Colonel Theodore “Ted” Lewis Gatchel of Newport, RI, passed away peacefully on August 14, 2021, at the age of 82, after a courageous eight-year battle with cancer and, later, Alzheimer’s. Ted is survived by his wife of 58 years, Vance Hayes Gatchel, who was by his side when he passed, his two sons, Banks and wife Kim Gatchel, Lee and wife Sarah Gatchel, five grandchildren: Alden, Will, Avery, Van and Alex, and his sister, Mary Jane Huffman, husband Randy and family.
Col. Gatchel was a gifted writer, insightful military historian, and brilliant strategist – but to those who knew him well – he was first and foremost a Marine. Ted’s 30-year career in the United States Marine Corps incorporated a variety of assignments afloat and ashore, spanning across the United States and overseas. Some highlights included his command of infantry units from platoon to battalion, two combat tours in Vietnam, teaching platoon tactics to newly commissioned officers at The Basic School, and service in Europe as a special advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander.
During his first tour in Vietnam from 1965-66, Colonel Gatchel initially served as the assistant operations officer of the 7th Marines before later acting as the commander of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. During his second tour from 1969-70, he served as an advisor to the Vietnamese Marines, a role which required him to become fluent in Vietnamese. Much of his time during this second tour was spent in the Mekong Delta involved in riverine operations, though the last month of his tour was served in Cambodia.
While on active duty, Colonel Gatchel served twice at the Naval War College. From 1981 to 1985 he was a student, a fellow on Strategic Studies Group II, and a faculty member of the Joint Military Operations Department. He returned to the War College in 1989, becoming the first Marine to chair the department, until his retirement from the Marines in 1991. In 1998, he returned once again to the faculty of the Naval War College as a civilian Professor of Joint Military Operations. In September 2008, he retired from active teaching and was designated a Professor Emeritus.
Colonel Gatchel’s personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star w/ V (two awards), the Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal w/ V.
Ted remained a prolific writer throughout his military career and well into retirement, authoring articles that were published in leading military publications like the Marine Corps Gazette and the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. He also wrote a monthly column on military affairs for the Providence Journal-Bulletin, and his op-ed pieces have appeared in newspapers around the country. In 1996, the Naval Institute Press published his first book, At the Water’s Edge: Defending against the Modern Amphibious Assault, which was translated into multiple languages, became an academic best-seller, and has regularly been featured on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Professional Reading List.
When he wasn’t reading or writing, Colonel Gatchel was active in the community. He served on numerous local boards including those of the Newport Historical Society, the Redwood Library, the Fort Adams Trust, and the Vestry of Trinity Church. He was a member of the Newport Reading Room, the Quindecim Club and the Victorian Military Society and served as a trustee on the committee of management of the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University.
Colonel Gatchel earned many degrees, honors and titles including a B.S. in Geological Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and an M.S. in Management from the Naval Postgraduate School. However, he was perhaps most proud of the title, “Deranged Historian,” which was bestowed on him by a disgruntled Providence Journal reader’s letter to the editor after an especially opinionated op-ed piece.
Interment will be private at the Arlington National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations in memory of Col. Gatchel to the Fort Adams Trust, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, Rhode Island, 02840.