Gunnery Sergeant Leland "Lou" Diamond, who was on many occasions decorated
for bravery and offered a commission, lives in memory as one of the most
famous of all "Old Breed" fighting Leathernecks. Diamond, who died
in 1951, represents a legend which inscribed a colorful chapter in Marine
Corps history and tradition.
Diamond's face, sun-bronzed and accentuated by a neatly trimmed gray goatee,
was well known at posts and stations throughout the world. His comrades
called him "Lou," but he was thought of, often, as "Mr. Marine" and "Mr.
was born May 30, 1890, at Bedford, Ohio. Friends alleged that
this date was "lifted" from a tombstone, however, and that "Mr. Leatherneck"
actually was "issued" at Tun Tavern in 1775, the place and birth year of
the Marine Corps.
he first enlisted at the age of 27--somewhat older than most recruits--the
difference never was noticeable. His salty, hard-driving personality
soon expressed itself in both word and deed, and no Marine ever showed
more devotion to the Corps.
of the incredible voice which matched his 5-foot, 11-inch, 200-pound frame,
Lou was once dubbed "The Honker." Though cool in training and battle,
he was rarely quiet. According to his World War I buddies, "The tougher
the action, the louder Lou would yell." Many of his comrades at Guadalcanal
considered him "a human air-raid warning system."
in the military service, Diamond lived informally, going hatless and wearing
dungarees practically everywhere. He even accepted one of his decorations
in dungarees. When receiving the citation awarded him in Australia
by General A. A. Vandergrift, Lou looked the general in the eye and said,
"I made my landing in dungarees--guess they're good enough to get my commendation
informal language occasionally drew frowns from Chaplains within earshot.
His earthly manner of speech, however, never appeared to detract from his
role as a morale-booster for his unit, nor from his ability as an instructor
and leader, as amply attested to by recruits who trained under his wing.
even cockiness, was one of the sergeant's outstanding characteristics.
He considered anybody with less than ten years in the Corps a "boot."
While he bawled out recruits who sometimes instinctively saluted him, he
frequently failed, himself, to salute less than a field grade officer.
Despite his peculiarities and, in many ways, because of them, he was a
to apply for a commission were rejected by the grizzled campaigner, who
explained that, "nobody can make a gentleman out of me." Though not
a "spit-and-polish" Marine, Diamond proved himself an expert with both
60 and 81mm mortars, his accurate fire being credited as the turning point
of many an engagement in the Pacific during World War II.
enlisted in the Marine Corps at Detroit, Michigan, July 25, 1917, listing
as his former occupation "railroad switchman." As a corporal in January,
1918, he shipped out from Philadelphia aboard the USS VON STUBEN bound
for Brest, France. He saw action with the famous 6th Marines in the
battles at Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel,
and the Meuse Argonne. Promoted to the grade of sergeant, he marched
to the Rhine with the Army of Occupation. At war's end, "Mr.
Leatherneck" returned to the United States, disembarked at Hoboken, New
Jersey, and on August 13, 1919, received an honorable discharge from the
railroading and civilian life in general did not suit his fancy, and on
September 23, 1921, Lou again walked into a Marine recruiting office.
Promotions were rapid for him and while serving as Assistant Armorer at
Parris Island, S. C., in February, 1925, he regained his sergeant's stripes.
Marine" itched for more action and he soon go it--in Shanghai with Company
"M," 3rd Battallion, 4th Marine Regiment. But the Sino-Japanese controversy,
in Lou's opinion, was "not much of a war" and on June 10, 1933, he returned
to the United States, disembarking from the USS HENDERSON at Mare Island,
California. By then he was a gunnery sergeant.
returned to Shanghai with his old outfit, the 4th Marines, ten months later;
was transferred to the 2nd Marines in December, 1934; and returned to the
States February, 1937. Two years after his promotion to Master Gunnery
Sergeant, July 10, 1939, he was assigned to the Depot of Supplies at Philadelphia
to help design a new infantry pack.
the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Lou shipped out to Guadalcanal with
"H" Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, arriving
at the beaches August 7, 1942. He was 52 years old. Among the
many fables concerning his "Canal" service is the tale that he lobbed a
mortar shell down the smoke stack of an off-shore Japanese cruiser.
It is considered a fact, however, that he drove the cruiser from the bay
with his harassing "near-misses."
indication of Sergeant Diamond's value to the Corps is found in a letter
of commendation for "outstanding performance of duty on Tulagi and Guadalcanal,"
from commandant of the Marine Corps. The letter states in part:
To every man in your company you were a counselor, an aarbiter of disputes,
and an ideal Marine. Your matchless loyalty and love of the Marine
Corps and all it stands for, are known to hundreds of officers and men
of this Division, and will serve as an inspiration to them on all the battlefields
on which this Division may in the future be engaged.
two months on Guadalcanal, physical disabilitites dictated "Mr. Leatherneck's"
evacuation by air against his wishes. He was moved to the New Hebrides
and later to a hospital in New Zealand, where he proved to be a somewhat
obstreperous patient. Somehow, he acquired orders to board a supply
ship for New Caledonia, where a friend ordered him back to Guadalcanal--the
supposed location of his old outfit. Upon his arrival, however, Diamond
discovered that the 1st Marine Division had shipped out to Australia, a
distance of over 1500 miles. Lou made the trip, without orders, by
bumming rides on planes, ships and trains.
"Mr. Marine" was destined to see no more combat. On July 1, 1943,
he disembarked from the USS HERMITAGE at San Pedro, California, and twelve
days later was made an instructor at the Recruit Depot, Parris Island,
S.C. He was transferred to Camp Lejeune on June 15, 1945, and joined
the 5th Training Battalion with the same duties.
familiar sight in the early morning on the company street thereafter was
"Old Lou," standing with watch in hand and whistle in mouth, awaiting the
first note of reveille to break the men out.
Gunnery Sergeant Leland Diamond retired on November 23, 1945, and returned
to his home in Toledo, Ohio. His death at the Great Lakes, Illinois,
Naval Training Center Hospital, September 20, 1951, was followed by a funeral,
with full military honors, at Sylvania, Ohio.
was survived by a brother, Irving, of Toledo.
above information was provided me by the Marine Corps Historical Center,
in response to my request for information on the legendary Lou Diamond.
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