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Gunny G's!


Marines' sites and bulletin boards on the Internet are nothing short of amazing regarding what many do not know about Marine Corps history and traditions. There are numerous cases where Marines--some of them even senior enlisted Marines and officers--post and respond to downright erroneous information demonstrating a definite lack of knowledge on various topics of Marine Corps interest. I have addressed several of these individual topics elsewhere on Gunny G's.

Perhaps, some independent study would be in order--better start at the top.

One random example, among many I have noticed, are several items lately where Marines are lambasting someone or other on the subject of one's having dared to refer to a Marine, or Marines, using the term "soldier."

With righteous indignation they scream that they are Marines, not soldiers, and they decry those who call them such! And rightfully so, in some cases, where the media or an individual, whatever, is using that term within an inappropriate context.

Of course, they (both the writer and the Marine) are acting out of their own lack of knowlege. The user of the term "soldier" is not aware that he should generally refer to all Marines as "Marines"; and the Marine is very likely ignorant of the fact that the word "soldier" is also correct, in some cases.

Members of our sister-service, for example, the U.S. Army, are soldiers, that is their name, but Marines are not soldiers in that sense at all. I am referring to Marines as soldiers in a much broader, higher sense, as a class of soldier that goes to the root of what a Marine is and does.

Reminds me of an oft-times repeated story of a U.S. Army major visiting the wounded in a WWI French hospital in 1918. As the story goes, the major asked a young soldier if he was indeed an American. "No sir," he replied, "I'm a Marine." (Ref US Marine Corps In World war I 1917-1918, Osprey, by Henry/Pavlovic, 1999) Such it is that Marines have always exemplified the inherent pride in their identity as a member of the MarineCorps.

But, many Marines seem to be unaware of the fact that the Marine Corps itself, as well as individual Marines, has long referred with pride to themselves as soldiers. To be sure, we are, each of us, a United States Marine, that is our TITLE, earned and claimed by us all as the capstone of that which we are. But somewhere within that coveted title lies the soldier referred to in the following examples.

One dictionary defines the word Marine as, an infantry soldier associated with a navy. No doubt there are many references to the Royal Marines as soldiers back through history. But we need not go back that far. Our own U.S. Marine Corps has a long listing of examples supporting the notion of Marines as soldiers.

A U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Service poster, dated May 1866, announces that it is seeking MEN for its ranks; it then goes on to refer to such recruits as SOLDIERS no less than six times, and not once using the word Marine or Marines! (Ref the book, The Marines, by Simmons/Moskin, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, 1998)

And there is the USMC Recruiting Poster of more recent vintage, shown at the top of this page. And, in the book, Marine Corps Book of Lists, by Nofi, Combined Publishing, 1997, the following.

"The Marines are both soldiers and sailors, a part of the sea services." (Page 154)

"Some Marine Wisdom on Soldiering" 'To be a sergeant, you have to show your stuff. I'd rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer," -GySgt Dan Daly (Page 159)

"In 1928 the period of the training was reduced to seven weeks, divided into two phases. The first phase, lasting three weeks, included the basic instruction necessary to convert civilians into soldiers, plus an innovation. This was an interview of each recruit by a selection clerk, who recorded the recruit's qualifications of education and experience. In embryo form, this procedure anticipated the specialty classification which was later to become indispensable as the complexity of paperwork increased and the material of war became even more technical and complicated. The four-week second phase was spent on the rifle range.<26>"
Ref Marine Corps Historical Reference Series No. 8, A Brief History of MCRD, Parris Island, SC, 1891-1962

"Soldiers trained in the ways of the sea," -CMC, BGen Benjamin H. Fuller, c. 1934 (Page 181)

"A Dozen Nicknames For Marines" 2. "The Soldiers of the Sea, a traditional term for Marines dating back at least to the seventeenth century." (Page 180)

"The finest soldier any captain could wish to have," said of Dan Daly by BGen W.P. Upshur (Page 182)

The book, "Soldiers of the Sea: The U.S. Marine Corps," by Col Robert D. Heinl USMC (Ret.), Annapolis, 1962

The play, (and later, two films) "What Price Glory," by Andersen/Shillings, 1926, has numerous references to Marines as soldiers.

"He turned down the gold bars of a second lieutenant. 'I'm a plain soldier,' he said, 'and I want to stay one.'"
-GySgt John Basilone (Ref John Basilone --Italian-American Hero

Chapter XX, page 69,The United States Marine Corps in the World War, by Major Edwin N. McClellan, USMC,1920, Historical Branch, HQMC, Wash, DC
"In recent years the Marine Corps has devoted a great deal of time and energy to rifle practice, believing that one of the first requirements of a soldier is to know how to shoot...."

And, finally, the more recent (2001) book,"Chesty The Story of Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC," by Jon T. Hoffman, LtCol USMCR, in which he named Chapter 1, "Making a Man and a Soldier" Genesis of a Marine.

And many more references can be found, but suffice to say, for the purpose of my little spiel here, that these few examples should establish that the use of "soldier" was long commonly in use in the Corps.

And so is the use of the term "soldier" valid? Yes, I think all of the above has shown that it is, but please consider this information within the context which I have presented it. At the same time, however, I agree that the use of that term has generally fallen out of use, but not altogether. It may be that its decline began at the end of WW II when the Marine Corps was fighting for it's continued existence when Congress, and the US Army, was seeking to severly cut back the size of the Corps and/or eliminate it altogether.

Marines are also very critical of Marines, and others, who use terms that were in use before their own time, or perhaps terms they never really understood in the first place, like ex-Marine, preferring "former Marine" in its place. In some cases, they even now consider certain terms to have been derogatory in nature, although not the case to begin with. These things come and go; Semper Fidelis was shortened to "Semper Fi" by WW II Marines--and it's meaning even replaced at that time. Many of today's Marines resent some of these terms mainly because they have little knowledge of the finer points of our own history, heritage and traditions, falling back onto whatever they now perceive to have been the truth of their Old Corps. Their present explanations, opinions and beliefs regarding many of these things are invalid. For those with the mind for it, there is much in the way of information on these topics on the Internet, books, etc. It's out there if anybody wishes to take the trouble to research and find it!

The U. S. Marine Corps has a long and glorious history. There is no need to be defensive or "touchy" when occasionally being referred to as a soldier, even when the person speaking is not totally aware of all involved in the fact he is alluding to.

Rather, be yourself informed of what is so and what isn't, through your own research and studies. Nor is it of any benefit to deride those of other services, as is a common practice-- doing so merely reveals your own ignorance, and it belittles our Corps.

As one old recruiting poster states, "Be a Marine!"

Maj Dick Culver's "WHAT PRICE GLORY";read=460

"This is one of my favorite Marine Corps films, not so much for the story line, but for the authenticity of the language used, the equipment, uniforms, and the attitudes that pervade the film. In order to truly enjoy the presentation, a bit of explanation is necessary. Being a Marine Corps History buff (imagine that? Heh, heh, heh…), I could identify with the characters and the language. My Dad was a WWI Marine (as well as a WWII and Korean era Marine), and I was raised in a house that virtually “dripped” Marine Corps nautical and tactical terminology. If any of you are nit pickers on period equipment and uniforms, this one is for you." "One of the movie reviews on Amazon chides the director (John Ford no less) for allowing Marines to refer to each others as soldiers or to mentioning soldiering as an occupation. This particular reviewer apparently believes many old wives tales concerning Marines never allowing themselves to be called soldiers. – wrong again “gopher-breath,” within the Corps we often spoke of soldiering as an occupation, and one of the best of Marine Corps History Books is Robert D. Heinl’s “Soldiers of the Sea” (1962).

"We might take a bit unkindly to a civilian referring to “us” as soldiers assuming he had mistaken us for soldiers of the U.S. Army, but the term is hardly verboten within the Corps. Laurence Stalling’s buddy, a certain Captain John W. Thomason, author of “Fix Bayonets”, mentions in his description of Marines …old timers who regarded the service as a home and war as an occupation... Thomason’s description of the WWI Marine is worth the price of “Fix Bayonets” in of itself, and will lay to rest much of the modern day critics of the Marine terminology used in the Movie."
(And another one, from Dr. R.E. Sullivan, Col USMC (Ret.)

Date: Fri, 1 Aug 2003 04:33:48 -0700 (PDT)

Subject: Soldier

"Sometime ago in a thread you argued vociferously about the use of the term "Soldier." You were correct by the way, at least in the way I understand the use of that word to apply to Marines. When I was a callow youth, in 1951, I returned from Korea and was stationed at MB, Shumaker, Arkansas. I commanded the Guard Company, and did many other chores as any junior officer does in a command that had only four Marine officers. The base commander was a Navy captain, and almost as new as I was to the command."

"Anyway, I had occasion to report to the Captain as the recorder of a Board of Investigation. As I was under arms, I of course saluted, made my report, saluted again, about-faced and headed for the door. The Captain stopped me and made several complimentary remarks about my appearance and "Soldierly bearing." He also used the term "Soldier" once or twice more in referring to me. In my total ignorance, I was furious."

"Later that day I complained to the MC CO about the base commander referring to me as a "Soldier." My CO got a real chuckle out of my complaint, and told me that instead of the Captain demeaning me, he had instead paid me the highest compliment possible. My CO was LtCol Louis Nathaniel King, and had been a white hat in 1936 when he passed the exam for the Naval Academy, graduated from there, and chose to enter the MC.

Of course, he, unlike myself, was steeped in Naval traditions and knew all about the use of the term "Soldier." On occasion I've referred to other Marines as "Soldiers," always explaining that was the highest compliment that I could call them with our "Soldiers of the sea" origins. I'm afraid that with the decline in Navy capital ships, that the MC is loosing much of its naval traditions since the chance of service as a member of a Marine Detachment has undoubtedly declined. We always said that: "A Marine was everything of a Soldier, and half a Sailor too."

"We also said that the reason that Marines were kept embarked in Navy ships for thirty days prior to a combat landing was that after thirty days on one of those buckets that when you got off you just had to kill someone. Wasn't really fair to the Japanese, I suppose."

"Please note that I always capitalize "Soldiers," "Sailors," and "Airmen." In my book they deserve the same respect that I pay to my beloved Marines."

Semper Fidelis,
tientsin (Sully)

Web Site:

Once, not too long ago, 2003, I believe, a dedication stone was said to have been placed in Puller Park, in Virginia. The stone fully identified General Puller as a Marine, LtGen Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC (Ret.)--and in addition it also bore the words. Patriot, and Soldier. In the months thereafter, Marines of one category or another raised such a public stink about it (the word Soldier) that they were successful in getting the stone replaced. Amazing. Call it vanity, political correctness, mistaken pride, whatever--it's a changed world.
When I originally posted on this topic I also posted a photo of the memorial plaque in question. Both that webpage and the photo have long since mysteriously "disappeared." The original plaque very clearly showed General Puller to be a Marine, and the words Patriot and Soldier also followed. Anyone having access to a photo of the original plaque may contact me at.... SEE ALSO: -RWG

Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
GyG's Old Salt Marines Tavern Sites & Forums
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