Skip to content

Banana Fleet

There is not many older Marines to remember serving aboard the Banana Fleet. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 1934 at the Milk St. Recruiting Office in Boston Ma. After being processed along with seven other from Maine, we were bussed to the docks and put aboard the ” Fall River Line “, a coastal Motor Ship. Picked up twenty more in New York and continued down coast to Savannah, Ga. where we were met by two DIs with a Parris Island bus. They were not too happy with us at that point and made it very evident. Soon we were on the cause-way to P I. Our senior D I was Sgt. Tarr and Cpl. Finke was # 2. Both were well tanned from serving in Haiti and Cuba. After 13 grueling weeks we had shaped up enough to pass in revue and graduate to receive the coveted EGA. Some wanted seagoing and we were sent Sea School in Norfolk. then to Gitmo assigned aboard a light Cruiser and 3 Destroyers. Our Mission to protect the interest of DOLE and UNITED FRUIT COs. This covered So. America, Cuba and Haiti. In 1939 I transferred to Combat Div. 3, Battleships, USS IDAHO, USS MISSISSIPPI and NEW MEXICO, I was Flag Orderly to Adm. TAUSSIG aboard the IDAHO, steaming to the Panama Canal when Pearl Harbor was attacked., otherwise we would have been tied up in Pearl on Dec 7th. at Ford Island. I shipped back to Norfolk aboard the USS NITRO. and sent to Washington, 8th & I sts. Marine Barracks awaiting discharge with duty at Arlington Art York, Gysgt USMC/USMCR
Previous article Finally


Rod Johnson - April 26, 2020

At his age, I’ve got to think that some things in one’s memory may be a little foggy, while some are crystal clear. I just hope I and you guys can remember that much, when we reach that age. Semper FI USMC RVN 67-68

Jerry Wolters - April 26, 2020

(58-61) You are correct, also 3 up and 3 down was Master Sergeant or Top. I had rank change also – E-3 Corporal to E-3 Lance Corporal.

WRNicoll - April 26, 2020

David, I was discharged August 10,1959 as a Sergeant E4. The addition of Lance Corporal ( a British Rank) caused a lot of confusion. I never heard of anyone,at that time, being reduced in rank while still keeping their pay grades. But at the time I wasn’t paying much attention to rank. Also, as I remember when I was in 1955-1959 we had a Technical Sergeant Rank, 3 up – 2 down. However I do remember we had Sergeants that we called Gunny’s. Probably more an honorary rank as an official one,as it is now. As for the York article, I’d like to think it’s true but it seems a bit of a Sea Story.

Edd Prothro, MSgt USMC Ret. - April 26, 2020

A quick google check provides the following facts: When Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 Dec 1941 the USS Idaho BB-42 was located in Hvalfjorour, Iceland as part of neutrality patrols in the North Atlantic. USS Idaho and USS Mississippi departed Iceland for the Pacific on 9 Dec 1941. RAdm Joseph Taussig was forced to retire in Sep 1941 due to his age and because his policy views differed with the Navy Department. After many requests he was allowed to return to active duty in 1943 and served on staff of the Secretary of Navy. A lot of disparities in Art York’s story.

Harold Allie - April 26, 2020


Connly,David E - April 26, 2020

Shawn. It was 1January1959 that the rank change took place. I was promoted to Sergeant on 1Nov58 and was discharged on 29Aug59 as a Corporal. I think it was a couple of guys at HQMarine Corps who after a 3 Martini lunch invented Lance Corporals! That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

Don : - April 26, 2020

I shipped back to Norfolk aboard the USS NITRO. and sent to Washington, 8th & I sts. Marine Barracks awaiting discharge with duty at Arlington
Art York, Gysgt USMC/USMCR With duty at Arlington. Sounds to me like he was still in the corps. And someone else could have typed it for him. Seems to know a lot about what was going on back then. Just saying. USMC Ret 17 Dec 1968 / 17 June 1974

Peter Carbone - April 26, 2020

I would have to agree the letter is bogus. As previously mentioned he is over 100, most likely lacking computer skills. Not to mention the fact he states he was on a cruise down by Panama when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Then went back to 8th and I awaiting discharge???? At that point in time I don’t believe the Marine Corps would have been discharging anyone. Also if he was discharged I don’t believe he would have been a E-6 at that point as most books I have read about the Marine Corps in that period promotions came sparingly. 1934 – 1941 would only have been 7-8 years. If you make Gunny after 7 -8 years today you are doing well for yourself.

Shawn Kane - April 26, 2020

Jack Wing, per this article: the gunnery sergeant rank has been around for quite a while and is somewhat unique to the Marine Corps. I believe in 1958 there was a huge sweeping change in rank structure and is the rank structure we have today. At that time, I believe the Lance Corporal rank was added and everyone was bumped up one to get the E-1 – E-9 pay grades. I don’t know if Art’s story is true or not, but keep in mind it says USMC/USMCR so he could have been in the reserves for quite a while and attained the rank of Gunnery Sergeant upon retirement. I like to think he’s not pulling our chain and is part of the old Corps!! After getting off active duty in 1994 I started going to a yearly birthday luncheon. The first one I went to, I distinctly remember the Marine who was the oldest one present. He was a veteran of the Banana wars from the 20s. They wheeled him up front to get his piece of cake. He was living in a retirement community. Now that was Old Corps!!

paul trainor - April 26, 2020

If he is for real he probably new my grandfather who after 30 yrs, reg. served 20 more teaching drum and bugle corps at 8th and I. Growing up 6 blocks away I spent many afternoons with my grandfather going down to watch the sunsets parades. Did it again while in Sea School in 1962, and took my family there many more times to let them share the glory of the corps.

Leave a comment

* Required fields