General James Mattis’ traces his family roots back to Washington state. He never married and is known for his supreme dedication to the military. On December 20, Donald Trump announced that Mattis, 68, was to retire as Secretary of Defense in February 2019.
Trump said in his tweet announcing Mattis’ retirement, “General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years. During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting. equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!”
The announcement came 24 hours after Donald Trump said that the U.S. would withdraw all servicemen and women from Syria, a move that Mattis opposed.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Mattis’ Mother Worked in South Africa in Intelligence During World War II
Mattis was born in Pullman, Washington, on September 8, 1950, in Pullman, Washington. His father was John West Mattis, who passed away in 1988. His mother, Lucille Proulx, was born in Canada and immigrated to the U.S. as a small child. During World War II, his mother worked in Army Intelligence in South Africa. While his father worked on the Manhattan Project in Richland, Washington.
In January 2017, Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, via Business Insider: “In the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon. She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”
In December 2016, one of Mattis’ mother’s neighbors, Adriane Green, told NW News Network, “She wants him to visit more often, so she’s not exactly like for it. But, she’s amazed at how much he’s done and she’s like, ‘I can’t even believe he’s my son.’”
2. Mattis Followed His Older Brother Tom In to the Marine Corps
Mattis’ older brother, Tom, was also in the Marine Corps. It’s said that Mattis followed Tom into the military. Mattis joined the Marines after graduating with a history degree from Central Washington University in 1971. In 2011, Mattis gave the commencement speech at his alma mater.
Tom Mattis lives in Walla Walla, Washington. In 2006, Tom Mattis was quoted as saying that his brother had met repeatedly with actor Harrison Ford regarding a movie that was to be made about General Mattis. Tom said, “He would prefer the movie not be made, but he is cooperating so he can have some influence.”
3. Just Before Being Due to Marry Alice Gillis; She Called Off the Wedding Because of His Career
Mattis has never married and has earned the nickname, “The Warrior Monk,” in reference to his bachelorhood and dedication to the U.S. Military. During the 1970s, Mattis became engaged to a woman named Alice Gillis. According to a 2017 New Yorker feature, Gillis called off the wedding due to his refusal to leave the Marine Corps. The cancellation came three days before the wedding. A friend is quoted in the story as saying that Mattis’ future in the military was “too bright” for him to quit.
4. Mattis Once Said That He Treated Those Who Worked in the Pentagon as Family
In March 2017, former Independent Journal Review reporter Benny Johnson wrote about an encounter he had with Mattis saying. Johnson said that Mattis told him in response to a question about the Pentagon transition, “I treat the people inside that building like my family. When I go down to get my laundry in the basement, I factor in ten extra minutes every trip just so I can talk with people. Ya know, they see me coming down the hallway and want to ask something, they should be able to. We work just like a family… just like a family.”
When Mattis was in the running to become secretary of defense, his friend retired Marine Maj. Gen. Michael Ennis, told ABC News, “He cares deeply. He also works very hard to keep his Marines from being killed unnecessarily.”
5. Mattis Said He Is Leaving So Donald Trump Can Have a Defense Secretary With Views More Aligned With His Own
In leaving his position, Mattis said that the president deserved a secretary “whose views are better aligned with yours,” according to the Hill. Mattis’ statement makes no reference to Trump’s “retiring” comment. CNN’s Jake Tapper tweeted that, “Senior administration official tells me Mattis was “vehemently opposed” to Syria decision and possible Afghanistan troop withdrawal.”
Shortly after the announcement that Mattis was leaving, NBC News reported that Trump had asked the military to come up with a plan regarding troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. There are around 17,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In July 2018, it had been widely reported that Trump had directed officials to attempt peace talks with the Taliban.
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