James Van Den Elzen, of Poway, passed away September 6, 2012. He was born April 20, 1931, in Green Bay, WI, to Bertha M. Radosevich and Donald A. Van Den Elzen, and raised in Chicago.
He joined the U.S. Marines in 1951, completed recruit training in San Diego, became an officer candidate, and was commissioned as a 2nd LT assigned to infantry. He commanded a Marine rifle platoon in combat in Korea, twice commanded recon companies, led a Battalion Landing Team off the coast of Vietnam and later commanded the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit deployed in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Among his many staff assignments, he taught at the Officer's Basic School and was a Plans Officer for the U.S. European Command in Germany. As a Colonel, he worked with the U.S. Navy
on the Marine Corps' needs for amphibious assault shipping and landing craft. As a BGEN he was the last Chief of Staff of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force and the first Chief of Staff of the U.S. Central Command.
His final assignment was as the Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton until his retirement in 1985. During his career he served with all three Marine Divisions.
A graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the Naval War College, he held a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Maryland and an advanced degree from Boston University. His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star
with "V" and the Purple Heart
James is survived by his wife, the former Faith H. Martin of Toms River, New Jersey; sister, Catherine Kolar of Chicago; daughter, Susan Lee (Bob) Kamensky of San Diego; and grandchildren, Lauren and Daniel.
In his years of retirement he enjoyed golf, gardening and reading, and he continued to follow military affairs.
As he wished, there will be no local services. His remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Semper Fi Fund at www.semperfifund.org.