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Thanksgiving on Bougainville Island in the Solomons 1943....
After a firefight on November 22, 1943, we secured our position and then a few days later we were treated with our first hot meal, a Thanksgiving dinner, brought up from the beach area in Alligator Tracked vehicles. Every other Marine was relieved off the line to go back a few hundred yards to get the hot chow. While in line located in a bulldozed road in the heavy jungle, we were harassed by a Jap sniper when a column of Marine Raiders were passing thru our area. They then told us to continue eating and they fanned out to eliminate the sniper. It was a treat for us as we lived on two cans of C rations per day and continued to do so for 55 days of our engagement in the campaign. I will always remember that event especially at this time of the year.
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I Had The Honor
Last March, I was invited to a dinner in Stockton, California by a very, very good friend of mine, Chuck Tatum. He authored Red Blood, Black Sand, is an Iwo survivor and the ultimate expert on John Basalone. There were 19 other Iwo survivors there. One was Ray Jacobs ( ref: last newsletter ). You may not know, but, Ray was the radio operator on the 1st flag raising. This has finally been proved. I had the honor of having dinner with his family and he and the others signed a USMC flag for my son who is now with BLT 2/1 in Iraq. This was one of the proudest days of my life.
Happy belated birthday to all my brothers,
Cpl. Charles Hoopaugh K 3/7
I just want to spread the word that the 2nd bi-annual Marine Corps Weather Service reunion is going to be held at Sam's Town Hotel/Resort and Casino in Tunica, Ms. May 21st to the 25th, 2006. Anyone interested in attending can contact Don Innis (Capt USMC Ret) email@example.com for more information.
BTW, To go along with some of the comments on the movie, the scene where the Marines watch a video of another Marine's wife cheating on him is a story that I heard many times from many different Marines that served in many different locations during the first gulf war. The Snopes website (http://www.snopes.com/military/videobye.asp) talks about this urban legend and its history, and adds to the argument that at a minimum, Jarheads author took some liberties with his tale.
CWO3 Jay Brewer
MCAF, MCBH Kaneohe Bay HI
Room Temperature Beer
Sgt. Grit, while on one of my tours in Vietnam in 1965 as a Recon Marine Platoon Comm. my platoon of 20 Reconners happened to be at our base camp in Chu Lai for a day or two of rest. It was November 10, and we got our usual two-cans of beer ration. We lived in strong-backed GP tents that our 1st Sgt, Dan Hill "found" some where. We had a couple of guitars and were singing "Sitting on my Ya-Ya." Soon the 1st Sgt. walked in through the tent door flap and asked if we had an extra can of room temperature beer that we could trade. We handed him the beer and he handed us a shot glass and a bottle of JW Dant. He told us that he had brought a visitor, and in walks the C.O. Captain James Compton. What a night and what a USMC Birthday. In all of my 22 years in the Corps there has never been a Marine Birthday Ball that I have enjoyed more than the one in Chu Lai in 1965. Both 1st Sgt. Hill and Captain Compton are guarding the Halls of Heaven. I miss them. Without these two, who I considered the best Marines that I have ever met, it would not have happened. Semper Fidelis and a belated Marine Corps Birthday.
John Sandoval Jr.
Captain USMC ret.
On The Road
Cpl. E.L. Collins, Plt. 280, wrote about spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at MCRD San Diego, and Camp Matthews, respectively. He's the first one of the 200 series I've seen communicate with anyone.
I was bit ahead of him, Plt. 242, so I got to spend Christmas at home in Seattle, Wash., watching my mother marry husband number four, a dirt bag who ended up in jail. But that's another story.
His mention of humping the hills and all there brought back lots of memories, too many to recount here. Today's Marines probably wouldn't believe what went on back then. But I do remember "L'il Agony" at Matthews, up and on shoulders with locker boxes, squat thrusts until we p!ssed black.
Spent 27 years in our beloved Corps and met only one man from Platoon 242 in all that time. But boot camp turned me around and set the course for my life. Two wives and five children later, looking back on the "best and worst of times", I can still hear that voice from the DI's hut: "242 ON THE ROAD!", and I'd answer it if I could.
My only regret is that I can't go back and do it all again.
MGySgt., USMC (Ret.)
Not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine.
As We Sang
It was December 1955, myself and about 80 other guys from Chicago were spending their first Christmas away from home at a place called Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego California. We were called into the duty hut by our Senior D.I. S/Sgt Gunther Dohse. Sgt. Dohse informed us we were going to since we were probably homesick we were going to sing Christmas carols so we wouldn't feel so bad. He ordered us to get our buckets and return to the duty hut on the double, which we did. We figured we would sit on our buckets and sing but it seems that Sgt. Dohse had other ideas. We placed the buckets over our heads and were instructed to sing Christmas carols for the next hour. As we sang he keep time by hitting the tops of the buckets. Jump about 20+ years later. In a city in Washington State called Bremerton on a cold November evening in the Military club called the Mariner, I saw an Officer, a Captain to be exact and he looked awfully familiar. I went up and asked his name and it turned out to be Gunther Dohse, I told him I was one of his recruits from 1955 Platoon 2004, we had a great chat and near the end of our conversation he asked this young women over, introduced her as his daughter and told her I was one of he reasons he was not with her mother when she was born. It seemed he had the duty the night she was born.
Salvatore J. Graziano
Not A Golfer
OORAH grunts and grit aren't you proud of our little brothers and sisters in the sand. I know I am. Well Christmas is just around the corner and I hope the troopies over there get more in their stockings than I did in 67. We had just come out of the bush in late November and were planning to do the Holidays at Phu Bai. We had one problem. There were rats all around the gun pit. Several of guys used the E Tool like a golf club and probably played par. I was not a golfer so I wrote home to my mother to send me some D Con. Now you northern boys may not know it but D Con is what us rebels used to get rid of those things around the farm. About 2 weeks or so I get this package about the size of a cigar box. The guys all gather round for the smokes my mom usually sent. Anything beat those Chesterfield or Pall Mall out of the C Rats. Imagine their surprise when there is a box of D Con in it. By the way, the Nam rats loved it. After they ate the poison, they gnawed the box it was in. I think the E Tool was a better rat deterrent than the D Con so I guess it was probably a grunt in the Nam that coined the phrase "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door."
Semper Fi and Happy Birthday. Remember to always aim low. A ricochet is as good as a hit and hurts just as bad.
Nam Class of 67/68
Christmas Day, 1967, Chu Lai, RVN
My unit, H&MS-12 Avionics, was invited to a Christmas Party on the beach hosted by VMA(AW)-533 (A-6 Squadron). Because of the intricate electronics involved with the A-6 Intruder that was critical for mission accomplishment, our unit worked closely with all the maintenance people when there were problems. We only had to work half a day that morning and went down to the beach (which was closed) and proceeded to drink ourselves delirious while playing touch football. To say it was rowdy was an understatement. Apparently we were too close to the beach playing football when an Americal Military Police Jeep with two MP's armed with .45 automatics made the ill advised decision to pull up and advise about 150 drinking Marines playing football that they were too close to the beach. As the crowd closed around the small jeep now with two nervous MP's some light- hearted bantering began while only heard by a few was a hissing noise like air escaping. After trying to convince us that they were only concerned about our personal safety, the driver put the jeep in gear and released the clutch only to find two empty tires spinning in the sand. Slightly chagrined, the passenger MP made a call back to the Americal Division Provost Marshall's Office reporting their predicament. Trying to keep a brave face, the two MP's actually got out of the jeep and played a little catch with one of the footballs. About 30 minutes later a second MP jeep showed, this time with an Army First Sergeant and another MP both sporting M-16's along with their pistols. As they drove up the Marines converged on them also oohing and ahhhing the fact they had rifles. After quickly determining that they weren't going to intimidate 150 Marines, the Army First Sergeant tried a different ploy by pleading to our sense of camaraderie. Something about how we were all in this together and ought to help one another out. With everyone talking it was easy to miss the air hissing again. Now with two Americal Division MP jeeps stuck in the sand on the beach of MAG-12 it was beginning to look like a National Lampoon movie. Trying to act like he wasn't mad, the First Sergeant radioed back to the Provost Marshall that there were now two jeeps stranded. In the meanwhile, of course, the Marines weren't trying to rub it in or anything. Within 10 minutes a third jeep was heading towards the beach this time with a First Lieutenant on board. We were clearly getting response to our actions now. The Lieutenant wasted no time in jumping out of the jeep and demanding to know who was in charge of this outfit. Thrust forward, or maybe carried, the Executive Officer of VMA(AW)-533 appeared saying, "I am, Lieutenant. Major Reed at your service. And who the f..k are you?" Saluting the Major, the MP Lieutenant stated his name and that he was the adjutant to Lieutenant Colonel Wilson, Provost Marshall. About this time, the Marines were converging on his jeep as the Lieutenant quickly observed.
"Get away from the jeep, guys" the Lieutenant commanded. Major Reed joined in saying "All right guys, enough fun, leave the man's jeep alone" while I swear he winked out of one eye at the Sergeant Major of 533. After informing the Lieutenant that his Marines were celebrating Christmas on the only half-day they'd ever get off work, he suggested that his MP's had better things to do than harass his Marines. Now, I don't know who pulled it off, but when the Lieutenant went back to his jeep he stopped and stared at the right rear tire that was flat. The Army officer looked back towards the Major. Major Reed deadpanned: "You know, the Army ought to look into buying better quality tires". As the Lieutenant radioed back to HQ and was informed Lieutenant Colonel Wilson was on his way, our Christmas Party of 1967 ended suddenly on a great high.
MSgt, USMC Retired
Reunion; Correctional Services Co., H&S Bn., MCB, Camp LeJeune
As a former Correctional Specialist 5831, (Brig Guard), I have often complained that I haven't been able to find more than a couple men who served in the same MOS as me. Don't dream of any reunions.
Well, in doing a Google search for "5831" I turned up a bio of a Marine who served in my old company. Our terms overlapped in 1976-77. He is a SgtMaj. and is still active duty. So I figured, what the h&ll, drop he a line as it mentioned his present duty station.
Seems that we did serve together however neither he nor I remember the other. He did mention that for a few years now the Company has been hosting reunions. So, I called the Brig and spoke with a Master Gunnery Sergeant there. Yup! They have them. So next May I will be returning to the Brig for the first time since 1977.
So, if there are any other men or women, (It seems women serve at the Brig now also), who have served there, give the Warden a call. Perhaps we can meet next year.
Semper Fi and Happy Birthday.
US Marine Corps, 1973 - 77
Hi Sgt Grit,
Your most recent newsletter, one writer mentioned some French decoration some marines wore. In 1918 at the battle for Bellow wood the Sixth Marines were awarded the French Fourragere for courage. Any in the sixth was authorized to wear it while a member of the sixth Marines. In ww2 after some rough Island fighting the sixth came out on Navy troop ships and promptly cleaned out the ships supply of candy bars. This gave them the nickname of "the pogybait sixth" and the Fourragere was called the "pogybait ribbon". If you called them that, you had better be ready for a rumble.
Jim Reed S/Sgt
USMC (50 years ago)
Hi Sgt. Grit,
I love to read your newsletter, and quite often print out segments to take to the Marine Corps League meetings. I just want to take exception to Jack Nolan's letter and reference to the Women Marines as BAMS. We do not like that derogatory reference, and the Women Marines never had a "nickname" like the other services. We were always just WM's. I have always been proud of my time in the Corps, and as the Senior Vice in our local chapter of the League, am even more proud of the work we do in the community. None of the Marines in our local chapter would ever consider calling me a BAM. It is the most disrespectful thing you can call a woman Marine, so I sincerely hope that I never see that reference in your letter again.
Wanda E. Hunter
Sr. Vice of the Electric City Detachment,
Marine Corps League.
Reply to After Action Report
Return to USMCRD SD Sgt. Paul J. Stammer, Iwo Jima Veteran..
My special thanks to everyone that made this trip happen.. As told by Ret Capt Roy Kaufmann, whom I owe my deepest respect and thoughts, his comments on my trip are better stated by him than me....I was so caught up in everything and the pride of my brothers making this trip happen and the many things they did for me during my visit, truly brings tears to my eyes... From the moment we landed in SD until the morning my son and I left, the pride instilled in me by my Marine Brothers both retired and still active, will remain forever in my heart... My thoughts and prayers go out for every Marine of Bravo Company, which I witnessed their graduation one day after the USMC turned 230 years old... Hopefully I will still have many years in me to tell of this adventure...My son was busy taking photo's and video's and these turned out great...Hearing the young recruits chat their cadence during their last run, or the playing of our Marine Corp Hymn...will stay with me forever... My Special Thanks go out to Ret Capt Roy Kaufmann, Sgt. Major Bobby Woods, Ret Capt Ted Corbett, Captain Theodore Reddinger, Ret Capt Ron Zapardino, Commanding General USMCRD, Brigadier General John M. Paxton, Cpl. Sylvestre and you Sgt. Grit, for making these the happiest days of my life.. I heard this comment more than once during my visit "Once a Marine, always a Marine" and I'd like to ad a twist to this, my feeling "Always a Marine, and I'll die a Marine "
Sgt. Paul J Stammer
HQ. CO. 2nd Batt, 26th Marines
Lots of Reps
Reading the many recollections of Boot Camp has brought many a laugh. A very vivid memory for me occurred on a pleasant Saturday evening at MCRD in April 1963. This particular evening became an "memorable" encounter with pain for Platoon 218.
We had returned to our area after evening mess, and as we stood in formation on the Platoon Street, Cpl Wright (Jr DI), commanded us to commence doing 102 "up-and-on-shoulders" with M-14s. Instantly from somewhere within the ranks came a moan and muffled "s--t". Cpl Wright, as all DIs would do, increased the number of reps to 1003. "Ah, s--t" was heard to come from another area of the formation. At this point, I realized that Platoon 218 was doomed to a most horrible penalty. Yes, the good Cpl, with menace in his voice, announced, "2003 up-and-on- shoulders". Silence filled the air, as the shock of reality filled every "boot"!
After about 500 reps, the pain became secondary, and survival took command of my mind and body. Another "boot" in formation in front of me began to sag after about 2000 reps. This so incensed me, realizing that if anyone fell out we would probably all be doing these reps until "h&ll froze over, that I did the only sensible thing! I smacked him on the top of his head with my rifle and yelled that if he quit, I would beat him senseless.
Well, every "swinging d--k" completed the 2003 reps! It was very "enlightening" to each of us. I know that I had a deeper appreciation of life. I have shared this tail of pain with other Marines over the years and each just nods and then shares his own craziest or painful experience at PI or MCRD.
Memories are wonder, even the ones that came with pain and fear, because those are the ones that helped to develop us into Marines!
Bob Lonn, USMCR (Sgt.)
Nothing Can Take Away
As always, I enjoyed the December Newsletter, #111. In reference to Mike Cannel's comments re the movie "Jar Head," he offers a balanced and, I believe from personal experience, an honest opinion of both human nature and participation in the CORPS. I am unable to personally accept much of the movie's actions, but the world and the CORPS is not and never will be without a downside despite those who profess all of the Hoorahs. But we, as former Marines, do have our sense of purpose, and I suspect that many Marines, nevertheless, greatly resent such a public display of negatives relating to the CORPS particularly through the Hollywood genre. However, nothing can take away our abundant feeling of PRIDE; and we should all take some solace from this fact as we balance our spirit of the CORPS with all of its perhaps good and not so good parts, we still come out ahead of everybody! On the "bottom line", the movie really shouldn't threaten us. We are so much more!
Carry On in our best tradition,
Giles Cromwell, USMCR
In the unsigned "Looking More Closely" submission, the writer states that the 5th Marine Division was not activated just individual Regiments, which then served with the 1st Marine Division. I beg to differ. Camp Pendleton was not closed while the 1st Marine Division was in Vietnam (1966-1971). The tenant unit was the 5th Marine Division (-) Rein.
In fact, the 1st Marine Division began to arrive in Vietnam 23 February 1966. On 1 March 1966, the 26th Marines was reactivated as "the lead element of the revived 5th Marine Division" (Source: USMC, a Complete History, by Col. Jon T. Hoffman, published by the Marine Corps Association, 2002). The 26th Marines, once formed, were detached and attached to the 1st Marine Division (April 67-March 70). The 27th Marines were attached to the 1st Marine Division from Feb 68-Sep 68 (Tet temporary reinforcements). Elements of the 13th (1st and 2nd Battalions as well as individual batteries) Marines also deployed to Vietnam as support for the 26th and 27th Marines.
I served in Communications Platoon, H&S Company 5th Shore Party Bn., 5th Marine Division (-) Rein. The (-) denotes the units detached and attached to the 1st MarDiv, but I do not know what unit had been reactivated to cause the "Rein." designation, I have a copy of my SRB to prove it, as well as my 5th Marine Division drown-proofing card. I do not know where the Battalion's letter companies were located. There was just H&S Company at Del Mar.
The 5th Marine Division Headquarters was deactivated on 26 Nov 1969, and the 5th MAB was activated. The last Division units, 26th Marines and 1/13, are deactivated on 30 April 1970 at Camp Pendleton.
Also, during the entire war, 3rd MarDiv rotated battalions into the 7th Fleet's Special Landing Force. The SLF conducted landings in support of operations ashore.
My interest in the history of our involvement in Vietnam started as a result of a buddy of mine who was a mortar man in the 26th Marines in 1969-1970. He had a plague denoting his service in Vietnam, with "26th Marines, 1st Marine Division, 1969-1970". Even though his dad was a retired Marine, he had no idea that the 26th Marines were a Regiment of the 5th Marine Division.
Does Not End Here
Thanks for your website. I just wanted to share about 2 Marines I met this year. One is a retired Thomas Craigg who resides in Jacksonville, NC and the other is S/Sgt Jessie R. Harper who resides in Porter, TX.
I met Thomas Craigg while visiting a friend, Colonel Mark Goodman in Jacksonville, NC. From the Congressional Record (this is a partial record) Hon Walter B. Jones, Congressman from NC on April 11, 2002 presented the following tribute:
HON. WALTER B. JONES
OF NORTH CAROLINA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Thursday, April 11, 2002
Mr. JONES of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, it is my honor to stand before you and my colleagues today as I talk to you about a man who, in accordance with his great service to our nation, will receive two honors that have been years in coming.
In 1940, Mr. Thomas Craigg enlisted in the Marine Corps. When War broke out in 1941, Private First Class Thomas Craigg was on the Philippine Island of Luzon and Marines were under Army command distributed along the Bataan Peninsula.
On the morning of February 24, 1942, ``the Commanding Officer of Charlie Battery, mounted a patrol of 75 Marines and Sailors to investigate an enemy Japanese force. The patrol encountered an enemy, which was far superior in number and well equipped troops with heavy machine guns and supporting mortars. The Commanding Officer dispatched a runner to the nearest antiaircraft battery for reinforcements with instructions for the gun captain to report to the commanding officer's position on the bluff overlooking Lapiay Point. Private First Class Craigg arrived with his 13-man squad and engaged two enemy gun emplacements, which had the main body pinned down and were dropping mortar and howitzer rounds among the patrol. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Private First Class Craigg repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire providing clear and concise guidance to his squad and effectively eliminated one gun position. He laid down covering fire, which enabled the patrol to disengage from the main enemy force and withdraw to another position.''
Following Private First Class Craigg's heroic actions, his Commanding Officer informed him that he was going to officially recommend him for the Silver Star Medal. Unfortunately, Mr. Craigg's Commanding Officer was killed in action before this recommendation could be made. Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, while Mr. Craigg's Commanding Officer could no longer retell the story of his courageous actions that Day in 1942, others never forgot what he did, and as a result, I am proud to say that on March 30th, Mr. Craigg will be awarded the Silver Star Medal for ``extraordinary heroism in the face of extreme danger.''
Amazingly enough Mr. Speaker, Mr. Craigg's story does not end here. Shortly after this battle, Private First Class Craigg would be captured by Japanese forces on the Bataan Peninsula only to escape a short time later and make his way via boat to the island of Corregidor where he would engage the enemy in battle once again. After 28 days of further fighting however, the Marines and Sailors on Corregidor were ordered to surrender and they were taken back to Bataan where Private First Class Craigg would survive the infamous Bataan death march. Mr. Craigg was eventually sent on a brutal trip to Japan where he would spend more than two years working in coal mines while enduring severe starvation and beatings. As a result of the beatings he received, Mr. Craigg will also be receiving his third award of the Purple Heart on March 30th.
Despite his traumatic experience as a prisoner of war, Mr. Craigg returned to the ranks and participated in the historic American invasion at Inchon, Korea with the 7th Marine Regiment. In October of 1963, Mr. Craigg retired from the United States Marines Corps with the rank of Gunnery Sergeant.
While speaking to GySgt Craigg he related his experiences while in the labor camp in Japan. He told me that the camp commandant gathered them about 3 weeks before the end of the war and told them that if the US invaded Japan they would be put in the coal mines and blown up. It is well worth the time if you want to stop and talk to him in Jacksonville. He enjoys meeting "young Marines" ( I'm a retired 53 year old). He is 85. The second Marine, S/Sgt Jessie Harper, I met at the Houston area MCCC 230th celebration of the birth of the Corps. He fought on Okinawa during WWI and served in Korea. He is one of the Chosin Few who fought during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir. I also met a young Marine of only 6 months active service who I dragged over to talk with this experienced Marine. He, too, is willing to talk of his activities in the Corps.
I hope we all take the privilege of finding these warriors and hearing their stories. It is a heritage that will not last forever. God Bless the Marines and Semper Fidelis.
In early 1966 our unit Regimental Landing Team 7 walked off "Mike" boats into the surf of a place called Chu Lia.
(We didn't know we had to lay the mats for an airfield yet).
It was our understanding that we were to cover the belly of our brothers who went into a place earlier called Da Nang.
Well, the first thing we are told is that there is no town & the village chief has told any woman found with us would be be- headed! Oh you guys in Da Nang that had "Dog Patch".
Our first duties of course were to set up 9 man tents (see picture) and 50 Cal. Pits. As time went on the evenings became one of "what to do" except listen to the 105's doing searching fire & your time in a 50 Cal. pit??
Because we had script money & no place to spend it the card games became things to make Las Vegas envious of.
But, one night one of us became creative. (Marines do that) and decided that because the floor of our tent was wooden pallets we could devise a new way to get rid of our money.
The plan was that someone would find a way to get a whole loaf of bread out of the mess tent. (had to be careful here, one of our buddies had just been shot in the leg trying to get a can of spam about a week earlier). Marine guards are GOOD!
Then after sun down, taking the bread & breaking it into small pieces spread it all through the tent between the slats of the pallets.
Now, every one anted up $5.00 into a helmet, got their bayonets and a flashlight and sat still. (By the way, E4 with 3 years got $80 a month back then).
The bread was very much desired by "back yard ugly" Vietnam rats. Waiting patiently & quietly for sounds of the rats coming into the tent you'd turn on your flashlight & the first one to get a rat with his bayonet (some of us lucky one's had K-Bar's) would get the pot.
The game would go on till the wee hours of the morning or until the "Tiger P!ss" was all gone.
Of course while we slept the rats would clean up the bread & disappear before day light.
I guess next to watching our pet monkey stretch & snap himself with condoms (hey, they weren't doing us any good) this was as exciting as non-combat times could be.
CPL J. Harry Hubler 2097487
RLT 7 1st MARDIV
So The Great Day Comes
This story takes place long, long ago, in a place far, far away. Actually, it was 1972, and the place was Mogadicsio, Somalia. I was NCOIC of the Marine Security Guard Detachment at the U. S. Embassy there, and myself and my five MSG Watchstanders comprised the entire U. S. military presence in the Peoples Democratic Republic of Somalia. That all changed several years later, but that is a different story.
At the time the geopolitical situation was that the Somalis and the Soviets were allies, and the U. S. and the Ethiopians were allies. Consequently the U. S. presence in Somalia was very small. As I recall, there were only about 50 Americans including children in the country. Of these, about 40 were in Mogadicsio proper. All of the children, as well as the children of the some of the other diplomatic missions, and a select group of Somali children went to the American International School which was located on the grounds of what was then called the new embassy compound. (Which a later generation of Marines got to know quite well.) The embassy itself was located downtown not far from the harbor. The Marine House and most of the Embassy Staff were located in an apartment complex just across the road from the new compound at Kilometer 14. Embassy officers were assigned rented housing throughout the rest of the city.
There wasn't much to do, so consequently social life centered around Happy Hour at the Marine House on Friday nights, barbecues and volley ball at the pool at the apartments, and parties and dinners at various diplomatic homes. Consequently, everyone knew everyone else, including the children.
Now to the meat of the story. It seems that someone (and if I ever find out who, there is no jury that would convict me for what I will do to them) dreamed up the idea of doing the whole Christmas/Santa Claus thing for the children at the school. So, one day shortly before Christmas, the Admin Officer walks into my office and tells me that as the only single man available (all my Watchstanders had suddenly developed serious allergies to fake beards) I had been nominated to play Santa Claus for the shindig. I tried every thing I could think of to get out of it, including where was I to get a Santa suit, (they already had one), but the conspirators had an ace in the whole. When the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States tells you that you are going to play Santa Claus, you are going to play Santa Claus, or you will be on the next camel train out of town. Having a real allergy to camels, I was forced to agree be Santa.
So the great day comes, and I sneak into bathroom at the school while the parents and teachers keep the little monsters corralled in the school gym. At the appropriate time, I do my Ho, Ho, Ho entrance thing and sit down and start handing out presents. It was interesting watching the reactions of those children whose cultures don't have a Santa Claus type character. All was going well, although I was sweating like a pig from the pillows I had strapped on, and the wool costume. In addition, the fake beard was starting to itch badly. I thought I had it made until the last kid, the son of one of the Embassy Officers, to whose home I had been many times, climbs on my lap, gives me a very suspicious look and hollers at the top of his voice: "You're not Santa Claus, you're the Gunny." All of the sudden, it dawned on the rest of the American Children, that this guy was on to something. I beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom with a lynch mob of kids looking for the Santa imposter in hot pursuit. I managed to make it out of the costume and back to the Marine House where I decided that (a) the Bar was open, (b) that I needed a large medicinal snort, and (c) that I was never going to do that again. From then one, I could never convince those kids that it really wasn't me in the Santa suit.
Hope this is what you had in mind.
By the way, when I was a young PFC, an old Marine Gunner, (yeah, the bursting bomb type) told me that the hardest medal in the Marine Corps to earn is or was the Good Conduct Medal. It was his belief that anyone can be a hero, but it took a real smart Marine to manage three years of undetected crime. As I look back on my career, I think he was correct.
I have some more stories, but first I need to confer with the other guilty parties, oops, interested individuals, and also to check out several Statutes of Limitations.
MSGT. Thomas A. Gafford USMC (Ret.)
1946140/0811/0812/0369 RVN 68-69
Dear Sgt. Grit:
The first letter posted was from a mother and signed PMM of a 2/5 Marine. She stated that her son has been debating as to stay in the Corps or muster out and go into law enforcement.
My advice to this young Marine is STAY IN. There has not been a day past the first six months that I got out that I don't wish that I had stayed in. At 17 years or 21 years of age you think that after 20 years of service you're an old man and washed up, HA. You will be in your mid to late 30's or so and still full of p#ss and vinegar. Life is just really getting interesting and here you will be Retired with a military pension for life and a full medical benefits for life for nothing. Plus some of the other fringe benefits you are granted. Don't make the mistake so many of us have and regret now. Its one h&ll of a wonderful career plus your doing an Outstanding Service for God, Country, Corps.
This small bit of advice goes to each Marine who has any doubt about there future. A further bit of advice, when you finally do get out take full advantage of all the programs the VA has to offer, you earned them, use them.
Also join a Veterans Organization and become a voice with all your fellow veterans in the fight to keep what we earned and what was promised us.
God Bless all our men and women in service to our country, Thank you for your service, a Very Marry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Corporal, Chu Lai RVN 68-69
1st MAW MGA 12, VMA 223, 121, 311
I was lucky enough to go to the Retired Officers Ball with two other Marines from here and we met Major General Leonard, (West Coast Command), and was overjoyed to hear how proud of his Marines the Gentleman is. I, and my companions, were all wearing the "Red Coats" of the Marine Corps League, and found we were the only Officers there in them. Out of the Hundreds there, Our table was visited by ever Command Officer, and their Ladies, at least once, to talk to us, (Probably really to see who we were), and we felt special as everyone came to our table. Quite an experience. Retired General Hoffman, and Major Noyes, one of my companions, are both Horn blowers, and General Hoffman ask Carl to bring him to our table to meet us. I had some fun, but dearly paid for it as it was mentioned that Major General Leonard had been born in 1954. While talking with him, I turned to Retired Major Russell, my other Companion, and ask, "Bob, what year were you commissioned ?", Very innocently I might add. And Bob replied, "1853".....Gen. Leonard and I broke into laughter, Gad did I pay for that one later as I was the guest of Majors Russell and Noyes. They presented me with a Corporals Challenge Coin, in front of my wife and God! Not right though, this one has crossed rifles, I had two stripes only. Who says, Crusty Old Officers don't have a sense of Humor ?????Not I......
31 October, 1963, 2200 hours, our cattle car from the airport rolls through the main gate at MCRD San Diego, California. Straight ahead; Receiving Barracks. The sentry yells to us through the open windows of the bus, "Happy Halloween!"
Fast forward three weeks. 22 November, 1963, Platoon 285. Standing in line outside the barber shop, for our first haircut since Receiving Barracks, still in culture shock. Barber comes running out of the building and I overhear him say quietly to the Drill Instructor, "Somebody shot Kennedy!" Kennedy who?, I wonder.
Drill Instructor disappears into the building and returns quietly. Haircuts over with, on the Grinder, marching back to the platoon area, passing in front of the flagpole. Drill Instructor orders; "Platoon Halt". "He" speaks: "Pres. Kennedy has been assassinated! Your new Commander In Chief is the Honorable Lyndon Baines Johnson!" "Left Face, Forward March!" Maybe the shortest Change of Command Ceremony in history.
Sgt Frank Everett
Sgt with all due respect I just finished reading your latest newsletter (as always) straight thru until I got to the story on how our Marines were ordered not to fly our Flag over their posts in Iraq. How Dare some bleeding heart order our troops not to insult the Iraqis by flying our flag. I can see how insulting it would be to see the stars and stripes above their skyline. It does not matter to them our sons and daughters are laying down their lives for them. I have a suggestion why not let the person or persons who though up this order to stand fast with the Iraqis and defend their flag. But I can see its important to show the insurgents that we are defending the Iraq flag. H&ll we have fought and left our blood on every shore around this globe but have never been so misled as not to have our Flag flying above the grounds that we have paid for in the blood and lives of our brothers and sisters. SORRY SGT. But this makes my blood boil. Too many brave men and women have paid the ultimate price to have a political hack order our boys to strike their colors.
Sgt JD CT.
This morning on the FOX morning news/talk show, there was a story about Col. Ollie North and Col. Hunt (both members of the FOX news staff) visiting wounded US mil service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. They were talking to a recently wounded in Iraq Marine, a Joshua Sparling, who is recovering/re- hab'ing. On a wall next to the young Marines bed was a single card that said something akin to "die Marine".....
Some anti-war and anti-US military puke had sent this Marine an "I hope you die" get well card. It was the only card that this brave kid had received. True to form, he put it on the wall next to his bed as an inspiration to recover, rehab and get back to is unit and USMC buds.
Both the Colonels and the FOX news people thought this brave kid was an inspiration and certainly deserving better than a one time "go die" card....
So, FOX put out his name and address at Walter Reed so he can get some Get Well Cards......
Name: Joshua Sparling
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue NW
Washington, D.C 20307-5001 c
Veterans Hospital Christmas
My name is Fred Montney and I am a retired MSgt. Our local Veterans Hospital Nursing Home in Wilmington DE. Each year a few of us gather together to decorate the nursing home for the Christmas season.
The first picture was the tree theme of "Hats Off to our Veterans", this year it's "Vets Pets" .
As I've never seen a theme devoted to Veterans like this, I thought I'd pass along the info.
If you have additional questions, please let me know.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Frederick C. Montney III
MSgt USMC Retired
First Day Of Showing
I saw the Jarhead on it's first day of showing and am still sick to my stomach. Without giving my list of credentials let me say I spent three years in the Pacific during WWII and if we had a Corps. such as depicted in this thrash movie we would all be speaking Japanese today. Did we swear, yes, Did we haze anyone, NO.
Just finished reading the 24 November News Letter. Tom Lacovara of New Jersey wrote about his DI's and how they had given him what he needed to do a good job in the FMF. The last DI he named was Sgt. Handshumacker. He was the third hat when I went through P I. I was in Plt 245 from July to Oct. of '61. Our Sr. DI's were S/Sgt Welch and S/Sgt Morris. We use to call Sgt. Handshumacker "the handy shoemaker", but never to his face. We were raw recruits, but we weren't stupid. He was one tough s.o.b. I was just thinking how ironic it is that two people that don't even know each other had their lives influenced by the same person. Of the three DI's he always stood out in my mind even after all these years. He not only trained us to be Marines, he trained us to be men. I guess that's true of all the Drill Instructors. In my book, they are the embodiment of the Marine Corps.
Semper Fi, my Brothers
Be A Night
Hi Guys : Gunny Latona is correct . I had to have a party at my home 14 Nov. because the 10th was in the middle of the week. But at least we celebrated.
The other thing I noticed was wives coming to wetting down parties and even a Mess night I attended.
There should still be the night for the Marines both men and Women then another celebration with the wives.
Don't get me wrong Wives are a MAJOR part of all successful careers. However, there are some traditions that should NEVER be changed.
Ed "Machete Eddie" McCourt
Capt. USMC (ret)
I Am Ecstatic
There I am - standing in our local Harley store picking up some little item at the parts department. I spot this beautiful little 3" chrome emblem which would be perfect for the sissy bar back (most Harley people put the Harley emblem, and pay dearly for it)! So I ask the parts man if I could see it. It attaches with 3M double sticky, just like the Harley emblems. So I am getting ready to purchase it at $39.95 and my husband comes up and says "Look in Sgt Grits to see if they have it. If they don't, come back and get it."
I am ecstatic to say the least! Sgt Grits has it (AB4) and for $12.95! Some mark-up Harley has!
So I bought him a new vest with the money I saved, kicked in a little extra - and ordered all of the patches he wants on his leather vest.
Thanks Sgt Grit! You came through AGAIN!
Have a Blessed Holiday season.
I Have Been Discharged
I feel I must reply to the letter written by Mike Cannell regarding that piece of trash "Jarhead". I first must qualify my statements with the fact that I served in 1949 to 1953 and did my time in the Korean War. I know the Corps has changed but I feel the Marines that serve are still the same with all the attributes that we had in WW 11, Korea and Vietnam and as much or more love for Corps and Country and fellow Marines. After reading that piece of trash, (It was a gift from a daughter who thought I might enjoy it) I wanted to cry, to think that Marines felt that way about each other was unthinkable. I don't know about Mr. Cannell service but I saw nothing in the book that even came close to the actions of my fellow Marines. I have been discharged for over 50 years but I still love the Corps. As a member of the 1st Marine Division Association, I meet with other Marines on a regular basis, the friendship and comradeship that exists can not be matched by any other experience, not Colleges, not 36 years of Law Enforcement. I am truly sorry Mr Cannell that your experience was so bad, but the Corps depicted in that book is not my Marine Corps.
Began To Box
As a Lance Corporal with 18 months service, I was put in charge of a dorm of freshly minted Marines at Naval Communications Training Center, Corey Field, Pennsacola, Florida. I'm not sure that I needed it, but I soon had an "enforcer" who helped me control the rowdy barracks crowd of probably 75. Kenny was always able to better gain the attention of the others, and help me control the chaos. He was a natural leader that everyone looked up to, PFC out of boot and an all around great guy that everyone liked.
We were being schooled to be "cold war warriors" and after some months, Ken for whatever reason was not able to pass into the advanced phase of training. ( I am certain that the reasons were not academic). He was sent up to 2nd Marine Division, and after arriving there began to box, eventually becoming All Marine heavyweight Champ. I understand that it was for the first time in his life that he had boxed. I have always wondered how far Ken Norton would have made it if he had done the Golden Gloves and Olympics like so many of the people he left laying on the mat.
Cpl of Marines
Allow Me To Add
Bob Boardman, thanks much for "The Surgeon Who Did Not Want the Medal of Honor". Allow me to add to your story. There were four men in that operating room on 27 August 1967. As a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant posted as Officer of the Day at 1st Medical Battalion,1st Marine Division, I was summoned to the OR to help identify the "something stuck in his knee". Upon arrival I realized it was a live rocket and immediately cleared the OR of all oxygen tanks and personnel. Next- call to EOD. While waiting for the x-rays, I tried unsuccessfully to remove the rocket by hand and with a pipe wrench. The decision made to amputate, helmets and flak jackets were put on. I stood to the surgeon's left and the corpsman to his right-they were terrific! We made small talk during the operation- Dave concerned more about losing his hands more than anything else. After the leg w/ rocket was severed, Dave and I walked it out to the sandbagged pit, Dave moving forward and me backward. When we re ach ed the pit Dave finally handed the leg over to me and the EOD Warrant Officer, where it was placed inside the sandbags and detonated. More about Dave Taft. Not only was he a great surgeon, he was also one of the finest Navy Officers I ever met. We even referred to him as "Major".Great story, while tragic, may have been even better had the Marine Corps been included.
Richard J. Redican,
I don't remember the name of the Marine friend , it was so long ago, but on Christmas eve 1967 he and I were out in the Vil, Olongapo City Philippines. Both of us were with Separate Guard at Cubi Point. Suddenly it dawned upon us after several San Mig's that we had never been to Manila.. At 2300 hours we were traveling toward Manila on a Jeepney we had hired to take us all the way . On the floor board was a case of San Mig beer and By Gods grace and quite a few beers, through dangerous territory, many check points along the way, We arrived safely and spent Christmas in Manila.. Stan Johns, Receiving Drill Instructor in the movie" Boys in Company C".........
35mm Medevac for Christmas
Near the first of December 1967 I was medevac'd (non-combat related). Early one morning at Quang Tri combat base I was taken to the battalion aid station. Prior to my departure I picked up my camera and strapped it around my neck. The battalion doctor immediately shipped me out to Delta Med in Dong Ha. I spent the night with an IV at Delta Med and was choppered to the USS Sanctuary the next morning. Arriving on station at the Sanctuary the Chopper circled, even the crew chief indicated that it was a long hold waiting for the bird on deck to take off. Later I learned it was Raquel Welch's chopper on deck . . . with her leaving! A week or so later we did get a visit from Diane McBain (77 Sunset Strip TV show). Christmas dinner was steak and lobster. Everywhere I went the corpsmen and doctors asked about the camera. Evidently there were not a lot of Marines medevac'd with a camera. I did end up with some unusual pictures before being sent back to my unit in early January.
When they released me from the Sanctuary, early January I think, my unit had gone to the Philippines. I was dropped off on the dock at Danang with nothing but the uniform I was wearing and of course my camera. I'm still not sure how I talked so many people into transportation without any orders, but I ended up in the Philippines.
I never did get the chance to tell all the corpsmen and doctors along the way, and on the Sanctuary, how thankful I was for their care. They really were a great group of people. It really was a Christmas to remember.
2/4, H&S, 1967-1968
After reading the book Jarhead I found myself getting sick at my stomach that someone who calls himself a Marine would create such "drivel". I have to admit you sure fooled me with your book title that this would be a good read. Also, Mike Cannell's apology for this "no friend of the Corps, Swofford" was equally revolting. Of course, we all who have been through the training, preparation, and camaraderie of the Marine Corps can tell many unique and illustrative stories of 17-22 year old Marines serving our country and could illustrate the many prankish acts of these young men (self included) who serve in harm's way. However, most Marines that care about our Corps, keep those "stories" in their proper context and generally are mindful of the audience they are re-telling such to. Obviously, Swofford could care less. Unfortunately, he takes the name "Jarhead" and turns it into a characterization of an idiot and pervert. Thanks Mr. Swofford for your clear panderings to those who so much want "evidence" of the knuckle dragging, mindless community of Jarheads that permeate the Marine Corps! How dishonest, that Swofford would take advantage of the courage and commitment of so many Marines before his time and through the present.
On another note, Semper Fidelis to ALL Marines who have served honorably and in many cases given much to our country and their fellow devil dogs!
E-5 - Major
USMC and USMCR (ret'd)
But The Question
I would like you to pose this question to your readers. Veterans and Veterans Groups.
"Vietnam Service Medal" "National Defense Service Medal" Who rates it and who should rate it?
We all know that the Vietnam War ended on March 28th 1973. But the question has been brought up this past week when I had the pleasure and honor to attend the 230th Marine Corps Birthday celebration at Kaneohe MCB, Hawaii, the Veterans Day Ceremony at Punchbowl National Cemetery in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Dedication to the New Marine Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I met and talked to several Marines that said that they were disappointed because they felt that they were not considered Veterans or Veterans of a foreign because they were not in Vietnam before March 28th 1973 but was however in Vietnam for one of three operations stemming from the Vietnam War. Operation Eagle Pull from Cambodia, Operation Frequent Wind from Vietnam and Operation New Life also from Vietnam. Operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal and Operation New Life received the Humanitarian Service Medal. All three operations were also in 1975. None of these rates the NDSM. So if we had Marines (Service members) in Vietnam after March 1973, and the last issue date on the NDSM for the Vietnam War was 14 Aug 1974. Should these Marines rate the VSM / NDSM?
What do you think!
SSgt USMC 1974-1985
I Invited My Father
Dear Sgt. Grit,
My most memorable Marine Corps Birthday was this year. My step- father was a Marine in Korea and was wounded at Chosin in 1950. He was always proud of being a Marine but for some reason he would never talk about the war and his wounds. This year he finally started talking about his service and what he went through. I had suggested that he join the 1st Marine Division Association but he never wanted anything to do with it until this year. I had gone to the birthday a couple of times and joined the association just this year. I invited my father and to my surprise he accepted. Once there he met several Korea Vets and one who was stationed where he was at the same time (the units were next to each other, my father thinks they may have even met!). I bought him a red Marine hat and jacket which my brother says he wears all the time (we think he sleeps in it). And I saw something I rarely saw, at least not together, he smiled a lot and then afterward he cried. My father and I, for reasons between a father and son, never really got along (even though I became an FMF Corpsman, I don't he ever forgave me for joining the Navy!) but that night I saw another side of him and I realized that I really didn't know him at all. On Thanksgiving we talked some more and I got the chance to talk to him about my service, things I wanted to tell him but never felt I could. Now I think he is coming to grips with what happened to him in Korea (I found out he was bitter at having to be discharged for his wounds, he wanted to make the Corps his career, although he was retired). We have talked about going on the camping trip to Camp Pendleton this next year and he will attend the Christmas party this year. When I joined the Navy I knew he was not a happy camper but when I graduated form Field Medical Service School he told me that a Corpsman saved his life at Chosin. Still he would give me grief about being a "water lily". On Thanksgiving he still joked about it but I knew he was only joking, my mother later told me he was very proud that I became an FMF Corpsman. We all, for different reasons, have memories of our favorite Marine Corps Birthday but I know that this year will forever be my favorite.
For my Dad, Lcpl Frank Valtierra USMC (ret), Semper Fi.
HM3 Luis M. De La Cruz USN
1st Mar. Div.
Christmas is a time to be home. It is a time for family and friends and the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of home. I was away from home on Christmas twice in my life. The first time was in 1967. The last time was in 1976. I don't recall much about the time in 1976. I remember 1967 very well. I was in Viet-Nam. I was in Viet-Nam because I wanted to be there. I volunteered to be there. I was not forced to go. I was a United States Marine and in 1967 there were a lot of Marines in Viet- Nam.
Christmas in Viet-Nam occurs during the monsoon season. It was wet, windy, and cold. After going through the Vietnamese summer I was surprised how cold it was at Christmastide. I was with my battalion-2nd Battalion, 26th Marines, "Chaplin's Nomads." We called ourselves "Chaplin's Nomads" because our commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Chaplin, U.S.M.C. and because we had been all over the northern part of Viet-Nam since he took command. We were proud to be "Chaplin's Nomads." We met Lieutenant Colonel Chaplin in battle. He replaced our fallen commander. We formed that bond that nothing else can forge: we faced danger together and come through to the other side. We weren't just "grunts" anymore, we were "Nomads." We even had plaques made up for the holiday season. Beneath the battalion crest they read "Greetings from The Nomads." Christmas 1967 we were in Phu Bai, Republic of Viet-Nam. This was the command post of the 3rd Marine Division. "Chaplin's Nomads" was the resident infantry unit. This assignment was our reward for a long, hot, heroic summer along the Demilitarized Zone that-then-cut Viet-Nam in two. It was also our respite before an episode of upcoming, uncommon valor. But that lay in the future and it not part of this story.
I was a Private First Class. I was twenty years old. I was on special assignment to the S-5, Civil Affairs Section of battalion headquarters. My boss was First Lieutenant Gabriel Aaron Gonzalez, U.S.M.C.R. Every night the Marines at Phu Bai stood guard on the perimeter of the base. This was against the risk the enemy would try to attack under cover of darkness. The perimeter of Phu Bai was a series of bunkers and trenches. Every fifty yards there was a two-story tower.
I was assigned to stand guard Christmas Eve. I was assigned to Tower Number Two. Another Marine was assigned to stand guard with me. His name was Paul Van Atta. We were on 50% alert: while one of us slept the other was awake, in the tower, watching for the enemy.
It was a cold, wet, bleak, night. It had been raining for days and days. It does that in Viet-Nam during the monsoon. I was lucky. I was in the base area most of the time. I could get hot showers, dry clothes, fresh food, and a warn bed. My days of shivering out in the field under a poncho were over. This night, however, I was wet and cold again. At the base of Tower Number Two was a small "hooch." That is Marine slang for a shelter. Our "hooch" was drafty, cold, and wet. It was only slightly drier than the platform of the tower where we stood guard.
Paul and I drew lots and I got the first watch. We agreed we would each stand guard two hours and sleep two hours. I climbed up onto the tower and Paul crawled into our "hooch." Soon I heard him snoring loudly. Marines can sleep anywhere, anytime and they can fall asleep with no provocation, inducement, or preliminary.
It was still light. Barely. A watery sun was setting somewhere behind the dark, sodden clouds over the mountains. The wind was whipping around the tower, coming up through the slats of the platform. It was going to be a long, miserable night.
I shivered in my poncho. The cold rain dripped from the hood. I was lonely.