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By
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.) 1952-72
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!


JARHEAD, GYRENE, and GRUNT...
~According To GyG!~

I have written on the following topics many times before and posted this information to one or another Internet messageboards, my own or otherwise, etc. But this is the first occasion for me to post all of these topics to one website of its own. This makes it more permanent and available when I wish to refer to these things again w/o hunting and searching. Of course, websites are not forever; they come and go, disappearing from time to time from the cyber-world for one reason or another.

JARHEAD
Regarding the term Jarhead, all are well aware of the explanations for the origins for this name for Marines--that it found its origins in the high, dress blues, collar of the Marine uniform, that it refers to the similarity to a Mason jar, the "high and tight" haircut of Marines, and that the term was first used for Marines by members of the U.S. Navy, etc. The following, my own information, from my own experiences and opinions only are presented here for your perusal. I do not insist that anybody accept these explanations over any other, you may accept/reject any or all of the following as you please. Hopefully, old salts viewing this, with knowledge and experience far superior to mine, may have further information and/or dissenting opinions on these things. I am always happy to hear from you, either bt e-mail or simply by posting to my Old Salt Marines Tavern messageboard/forum.

All this may be, and may well have become later additions to these stories, we don't know for sure with absolute accuracy how these things really come to be. So there is always some room for question, doubt, and opinions contrary to the prevailing explanations.

When I was a brand new, young PFC in 1952, first reporting to Marine Barracks, Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, California (no zip code) after graduating boot camp, (yes, that's how my orders were worded)I was soon to learn of a different origin for the term Jarhead.

I found myself among many Marines with many years service in the Corps, most of these being Staff NCOs. Some of these Marines had had service as far back as the pre-WW II "Banana Wars," but most were at least WW II or Korean War veterans.

On one or two occasions I was overheard discussing Marine Corps lore with other boots, and corrected by one or more of the old salts. In particular, I was told that the term Jarhead originated in the Corps back in the days when mules were still used. As anyone who has ever watched an old western movie knows, mules were often referred to as Jughead. The oldtimers insisted that Marines also referred to their mules as Jughead and/or Jarhead. Over time, certain stubborn or hard to deal with Marines were also called Jarheads.

There it is, take it or leave it. Myself, I can accept the above as the origin for the term Jarhead, and still see how the newer explanations also became attached to the legend and became the sole existing explanation. We May never know for sure.



While we're at it here, here's some more information--food for thought--on the same topic. This one was posted to one of the GyG messageboards, and at least it does provide a reference for its remarks.

" The Wordwizard Clubhouse
jarhead

marines are called this . why?

http://www.wordwizard.com/clubhouse/founddiscuss.asp?Num=2903
http://www.wordwizard.com/clubhouse/founddiscuss.asp?Num=2903

Submitted by ( - )

JUGHEAD originally meant mule. ‘Jughead’ dates back to the late 19th century when it meant fool and by the 1910’s it had come to be a general term of abuse and also referred to a mule whose large chunky head denoted stubbornness and stupidity.

JARHEAD started out as meaning mule probably ultimately from the pronunciation of ‘jawhead.’ In 1899 the mule became the mascot of the Army football team (to counteract the Navy goat) which could have had something to do with the military relationship. Of course a military icon wouldn’t have been picked for its stupidity so it is said that it was chosen as the mascot because ‘it reflects the long-standing usefulness of the animal in military operations -- hauling weapons, ammunition, and supplies. Strong, hearty, and persevering, the mule is truly an appropriate symbol for the Corps of Cadets.’ There are those who think that the term ‘leatherneck comes from the idea of the neck of the mule, but that term actually derives from the leather-lined collar which was formerly part of the uniform (1910-15).

Jarhead and jughead eventually merged to become slang synonyms for marine. Jughead was originally used to refer to members of a machine-gun company in WWI (‘the JUGHEAD gunners had it off the tripod and were tapping heads with it’). Before WWII JARHEADS was already in widespread use. A 1933 article stated ‘the [Marine] sergeants …moved into the second class cabins, and it took three days and a squad of JARHEADS to get them and their baggage moved to the troop class.

Dictionaries and military history websites seem to give varying explanations for the origin of JARHEAD. In addition to the above ideas, here are a few more:

A U.S. Marine. Perhaps from the shape of the hat the Marines once wore. (American Heritage Dictionary of English)

A slang term used by sailors as early as World War II to refer to members of the Marine Corps, drawing the term from the resemblance of the Marine dress blues uniform, with its high collar, to a Mason jar which at the time was made from blue glass. (military history website)

GRUNT, or Marine. Reportedly, due to the "high and tight" haircut favored by many marines; it looks as if someone put a bowl on the victim’s head and cut or shaved off all the hair that protruded.

Note: Definitions, dates, and quotes were assembled from Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, various ('repectable-looking) websites."

GRUNT
Most books and Internet sites suggest that the origin of the term Grunt came about during the Vietnam War; some say U.S. Army origin, some say Marines.

Here's my story. The term Grunt was extant in the early 1950s Marine Corps. In 1953 I was in the 3d Marine Regiment at Middle Camp Fuji, Japan. I had heard a few non-03 Marines refer to Marines in the line companies as "grunts." It wasn't a big thing, nobody paid much attention, and the term was only occassionally used; I had taken it to be a derogatory term and most likely offensive to the Marine infantrymen. I had only been in the Corps since 1952, and to the best of my recollection, this was the first times I had noticed the use of the term.

Later, in 1954, most of the "draftees," (selective service personnel) had all rotated home to be discharged after their two years sercice--there had been a lot of them. As a result of this my unit was seriously undermanned, and the regimental adjutant provided us one warm body in the form of a Marine PFC from 2d Bn, 3d Marines in North Camp Fuji--some would say he was shanghaied. I believe he was from Dog Company, a machine gunner or assistant machine gunner, I think. Enter John Theis from San Francisco, California. John did not mind his new home and he adapted readily to our non-03 (pogue) lifestyle, and we shared many good liberties together.

John frequently referred to himself as a grunt, as he did others of the 03 variety. Although I had previously assumed the term grunt to be derogatory and offensive to 03s, I found that I had been wrong about that--but then 03s may not, at that time, have welcomed the term by non-03s as they now do.

Anyway, in this case, I am sure in my own mind, from personal experience, that the term grunt originated long before the Vietnam era.

GYRENE
The use of the term Gyrene is generally thought to have come into use in the early 1900s, but some sources still seem to indicate either between the wars (meaning WW I and WW II) or in early WW II alone. The term Gyrene began seeing wide use during WW II.

The following are two examples of the above.

"Gyrene: Around 1900, members of the U.S. Navy began using Gyrene as a jocular derogatory reference to U.S. Marines. Instead of being insulted, the Marines loved it. The term became common by World War I and has been extensively used since that time."
Ref
Common Terms for U.S. Marines (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines)
http://www.usmcpress.com/heritage/usmc_terms.htm

"...comes from a nickname closely associated with WWII Marines (and Marines since). The exact origin is unknown, but it is probably a compilation of the words 'G.I. (government issue, a nickname given U.S. Army soldiers) Marine' assimilated during the period between the world wars."
Ref
The book, Gyrene, The World War II United States Marine, by Capt Wilbur D. Jones Jr., USNR (Ret.), White Mane Books, 1998

I have seen may books, websites, etc. suggesting origins for gyrene, few of them convincing. The bottom line is that the origin of this term is is probably even more elusive than others discussed. I think, that its origins are indeed pre-WW I, although it became most widely used during WW II.

CONCLUSION
In addition to the three terms above, there are many similar topics having to do with terms, legends, myths, etc. I have explored a few of these as they have come to my attention over the years. For instance, was Tun Tavern the birthplace of the Corps? Or was it the Conestoga Wagon" The Marines since 1775? Or was it really 1798? A Marine general and head of History and Museums thinks that the true birthday of the Corps is 11 July 1798, and he has said so in one of his books.

And there is the legend of the Marine Officer/NCO red stripe worn on the dress blues trousers; is the red stripe in commemoration of the bloody battle in 1847 at Chapultapec, or does the red stripe pre-date Chapultapec in uniform regulations?

The term leatherneck comes from the high, leather collar on Marine uniforms, but does the term have its origin also in previous Royal Marines jargon...and there is the term Devil Dogs, or teufelhunden, are there actual German dispatches indicating that the Germans referred to Marines as teufelhunden?
There are, in most cases, individual webpages/sites regarding the topics mentioned above, at...
Gunny G's Sites

All these things I find most interesting. That some of our legends may not historically be exactly as believed, I think, does not detract one whit from our proud and glorious U.S. Marine Corps history and traditions. Facts and clarity supplementing the legends and myths can only enhance our traditions even more by shining the light of examination and truth upon them. Still, there are some who will take offense at anything other than blind acceptance, at face value, of what is claimed and printed.


GySgt USMC
Gunnery Sergeant Chevrons/Insigne--1904
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