as otherwise indicated, the information here is from the Marine Corps Historical
Pamphlet, United States Marine Corps Ranks And Grades 1775-1969, by Nalty,
Strobridge, Turnbladh and Gill, Historical Division, HQMC
1946 and 1958, there were only three major alternations in the enlisted
rank structure. First, the Career Compensation Act of 12 October 1949 turned
the pay-grade numbering system upside down by placing privates in
pay grade E-1 and master sergeants in grade E-7. Second, the Marine Corps
announced in December 1954 the establishment of two additional titles within
grade E-7. The rank of sergeant major was to take precedence over the newly
resurrected first sergeant, who, in turn, was placed above the master sergeant.
This last change was made to give recognition to noncommissioned officers
acting in these important billets; the job of first sergeant or sergeant
major was too important to be classed merely as an administrative specialty.
This re-emphasis on the role of the senior noncommissioned officers was
followed by a sweeping revision of the enlisted ranks and grades of the
Marine Corps in 1958, after Congress amended the Career Compensation Act
of 1949 and authorized two new pay grades, E-8 and E-9. This revision was
designed to relieve the crowding at the E-7 grade, caused by the rapid
World War II output of noncommissioned officers and, since then, by the
moving up--appropriately enough--of the specifically skilled men which
every service was recruiting more and more. The end result, however, was
an unbalanced structure, too heavy at the top.
1958, the proportion of NCOs in the Marine Corps had climbed to 58% of
the total enlisted strength, a startling figure when compared to the 25%
of 1941. It is even more startling when one considers that the Marine Corps
from its founding until World War I never had a proportion higher that
18.8%, with the usual percentage ranging between 13 and 15%. The increased
mechanized nature of World War I, however, had shown the need for military
technicians in modern warfare, From then on, an increase in the proportion
of NCOs resulted. By 1937, it had reached 27%, and a staggering 40% by
compression at the top, 58% in 1958, led to rank imbalance and confusion.
There were E-7s supervising other E-7s, while some corporals continued
doing the same job after promotion as they did before. In short, the prestiege
of the NCO, traditional and necessary to any military service, was declining
at the very time when it should be increased.
solution to this imbalance, plus other desirable changes, was ordered by
the Commandant on 25 November 1958, to be effective 1January 1959. Substantially,
it followed the recommendation of a study by the Enlisted Rank and Pay
Structure Board, convened to adapt the new legislation to the Marine Corps.
Besises revisions of rank structure, adjustments of proficiency pay were
made in an attempt to meet competition for critical skills without inflation
of rank, develop and maintain a balanced work force, and reward outstanding
transitional period of dual grade structure, to end entirely on 1 January
1965, was worked out to insure that no Marine would lose stripes. This
was achieved by establishing "acting" ranks, so that all Marines would
be able to retain their existing titles, insignia, and privileges. Upon
promotion, they would assume the new rank titles. The prefix "acting,"
however, was abolished by the Commandant on 1 August 1960, and the end
of the transitional period for all grades was moved up to 1 July 1963.
this revision of 1958, the ranks of corporal through master sergeant were
upgraded one pay grade each, making room for an additional private rank.
The sergeant major/first sergeant program was retained, with its historic
command prestiege, but a new technical leadership was introduced into the
top NCO levels, in recognition of the ever-increasing complexity of waging
modern warfare, by permitting E-8 and E-9 billets to be filled also by
occupational specialists. Since technical adeptness was now required of
quite a few others besides the technical sergeant, this title ceased to
have value and it was deleted. Marines holding that rank were designated
acting gunnery sergeants.
rank of corporal was placed in pay grade E-4 in order to preserve his status
as the junior NCO in the Marine Corps. The rank of sergeant with three
stripes, formerly E-4, was selected to replace the rank of staff sergeant
at E-5, in order to have two ranks of NCOs and to remove one rank from
the ranks of staff NCOs which would start at staff sergeant in pay grade
E-6. Personnel holding the rank of staff sergeant would carry the title
of acting staff sergeant until promoted. The
occasion also enabled the Marine Corps to reapply its colorful history
to the grade structure. The title of lance corporal, first used by the
Marines in the Indian Wars of the 1830s was revived. Now, for the first
time, it was a permanent rank. In addition, the memorable "Gunny"--the
gunnery sergeant and the master gunnery sergeant--was exhumed.
E-7, the gunnery sergeant was used in place of the master sergeant, partly
to restore the traditional rank and to move the title "master sergeant"
from pay grade E-7 to E-8. As for the first sergeant, no change was involved
except to raise the rank from E-7 to E-8. The rank of master gunnery sergeant,
revived to provide leadership in occupational fields, was put at the top
in E-9, alongside the sergeant major, raised from E-7 to E-9 and still
the senior NCO.
in its entirety, the new enlisted structure enhanced career attractiveness
which, for more than a century, had drawn volunteers to the Marine Corps.
There was full acknowledgement of the modern military picture, yet no Marine
could sadly say that "things aren't like thet were in the old corps." Also,
the first year under the revised structure, fiscal year 1959, saw a new
proportion of NCOs--a more logical 37.4%, and as of 30 November 1961, it
was still only 37.5%. (CLick