US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis hosts an honor cordon ceremony to welcome China State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe at the Pentagon, on November 9, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia.
CNN  — 

Here’s a look at the life of retired Marine General James Mattis, the former secretary of defense.


Birth date: September 8, 1950

Birth place: Pullman, Washington

Name: James N. Mattis

Father: John West Mattis

Mother: Lucille (Proulx) Mattis

Education: Central Washington University, B.A. in History, 1971

Military service: US Marines, 1969-2013, four-star general

Other Facts

Has more than 40 years of military service, commanding Marines in Operation Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Nicknamed the “Warrior Monk” and “Mad Dog,” and went by the military call sign, “Chaos.”

Known for his blunt style of speech and extensive knowledge of military strategy.

Also known for some of his memorable quotes, including, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

Sits on the board of directors of the General Dynamics, an aerospace defense organization.

Served on the board of directors of Theranos, a failed blood-testing startup.

HBO’s 2008, seven-part miniseries, “Generation Kill,” follows the story of Marines with the First Recon Battalion through the first part of the Iraq War, with a storyline that includes a portrayal of Mattis.

The highest-ranking military official ever to lead the Pentagon.


1969 - Enlists in the US Marine Corps.

1972 - Commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

November 2001 - Leads Task Force 58 into southern Afghanistan. At 400 miles inland, this is considered the “farthest ranging amphibious assault” in the history of the Marine Corps and Navy.

2002-2004 - Commander of the First Marine Division.

2004-2006 - Commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

2006-2007 - Commander of I Marine Expeditionary Force.

2007-2009 - NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.

2007-2010 - Commander of US Joint Forces Command.

2010-2013 - Commander of US Central Command.

2013 - Retires as a four-star general.

August 2013 - Named as a distinguished visiting fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

August 2016 - Co-editor of the book, “Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military.”

December 2016 - President-elect Donald Trump announces he will nominate Mattis to serve as secretary of defense.

January 12-13, 2017 - The House and Senate vote to approve a waiver allowing Mattis to serve as secretary of defense even though he retired from the military four years ago (a rule dictates that retired military officials must wait seven years before leading the Department of Defense).

January 18, 2017 - Mattis is approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee with a 26-1 vote, clearing the way for him to be confirmed with a full Senate vote.

January 20, 2017 - The Senate votes 98-1 to approve Mattis as defense secretary. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is the only senator to vote against him. Later the same day, Mattis is sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence.

February 20, 2017 - Mattis makes his first trip to Baghdad as defense secretary and tells reporters that the United States will not seize oil in Iraq.

August 13, 2017 - Co-authors an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying the aim of the United States’ “peaceful pressure campaign” is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not regime change.

August 14, 2017 - Speaking at the Pentagon, Mattis warns that if North Korea fires on US territory it would be “game on.”

September 27, 2017 - The Taliban claims responsibility for a failed rocket attack at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid says in a statement on Twitter that Mattis’ plane was the target of the attack. The attack occurred after Mattis had left the airport. Mattis had travelled to Afghanistan for a meeting with the country’s president.

December 20, 2018 - One day after Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from Syria are made public, Mattis resigns, effective February 2019, telling the president he has the “right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with his.”

December 23, 2018 - Trump announces that Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will assume the title of acting secretary of defense on January 1, 2019, two months earlier than Mattis’ planned departure date.

December 31, 2018 - Mattis serves his final day in office. He tells Pentagon employees to “keep the faith in our country.”

August 28, 2019 - In advance of the publication of Mattis’ book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” the Wall Street Journal publishes an essay adapted from the book. In the essay, Mattis says that alliances are important and tribalism is a destructive force.

September 3, 2019 - Co-written with Bing West, Mattis’ book “Call Sign Chaos” is published.

June 3, 2020 - In a statement to The Atlantic, Mattis says that President Trump is actively trying to divide the country and urges Americans to unite without him.

June 22, 2020 - Mattis appears in a public service announcement on coronavirus urging people in his hometown of Richland, Washington, to wear masks.