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Boot Camp and ITR - 1966

Posted by Sgt Grit Staff

 

This may be too long for you to use, but it might be of interest to you. - Cpl Larry Woolverton, 2147898 USMC 1966-1970. Semper Fi!
 
October 19, 1965.  I went down to the Marine Corps recruiting office and enlisted.  My father went with me and I could tell he wasn’t at all happy about it.  I was eighteen, though, and thought I knew what I was doing.  My parents had done everything they could to try and change my mind, but one of my more unfortunate traits is having more stubbornness than good sense.
 
     The recruiter was a real nice guy.  He was a Staff Sergeant, and wore undress blues: blue trousers with red NCO stripes down each leg, tropical shirt, with a chest full of ribbons.  Spit shined shoes, polished brass.  A real poster Marine.  At that time, you could enlist for two, three, or four years.  Yep.  I signed up for four.  After all, wasn’t I going to make it a career?  The Vietnam War was just getting going good and I wanted in on it.  I wanted to be like John Wayne and all the other war movie heroes I had been raised on.  The recruiter beamed.  My father just looked sadder.
 
     I didn’t leave for boot camp until March 18, 1966.  They gave you five months to think about what you had gotten yourself into.  Oh, they wouldn’t let you out, but they let you think about it.  And I thought about it, wondering if I had really done the right thing, now that it was too late to do anything about it.  On March 17, 1966, I got on a bus and went to Oklahoma City.  The Marine Corps put us up in an old flea bag hotel and the next morning, we were bused to the airport.  Away we went.
 
     There were seven of us and I was placed in charge of them.  I was given everyone’s records and was supposed to give them to the drill instructor when we landed.  I don’t remember what time it was when we touched down in San Diego, but it was after dark.  As we got off the plane, we saw a green bus and three of the meanest, toughest looking thugs I had ever seen, waiting for us.  One of them was in the door of the bus talking with the driver.  Well, since I was in charge of these guys, I stepped up into the bus to hand over our records.  Bad move. Bad, bad move.  He turned around and looked at me as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  His face got red and I watched the veins in his neck stand out and I thought, “Uh, oh.” just as he kicked me in the chest, screaming, “Who the [expletive deleted] told you to get on my bus?”.  As I landed on the pavement, with all the civilian passengers edging away, I realized, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that THIS was the dumbest thing I had ever done.  Nothing else was even close.
 
     I picked myself up off the sidewalk and jumped into formation with the rest of the terrified victims that were waiting to be turned into United States Marines.  The monster that had kicked me off the bus paced back and forth in front of us, bellowing the way only Marine Corps drill instructors can, explaining how useless and despicable we were.  How in the name of Gawd could the Marine Corps expect him to turn useless [expletive deleted] maggots like us into Marines worthy of serving in his beloved Corps?  How, he wondered?  I didn’t know.  I wanted to tell him that it looked impossible to me, too.  Maybe the best thing to do would be to just let us get back on the plane and go back home.  I didn’t say anything, though.  I just stood at attention and kept my eyes straight ahead like he told us.  He wouldn’t have gone for it anyway, I don’t think.
 
     He gave us ten seconds to get on the [expletive deleted] bus, find a seat and put ourselves in a sitting at attention position: both feet on the floor, hands on knees, back straight, eyes straight ahead.  We were a little slow, in his expert opinion, so off the bus and at attention again.  Back on the bus.  Not fast enough.  Off the bus.  Eventually, we made it and we were off to the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, which was just on the other side of the airport.  The only thing I saw of San Diego was the back of the head of the guy sitting in front of me.  The gentle transition from civilian life to Marine Corps life had begun.
 
     On the way, the drill instructor told us that the first word out of our pie holes was “Sir”.  For instance, if we wished to talk to him, the way to do it was, “Sir!  Private Woolverton, 2147898, requests permission to speak to the drill instructor, Sir!”.  Or, “Sir! Private Woolverton, 2147898, requests permission to go to the head, Sir!”.  Don’t forget it.  Don’t ever forget it.
 
     The bus passed through a deceptively attractive gate that should have borne the warning, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!”.  It didn’t, though.  I’ve heard that the old Nazi concentration camps used similar ruses, so as not to panic their victims.
 
     We pulled to a stop in front of a two story stucco building and scrambled out.  In front of the building there were maybe a hundred sets of yellow footprints painted on the asphalt.  We were ordered to stand on the footprints.  At attention.  One of the monsters hollered at us that if we had any moles, warts, or other growths on our heads to put a finger on it.  Then, five at a time, we were run into the building.  A barbershop.  It took a barber about five seconds to turn us into skin heads and send us off to the next building of horrors.
 
     Which was labeled “Receiving”.  To tell the truth, much of that first night of boot camp is a little fuzzy.  Everything was so alien and happening so fast.  The drill instructors were yelling at us and we were running everywhere.  A lot of it is just a blur.  I remember it, but it is like a long ago nightmare that you want to forget, but never will.
 
     In the receiving barracks we were issued our clothing and toilet gear.  Sea bags, boots, high top tennis shoes, black socks, utility trousers, blousing bands, utility jackets, utility covers, cover block, belts and belt buckles, skivvies (boxer shorts), tee shirts, running shorts (red with yellow Marine Corps emblem), a plastic toilet kit with soap, tooth brush, tooth paste, razor and blades, and a can of Barbasol shaving cream.  No comb.  Comb?  We were as bald as eggs.  A galvanized steel bucket with a scrub brush and a bottle of Whisk inside, two blankets, two sheets, and a pillow case.
 
     We were then run into another room in the same building.  This room had a bunch of tables with boxes and rolls of tape sitting on them (I was prepared for this part.  Barry and Dennis had warned me when they were home on boot leave, before I joined).  The drill instructors screamed that we had thirty seconds to take off all our clothes, remove all our jewelry except for wedding rings, put it in the box in front of us and seal it up.  We could keep our wallets, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, if we were smokers.  “Thirty seconds!  Go!”  Shirt buttons went flying everywhere, since no one took the time to unbutton them, shoes were yanked off without untying shoelaces.  Most of us made it in the allotted time, but a few didn’t.  They were dragged out into the hall and beaten.  We could hear the drill instructors hollering and punches landing.  I had been wearing only a pair of jeans, a tee shirt, and a pair of tennis shoes.  No socks, even.  Like I said, I knew this was coming.  After everyone got their belongings packed up, we filled out mailing labels to send them home and stuck them on the boxes.
 
     We were then ordered to dress.  Boxer shorts, tee shirt, yellow sweatshirt, utility trousers, web belt (which was four feet long), belt buckle, socks, tennis shoes, and utility cover.
 
     By this time (actually long before this), we were thoroughly terrified.  There were some pretty tough kids there, too, and they were as scared as I was.  The Marine Corps wastes no time letting you know who’s running things.
  
     After we were all dressed, and looking spiffy, we stuffed all our new possessions into our sea bags, grabbed our buckets, and were run over to some Quonset huts. There were maybe a couple of hundred of them along one side of the parade ground.  This was to be our new home.  Our platoon, Platoon 277, had about a dozen of these Quonset huts.
 
     Each Quonset hut had about a dozen double-decker racks.  Six on each side, positioned head to toe, with two footlockers under each.  I was lucky and was able to snag a lower, although I guess it didn’t matter.  It was the least of my worries.  One of the drill instructors showed us how to make up our racks, then told us to do it.  We made them up and stood at attention in front of them.  He took one look at what we had done and went absolutely insane.  He started tearing them up and turning over racks and throwing sheets and blankets everywhere, bellowing, “Can’t you [expletive deleted] even make up a [expletive deleted] rack?  This is the easiest [expletive deleted] thing you’re going to learn!”  I guess we spent about an hour making up our racks and having him tear them up.  He never was satisfied, but eventually allowed us to go to sleep.  I don’t know what time it was, but after midnight, anyway.  No one slept.  I did a lot of thinking, though.  Boy, did I do a lot of thinking.  My vocabulary was building up nicely, anyway.  Lots of new words I had never heard before.
 
     5:00 am.  The door burst open and an already (or still) pissed off drill instructor flipped on the light switch, grabbed a garbage can and threw it down the center of the hut.  “What the [expletive deleted] are you [expletive deleted]’s doing still in the rack?  Where the [expletive deleted] do you maggots think you are?  Vacation Bible School?”  I had already figured out that’s not where I was.  I knew we weren’t going to get to watch any Woody Woodpecker cartoons.  It seems he thought that when we heard the light switch click, we had plenty of time to jump out of our racks and be standing at attention by the time the light actually came on.  We practiced trying to beat the light for a while.  We never did beat it, but I think we got pretty close.
 
     After a lot of yelling, we were told we had five minutes to make up our racks, and get out on the platoon street, which was an asphalt sidewalk between our two rows of Quonset huts.  I think we made it and were given fifteen minutes to shave and brush our teeth.  Then, back into our huts to get dressed.  The drill instructor yelled at us some more and again cursed the fact that we were so hopeless that his job, which was hard enough to begin with, had become impossible.  I think I looked around and figured he was probably right.  There we were, in our high-top tennis shoes, black socks, rolled up utility trousers, four foot long belts hanging almost down to our knees, yellow sweat shirts and unblocked utility covers down over our ears.  Looked impossible.
 
     We were herded over to the mess hall for breakfast.  Our drill instructors (there were three of them) said they were embarrassed to be seen with us.  Once we got to the mess hall, we stood in line at attention until it was our platoon’s turn to go in.  “Keep them eyes straight ahead!  Don’t let me catch any of you maggots eyeballing the area!”  There was a sign over the mess hall door that said, “Take all you want, but eat all you take”.  Finally, one step at a time, we started inching our way into the mess hall.  As we entered the door, we whipped off our covers, popped them against our thighs, and stuck them in our back pockets.  We each took a tray and utensils and began sidestepping through the chow line.  At least the food looked edible.  I had been a little worried about that.  We were served scrambled eggs, bacon, link sausages, SOS, french toast, and milk, I think.  A typical Marine Corps breakfast.  Once we were served, we moved on to our tables, where we put our trays down and stood at attention until everyone was through the line.  Finally, the drill instructor yelled, “Ready, seats!”.  At that point, all our butts were supposed to hit the bench at the same time.  Didn’t happen.  Back to attention.  “Ready, seats!”.  Nope.  Back to attention.  We did this while we waited for our eggs and bacon to get cold and our milk to get warm.  Finally, we all plopped down at the same time and were told to eat.
 
     One maggot at each table was given the job of keeping the two milk pitchers full.  While he was eating, he had to watch the levels of the pitchers and scream for permission to go milk the cow whenever one was getting low.  “Sir, Private ________, serial number _______, requests permission to go milk the cow, Sir!”.  Then, he had to jump up, and run over to the cow (milk dispenser), stand in line, fill the pitcher back up, and get back to the table before the other pitcher ran out.  The poor guy hardly had time to eat.  It was a rotating job, though, and we all eventually got to do it.
  
     Once breakfast was over, we showed the drill instructor that we had indeed eaten everything we had taken, scraped our trays off and gave them to the guys working in the scullery.  Then we went outside and were “marched” back to our platoon area.
 
 
     It seems like we spent most of that first day marking our clothing and learning how to fold everything and put it away in our footlockers.  Everything had to be just so, or a drill instructor would dump it on the floor and kick it all over the squad bay.  They were kind of picky.  We had each been issued a marking kit and the drill instructors showed us where each item of clothing was to be marked.  First two initials and the last name.  They said they better not catch anybody putting Mr. In front of their name, either.  Like we were going to do that.  One poor guy did, though, and they slapped him around some.  He didn’t have a choice. His name was M R Wilson.
 
     We marked our clothing, polished our boots, cut our belts down to fit, and dipped our belt buckles and belt tips in ammonia to remove the protective laquer and get them down to bare brass, and polished them with Brasso.  All the while, our drill instructors were bellowing about how our time in their care was going to be spent.  No television, no radios, no newspapers, no magazines, no telephone calls, no Cokes, no candy, no cigarettes, unless the smoking lamp was lit “And that’s not going to be very [expletive deleted] often, Maggots!”  They picked on guys at random - “What’s your serial number, Numbnuts?” or “What’s your seventh General Order, Maggot?”  We had been told before we got to boot camp to memorize our serial numbers and our eleven General Orders.  I had, and I think most of the rest of the maggots had, but when one of those animals is suddenly three inches from your nose bellowing out a question, you tend to get a little confused.  “Wrong, you [expletive deleted] piece of [expletive deleted]!  Get down and give me twenty!”
  
     One question they asked us a lot was, “Why did you join my Marine Corps, Maggot?”  “Why? Well...I dunno.  The last thing I remember is being really, really drunk.”  That answer would have been a death sentence.  No, the correct answer, shouted at the top of your lungs, was, “Sir, because the maggot has always wanted to be a Marine, Sir!”
 
     Ask any former Marine what his serial number was and without thinking, he will rattle it off.  It is something you never forget.  You can get amnesia, develop Alzheimer’s disease, forget your own name, but you will always remember your serial number.  2147898.
 
     By noon, we had our clothing pretty much squared away and were taken back to the mess hall for chow.  It was the same routine as breakfast was.  Stand at attention and inch our way forward when our platoon’s time came.  At the door, rip the cover off your head, pop it against your thigh and stick it in your rear pocket.  Grab a tray and side step through the serving line.  I remember being hungry and wondering what we would have to eat.  Mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, I think, some kind of meat that I thought might be chicken fried steak, bread.  Dessert was a sheet cake of some kind, I think.  It usually was, anyway.  Then to the table and stand at attention until everyone was through the line.
 
     “Ready, seats!”  Nope.  “On your feet, Maggots!”  “Ready, seats!”  We did that while we waited for our chow to get cold again.  Finally, the drill instructors went off to their tables to eat.  We dug in and I attacked the chicken fried steak.  Forked a big bite into my mouth and .... whoa!  Wait a minute, it wasn’t chicken fried steak, it was fried liver.  Liver!  I can’t eat liver!  My stomach started heaving and I knew I was going to throw up.  I stopped chewing and washed the bite down with milk.  Barely got it down.  Oh, man.  I had gotten a big piece, too.  I remembered the “Take all you want, but eat all you take” sign over the mess hall door.  Somehow, I had to get it down and just the thought made my stomach heave.  I cut off little pieces and buried them in mashed potatoes and peas and swallowed it without chewing, and washed it down with milk.  I gagged and heaved and tears were in my eyes, but I finally got it all down.  Man, I’ll never forget that.
 
     After noon chow, we were marched over to sick bay for shots.  Nothing unusual here.  Walk down a line of corpsmen while they jab both arms with needles, or with a gun.  After everyone was through, we double-timed (ran) back to our platoon area for some physical training to work the soreness out of our arms.  Lots of push ups, sit ups, knee bends, squat thrusts, and the like.  They were big on running and physical exercise.  Big on it.  They were determined to turn our flabby civilian bodies into hard, calloused Marine ones.  All of our fat bodies were dropped and sent to the fat farm where they were starved and exercised until they got down to an acceptable weight.  We lost several guys that way.
 
     We were taken to a building where we were tested for I.Q., aptitude, and whatever.  They also had more paperwork for us to fill out.
 
     Our first few weeks were spent learning how to march, close order drill, how, when and what to salute (when in doubt, salute), rules, regulations, history and customs.
 
     Sometime that first week we were issued our 782 gear: helmet, helmet liner, helmet cover, pack, knapsack, poncho, shelter half, three piece tent pole, tent pegs, cartridge belt, belt suspender straps, canteen, canteen cover, canteen cup, first aid kit, mess kit with knife, fork, and spoon.  We spread all that stuff on the ground in front of us outside the supply building, and the drill instructor would call out items.  “Canteen!  Hold it up!”  We did.  Finally, he was satisfied that everyone had everything they were supposed to have.  Then we were shown how to make up the pack.  Once we had done that, the drill instructors would walk down the lines, grabbing packs and throwing them up in the air and kicking them.  They had better hold together.
 
     By the end of the first week, we were able to walk in step with each other pretty well.  I wouldn’t exactly call it marching, though.  About this time, the drill instructors started calling cadence.  Unless you were in the Marine Corps, or have watched a program about Marine Corps boot camp, you have never heard it.  It is almost musical, and they teach it in drill instructor school.  No other branch of the military does it like the Marine Corps drill instructors do it.  There aren’t any words, just a musical cadence.  You have to hear it to understand.  We slowly, and painfully, began to march.
 
     Sometime that first week, when our drill instructor thought we had been pretty good little maggots, the smoking lamp was lit for the first time after evening chow.  I remember standing on the platoon street when the drill instructor yelled, “Okay, the smoking lamp is lit for one cigarette!”  We all just stood there looking around at each other, wondering what to do.  We knew what it meant, but our cigarettes and lighters were all in our footlockers.  Were we supposed to run inside and get them, or what?  No one moved.  The drill instructor lit up and smoked and watched us.  From then on, we carried our cigarettes and lighters with us.  Unless we had really screwed up, the smoking lamp was usually lit after chow and just before lights out.  Unfortunately, we screwed up a lot and it seems like a pack of cigarettes lasted about a month.  It would have been the perfect time to quit smoking, but you can’t believe how much we looked forward to that cigarette.
 
     The smallest kid in the platoon was the “house mouse”.  Sort of an errand boy for the drill instructors.  When the smoking lamp was lit he would walk up and down in front of us carrying a red bucket for us to flip our ashes into.  If he was slow getting to you, you flipped the ashes in your hand.  Never on the ground.
 
     Sometimes, before lights out, instead of lighting the smoking lamp for one cigarette, the drill instructor would just say, “The smoking lamp is lit.”  Then we could smoke until he told us the smoking lamp was out.  It didn’t happen very often, but we could sometimes smoke two, maybe even three cigarettes when he did that.  He would usually do it when he wanted to tell us the latest dirty jokes he had heard at the NCO Club.  Sometimes they were actually pretty funny, but funny or not, we laughed at them.  If he thought he was a hit, he would let us smoke a little longer.
 
     Saturday was just another day of the week while we were in boot camp.  On Sundays, though, we went to church.  Services were held in the base theater.  Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish services were held at different times during the morning.  Take your pick, but pick one.  Sunday afternoons we were given “free time”.  Free time meant you washed your clothes at a big outdoor concrete slab with cold water, scrub brush and Whisk.  Then, you hung everything on a clothesline to dry.  You polished your boots, shined your brass, and studied your Guidebook For Marines.  And wrote a letter home, lying your folks that you were as happy as a clam and were being well treated.  Except for washing clothes, everything was done while sitting on our footlockers lined up on the platoon street in front of our Quonset huts.  The drill instructors watched us and made helpful suggestions on how to enjoy our free time.  Oh, we had a ball during free time.
 
     The second or third week, I think, we were issued our M14 rifles, two magazines with magazine pouches, sling, bayonet with scabbard, and cleaning kit.  We were told to memorize our rifle’s serial number.  We went into a building and were taught everything there is to know about the M14.  All its specifications and the names of each part.  We learned how to disassemble it, clean it, and put it back together again.  Over and over and over.
 
     The next weeks were spent running, marching, close order drill, PT, classes, group and individual punishment.  Marine Corps boot camp is brutal.  We started out with close to a hundred guys in our platoon, and when we graduated boot camp, I believe there were eighty-one left.  You were pushed up to and over your limit in everything.  Sympathy and kindness are never shown.  Never.  The drill instructors’ jobs were to break you down, then build you back up into what they wanted you to be.  And they were good at it.  If one maggot screws up, the whole platoon is punished.  Sometimes, everyone but the guy that screwed up is punished, while he gets to watch.  It seems that most of our marching was done with our rifles held above our heads, because we just couldn’t get something right.
 
     Everything was taught by repetition.  Doing everything over and over until it was done right.  And sometimes it was reinforced with fists and boots.  One time, someone screwed up something and the drill instructors had us run into our Quonset huts and bring our foot lockers out.  Then they had us exercise with them.  They probably weighed fifty pounds with all our gear in them.  The way they did things was they would make you do something until someone dropped.  Same with the footlockers.  They would exercise us until our muscles were on fire.  Eventually, someone dropped theirs.  This time it was me.  I had been holding it above my head when my arms just wouldn’t obey anymore, and I dropped it corner first onto my big toe (we were dressed only in our shower shoes and skivvies).  One of the drill instructors was on me in an instant.  Finally, they finished playing with us and told us to hit the racks.  I wasn’t able to sleep because of the pain and the next morning, my toenail was black and raised above my toe about half of an inch.  After a lot of yelling, I was sent over to sick bay.  Over there, they removed my toenail.  Didn’t deaden it, just pulled it off, swabbed it with something that burned like liquid fire, put a bandage on it, and sent me back to my platoon.
 
     Once I got back, the senior drill instructor gave me a choice.  Keep up, or get dropped back to a new platoon.  I told him I would keep up.  There was no way I was going to go through all this again.  And I did.  Finally, after about a week or so, I was able to get my boot back on again.
 
     One of the more fun things we learned was hand-to-hand combat.  There, they tried to teach us how to kill an enemy with our bare hands.  It was sort of a mixture of judo, karate, and just mean street fighting.  We learned how to defend ourselves against someone coming at us with knives, how to throw a person, and so on.  They told us if our arms were pinned to chew the guys nose off.  Or his windpipe.  Gouge out his eyes. Tear his testicles off.  Break anything you could get hold of.  It was sort of fun.  We would pair off and practice.  We called it Dance Class.
 
     One of the less fun things we learned was how to use the bayonet.  For hours we would practice the slash, the jab, the vertical butt stroke, the horizontal but stroke, the smash, parry right, parry left, back to the guard position.  None of this was much fun.  After a while, that M14 felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.  “What’s the matter?  You girls want to rest?  Okay, you [expletive deleted]  maggots! Get those rifles over your heads and run in place!”
 
     One part of bayonet training was fun, though.  Practicing with the pugil stick.  The pugil stick is just a broom handle with canvas bags filled with cotton padding on each end.  We put on football helmets and groin protectors and fought it out.  It was a chance to get rid of some stored up frustrations.  I really liked that.  So did everyone else.  Even the drill instructors seemed to enjoy it.
 
     At night we had guard duty, and used to walk around the recruit training area.  That was a dull, lonely duty.  We could look out over the bay and see San Diego.  It was really pretty, especially at night, but it might as well have been on the moon.  We would never get to go into town.
 
     The fourth or fifth week was spent doing mess duty, which was a nice break.  Not that it wasn’t hard work.  It was.  We had to get up an hour and a half earlier than usual, but it got us away from our drill instructors for a while.  I started out in the scullery, loading the huge dishwasher, and taking the clean trays and dishes out to the serving line.  I had to run almost constantly, because if they ran out of forks or cups, or something I’m pretty sure they took you out back and shot you.  After a couple of days, I was re-assigned to the reefer.  Reefer Man!  They had a room-size refrigerator and my job was to take stuff out to the cooks and receive the incoming crates of food.  Pretty good assignment.  One of the best things about it was I was left alone.
   
     After each meal, we cleaned the mess hall.  All the tables and benches were shoved to one end and the other end was swept, scrubbed, squeegeed, and swabbed.  Then the tables and benches were shoved to the other end and the process was repeated.  Everything was then put back, ready for the next meal.
 
     There was one really great thing about mess duty.  After each meal, there was always a lot of dessert left over and the mess sergeant let us have as much as we wanted.  He was a pretty decent guy, by boot camp standards.  There was a bakery somewhere on base and it was always fresh.  And good.  It was usually sheet cake of some kind, and I never got tired of it.
 
     All silver linings have clouds though, and soon it was back to our drill instructors. More close order drill, PT, classes.  PT was done on the parade ground.  The Grinder.  It was the beginning of summer, and the asphalt got really hot in the afternoon.  Push ups were murder.  So was running.  We ran about three miles every morning and evening and the Grinder sapped your strength, it seemed like.
 
     The rifle range.  We finally went to the rifle range up at Camp Pendleton.  Two weeks.  The first week was spent learning about “sight pictures”, how to adjust our sights, and “snapping in”.  Snapping in was aiming at something while in the various shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone), dry firing, and having someone sitting in front of you kicking the rifle back into your shoulder to simulate recoil.  I got tired of that in a hurry.  I was ready to shoot some live rounds.
 
     Week two at the range.  Finally, we started live firing.  100 meters off-hand (standing), 200 meters off-hand and kneeling, 300 meters kneeling and siting, and 500 meters prone.  We would shoot part of the day, and part of the day we would pull butts.  Pulling butts meant working in the target pits behind and below the targets.  There were forty or fifty targets and two maggots were responsible for each target.  We would sit on a bench and stare up at the target and as soon as the guys on the firing line finished shooting, pull it down and check it for hits.  Then we would raise the target to show the shooter where he had hit.  We had a disk on a long stick that we would hold over each hit.  The disk was white on one side, and black on the other for contrast on the area of the target hit.  If the hit was in the black, we would cover it with the white side showing.  If it was outside the black, we would cover it with the black side.  If it was a bull’s eye, we would raise the disk up over the center of the target for a couple of seconds and pull it back down.  Then we would pull the target back down and paste patches over the holes.  As we pulled one target down, another was raised automatically, so the shooter didn’t have to wait for a target.  As we patched the old target, the shooter would shoot at the new one.  Then it was repeated.  It kept us hopping, but we got breaks as the shooters moved back to the next firing line.  Like from the 100 meter line to the 200 meter line.
 
     After the first group of shooters finished, they would pull butts for us while we shot.  What we were doing the first few days was working out the sight dope for our rifles.  How many clicks of windage and elevation for each distance.  That, and practice.
 
     Friday we shot for qualification.  There were 250 possible points.  You had to shoot at least 190 to qualify as Marksman, 210 for Sharpshooter, and 220 for Expert.  I shot 218 to qualify as Sharpshooter and I was mad about it, because the day before I had shot 223. Didn’t count, though.  They only took what you shot on qualification day.  Anyway, I qualified, and 218 was respectable.  Don’t shoot at least 190 and you are set back.  Sent back to a new platoon.  You have to qualify with a rifle, or the Marine Corps doesn’t want you.  I think we lost a few guys at the range.
 
     Back at MCRD, things got a tiny bit better, I guess.  It seems like our drill instructors were a little less inclined to use their fists and boots to reinforce lessons.  Or maybe we just weren’t screwing up as much.  Don’t get me wrong, they were every bit as tough and demanding and in our faces as ever.  It’s just that they weren’t as physically brutal as they were before we went to the range.
 
     Once we got back from the range, we were allowed to unbutton the top button on our utility jackets, and block and starch our utility covers.  It sounds like a small thing, I know, but it wasn’t.  It made us feel a little bit more like Marines, instead of maggots.  We were kind of proud of the fact that we could take what our drill instructors dished out and would likely graduate.
 
     The first week back from the range we went down and were fitted for our dress uniforms.  Dress greens, tropical shirts and trousers, ties, khakis, horse blanket (overcoat), raincoat, shoes, and all the other bits and pieces of the dress uniforms.  There were tailors, and we tried everything on while they took measurements.  Marine uniforms are supposed to fit snug, unlike Army or Air Force uniforms.  I guess that’s one of the reasons the Marine Corps doesn’t like fat bodies - doesn’t look good in the uniform.  They like flat tummies.  About a week later, we went back and, after trying everything on for fit, took it back to our Quonset huts.
 
     Somewhere around this time we were introduced to tear gas, and it is a vivid memory.  We were issued gas masks and shown how to put them on, adjust them so that they were sealed, and how to clear them.  Then we were shoved, about twenty of us at a time, into a small, windowless building.  The gas chamber.  After we were in, the door was closed and a device in the center of the room started filling the room up with tear gas.  We were ordered to take our gas masks off, and sing the Marine’s Hymn.  We rushed through the thing and the drill instructor (who, by the way, kept his mask on) didn’t like our rendition of it.  “Belt it out, girls!”.  We sang it again and it sounded even worse than the first time.  Again.  Everyone was gagging and crying, about to panic.  Finally, we were told to put our masks back on and clear them. Yeah, right.  The door opened and we hurried out and washed our heads and hands with garden hoses by the building.  I didn’t really like the gas chamber all that much.
 
     There was a swimming pool where they taught us how to stay afloat in case we fell off the side of a ship, or something.  Drown Proofing, it was called.  They showed us how to tie our trousers legs at the bottom, and sort of make water wings out of them.  We had to jump off a platform that was about as high as the side of a ship, float in the pool until they figured we knew how to do it, then swim over to the side and get out.  It was funny, but almost none of the black guys knew how to swim, and they were terrified of the water.
 
     The obstacle course was fairly easy for me, for some reason.  Maybe because I wasn’t very big.  The ones who had the most trouble with it were the bigger guys.  I got a little dizzy on some of the really high obstacles, but other than that, I really didn’t mind it at all.
 
     One thing I did have trouble with was carrying a buddy in a fireman’s carry through ankle deep sand.  We had to carry someone like that for fifty yards, or so.  Luckily, I got paired up with someone about my size.  I couldn’t have done it with a six foot, 220 pounder, I don’t think.  Well, maybe I could have. Those drill instructors were pretty good motivators.
 
     The last weeks of boot camp were no more fun than the first weeks were.  There was no let up.  We were starting to feel salty, though, especially when we would pass by a bunch of scared new boots.  We were starting to look like Marines.  We didn’t bounce when we marched and our boot heels cracked on the asphalt like one boot.  We were looking forward to getting out of this place every bit as much as a convict anticipates getting out of prison.
 
     Nowadays, the Marine Corps has something called the Crucible at the end of boot camp that is supposed to test the boots to the limit of their endurance.  We didn’t have that, but it was still similar.  We were run through a series of tortures and timed events designed to do the same thing.  Push us to our limit.
 
     During the last week we prepared for our final inspection.  Then the big day arrived.  Graduation Day.  We went to breakfast as usual, then went back to our huts to get ready.  We laid all our clothing and equipment out on our racks for inspection, exactly as it was shown in our guidebooks (junk on the bunk).  The drill instructors checked to make sure it was perfect.  Then we showered and shaved and the drill instructors inspected our faces using a flashlight  to make sure we hadn’t missed any stubble.  If we had, we were made to dry shave.  Shoes and cover brims were polished like mirrors.  Brass gleamed like gold.  Then we got into our dress uniforms.  The tropical uniform, since it was summer.  Finally, we were ready.
 
     Our drill instructors gave us their final rifle and personnel inspection, then marched us out onto the parade ground.  There were four platoons in our series, and we were all lined up side by side.  All the drill instructors were in dress uniforms, Smokey Bear covers and NCO swords.  The band was in formation in front of the base theater, and in front of them was the color guard.  Directly across from us were portable bleachers that had been set up for families and friends.
 
     Final inspection.  The battalion commander and his staff inspected us, and our drill instructors were as nervous as we were.  They were being inspected, too.  After all, we were the proof of all their work.  If we failed, so did they.  We were gone over with a fine toothed comb.  Uniforms were inspected for military alignment, Irish pennants (loose threads), shoes and cover brims checked for any stray flecks of dust, rifles were randomly inspected, and questions were asked.  We passed.
 
     The band and color guard started down the parade ground playing a Sousa march and we fell in behind them.  It was the first time we had ever marched with a band and it felt good.  As we passed the reviewing stand the band played the Marine’s Hymn.  Our senior drill instructor turned around and said, “They’re playing it for you.”  I know that every one of us got a lump in our throat.
 
     We halted in front of the reviewing stand and listened to a speech by the base commander congratulating us and welcoming us into the Marine Corps.  Then the drill instructors were ordered to dismiss us and let us have base liberty for the rest of the day.  The drill instructors saluted with their swords, turned and dismissed us.  One step to the rear, “Aye, aye, Sir!”, about face and we were dismissed.  A few of the guys had family and friends there to watch them graduate and they went to be with them.  The rest of us stood around, not sure exactly what to do.
 
     I just walked around and explored the base for a while, then went to the PX snack bar and got a milkshake, then browsed the PX for a while, waiting for someone to tear my head off.  I bought a Zippo cigarette lighter with the Marine Corps emblem on it while in the PX.  We were given free run of the base until late afternoon, then were supposed to get back to our platoon area.
 
     Back at the platoon area, we all stood out on the platoon street while our senior drill instructor called our names and gave us our new orders.  He also told us what our MOS’s were going to be.  MOS stands for Military Occupation Specialty.  Most of the ex-maggots were 0311's.  Infantry.  That’s what I expected to get, but I was supposed to be going into electronics.  2800 series.  I didn’t really want that.  I didn’t join the Marine Corps to learn how to fix radios and radar equipment.  I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut, though.  Anyway, that was still a couple of months down the road.  First, I had to go through ITR at Camp Pendleton.  Infantry training.
 
     We spent the rest of the day and evening turning our rifles and equipment back in, packing our seabags and getting ready to leave.  I think we could pretty much do whatever we wanted to as long as we didn’t try to leave the base.  I went down to the telephone exchange and called home.
 
     The next day, we were bused up to Camp Pendleton for ITR.  This was a four week ordeal and not much more fun than boot camp had been.  More Quonset huts.  More sadistic instructors.
 
     We were issued 782 gear and old worn out M1's for use during ITR, and it seems like we carried some configuration of pack, cartridge belt, canteen, and rifle in everything we did.  There’s no way of telling how many miles of running up and down those hills we did, carrying all that junk.  There isn’t a flat area at Pendleton.  Or if there is, I didn’t see it.  As a matter of fact, there was one hill in particular that they called Old Smokey that was almost straight up and probably four or five hundred feet high.  It was used as punishment.  If you screwed up, they would make you run up and down that hill.  Luckily, I never had to run it.  Not that I didn’t screw up - I did.  They just inflicted other creative forms of punishment on me.
 
     I can’t remember everything we did.  Lots of running, though.  Marines are the runningest bunch of people in the world.  Learning and practicing infantry tactics, learning how to use all the different small arms that the Marine Corps used in those days.  I remember shooting the Model 1919A4 .30 caliber machine gun (fun), the M60 machine gun (fun), the M2 .50 caliber machine gun (Ma Deuce! Really fun), the M79 grenade launcher (fun), the 3.5" rocket launcher (bazooka) (fun), and the flame thrower (not fun).  I didn’t like anything about the flame thrower.  That’s a scary weapon no matter which end of it you were on.  I’m glad I never really had to use one.  I’ve never hated anyone enough to want to incinerate them.
 
     We learned how to use hand grenades, too.  The M26 fragmentation hand grenade.  There’s not much to it, just pull the pin and throw.  Just make sure you throw it out there far enough, and remember to get down.  You know how you see guys pulling the pins out with their teeth in the movies?  Well, you really can’t do that in real life.  About all you will do is pull your teeth out.  It’s a little hard to pull the pin out of a grenade.  For a reason.  You don’t want the thing to come out when you are crawling around in the brush, or something.
 
     Another thing you don’t want to do with a hand grenade.  Remember in the movies watching some guy pull the pin on a grenade then count off three or four seconds before he throws it?  Not a good idea.  They say you have five or six seconds before it explodes.  Hmm... maybe, but a hand grenade isn’t a Swiss watch.
  
     We each fired one round from the 3.5" rocket launcher.  They had an old tank a couple of hundred yards out that we fired at.  I hit it, but couldn’t see that it did much damage.  It might have, though. We never went out to look at it up close.
 
     We had night firing demonstrations with the M60.  That was cool, watching the tracers and all.  We didn’t get to shoot, we just stood around and watched.  Every fourth or fifth round was a tracer round.
 
     Four weeks finally dragged by and ITR ended.  I was almost as happy that was over as I was boot camp.

Comments

  1. George J Baker November 16 2011, 9:24 pm

    Thank you Cpl Woolverton.  The similarities of your boot experience to mine at Parris Island brought back great memories that were fuzzy in my mind until you brought them out.  A great letter that I thoroughly enjoyed..  Have a great Thanksgiving.

  2. Donald Rait November 17 2011, 9:12 am

    Quite accurate as I remember it. Then if you really want to have your mind played with, go to OCS and the Basic School. They take a civilian and 12 months later you’re a Platoon Commander in Vietnam and believe it or not, competent to lead a Platoon. It’s amazing the job they do to produce qualified Marines for combat.

  3. CWO5 November 17 2011, 9:16 am

    I was there at the same time, Platoon 281.  I don’t think I’ve seen or heard it described as well as this rendition. 

    Cpl. MG Smith, 2230642

  4. William Simons November 17 2011, 9:28 am

    Corporal Woolverton,

    Were you with 2/6 at any time in the late ‘60s?

    Bill Simons

  5. Dale Cammack November 17 2011, 9:32 am

    Pretty Dam Close, loved it!!!!!!!

  6. Donald Rait November 17 2011, 1:04 pm

    I have been thinking of your description of life at MCRD San Diego for more than four hours. Went to my Rotary meeting, shared some copies, they all thought they had been transported back to the mid ‘60’s!
    If you have done any other writing, I’d be interested in seeing it. You have an incredible talent. SF, Don Mike 3/4 and Div. AO with OV10’s.

  7. Peter Gratton November 17 2011, 1:17 pm

    I joined Sept 65 from Minnesota and went to MCRD Oct 65 2163114. On the rifle range, I kept not qualifying during practice.
    DIs called me in and asked what the F**k was my problem?  I was trying so hard to shoot 250 that I was “saving rounds” - I was not getting all my shots off. DIs looked at me oddly and said you better be telling us the truth maggot.
    I was shooting 160 or so but not shooting 6 to 8 rounds. DIs contacted my shooting Instructor who confirmed. My NEW instructions were to get all my rounds off. Promptly shot 211. Messed up on qualification day but ended up shooting Marksman any way
    SF
    Pete G
    Corporal of Marines 5961 AN/TPQ-10 radar tech

  8. Louis Banuelos November 17 2011, 5:23 pm

    I went through boot camp in March 1946- it lasted (8) eight weeks. It seemed to be just as nasty then as now.Only now its more refined. I was 17 .The DIs could not believe I was old enough- I looked like I was 14. It was Platoon 51. I only met (1) one man who went through boot with me. I met him at aMarine Corps League meeting, Sixty (60} years later.  I have a nephew who went through about (8) yrs ago. I now delight in saying I retired out before you were born!

  9. Mark Abplanalp November 17 2011, 7:37 pm

    I could not have told this story better myself.  Semper Fi   Mark Abplanalp Platoon 327, Feb. 5 - April 11, 1968.

  10. Billy J. Russell November 18 2011, 8:28 am

    GREAT, but what I want to know is how you remembered all that ? I was too Dayum scared to even try to remember every detail, but then again I went through the Marine Boot Camp not the Hollywood one.
    Also I think you may have gotten some of your details out of order because that wasn’t the way it was done at PI. But then again I went through back in summer/fall of ‘62. At that time Boot Camp was 12 weeks of training or longer depending on how long Forming took to get the 4 platoons.
    As a Drill Instructor from Dec.70 to March 73 at PI, things were much different than when I went there in ‘62 but along the same line and detail. Because of Vietnam, training was cut to 7 weeks and we had no time to teach anything other than basic survival and other classes that I had in greater detail in ‘62. Also before I left PI in ‘73 we were taking the recruits to Camp Geiger for 1 week of training that I had done in 4 weeks in ‘62. After graduation they were sent to their commands to be further trained there by the platoon Sgts or were sent to MOS training as to their MOS qualifications and schools. Infantry MOS’ were given a shorter version of ITR which is now called School of Infantry.
    Anyway you did a great job on your story and it did make my eyes sweat a little to recall all the old times i had in boot camp.
    Semper Fi and carry on Marine.

  11. Boyd Smith November 18 2011, 9:41 am

    Great job CPL. Woolverton!
    Oh the memories! I was a platoon guide and remember taking in on the chin and gut for other recruits when they screwed up and then passing it on as needed! (Don’t forget the “Rodeo” events that the DI’s enjoyed throwing-usually in a small cleaning closet packed full of maggot recruits with amonia)
    Is there anyone out there from Platoon 1011, MCRD San Diego from Jan.1973-April 1973 or HMA-269 Cobra Squadron, New River Air Station from 1973-1975?

  12. Larry Woolverton November 18 2011, 12:23 pm

    William Simons November 17 2011, 11:28 am

    Corporal Woolverton,

    Were you with 2/6 at any time in the late ‘60s?

    Bill Simons

    Yes, I was with 2/6 from about May ‘68 - Jan.‘70.

  13. GARY& MARGE NASH November 18 2011, 4:15 pm

    Brought back memories.  Didn’t graduate from PI or SD but did graduate from Quantico.  All our meritorious MCO’s said that Q was even tougher than boot camp.  Anyway, we’re all Marines and all 0311’s at heart. 
    Former 0302

  14. Larry Woolverton November 18 2011, 8:39 pm

    @ William Simons - Yes, I was with 2/6 from about May ‘68 - January ‘70.

  15. Douglas Prohaski November 19 2011, 10:08 pm

    How did you get such a low serial number. I graduated boot camp 25 Sept. 1965- MCRD SD, 2162855 was where I was at back then.

  16. John Byrne November 21 2011, 7:11 am

    Great article. I stepped onto those same yellow footprints on 22 July 1966. Serial number 2196365. MOS 2841. Semper Fi.

  17. William Simons November 21 2011, 3:22 pm

    Larry,

    And you drove a Plymouth RoadRunner, right? I was there from May 67 to Sept. 69. I have pictures of us standing together in a TACP photo from a Carib cruise! I have been in touch with Guy Gabaldon and Bob Markel who were there about the same time.

    Bill Simons 2322287

  18. William Simons November 21 2011, 3:28 pm

    @ Larry Woolverton

    And I ran into Dan Ristich in Ocean City, Maryland several years back.

  19. harry killian November 21 2011, 5:02 pm

    When I read your story, I laughed so hard my wife thought I’d gone nuts! Oh, what memories. That was awesome.

    Pete Killian
    2344772
    1967-1971
    Semper Fi

  20. Larry Woolverton November 21 2011, 7:03 pm

    @ Billy J. Russell - I’m sure I got a few things out of order, but that’s how I remember it.  About the only difference between San Diego and Parris Island was you guys had sand fleas.  We weren’t allowed to have pets.

  21. Kurt Loewy November 24 2011, 2:16 pm

    Cpl Woolverton’s lengthy saga of his boot camp experience just do not match the time frame he indicates. Marine Corps recruit training underwent a giant change in April 1956 in both MCRD, San Diego and PISC and I doubt some of those escapades were even possible ten years later with the added /supervision and revised training methods that were instituted after the “Ribbon Creek” incident in Parris Island, the redesignation of seperate “Recruit Training Commands”, the series supervision system, and in the case of PISC the twentyeight USMC Captains (sneaky petes) who roamed all over the place at will and who were responsible only to the Commander of Recruit Training in HQMC. It was a complicated situation unknown to many, even in the USMC.I know this first hand, I was a senior DI from Apr1956 when the drowning happened in Ribbon Creek,before any of these changes occured and DI’s were pretty much what you saw you got. In 1958 the series system started ad I became a Series GySgt)  (Years ago I had a first rate DI that I wanted te emulate, and I did) Cpl Woolverton, you have talent even if your facts are somewhat astray…I enjoyed reading it…..

  22. CWO5 November 29 2011, 12:27 pm

    There appartantly are some who do not think Cpl. Woolverton’s account of his 1966 MCRD Boot Camp experience is accurate given the time frame and change in USMC policy (“Cpl Woolverton, you have talent even if your facts are somewhat astray”......former DI).  I was there at the exact same time, 25 March 1966 Platoon 281.  To put it in the vernacular, “he nailed it”!  But he didn’t mention “thump call” when we would line up, enter the hut one by one, and get punched in the gut (no marks and no witnesses).  No big deal, some of us (definitely not me) probably deserved it. I even recall one of the DI’s asking a fellow recruit if he was an officer in disguise.  Officially changing USMC policy and the implementation thereof are two seperate things…...........
    CWO5, 2230642 Ret’d.

  23. Richard Leighton December 01 2011, 8:28 am

    Great memories. PI Platoon 345 1967 one scared 19 year old. It sure wasn’t the Chi Sigma Delta frat house. Semper Fi Larry. Rich Leighton Sergeant USMC 2346892 RVN ChuLai VMFA 122 Crusaders

  24. Larry Woolverton December 01 2011, 9:52 am

    @ William Simons - No, I drove a 1966 Buick Special. A two-door sport coupe. Red w/black vinyl top. How are you, Bill? And how was Ristich when you saw him?

  25. William Simons December 01 2011, 10:16 am

    Gy. Sgt. Kurt Loewy,

    Astray? Gunny I think you may have been the one lead astray; you drank the kool-aid if you think there was no “hands on” leadership at PI in the ‘60s. At some point in our eight week cycle (about half-way if memory serves correctly) our Senior DI and staff were transferred out after Recruits Konn and Davidow were beaten so severely they had to be hospitalized. The final straw may have been when Staff Sgt. _____ came in drunk and jumped firewatch Fisher ( deceased) from behind using the Marine Corps choke hold. He didn’t realize Fisher was an All American wrestler at Ohio State and I’m sure he was surprised when Fisher threw him over his shoulder and punched him silly on the deck.
    Our replacement DI was a hard and tough Force Recon Staff Sgt. who knew how to get the best out the platoon without resorting to gratuitous corporal punishment.
    Semper Fi Larry Woolverton!

    Bill Simons Cpl. 2322287

  26. William Simons December 01 2011, 12:05 pm

    @ Larry Woolverton(the Okie from Muscogee)
    I am doing great, semi(forcibly) retired and enjoying life. I have enjoyed your writing, including your Khe San story. Yes, now I remember that Buick! I had a ‘67 Z-28 that I used to “swoop” home to Connecticut. Ristich was fine when I saw him,  I was standing in line to get ice cream with my family and he recognized me from the back saying, ” I remember you from the blonde spot on the back of your head from standing behind you in fromations.” he lives in Pittsburgh and is an electrical contractor. Guy Gabaldon lives near Orlando and is retired from Bank of America. Bob Markel lives in Washington state and is envolved in real estate.
    Shoot me your email address @ .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  27. Frederick Schwerdtner March 04 2012, 8:40 pm

    Cpl. Woolverton,
    Great recollection of MCRD San Diego.  I was in Platoon 2036, Honor Platoon, Graduated February, 1966.  You hit the nail on the head with the entire narrative.  The only thing I missed was we didn’t just stare straight ahead in the chow line, we were told to stand a**hole to bellybutton.  You bring back very fond memories.  Our Senior D.I., Sgt. Martin (a recon E-5) went back after we left and was killed.  He died a 2nd Lt. after his PLC was killed and he took over.  He was a great Senior D.I. and a great Marine.  God rest his soul.  Cpl. Schwerdtner, 2179410, 1965-1969.  Semper Fi.

  28. ann giilvin April 03 2012, 9:26 pm

    Thank you Cpl Woolverton for sharing your boot camp experiences.  I enjoyed reading it.  It may
    have been a nightmare you endured however
    you had me laughing.  I agree - you have writing
    talent. God Bless the Marines!  Ann Gilvin

  29. Gregory Gatz November 13 2012, 4:30 pm

    Thank you Cpl Woolverton

    I must have been a couple of weeks in front of you..  Late Feb to Early April 66..  I was in Platoon 344.

    I didn’t have many solid memories of boot camp, but your recollections brought many of them back to life.

    I’m afraid our DI’s didn’t get the word Kurt Loewy alluded to about not subjecting us to the escapades Cpl Woolverton talked about. It was my understanding that our platoon Sgt. had a philosophy that seriously injured recruits did not make good Marines, so our platoon may have had it easy compared to some.  About the worst I remember was a DI slapping a rifle against someone’s head and making an ear bleed.

    The story about foot lockers does not surprise me.  We had a DI who made us do close order drill with our foot lockers. Unlike Cpl Woolverton, our DI cut us some slack and had us empty it into the sand first, so it wasn’t all that heavy.

    ” Right Shoulder Foot Locker ! ”

    Semper Fi !

  30. Bill Roesner January 31 2013, 10:36 pm

    Fantastic, perfect rendition, and the tears of pain back then to the tears of laughter right now as I read this, OUTSTANDING!  Everything you mentioned plus a few other physical/exhausting tactics used by our DI’s also happened in my Platoon (232 Jan 23rd,1966-Apr 1966).  I could not have put it better myself, I felt as though I was back out on the street sitting on my bucket wondering,
    “what the hell did I do”.  I was with the 5th Marines in Nam ‘67-‘68, and thank God to my Drill Instructor, Sgt N. Jacobs, I’m still here today.  I have two sons in the Corps now following in the old man’s footsteps.  Love the Corps, Semper Fi buddy.

    Cpl Bill Roesner 2205038

  31. charles gibson February 02 2013, 4:32 pm

    My name is charles R gibson.I read what you wrote about boot camp in 1966.And I could not stop laughing all moring.I am 64 now but I still remember what Parris iland was like when I got there Feb.18 1966 PLT159 I to was terrifed.There was nothing funny about that first night.We did the same things that you guys did but with one little diffence After getting all of our gear our DI took us across the parade deck to first battion area They were running us like a heard of cows.Guys trying to carry there sea bags and trying to kept up.My senior DI gentile turn around took out his 45 and shot the last man that we thought was one of us.I said to myself O shit We just got here and there are killing us.You should have seenthe rest of us fly across the parade terrfide.As it turn out the guy that got shot was one of my DI his name was sgt Anderson.That was the beginning for me.Boot camp was just like you said.I was a scare 17year old but I would do it all over again if I had to Thank you for taking me back.          Cpl CHARLES R GIBSON 2206404 Plt 159 Feb.18 1966 may 9 1969

  32. Philip Andresen May 07 2013, 6:55 pm

    I was at MCRD starting early May ‘68, Platoon 289. My billet was the first one on the grinder next to the mess hall. Our experience was very much the same as you’ve depicted. We were in tents for the first couple days, then moved into the Quonset huts. They ‘suggested’ there was not to be any ‘mass punishment’ but there was, and we even crammed our entire platoon into one hut one afternoon, the hatches were closed along with the door and we did push-ups with our feet on the bunks while others stood on the foot lockers in the ‘chair’. It got pretty frigging warm in there but we were pretty well conditioned by then.  My experience was the same as yours but you’ve done a helluva lot better job of documenting it,  but the 3 of us who joined together didn’t really get any preview information or have any expectations set as to what ‘boot’ would be like. I was intimidated the first couple days but one of the DI’s said he was going to pluck somebody’s eyes out and make them eat ‘em… with that I realized it was psychological intimidation… not to say they didn’t kick our asses in the duty hut as you described running the whole platoon through one afternoon but that was different. When I got to ITR at Pendleton (PAPA Co. #9) we had several Troop Handlers who were drunk and violently abusive; one broke a metal folding chair over a troop’s head, my hut was next to the Duty Hut and I saw many men beaten and bloodied, one had almost legible bruises from his dog tags all over his chest all for nothing more than being on Fire Watch while we waited to get enough troops to start training. I later met a troop from PAPA Co. #8 in Comm School who testified at their court martial. Again, excellent job of capturing the details! I laughed out loud reading it - especially the first night in ‘Receiving’.

    Thanks a bunch Phil

  33. Patrick Grimes June 07 2013, 7:31 pm

    Great article Cpl Woolverton. It brought back a lot of memories. I could totally relate to your comment immediately after you arrived at MCRD San Diego that this was the dumbest thing you had ever done. I felt the same way all through Boot Camp and ITR. I was one of the platoon screw ups (a sh-tbird), and as you said the platoon would often be punished while you stood and watched. I remember one such incident during letter writing time just before lights out. We were all seated on our foot lockers writing letters when Cpl Compher noticed that my foot locker was slightly out of alignment from everyone else.  He ordered my entire billet on the road and said “thank you Private Grimes you piece of sh-t”, which they all repeated with great zeal.  The DI ordered everyone but me to do 100 up and on shoulders with their rifles while I stood in front of them he whispered in my ear “when they get to 99 tell them to stop girls you aren’t sounding off loud enough and to do another 99 repetitions.  Next, per DI’s instructions, I ordered them to place their M14 rifles on their fingertips and to hold them straight out in front of them. This was done to exhaustion.  Finally he ordered me to walk in front of each and everyone and laugh in their faces while calling them various expletives. I could tell by the expressions on their faces that they wanted to give me the mother of all blanket parties.  Corporal punishment was alive and well in my platoon, not to the level that Woolverton experienced, but I believe him. I was slapped, choked and Sgt Kirk ordered a recruit to bite my thumb so hard that it was numb for a week afterwards. I remember when Pvt. Bennet dropped his rifle, Kirk went ballistic and repeatedly slammed Bennet against the wall with the rifle.  I arrived at MCRD on July 15, 1965, serial number 2141984, Platoon 153. RVN: Headquarters Battery 4th Battalion, 11th Marines, Chu Lai 1966 to 1967 and MAINT BN FLC Danang 1967 to 1968. USMC 1965 to 1969. My email address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  34. Erwin Paulson June 22 2013, 8:59 am

    I think this is a pretty accurate accounting!  I arrived MCRD SD in Aug ‘66.  My first meal was pretty much as described with one exception: when we all got the sitting thing together and ‘ready eat’ was given… about 1 second went by and then it was ‘GET UP Get out… ‘time is up’... I remember trying to eat a few mouthfuls on my way out.  I still eat fast to this day.

    Erv Paulson
    Plt 1096 in the ‘huts’

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