Krulak was born on March 4, 1942, in Quantico, Virginia. After graduating from The Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, Krulak attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated from there in 1964 with a bachelor's degree. Krulak also holds a master's degree in labor relations from George Washington University (1973). He is a graduate of the Amphibious Warfare School (1968); the Army Command and General Staff College (1976); and the National War College (1982).
After his commissioning and graduation from The Basic School at Quantico, Krulak held a variety of command and staff positions. His command positions included: Commanding Officer of a platoon and two rifle companies during two tours of duty in Vietnam; Commanding Officer, Special Training Branch and Recruit Series, MCRD, San Diego, California. (1966-1968), Commanding Officer, Counter-Guerilla Warfare School, NTA, Okinawa (1970), Company Officer, U.S. Naval Academy (1970-1973), Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, North Island, California (1973-1976), and Commanding Officer, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines (1983-1985).
Krulak's staff assignments included: Operations Officer, 2d Battalion, 9th Marines (1977-1978); Chief of the Combat Arms Monitor Section, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC (1978-1979); Executive Assistant to the Director of Personnel Management, Headquarters Marine Corps (1979-1981); Plans Office, Fleet Marine Forces Pacific, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii (1982-1983); Executive Officer, 3d Marines, 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade; Assistant Chief of Staff, Maritime Pre-positioning Ships, 1st MEB; Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, 1st MEB; and the Military Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He was assigned duty as the Deputy Director of the White House Military Office in September 1987. While serving in this capacity, he was selected for promotion to brigadier general in November 1988. He was advanced to that grade on June 5, 1989, and assigned duties as the Commanding General, 10th MEB/Assistant Division Commander, 2d Marine Division, FMF Atlantic, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, on July 10, 1989. On June 1, 1990, he assumed duties as the Commanding General, 2d Force Service Support Group/Commanding General, 6th MEB, FMF Atlantic and commanded the 2d FSSG during the Gulf War. He served in this capacity until July 12, 1991, and was assigned duty as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (Personnel Management/Personnel Procurement), Headquarters Marine Corps on August 5, 1991. He was advanced to major general on March 20, 1992. General Krulak was assigned as Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, on August 24, 1992, and was promoted to lieutenant general on September 1, 1992. On July 22, 1994, he was assigned as Commander of Marine Forces Pacific/Commanding General, FMF Pacific, and in March 1995 he was nominated to serve as the Commandant of the Marine Corps. On June 29, he was promoted to General and assumed duties as the 31st Commandant on June 30, 1995. He was relieved on June 30, 1999, by General James L. Jones.
General Krulak's decorations and medals included: the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Star; Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and two gold stars; Purple Heart with gold star; Meritorious Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; Presidential Unit Citation with bronze star; National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; Vietnam Service Medal with silver star and two bronze stars; Southwest Asia Service Medal with two bronze stars; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Color); Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Civil Actions Color, 1st Class); the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
General Krulak is married to the former Zandi Meyers from Annapolis. They have two sons, David and Todd.