G's... GLOBE and ANCHOR Sites & Forums! By R.W.
"Dick" Gaines GySgt
USMC (Ret.) 1952-72
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
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
U.S. Marine. Perhaps from the shape of the hat the Marines once wore.
(American Heritage Dictionary of English)
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)
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.
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
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
Common Terms for U.S. Marines (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S.
"...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
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.