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Chief of Staff

We are always on the Anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.
Henry Ward Beecher

I still chuckle about my chance encounter with Colonel Amor LeRoy Sims, USMC, almost 60 years ago on Goodenough Island. I don't think as a Private I had ever seen a full Marine Colonel, let alone been "addressed" by one. I had been in the Corps less than one year. In my 19-year-old mind, a Marine Colonel was sort of like the Vice President of the US.

Colonel Sims was the 1st Marine Division Chief of Staff, which means he carried out the administrative duties for the Division Commander, who at that time was Major General William H. Rupertus. The Reinforced 1st Marine Division had about 22,000 men and so the Chief of Staff's responsibilities were quite extensive. You would think he wouldn't want to take time to tangle with a lowly Marine Private from Salem, Oregon!

The Division had just moved by mass-produced Liberty ships from Melbourne, Australia in preparation for the invasion of Cape Gloucester, New Britain. Using Liberty ships for troop transports meant the "heads" (toilets) showers (salt water) and galleys were built on the weather decks. In stormy weather it resulted in chaos. Because of the tropical heat, we mostly slept topside on hard steel decks using life-vests for pillows.

After Australia, the staging and training areas for the coming invasion were in three main locations. The 5th Marine Regiment reinforced was sent to Milne Bay, in the eastern part of New Guinea; the 7th Regiment to Oro Bay, past Milne on the NW coast; the Engineer Regiment Headquarters and Division Headquarters were sent to Goodenough Island, of the French-controlled De Entrecasteaux Group, about 80 miles equidistant from both Milne and Oro Bays.

Our C Co., 1st Tank Battalion ended up on Goodenough where we cleared our campsite out of thick jungle and pitched our eight-man tents in orderly rows. Parts of Goodenough were some of the most beautiful island paradises in the world, although fraught with some vicious looking snakes that we encountered.

One sweltering day our C Co. was ordered to provide a large working party to clear the jungle for Division Hdqtrs. several miles away. The natives would then construct thatched roof structures for the Commanding General and his staff, which included Colonel Sims.

About 50 of us were transported by large, 10-wheel trucks to the site and told we would be picked up at the end of the day. We toiled all day in the hot, steamy jungles with machetes, axes and shovels, clearing the jungle. At the end of the day we anticipated being hauled back to C Co. for a dip in a nearby jungle stream, followed by hot chow. No trucks showed.

Finally we began to straggle down the dusty, crude jungle road with tools slung over our shoulders, tired, dirty and beat, trudging the several miles back to our Company area.

Along came a jeep slowly making its way through this grimy, scattered group. The front seat next to the driver was empty so I put out my thumb to hitch a ride. The lighting was such that I couldn't see the lone figure in the back seat. The jeep obligingly stopped and I jogged over, happy to ride while my buddies trudged on.

I had just placed one leg in the jeep when I saw that the figure in the back was a Colonel. I began to back away when his sharp voice shattered my good fortune:

"Alright, get in! I'm taking you to your unit! Didn't you know I've put out an order that there's to be no thumbing on this island?"

"No sir," I stammered.

"What is your outfit? I'm taking you to your Company Commander!"

A couple of my buddies had also jogged over to the jeep, eager to share the ride. They heard the Colonel royally dressing me down and were able to slowly back away and escape. I didn't dare wave and couldn't now gloat as we slowly passed the trudging work party.

Amor LeRoy Sims. Amor means, love, LeRoy means, The King. The Colonel was the epitome of "spit and polish," with freshly starched and pressed khaki and highly polished dress shoes, even there in the jungle. I'm sure he also carried a swagger stick.

Arriving in C Co. he dressed down our warrant officer in the company tent, who did not rise, because of the poor lighting, when the colonel entered. I was put on report and received 20 hours EPD (extra police duty) digging garbage pits and other coolie labor.

As a Marine Private, I had many lessons to learn in life. I was on the anvil and the Chief of Staff was the hammer to shape me a bit more into the man and Marine God had in mind. Not knowing the colonel's order was no excuse. God uses pain, hardship and trauma, small or great, to conform us to Christ and to ultimately glorify His matchless name.

SCRIPTURE: My son, refrain from thinking lightly of the discipline the Lord inflicts, and giving up when you are corrected by Him. For He disciplines everyone He loves, and chastises every son whom He heartily receives. You must submit to discipline . . .Hebrews 12.5,6,7

PRAYER: From time to time and from season to season, as You, Lord, put me on the Anvil, give me an accepting, thankful heart through the pain. Amen.

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