guarded American property during the famous Tientsin flood. He left North China and returned to the U.S. in April 1940, for guard duty at the Brooklyn and Philadelphia Navy Yards. In September 1940, he rejoined the 5th Marines, at Quantico, and the following month participated in maneuvers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Culebra, Puerto Rico.
In March 1941, he was transferred back to the States and ordered to New River, North Carolina, to help construct and prepare a new training base for Marines, which later became Camp Lejeune.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he was once more sent overseas with the 7th Marines and landed at Apia, British Samoa. From Samoa, the 7th Marines went to Guadalcanal, landing in September of 1942. He earned the nation’s highest decoration for heroism, the Medal of Honor, during the campaign for Guadalcanal in October 1942, when he made a desperate lone stand against enemy Japanese after they had broken through the lines and killed or wounded all of the Marines in his machine gun section.
Platoon Sergeant Paige fired his machine gun until it was destroyed, then moved from gun to gun, keeping up a withering fire until he finally received reinforcements. He later led a bayonet charge that drove the Japanese back and prevented a breakthrough in our lines.
While on Guadalcanal he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the field on 19 December 1942. He remained on the island until January 1943, when he went to Melbourne, Australia, with the 1st Marine Division. The Marine Corps’ World War II Commandant, Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift, presented the Medal of Honor to 2dLt Paige there in the Spring of 1943. In June 1943, he was promoted to first lieutenant.
In September 1943, 1stLt Paige left with the 1st Marine Division for New Guinea where they joined the 6th Army for the attack on Cape Gloucester, New Britain, on 26 December 1943.
In May 1944, the Division left Cape Gloucester for a rest area in the Russell Islands, Pavuvu. In July 1944, 1stLt Paige was sent back to the States and assigned duty at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was promoted to captain 28 February 1945.
In June 1945, Capt Paige became Tactical Training Officer at Camp Matthews, California, and the following September, was sent to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot as a recruit training officer. He was placed on inactive duty in May 1946, returning to active duty again in July 1950, and was assigned duty at Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California.
He was later transferred to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at San Diego, California, as Plans and Operations Officer of the 2d Recruit Training Battalion. At this time he also went on a special assignment as Plans and Training Officer in charge of setting up a PLC training program for the Special Training Company. He was promoted to the rank of major on 1 January 1951.
In October 1951, Maj Paige became Executive Officer of the 2d Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, until October 1952, when he was transferred to the 4th Special Junior Course at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico. He attended school there until May 1953, then served as Division Recruiting Officer, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, until February 1954.
Major Paige was next assigned to Sub-Unit #2, Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3d Marine Division, San Francisco, California, serving as Officer in Charge, Division Noncommissioned Officers School until April 1955. During this period he also served briefly as Assistant Officer in Charge of Sub-Unit #1.
From there he served as Battalion Executive Officer and later Commanding Officer of the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, from April 1955 until August 1955 when he reported to the 12th Marine Corps Reserve and Recruitment District to serve as Officer in Charge of Marine Corps Recruiting Station in San Francisco. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in May 1957.
In August 1957, LtCol Paige was assigned duty as Inspector-Instructor, 7th Infantry Battalion, USMCR, at San Bruno, California, until August 1958, when he was detached to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.
In May 1959, he entered the U.S. Army Language School in Monterey, California, and remained there for nine months until he was ordered to the Marine Barracks, U.S. Naval Station, San Diego, California, to serve as Executive Officer until October 1959. He was placed on the Disability Retired List on 1 November 1959. For being specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat he was promoted to colonel upon retirement.
Colonel Paige died of congestive heart failure at his home in La Quinta, California, on 15 November 2003 at the age of 85. He was buried with full military honors in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California.
A complete list of the colonel’s decorations and medals includes: the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, the China Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal with Base clasp, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Marine Corps Reserve Ribbon and the United Nations Service Medal.