You requested stories of PI experiences. Here are a couple of mind benders, not physical incidents but nevertheless, shook us up. We polished our dress shoes for weeks, never wore them with greens until late in the program. We were told to put on the dress shoes one evening when dressing for chow. On the way I guess we were all looking down at our spit shines, bobbing along. We were halted, told to bow our heads and stare at our shoes for a few minutes before going on to the mess hall. Another time we must have been slow in getting into greens for chow or the squad bay was messed up, because we had to go back in change into utilities with field jackets. Too slow, back again, get into greens with overcoat. In ranks we were told to open the overcoats. Some guys did not have their blouses buttoned. Back into the barracks, change again. We did this about 7 or 8 times before going to chow. Once there Sgt Brown announced that after chow we were going to the movies. However, before that we were to take a test on the M1. There were 75 of us in the Platoon. We could have 10 incorrect answers among us. Needless to say we did not go to the movies and I doubt that we would have regardless of the test results. We were near the end of the 8-weeks and when getting into greens for chow we were instructed to put our emblems on our covers and jacket lapels (Ike or Battle Jacket). While in line waiting our turn to enter the mess hall, another DI came over to our DI and berated him for allowing us to wear emblems when we were not yet MARINES, Sgt Brown made some excuse and told us to remove the emblems and put away until graduation. It was a cold January and February, puddles exposed to the sun did not thaw. We rarely wore field jackets or gloves, just our cotton utilities, no great flannel shirts that hung in the squad bay. One morning in a weak moment of compassion, while in ranks waiting to get in the mess hall for breakfast, we were called to attention, given the "at ease" command, cross our arms over our chest and put our hands in our arm pits. Other than a very few times did any of our DI's do anything physical to anyone in the platoon.
We were an older group, most had been out of high school a while, some in college, etc. Most probably enlisted to avoid the draft. I got my notice while in Boot. This was Plt 19, Second Bn, graduating about the first week of March, 1951. We were an honor platoon, of course. The photos are of Risher, Starling, Dean and Barton, all from Charleston, S.C. If I recall correctly. A fantastic experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Jim Black XXX0806
P.S. The photos were taken the last Sunday at PI. I am sure that my camera was not available before that. We are washing clothes on concrete wash racks with cold water and scrub brushes, hung up with tie-ties (short pieces of twine), all from our bucket issue. If one did not go to church you had more free time to wash and not be bothered by you know who.
It Was Worth It
Just wondering if the guys at Parris Island had this problem. During the 4 hours of base liberty after graduating Boot, I was walking near the PX when I passed a beautiful California blonde. Her fantastic body was dressed in a Marine uniform with Captain's bars. Rather than salute, I chose to check out her legs. She immediately had me down giving her 20 push-ups and then got in my face to scream at me for disrespecting her rank. It was worth it, she even smelled great!
Cpl. Bill Reed
I am touched by the eloquence with which Bob Robertson described the battle that he, Frank Doezema Jr., Bob Hull and Marine Mishler fought alongside one another in that watchtower. The feelings and instincts he tells of are so vivid and active that I came away with the pride that all Marines who have read that accounting must feel as they realize that he was telling of how well the USMC training has instilled the commitment of duty to fellow Marines and the depth of our brotherhood which this writing verifies. Here were four Marines, not trained alongside one another, fighting together with the same thoughts and the same feelings acting as one, to hold off the attacking enemy forces. I have never heard our unquestioned confidence in one another described so solemnly and forcefully. That, and this, is what Semper Fidelis is all about.
P.S. Thanks for presenting it to us.
Time Stood Still
The story about Phu Bai runway and the one deaf ears at Hue City Tet brought back memories. Wonder how many of us Marine Brothers remember arriving on Phu Bai runway with orders to 3rdMarDiv and 26thMarRegt, then the division RegtHqrs., then on to Khe Sanh Combat Base?
The story about deaf ears, reminds me of when I was being tested by the VA for my hearing loss due to head injury in Nam. I had been in the sound booth for bout 3-5 mins when the examiner opened the door and said I had to push the button anytime I hear anything, so I told him "I've been waiting for you to start". Well, after several times of testing and ENT doctors review, they awarded me 30% with numerous other areas of disability percentage.
So fellow Band of Brothers, Sgt. Grit is by far a greater source of memories to be shared 'cause many of us were young when we went, none can deny that they didn't age in years but time stood still. "We served, we went, and fought like H-ll!"
Keep them coming.
All Sorts Of Vermin
While assigned to the 2nd Guard Company Marine Barracks Naval Weapons Stationed Yorktown, VA, our mid-rats were the usual Horse and cheese sandwiches on white bread. I liked that fare then and still like that chow 55 years later. From time to time the Navy cooks would also throw in pies and cakes along with the the above chow. However, since we were less than careful disposing of the remains of the baked goods our guard house quickly was overrun with all sorts of vermin. After a visit from the base exterminator and a very serious field day by the off duty guard section... cakes, pies and other goodies were banned from the guard house.
Bob Lake, LCpl
To This Day
In April, 1956, I was assigned to HqCo, HqBn, 3dMarDiv, and then assigned to the Division Adjutant's office; Major Good Burleson was the DivAdj., Captain Arthur O'Donohue, the Administrative Officer.
Camp Courtney was where all this took place. Like many of the other Marine camps, this one also had the name that most of the Okinawans referred to as Tengan. I remember hearing about Napunja, but can't recall any of the other names.
I made the trip from San Diego to Naha on the USS Breckinridge, seasick most of the way over, and thankfully, I got to fly back to Travis AFB, in June, 1957. To this day, I do not voluntarily get on a ship (or boat) that will get out of the sight of land.
Another little trip early in 1964 from Iwakuni to Taiwan, this time aboard LSTs. I know those Navy cooks fed us greasy pork chops on purpose. Couldn't hold anything down but saltines, from Tuesday PM, until Sunday, but I did manage to lose 10 pounds in the process. Spent a couple of months on Monkey Mountain on a deployment with MACS-4, 1stMAW. Again, by hook or crook, got to fly back to Iwakuni on an R4Q.
I had been transferred to MCAF, Santa Ana in August, 1962 while MACS-4 was being organized and then to Iwakuni in August, 1963. Upon arrival at Iwakuni, the squadron was met by the Commandant, General David Shoup.
All in all, with the exception of Santa Rosa, CA, I had a very good career.
James R. McMahon
GySgt of Marines (1949-1970)
The Sub Dives, Resurfaces
In the early part of the 1960's I was in A Company, 3rd Recon Bn, 3rd Mar Div. Stationed on Okinawa. Trouble was brewing in SE Asia and as such we were always in a training status. One of which was working off of Navy subs. Marine Corps Recon with our little 7-man rubber boats and the U.S. Navy with WW II diesel powered sub refitted to haul our sorry butts around. When we were aboard the sub, the drill was the sub would surface and we would go like h-ll to get topside and inflate our boats. The sub then dives, we float off, we paddle around a while, then the sub resurfaces and picks us up, we deflate the rubber boats, take the boats and our gear and go below, the sub dives, resurfaces, we do it again. I think at the time the XO, who was a 1stLt, was running the shows, well he and the Plt leaders, all very green 2nd Lts. put their heads together and came up with a plan to cut down our launch time so as to speed up the drill which we were trying to do as fast as possible. It was time consuming to inflate and deflate the boats. The plan was after the next pick up, the boats would be left inflated, secured to the deck of the sub and dive. So the next time we did just that. The rubber boats were left inflated, latched down, very securely with good old comm wire. The sub dives, we eat lunch, those Submarines do eat GOOD, we surface, go top side, and lo and behold there ain't nothing but strips of rubber on the deck of the sub. I don't know how this was explained to the CO or the supply Sgt, but it must have been good. Anyway no more rubber boat training for a while.
One Of Stelling's Stars
Each Wednesday evening, I sit down and search this wonderful website for 10 magical letters... J.L. Stelling. My beloved drill instructor. My emotions seem to go on an emotional roller coaster... he lives! I once almost got my butt kicked good and proper. Let me tell you the story.
After boot camp, ITR... Boot Leave... (spent in a "bucket of blood" in my "hood" in Brooklyn)... I returned to San Diego MCRD for special Comm School. On the first night my buddy Iggy Evans said, "Let's go see Cpl. Stelling." All I said was, "If he starts up with me, I'm going to punch him right in the nose." After dinner we dressed and marched to the huts. This was a restricted area. It was out of bounds to everyone not on official business. We marched through the huts like we owned the joint. There was Cpl. Stelling with his new platoon of raw recruits. The platoon was standing in the "AH to BB" formation. Iggy and I turned the corner on to the Company street in perfect step. Cpl. Stelling didn't miss a beat, "Well here come two 'Real Marines'! Get down and give me 50 to honor them. Ready begin! House mouse get me three cups of coffee and don't spit in them!"
I was toast. That may have been the worst coffee that I've ever had, but I savored ever drop. Drinking that NO# 6 fuel oil with Cpl. Stelling was just plain wonderful. It was 52 years ago and I still remember it today as if it were yesterday. Our relationship had been anything but cordial for all of our previous time together, but there in the duty hut with my new friend drinking that lousy coffee... Priceless! That evening was the last time I would see him, but the effect that he had on my life would last all these years.
Your newsletter brings back the vivid memories of a time and a place long gone, but it also brings the simple joys. Cpl. J.L. Stelling, my Drill Instructor is alive and well.
In the USMC few Marines are more revered than the Drill Instructor. In my eye he was one of the best.
Bob Graziano (Gratz)
Platoon 294, MCRD SD
"One of Stelling's Stars"
PFT In The Old Corps
In your Newsletter of 08 Oct., My Brother Marine J. V. Merl comments in some detail on the physical condition of Camp Napunja when he was there in '58-'59. First may I say that he is correct, I misspoke when I used the words "under construction". When the 3/9/3 arrived at Camp Napunja in June of 1955, it had been in it's previous life an Army base (closed) which was now still being updated and brought back to life by the USMC. We may not have been the first Marines there, but at that time a whole lot of work was still going on. So with all due respect may I say that unless one is blessed with reverse second sight, the Camp in 1958-59 was not the same Camp as it was in 1955. God Bless the United States Marine Corps, 240 years strong on 10 November, 2015.
Those Were The Days
Got pinged by one of 'mine' from 1963... he noted it had been five weeks since my by-line had appeared... (sheesh! he counted?!)... Not caring to repeat myself, (he said, redundantly...) advised that fresh reports of stuff that happened 35 years ago (retired in '81) were getting hard to come by... so, I guess I will have to woo the muse a bit (here in rural TN, 'wooing the muse' might be mis-heard as pastoral romance involving stump-broke heifers)... (if that reference is too arcane for you, ask some snuff-dippin' bronc rider... I know you got'em in OKC...)
For the morning formation bits ("two dead, one in the head, etc"), recall a Company Gunny calling out three names with "Report down to Company Supply and draw asbestos suits... you three will be pulling butts on the flame-thrower range today"...
Used to be two ways to acquire a new skill set (although the term 'skill set' would have been reason for derision...) and improve, maybe, chances for a promotion or a transfer, or gain peer respect, and those were OJT or On the Job Training, or, better yet, being sent to a SCHOOL covering the subject, after which it would be commented that 'so and so is SCHOOL-TRAINED on... (whatever)... this was intended to carry some weight beyond simply having learnt how to accomplish some task. On the other hand, as the Gunny said: "send an idiot to school... what you get back is a school-trained idiot..."
Noted the circa 1963 aerial photo of Camp Matthews (MCRD SD rifle range)... the divided highway at the bottom of the picture was Highway 101... today buried under many lanes of I-5, and the cross road was MiraMar Road. The building with two symmetrical two-story ends (five windows each on second floor), had a small recruit exchange in the left wing, and from memory, a slop chute for range personnel in the other. There were a few telephone booths on the front porch. I think the Quonset huts pictured were probably billeting for range personnel (frankly, don't recall those being there)... the large building above the checkerboard painted water tower (common to all DOD installations in the era) was the recruit messhall. The terraced area was the school range and snapping in area... to the right of that, although not readily discernable were 'little agony' and 'big agony'... the tent camp is obvious... pyridimal tents with wooden floors, known as "pram tents"... there were small wood or kerosene pot-belly stoves in each... and like the stoves in the Quonsets back at the Depot, never, ever saw one that had been lit... winter-time platoons would usually loose some recruits to the hospital with pneumonia... the area is subject to cool, damp fog, and despite warnings, bed-checks, etc., some would put their poncho over their blankets... trapping body moisture, resulting in damp blankets... and ultimately upper respiratory infections. The paved areas around the mess hall could look like a 'lugie' convention... different times... Used to put'em into breakfast, have a cup of coffee, then ease on down the road at the back of the mess hall to the little parking lot, and climb one of the trees... it was dark out there... really dark and foggy... and as the little darlings scrubbed their trays in the outside dip tanks, and double-timed in the dark down to the assembly area, there would be speculation as to the probability of the smoking lamp being lit... or boot camp being shortened by three weeks because 'they need us for...". Then, when most of the platoon had assembled... supposedly 'at ease'... but with teeth chipping and ratchet-jawing going on... they would hear, from on high and to their rear... a stentorian "'Toon"... and they knew... knew... it was not going to be a good afternoon... probably log drill, mixed with air raid/flood... in the fine caliche' soil dust... over-looking 101... (ah, yes... those WERE the days...)
I think you Marines will enjoy this.
Badass of the Week: General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller
Lost and Found
Help! I'm suffering from CRS and can't remember my platoon number at Parris Island. The last 1st Battalion platoon formed in December 1968 (two days after Christmas). Lost everything in a fire some years back and want to track down a photo.
Is there anybody out there who was born and raised the same place they were trained? Still looking for any born Marines.
Jesse Griffin, Cpl. 1811
"When I reached my End of Active Service, I looked forward to the possiblities of civilian life. Once back in the civilian sector I never wanted to re-enlist more badly. The adjustment from Marine Corps life to civilian life can be challenging. Almost 10 years later and I am still adjusting. You can take the man out of the Corps, but you'll never take the Marine out of the man."
--Sgt James Williams
"Never miss a good chance to shut up."
"They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live."
--Lt Gen. John Kelly
"[I]t is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government... Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever persuasion, religious or political."
--Thomas Jefferson, 1801
"It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute."
--James Madison, 1816
"The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others."
--Henry Hazlett, Economist
"If ye would go up high, then use your own legs! Do not get yourselves carried aloft; do not seat yourselves on other people's backs and heads!"
--Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra [1883-1891]
"Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there."
--LtGen Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, USMC April 1965
"I politely told the clowns that if they were serious about fighting Marines - that maybe - they should go outside first and practice falling down a few times to make it a fair fight!"
"Survive the eighteen weeks and you get to call yourself a Marine, and everyone else calls you a Marine. I must be a Marine. You are a Marine. It took eighteen weeks to change you into a Marine. You will never change back into non-Marine. It's inside you. It's all over your character. You can taste it. You are in the Crotch forever. The only classifications of Marines are, Active & Inactive. You see once you're in this wonderful, and proud chickensh-t outfit you can't get out. And besides who would want to? We are all proud to be Marines."
"Every day is a holiday. Every meal is a banquet. Every night is a Saturday night. And every formation is a family reunion. Why would anyone NOT want to be a Marine."
Fair winds and following seas.