As a Marine WebSite author, I have had the opportunity of viewing many other Marine WebSites, and interacting with other Marines on the web, most of them Marines much younger than myself. Having done so (whereas I would otherwise have had no occasion to even speak with another Marine) I can say that I am impressed with the realization that no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same. During my period of active service (1952-72) great changes took place both within and without the Marine Corps. As Marines, we have all experienced such changes. But, there are also many less dramatic changes that, together with the greater changes, affect how we feel about both ourselves as Marines, and our Corps. As a result of my experience on the net, one ever constant, never-changing, glaring fact stands out, sounding off loud and clear to me in regard to our present day Marines: Today's Marines are still the same Gung-Ho Marines they always were!...."Semper Fidelis!"
The following are a few reflections regarding some of the changes I experienced and remember.
In August of 1952, after boot camp, I picked up my first set of orders, bought a train ticket, went home for ten days leave, and then proceeded to report to Marine Barracks, Camp Joseph H. Pendleton, Oceanside, California.The Marine Corps that I found at that time was, in many ways, quite different than the one I retired from at the same Camp Pendleton in 1972.
I remember that our Military Service Number (MSN)-- mine was 1345xxx--before we used Social Security Numbers (SSN)-- was shown on dogtags and documents with an SS for selective service (for draftees), or USMC or USMCR for the rest of us. Oh yeah, there was a K (for Korea service) indicated with the MSN for Korean war vets.
In the area of uniforms, we were still issued and/or wearing "battle jackets" (both khaki and green). We wore MC insignia on our summer service shirt collars. There were no authorized summer service "tropical" uniforms yet, only cotton khaki. Not all Marines were issued boots yet, some of us still had the old "boondockers." We referred to our utility uniforms as "dungarees." -- the old herringbone type. Just about that time, we got the word to tuck our jackets in at the waist, and blouse our trousers over our boots--if you had boots; otherwise, you wore leggings with the low-cut shoes. Flannel shirts were still issued (again, both green and khaki). No tie clasps yet, field scarves just blew in the breeze. And belt buckles were not polished , because they were black. Civilian attire on liberty was OK--but, no Levi's and no shirts w/o collars.
The rank structure was paygrade E-1 thru E-7. No E-8/E-9 paygrades. No lance corporals, no gunnery sergeants, although Technical Sergeants (TSgt) were commonly referred to as Gunny, in honor of that title formerly in use in the Corps. My boot camp issue of Guidebook for Marines still indicated the title of Platoon Sergeant, which had been replaced by Staff Sergeant. First Sergeants and Sergeants Major were all MSgts, usually the most senior MSgts.
Marines were issued the M-1 "Garand" rifle as their T/O weapon. SNCOs had the U.S. carbine as their T/O weapon, and MSgt, the .45 pistol. The Marine rifle squad was armed with M-1 rifles, except the three automatic riflemen with Browning Automatic Rifles (BAR), and the squad leader carried a carbine.
Virtually all the SNCOs I served with at that time were veterans of the Korean war (then still in progress), WWII, and pre-WWII. There was, however, the ocassional slick-sleeve SNCO to be found here and there, but not many. Many of the SNCOs had been in the Corps before I was even born. There was a MSgt Wes Baker who was with the horse Marines in China. Another, TSgt Ben Vinson was a POW in Japan during WWII. I recall, later, seeing his photo in Leatherneck magazine, together with his former Japanese jailer. And there were so many more. Just a couple years ago, I met a Marine who had been a Pfc with the legendary Lou Diamond at New River, NC just prior to WWII.
Note: Many of these oldtime Marines are still around, but many have gone on. It is unfortunate, I think, that more of the oldtime Marines do not have WebSites on the web by which their stories can be told. They have such a great wealth of knowledge and information to contribute, and to pass down to both present and future Marines. I would urge all of you Marines with your splendid Marine WebSites to consider both soliciting and accepting material from oldtime Marines and/or their representative for publishing on your WebSite. This goes for me, too. Any oldtime Marine can just e-mail me your write-up, and this "Gy G's Vignette" will be expanded to a series of "Marine Vignettes" on this WebSite.
But, to continue.... Later, in 1952 I was transferred to 3rd Marine Division, also at Camp Pendleton. In July 1953 I was a member of 3rd Marines, at Tent Camp #3 (Talega)--which became Regimental Combat Team-3 (RCT-3), and we sailed for Kaneohe Bay, Territory of Hawaii (TH). But, we were there for only a few days when we departed, rather hastily, (some thought for Korea) but we ended up in Japan. The rest of the 3rd Marine Division soon caught up with us, and the various regiments, separate battalions and attached units were scattered all over Japan in locations like Camp Fuji, Camp McNair, Camp Gifu, Camp Nara, Camp McGill, Osaka, and many more places that escapes me right now.
There were few Marine helicopters around in those days--I recall only once hitching a ride in one, in 1954 from North Camp Fuji to Atsugi NAS. Transportation, both going to and coming from overseas assignments was routinely by ship, although, beginning with officers and SNCOs more and more air transport became the norm.
In 1955 I was stationed at Marine Barracks, NAS, Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Here, on my first cruise, I decided to take my discharge. I was discharged, and after a couple months, I joined the 2d 155mmHowitzerBn,USMCR in Providence, R.I., just in time to go to summer active-duy training with them at CLNC. Despite the scuttlebutt I'd heard to the contrary in the regular establishment, I found the Reserves to be the best Marines ever. Many of them were older WWII veterans , corporals and sergeants wearing several hashmarks on their sleeves. They were there because they were Marines at heart, and they wanted to keep their hand in and be ready when their Corps and Country needed them. The following year, 1956, I reenlisted in the Corps. This time something new had been added. I was given orders to the new Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) at CLNC, as a trainee. When I first enlisted in'52 there had been no ITR, although a similar Training & Replacement Command (T&R) had existed at Camp Pendleton, but only for those enroute to Korea--and only Marines 18 years and older were going to Korea at that time.
And, then there were other changes. There was a new CMC, General Randolph McCall Pate; a return to the strict use of Naval terminology (aye, aye, Sir!, etc.); swagger sticks for SNCOs; a return to squad drill (LPM drill was out!); and a brand new rank structure coming in, to include lance corporals, gunnery sergeants, and, of course, the new E-8/E-9 ranks; and, the already established Proficiency Pay was in effect, etc,
New weapons were not far behind, including the new M-14 rifle and M-60 MG.
By far, the most dramatic change of all had been the shift in emphasis from amphibious assault alone to "vertical envelopment." Another modern warfare concept pioneered by the U.S. Marine Corps. And from there it was on to other things--the Ribbon Creek drownings at PISC; later, an amphibious landing in Lebanon; the Bay of Pigs; the Cuban Missile Crisis; and, eventually--Viet-Nam!
One thing is certain;
there will always be changes. That there will always be the need for Gung-
Ho! U. S. Marines as well, is self-evident--at least to this Marine.
Thinking of a 'vignette' about my first reenlistment which involves my sorry record book,a 1st Sgt from the old Raider Batallion, a captain with a couple of decorations from Korea and me. What page in our record book covered non judicial punishment?, I can't remember if it was 8, 12 or whatever....but then again who needs your response. Here it is: After four years in the Corps this poor PFC really wanted to "ship over". The old "first shirt" saw something in me as a four year screwup, always in fights, chasing the WM's and getting run out of the slop chute, and busted a couple of times. He was trying to emulate the guys that Chesty always cared for.
The old first shirt that I was talking about, and the alumni of the old raider batallion, usually kept those non judicial punishments out of your record book by taking you into the head and "talking" to you, when I say talking he was about 6'4" and his index finger use to make bullet holes in your chest when he emphasized things, of course, that index finger became a fist if you argued the point. If he thought he had made his point you never had to stand tall in front of the skipper's desk. In those days, after four years, if you hadn't made at least E3or E4 there was no way you were gonna' re-enlist. I had made those private conferences with that big man in the head a couple of times.
Well anyway, he fixed it, talked to the skipper and then the batallion commander and let this old gunnery sergeant ship over, that was 1962. His name was John Steele. Does anybody remember him, I hope so. He is one of our Raider Heroes.
I often wonder what it was like. You have trained hard at Parris Island, slogged through mud on your belly, 50 calibers whizzing two feet overhead. Some guys just lost it, went crazy, sent home. I often wonder. What would be going through your mind as you see Mt. Surabachi approaching in the smokey distance, a narrow slit on the horizon framed by your helmet and the lip of the landing craft. Your eyes turn left, just as a shell takes a direct hit on the next craft over, bodies and body parts go flying in every which direction. You close your eyes and ask yourself: they were no different from us. The Navy behind you is pouring in 12-inch guns at a ferocious pace; they scream through the air near the speed of sound, and echo back delayed destruction. You trust those gunners; their aim is awesome, always near the mark. The waves are changing shape, the water is getting shallow. More fifty calibers are whizzing by, this time getting closer. Some ping off the craft, a metal wash tub with twin diesels. You reach the crest of a wave, and then surf into hell, as the ramp falls and it's the moment of truth. You don't have time to ask, what am I doing here, because you are running for dear life. You recognize the sound of your captain yelling, hit the sand and crawl in, men. Dig in beyond the water line. The Japs are ferocious too. This is their last air base before the mainland. Two runways, actually. One at each end. These fascists will stop at nothing to defend their Emperor. We huddle in our makeshift sand castles, trying to keep our powder dry. My job: get the machine gun close in, take out all buildings, and secure the first runway. We sit while the Navy pours it on, big guns now, every 5 seconds. The roar is deafening. Men are dying, screaming, bleeding. What am I doing here? The captain over there loses it, goes crazy. A GI yanks him in a trench and knocks him cold, our new squad commander, ok by me. The Navy is relentless, big guns every second now. How can they reload so fast? American engineering: we machinists know all about it -- the best ever, bar none. The smoke is choking us alive, thick and black, sulfurous, hot ashen coral raised to plasma temperatures. Why would anybody want to work here? The Navy waits, to let the smoke clear, assay the damages. Eerie silence. There is nothing in front of us except black sand with huge meteor craters, freshly made. Move out, we hear, and our training kicks in. No time to think, just keep moving. My buddy comes near. We take inventory: one water cooled machine gun, one thousand rounds, more for the asking, tripod, carbine, back pack, portable shovel, pick, what we're wearing. That's it. Move out. We come upon bodies, lots of them, still, mangled, lifeless. Don't look down; just look forward. We drag heavy loads through black sand and ash. No color anywhere; just black and white and grey, lots of it. A shot from behind, a Marine down, killed in action, right in the back. So, they lay there feigning injury, only to pop up as we pass by. Ok, that's it. No prisoners. We pull our butcher knives and go for throats. Grisly, effective. Every Marine is priceless, every one expendable. Like Lawrence, of Arabia. Time starts to fade into slow motion. We inch along, take this tree, that palm, this bunker. Charlie gets a flame thrower, we watch in muted shock. Nothing is too terrible now; we are going to TAKE that runway. Night falls, sleep impossible. Charlie screams his insults in strange Jap accents. Almost funny, almost. We count our losses: Billy, Johnny, Efraim, Christopher, Sassy Brooks, Zeb, Mack and Danny. All gone, all dead, going home now. The sun rises in front of us, framing another rising sun flapping in the breeze. The runway, not far ahead, beckons to our instincts, the killer kind. We creep in silently, no resistance. Japs are gone, only snipers high up in the palms, sitting ducks. Stupid too. Kamikazes with no planes, brain washed. We take turns, it's a shooting gallery. This isn't even funny. We take their guns, worthless rounds, and break 'em. The eerie silence is broken now by fading gun shots. A moment of calm descends upon this seething smoking inferno. We hear the faint drone of a Jap Zero, headed for home. He never got word: this runway is history. He glides in, bouncy landing, taxies to one end. Marines watch, reload quietly, no orders this time. We all know what we're going to do. Pilot cuts his engine, opens the canopy, we open up. Shells pour in again, this time from M-1's and machine guns, dozens, hundreds, thousands of rounds shred the Zero into bits and pieces, glass, rubber and aluminum flying every which direction. That plane is history too. We revel, leave it to block the runway. Some take souvenirs. The rest reload. I pee in the barrel jacket again. One down. One to go. Time again slows down. How many days now? Two? Three? I can't remember. We trudge along. More ammo arrives. Food too. C-rations. Yumm. We urinate into the barrel to save water. This place is hot, very hot, almost too hot. Too hot for comfort, for sure. We set our sites for runway two, in that clearing, up ahead. Mortar fire, first scattered, then regular, now a frequent problem. My buddy and I move in, stake out a position, start to dig, his shovel worthless against the hard-packed coral. They rolled this runway, very hard, asphalt nowhere. My pick is working, thank God. I dig, he removes debris. It's still slow going. We dig for our lives. More mortars. Oh, no. They've zeroed our position. You can tell as blasts come closer, faster. This one, right now, you can hear, is coming right in. Billy, take cover, I yell. He dives in one direction, I in another. The blast almost takes his hands off, the ring in my ears unbearable. Through the smoke, I see Billy's hit, hit bad, motionless, moaning. I crawl to him, he's still alive. Japs figure our machine gun's out, they re-target. Billy goes over my left shoulder, and two carbines over my right. Forget the machine gun; too heavy; takes two anyway. We're now one and a half, Marines that is. Billy breathes, but barely, can't talk, bleeding bad. I trudge through deep sand, echoes of smoke fill the air, me yelling Medic! Medic! Billy needs help, OVER HERE. Nobody hears, too much chaos. I trudge, I trudge. Something is hot, liquid, near my jaw. I been too busy to check myself. I raise my right hand to feel my pulse, blood is pouring down by wrist. I am hit. I don't even know it. What gives? Is this some bad dream? I realize, that's IT. I'm OUT OF HERE. Next stop, the hospital ship. Medics near now. I collapse in their arms, totally, completely, utterly exhausted, and pass out, and dream of my beautiful bride, Anna Marie, slender, loving, chestnut hair, sea blue eyes. This must be heaven, at long last. That was my birthday, 1945. Billy made it, docs worked two miracles, one on each hand. We ran into each other on the hospital ship. First time, he didn't recognize me, my face so heavily bandaged, after several surgeries. The shrapnel had just missed my spine. God's little miracles, for sure. Everything got mixed up -- time, space, where, when, how? It didn't matter. We were alive, and we were on our way home. The commander wanted me back. You can wear your Purple Heart on your lapel, he said. I told him, I'd rather take it home and show it to my son. Thank you anyway. I later saw that photo, 4 "Gyrines" raising old Glory, right atop Mt. Surabachi. I knew those red stripes were soaked in blood, the whites were stained as well. 4 guys, just like me, their names forever written on the wind. Next stop for them, the Japanese mainland. Next stop for me, a farm in Oregon, cows, chickens, dogs and geese. And a time to recuperate from shell shock, and a time to thank God for this country. We left fascism behind when we came back from hell, where it belongs, where it should stay.
One night in 1966 after
lights out, one of the S/Sgt's from one of MAG-12's Shops knocked on the
door of our Houch (SEA Hut) and I opened the door since my bunk was nearest
the door. The man had been partaking in the consumption of alcoholic beverage's
and wanted to talk to "Buzz", & I knew that "Buzz" didn't want to talk
to him so I said that "Buzz" was sleeping. He insisted on talking to him
& I couldn't talk him out of waking "Buzz" up. The next thing that
I knew, I was looking at the business end of a .45 caliber Pistol U.S.
Model 1911A1 Cal. .45. I must have gasped rather loudly as "Buzz" acted
like he woke up and asked me what was wrong. I remember that it seemed
like I was looking into the end of a 55 gallon barrel. The muzzle looked
BIG! The S/Sgt. gave me his .45 and told me to hold it for him. I ejected
the "ROUND" from the chamber and put on the "SAFETY". I gave a big sigh
of relief when I got the weapon unloaded and safe. The S/Sgt. and "Buzz"
talked for quite a while since he had been going to "shoot" the Gy/Sgt.
he worked for because the Gunny was riding his rear unmercifully. "Buzz"
talked him out of it and he left his pistol with me when he staggered back
to his own Houch. I think "Buzz" took his Pistol to him the next day and
maybe talked to the Gunny, as we never heard any more from him & he
didn't shoot the Gunny.