USMC Bits & Pieces
The New Young Marines.
Some years ago while returning from a trip Jane and I were waiting to change planes at Dulles in D.C. when a mob of young Marines came into the terminal from buses that had lined up outside. I stopped one of them and asked where they were from and she answered that they had just graduated from boot camp at Parris Island and were on their way home for a short leave before moving on to their next assignment. While sitting there, waiting for our flight, we watched these young people in their dress and behavior - and were both very impressed. Their uniforms were perfectly pressed, shoes shone brightly, the young men had their barracks caps straight on their short, “high and tight" haircuts while the young ladies had their distinctive, attractive hats set straight on their short, cropped hair-dos with an occasional small bun peeking from the back. No one was wearing "camos"; the Corps discourages the wearing of "working" clothes in public as opposed to what seems to have become a sorry habit for the other services.
They walked and sat erect with arches in their backs and greeted everyone with a "Sir" or "Maam". They held doors open for everyone and helped handle occasional luggage for older folks. We never heard a curse word or saw unbecoming behavior. When I thought of my leaving boot camp a half century earlier I could only admire how greatly things had improved.
An Incident in Utica
At one time during World War II while I was in the V-12 Unit at Colgate, a small but respected university in the small town of Hamilton, NY, I was ordered, together with two other Marines from our unit, to travel to Albany, N.Y. I don’t remember what the reason for this trip was – possibly to pick up something and bring it back. I should explain that all the Marines in our V-12 Unit were Privates. Many of us, as did I, had either been selected for the V-12 program right out of boot camp or shortly thereafter and were Privates to begin with but there were also many who had come from the Fleet Marine Force and had higher ranks, as high as Platoon, Gunnery and Staff Sergeants. But they had all been reduced to Private in order to be eligible for this training that was to lead to a commission so we were all equal in rank.
Of the three of us given that assignment, one had been a Gunnery Sergeant so he was put in charge and also drove the car we were given. I don’t remember either of their names but for the purpose of this tale, let’s call the Sergeant “Jones”. We left Hamilton early in the morning, headed east toward Utica that sat astride Hwy 5, the main route at the time across the state and then took that highway all the way to Albany. The total distance was about 125 miles.
Something happened in Albany that is worth relating. While walking down State Street, the main street in downtown Albany, we were wending our way through the pedestrians on the sidewalk when I saw a mother with a little boy who appeared to be six or seven years old, walking toward us. When the boy spotted us, he pulled away from his mother’s hand, ran up to me, hugged my left leg and, looking up, thanked me for watching over him and his mother and father. It was the only time I was ever thanked by a civilian for being in the service.
Any way, we did whatever we were supposed to do in Albany in just a few minutes and headed back. By the time we reached Utica it was well after lunchtime and Jones picked out a small restaurant downtown for a quick meal.
As one entered, there was a long counter at the left with stools. There was just sufficient room to pass in back of the stools to a door at the rear that led to a small dining room with four or five tables. We opted for one of the tables.
While we were eating, a group of young men, about six or seven, entered the restaurant and sat in a line on the stools. They could see two of us as we could see them but they couldn’t see Jones. As soon as they spotted us they started making derogatory remarks about “Gyrines”. In short time the remarks became louder and more vicious in tenor. The other Marine and I were getting very nervous. We realized that, when leaving, we would have to pass close by all of these characters because there was no other exit. It seemed obvious that a fight was brewing and we were outnumbered and outmaneuvered. My last physical fight had been when I was in my early teens and one of only three I’d ever been in and they really amounted to nothing. This situation, on the other hand, was much more serious and I was scared.
Jones could not see the men but he could hear them and we kept looking at him. He was completely relaxed and, seeing our concern, said. “Don’t worry. It’s not a problem. We will walk out of here and they won’t bother us. Just do everything I do and follow me.”
Since we had ventured out into the civilian world we were wearing our green wool uniforms which included a wide, black leather belt with a large, heavy brass buckle. When we stood up to leave, Jones put on his cap, took off the belt and wrapped it around his right hand making a fist around part of it but leaving the buckle dangling by a couple of inches. We did the same. Then he headed out the door and made his way between the wall and the stools the men were sitting on nonchalantly swinging the buckle at his side. As soon as they saw him they fell silent, not saying another word, nor making a move toward us, as we followed Jones out the front door headed for our car and the rest of the drive back to Hamilton.
Tom Clancy's Take on the Corps.
Mr. Clancy is the country's best known and most respected author of military fiction and non-fiction and has been a good friend of the Corps. He is one of the few writers that follows the correct protocol of capitalizing the word "Marine" in all his writing, not only for the recognition of it's being the first military organization of the new United States at the time but also for the reason that no one calls a soldier an "Army", nor a sailor a "Navy" nor an airman an Air Force, so a Marine is a Marine, not a marine. I know, it doesn't make much sense and tends to confirm the arrogance of the Corp's members, but that's the way it is.
In his novel, "The Teeth of the Tiger", Mr. Clancy gives a nut shell view of the Marine Corps as follows:
"Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, is not located at the Pentagon. The largest office building in the world has room for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, but somehow or other the Marines got left out, and have to satisfy themselves with their own building complex called the Navy Annex, a quarter of a mile away on Lee Highway in Arlington, Virginia. It isn't that much of a sacrifice. The Marines have always been something of a stepchild of the American military, technically a subordinate part of the Navy, where their original utility was to be the Navy's private Army, thus precluding the need to embark additional soldiers on warships, since the Army and the Navy were never supposed to be friendly."
"Over time, the Marine Corps became a rationale unto itself, for more than a century the only American land fighting force that foreigners ever saw. Absolved of the need to worry about heavy logistics, or even medical personnel - they had squids (sailors) to handle that for them - every Marine was a rifleman, and a forbidding, sobering sight to anyone who did not have a warm spot in his heart for the United States of America. For this reason, the Marines are respected, but not always beloved, among their colleagues in America's service. Too much show, too much swagger, and too highly developed a sense of public relations for the more staid services."
"The Marine Corps acts like its own little army, of course - it even has its own air force, small, but possessed of sharp fangs - and that now included a chief of military intelligence, though some uniformed personnel regarded that as a contradiction in terms. The Marine intelligence headquarters was a new establishment, part of the Green Machine's effort to catch up with the rest of the services. The chief's name was ......... a short, compact professional infantryman who'd been stuck with the job in order to bring a little reality to the spook trade; the Corps had decided to remember that at the end of the paper trail was a man with a rifle who needed good information in order to stay alive. It was just one more secret of the Corps that the native intelligence of its personnel was second to none - even to the computer wizards of the Air Force whose attitude was that anyone able to fly an airplane just had to be smarter than anybody else."
Drilling Cadence and Songs.
The first thing a recruit learns in boot camp is how to march. It is the way the military has taught discipline and teamwork since before the days of the Roman Legions. The process is called “drilling.” The drill instructor, or DI, is the one who teaches this process and each one uses his own unique “cadence” to accomplish getting a galloping herd of boots to march in order under his control. After they’ve first learned which is their left foot and right foot the DI teaches them how to move in the direction and manner he wants them to move from point A to point B. His orders usually consist of an order of intention and an order of execution with the latter given very sharply and loudly to attain a measure of synchronism. For an example, “To the Rear March” becomes “Reeep HARCH”. Keeping everybody in step is the ultimate goal and it’s the cadence that does it.
I still hear in my mind the cadence used by my Assistant DI, Pfc. Czech at Parris Island in 1944. It consisted of a droning repetition of numbers “One, Two, Three” and the words, “Left” and “Right”. It sounded more like this:
AWN OOP REEP , Llleft, right, lleft.
In later years I copied his adding some of my own so my cadence became
WAWN OOP THREEP Left by y’left. ---- by ye’left, Left Right Left by ye’ left.
Some DIs use a simple “Left and a Left” cadence, some whistle theirs. Some I’ve heard in recent You Tube videos sound more like “Wock, Lock, Wock.”
When you see and hear a half dozen boot platoons drilling on the drill field at PI, it’s a show in itself.
There are also marching and running songs that help maintain a cadence. In the Army they are called “Jodies” and in the Corps they are “Diddys”. Prior to the mid-eighties they were usually quite raunchy but the military cracked down and that is no longer permitted. When used for running they help the runner’s breathing and take his mind off the effort and fatigue. Here are a few of the more common ones. The DI sings out each line and the troops repeat it.
Count cadence; 1-2-3-4;
1-2 -- 3-4."
Ain't no use in going home;
Diddy's got your girl and gone.
Ain't no use in feeling blue;
Diddys got your sister, too.
Ain't no use in lookin' back;
Diddy’s got your Cadillac..."
Way back when at the dawn of time.
in the valley of death where the sun don't shine.
the roughest toughest fighter ever known was made.
from a M-16 and a Live Grenade.
he was a mean green lean fightin machine.
who proudly bore the title of RECON MARINE
PT, PT, PT, COUNT
MILE ONE, JUST FOR FUN
MILE TWO, GOOD FOR YOU
MILE THREE, GOOD FOR ME
MILE FOUR, LET'S RUN SOME MORE
MILE FIVE, I FEEL ALIVE
MILE SIX, THAT'S THE TRICK
MILE SEVEN, I'M IN HEAVEN
MILE EIGHT, THIS FEELS GREAT
MILE NINE, I'M FEELING FINE
MILE TEN, LET'S RUN AGAIN
A United States Marine marching Diddy
You can keep your Army khaki,
You can keep your Navy blue.
I have the world's best fighting man,
To introduce to you.
His uniform is different,
The best you've ever seen.
The German's called him "Devil Dog,"
His real name is "Marine"
He was born on Parris Island,
The place that God forgot.
The sand is eighteen inches deep,
The sun is blazing hot.
He gets up every morning,
Before the rising sun.
He'll run a hundred miles and more,
Before the day is done.
He's deadly with a rifle,
A bayonet made of steel.
He took the warrior's calling card,
He's mastered how to kill.
And when he gets to heaven,
St. Peter he will tell,
Another Marine reporting, sir,
I've served my time in Hell.
So listen, all you young girls,
To what I have to say:
Go find yourself a young Marine,
To love you every day.
He'll hug you and he'll kiss you,
And treat you like a queen.
There is no better Fighting Man:
The United States Marine!
A Reservist in any of the service branches is just as good a soldier or sailor as any of the “Regulars”; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Having said that, I will admit that there are some aspects of service life that the reservist never learns as well and those are the custom and courtesy aspects. These are important to know during peacetime service because they are paid more attention to when the bullets are not flying around your ears and reservists serve mostly during periods of conflict.
One incident especially brought this to my attention while I was serving a two week active duty assignments one summer at the Amphibious Training Center in San Diego, CA. The facility is on the island of Coronado. Today there is a beautiful high bridge that connects the island from the city but at that time it could only be reached by ferry. The base was run by the Navy and had established its own ferry service. At prescribed times during the day a small cutter maintained scheduled service to and from the mainland. It seated about thirty passengers in a row of bench seats, was run by a petty officer and its captain was a chief boatswain. For the middle weekend of the two week stay we only worked Saturday morning so, after lunch, I decided to take the boat to the mainland and spend the afternoon exploring San Diego.
It was a beautiful California day when I walked to the small building on the dock from which the boat left where a lady at an open window checked my ID card and gave me a ticket for the trip. There were about a dozen people standing around waiting to board most of whom I assumed were probably navy personnel in civilian clothes leaving for liberty. I too had civvies on – slacks and a T-shirt because it was quite warm. I had been one of the last to arrive at the dock so when it came time to board I hung back and pretty much let everyone board first.
The trip was short; only about ten or fifteen minutes; when we pulled up to the dock, the petty officer idled the engine and fastened the dock lines and the bosun walked to the side of the boat and swung open the gate that would permit us to debark. I was sitting with some other passengers on the bench seat near the gate and waited for them to start standing up and step off the boat but nobody moved. When I looked at the bosun he was staring at me and continued to do so while I stared back having no idea what was going on. Suddenly he motioned to me with a head movement and I realized he was signaling to me that I should get off the boat so I stood up and walked off the boat. Not until then did all the other passengers also leave. I had no idea what had just happened.
While wandering around in downtown San Diego I ran across a couple of the other students in the class I was in and we had a beer together. They had a car and had come over on the commercial ferry. I told them about my strange experience and they couldn’t believe that I didn’t know what had happened. They pointed out that I was probably the senior officer on board (I think I was a Major by then) and this had been noticed when the lady checked my ID and this fact had somehow been telegraphed to the bosun. The Navy has a strict rule that the senior officer has to be last on and first off and he was only abiding by that rule. How the other passengers caught on I don’t know but maybe they just keep an eye on the bosun and can read his body language. My friends thought this was hilarious.
Another Coronado Story
When I first reported for the training session at the Navy Amphibious Base in Coronado I was assigned a room at the Bachelor’s Officer’s Quarters (BOQ) which I was told I would be sharing with another officer. As I walked up to the assigned room I noticed the door was open and, when I walked in schlepping my luggage, there was a man occupying one of the two cots in the room. He was stretched out, reading a newspaper, smoking a cigar, and dressed in only his underwear shorts. The latter condition startled me because by this time the rules at BOQ’s had dramatically changed from those I had become familiar with many years ago when they were strictly for men only. Now all BOQ’s were coed and it was common to see women walking through the corridors to their rooms. “Well?? I thought. “I guess he doesn’t care who sees him like that.”
As I dropped my carry-on and garment bag on the empty cot he gave me a dour look and said, “Hi, I’m Lieutenant Colonel Jones, former mayor of King, Texas. I have a PhD and am presently a professor at the University of Texas and a personal friend of President Johnson’s. Who are you?”
I didn’t know if I should drop to my knees and supplicate myself in front of him so just told him who I was. Since I was only a Major I figured I was going to be in for a bad two weeks. We did not become friends but did manage to get along OK. I’m not going to give his real name for reasons that will be evident.
One disturbing experience I had with him occurred on that mid-week Saturday referred to in the previous story. He and a friend of his were the two students at our training session that I met in the bar that afternoon. They were planning to go to Tijuana that evening after dinner and asked me to join them. I had never been to Mexico and, although I realized that a visit to a town that was just across the border would not give me a true Mexican experience, I agreed to go. After dinner at a downtown San Diego restaurant we took their rental car and crossed the border. The only thing we saw during the few hours we were there was more bars. I don’t consider myself a prude but what I saw and was offered in that short time thoroughly disgusted me. I was glad they didn’t want to spend any more time there either and we made it back to the base at a decent hour.
The next day which was Sunday, I went back to San Diego by myself and spent the day exploring that great city. I did remember the boat rules coming and going.
A few years later I read an article in a Marine Corps paper while I was at another summer training session that reported on that same Lt. Col. Both he and his wife had their PhD’s taken away from them. A graduate student, while researching material for his own thesis had discovered that both their thesis had been plagiarized. They both had written papers on the invasion of Saipan and had stolen most of their material verbatim from Marine Corps monographs of that event. I would assume that being a friend of a President did that fellow no good and both his and his wife's careers were ruined.
This doesn't really belong under "Experiences" but I thought it worthwhile saving and didn't know where to stow it. In the December 12, 2011 issue of Time magazine they included a short item of interest as follows:
"The Pentagon has said it will cut its ranks of nearly 1,000 generals and admirals by 10%, but that did not stop the Air Force promoting 39 colonels to brigadier generals in one recent fell swoop. The flying service has the highest rate of generals to uniformed personnel: about 1 to 1,000. This compares to the Navy's 1 to 1,279 sailors, the Army's 1 to 1,808 soldiers and 1 to 2,350 for the Marines."
This begged for a response so I wrote a letter to their editor as follows:
"Your report on "General" inflation that identifies the difference existing within the armed services in the ratio between Generals and Admirals to total troop strength confirms something I've always known but have never seen statistically confirmed - Marines are trained to think for themselves."
Love me, Love me not.
It was drizzling as our drill instructor told us to fall out and form up in front of the barracks for a trip to the barber. He told us to wear our pith helmets and ponchos. For those of you who are not familiar with these fashionable items of military clothing worn during the days of WWII by new boots at Parris Island, the pith helmet looked like the tan colored head covering worn by white men in Africa on safari or that you’ve seen British soldiers wearing in old movies depicting their adventures in the Arabian desert, only ours were made of a cheap material that looked like pressed cardboard. The poncho was a rubberized square sheet of plastic with a hole in the center that you could drop over your head and let fall draped over your body to act like a raincoat. It had appropriate slits in places you could put your hand and arms trough so you could hold a rifle.
So, properly attired in the uniform-of-the-day, we happily marched to the barber shop to the melodious cadence droning from Pfc. Czhek. When we arrived, another platoon had gotten there before us and was lined up in two files waiting their turn outside the shop where six barbers were quickly removing all the hair off the heads of the young Marines sitting in their chairs. Of course, when it was your turn to walk into the shop you had to take off the helmet and poncho.
The D.I. of the platoon before us and ours were buddies and, while all this rigmarole was going on, they sat down together under a nearby tree. Those Marines who were done would come out and stand around waiting for everyone to get finished. It had stopped raining just as we had arrived but, even so, since our D.I.s had not said otherwise, everyone had put their poncho and pith helmet back on – after all, for us at this point in time unless told otherwise it remained the uniform-of-the-day. One of the other platoon members, on being finished with the barber, stepped out with his poncho and helmet in hand, put on his helmet and then tried to put on the poncho. Well, when this poor, young Marine tried to put the poncho on over his head he found the hole was smaller than the rim of the it helmet and the poncho hung up at that point with its remainder dropping down around him in folds that fell almost to about knee height. His D.I. had watched as this ridicules event transpired and, when the boot tried to start taking the poncho off, he called out his name and ordered “Gillespie, Atten HUT.” The boot snapped to attention, while not being able to see anything.. Then, for about the next five minutes or so the D.I., sitting comfortably with his back against the tree, marched the boot all around the area – into trees, into the side of the barbershop, into groups of Marines.
By this time in our training we had all learned to never laugh at anything a D.I. did or said so all of us standing around watching this hilarious demonstration had to exert ourselves immensely to keep from laughing.
Finally the D.I. had him march to a point and stop so the poor guy was standing directly in front of him. Then the D.I. said, “Gillespie, do you hate me?”
There were a couple of seconds of silence and then the boot replied in a shout, “SIR, NO SIR!”
“So, do you love me?” responded the D.I.
Again a couple of silent seconds, then, “SIR. YES SIR”
The D.I. bent forward from his sitting position, gripped the edge of the poncho, lifted it up and ducked his head underneath it and everyone could hear him say, “O.K. then. Give me a kiss”
That did it. We could no longer hold it back regardless of what they might do to us. The whole crowd burst into laughter.
It’s been my understanding that it is acceptable to capitalize the word "Marine" in print. There is nothing I can find that requires this but it seems to be applied by many authors. I've seen it in the writings of Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, Dave Weber and others. Then again, many do not. I was once told the reason it's done is two folded; one is that it is to honor the fact that the Corps was the country's first "official" military organization but I kind of doubt that should make any difference. The other, which seems to make a little more sense, is that it follows the proper use of service designations for service members. For example you would not say a sailor is a "Navy" or a soldier is a "Army", Of course, the Air Force is all screwed up.
Following are two examples that describe this usage:
From Wikipedia, "In 2010, the United States Marine Corps had just under 203,000 active duty Marines and just under 40,000 reserve Marines."
From a Marine Corps press release, "“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of the Marines and sailors who have been killed and injured in this tragic accident,”
In all my writings I use the capital M. OORAH!