I Remember Marine Corps Boot Camp

I Remember Marine Corps Boot Camp

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MARINE CORPS BOOT CAMP: 1968

By D.T. Nyerges

"Get off my bus, you slimy-eyed maggots," the drill instructor shouted at the top of his lungs.

Thus began my "near death experience" through nine weeks of Marine Corps recruit training that began after we entered the gates at MCRD, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, in San Diego on Sept. 16, 1968.

In mere split seconds we were standing at our best "attention" on those yellow footprints at the receiving barracks for what seemed like hours. The hazing and swearing never stopped!

I was shocked senseless. I thought I would be treated as a man, not as a "maggot." This was when the Vietnam War was explosive and controversial, to say the least. My "home of record" was Pasadena, California.

I remember talking with some of the guys on the bus ride to San Diego from the A.F.E.E.S, Armed Forces Entrance and Examining Station, somewhere in downtown Los Angeles. We all had great personalities - we thought so.

We were students, surfers, camp counselors, part-time grocery clerks, and "street guys." Once we had our first haircuts, I didn't recognize anyone; we all looked exactly alike. It was true what the drill instructors said about us, I now thought. We were a bunch of worthless, slimy-eyed maggots with no personalities. And we felt worthless.

As rough and tough as boot camp was, there were some "fond" memories.

To my surprise and delight, I could outrun every private/recruit in my platoon on our near-daily three-mile runs. Although I lettered varsity in cross-country track in high school, I continued to run a lot on my own during the three years after high school - my junior college days - before I joined the Marine Corps.

Our almost-daily three-mile runs were not races, but I made them into races. I was one of the shorter recruits, so I was always marching and running at the tail end of our platoon. By about the second week of training, I realized that I could catch up to the front of the platoon with very little effort.

Those guys in front, including the platoon guide and the squad leaders, were running very well but working very hard at it. I often wondered if some of the recruits ever ran very much before recruit training. Again, these were not races, but merely our routine three-mile runs.

My platoon commander, our senior drill Instructor, was always insisting that I run even faster. "Yes, sir, the private will run faster and harder the next time," was my usual reply.

I soon realized why he was telling me this: he held four track records at his high school.

Even though he was 12 years older than I was, he could still outrun every one of us recruits in the sprints. At 21, I was considered one of the "old men" in boot camp. Nonetheless, I came in first place all through recruit training on our three-mile runs - but never fast enough for my platoon commander.

I had just spent the entire previous summer working as a camp counselor at a boys' club camp in the Big Bear Lake/Barton Flats area about 100 miles east of Pasadena at an elevation of 7,000 feet.

During my free times at camp, I would run long and hard around and near camp with a lightweight cedar log over my shoulders. (I had already enlisted in the Corps on Monday, June 10, and would depart for boot camp on Monday, Sept. 16.) And now, running at sea level was a breeze. My personal training at 7,000 feet paid off at sea level. I felt very little pain running, and I loved it.

Here is another "fond" surprise for me: not only did Gunnery Sergeant Ray Fitzhugh hold four track records in high school, he held them at my high school. I was surprised to learn this, which happened about the third week of training. This didn't make life any easier for me in boot camp, but I felt much better about it.

We both graduated from John Muir High in Pasadena, the same high school baseball player Jackie Robinson attended before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Later, when I was stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Gunny Fitzhugh became the first sergeant in the barracks where I lived. It was really good seeing him again. And he was as mean as ever, which I now liked. This was in HQ. CO., RTR (Recruit Training Regiment.)

My other "fond" memory was that of being in boot camp on the 193rd birthday of the Marine Corps on Nov. 10, 1968 - a Sunday. Training was a little lighter that day, although close order drills were about the same, and our three-mile run was as fun as ever - for me.

We attended the Marine Corps Birthday Ceremonies and Festivities on base, where the oldest and the youngest Marines would eat the first piece of birthday cake.

The noon and evening chow times were splendid banquets, and not too dissimilar to those meals civilians would enjoy on any Thanksgiving Day. Plus, we even got a few extra minutes to eat, instead of rushing as usual. We recruits did not attend the evening Marine Corps Ball.

My other drill instructors were Staff Sergeant R.D. Stride and Sergeant Kenny Joy. We were in Third Battalion, India Company, Platoon 3081, Sept. 16 through Nov. 21 1968.

I did not fight in Vietnam.

Semper Fidelis

D.T. NYERGES

Editor's Note: Marines have been part of the history of San Diego since Marines on two Navy frigates landed in San Diego in 1846 during the Mexican-American War. Work later would begin in 1919 to build a base in the coastal Southern California city. A few name changes after the first, Marine Advanced Expeditionary Base San Diego, the base in 1948 was renamed Marine Corp Recruit Depot. San Diego.

At SGT GRIT, we carry apparel, covers, pins and more celebrating MCRD San Diego , which trained recruits arriving from west of the Mississippi River, and MCRD Parris Island, which trained recruits arriving from east of the Mississippi. We even carry a long-sleeved Property of MCRD San Diego T-shirt that highlights the year 1968. Shop our officially licensed collections of all things Marines.

To contribute your story about the Marine Corps, see our Marine Corps Stories page at SGT GRIT, where we sell officially licensed USMC product.

35 comments

To Robert Terry, above. Robert, thanks for “touching base.” I also do in fact remember you from our 1968 Platoon 3081. I can’t remember what city and state you were from. I am in touch with Private Joe Saporito, who was from Brooklyn. He still lives near Brooklyn, in Flushing, NY.
Robert, today is Sunday, January 30, 2022. Please email me if you can. My email address is libertykid@juno.com I will give you Joe Saporito’s address, if you wish. He also picked up Sergeant.
Semper Fi, and may our Good Lord Above bless you….
David “Nitro” Nyerges

David "Nitro" Nyerges,

To Robert Terry, above. Robert, thanks for “touching base.” I also do in fact remember you from our 1968 Platoon 3081. I can’t remember what city and state you were from. I am in touch with Private Joe Saporito, who was from Brooklyn. He still lives near Brooklyn, in Flushing, NY.
Robert, today is Sunday, January 30, 2022. Please email me if you can. My email address is libertykid@juno.com I will give you Joe Saporito’s address, if you wish. He also picked up Sergeant.
Semper Fi, and may our Good Lord Above bless you….
David “Nitro” Nyerges

David "Nitro" Nyerges,

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exarojose,

I joined the Marines in Oct.8.1958 and did a tour of 4 yrs. I have vivid memories of Sgt Tom Dooly. At that time they would get physical with you. Sgt Dooly was a 150 lbs. Marine, but he could take down a 200 plus recruit. SSgt Heins was a crazy Marine, but tough. Sgt Lazenski was a body builder with 15 inch biceps.
My great grand son whom we raised from 1 yr. and now he is 19. I am so proud of him. He was an all state running back in high school. I told him how the Drill Instuctors are lean and mean. I can not hardly wait to see him after boot camp. Sempre Fi

Jose Perea,

David it’s been I believe 52 years since I was in MCRD San Diego plt 3081 I remember you just wanted to touch base with you

Robert Terry,

Please call me 928 444 0210

Cathy Rusher ,

Hello, my fellow Marines. I am Sergeant Nyerges, David T. Thanks for your kind notes on my Boot Camp story. Regarding staying in formation while running our three miles, I don’t remember our Drill Instructors telling us to stay in formation. Our half-way point was at Harbor Drive, not too far from the airport. There was another Drill Instructor there making sure we didn’t cheat by turning back too soon. He marked the bills of our covers with a chalk mark. By the last half of the run, some of the guys were slowing down, and thus out of rank/formation already. I am guessing this gave me the incentive to pick up the speed, and come in first place…every time we ran. In about the year 2000, I reviewed my high school directory, and found Gunny Fitzhugh’s address. He retired as a Sergeant Major, and was living in Irvine, California, not too many miles from Disneyland. I have corresponded with him over the years. We were, after all, both from Pasadena. I have not heard from him in the past two years, or so. If he is still alive, he will be 84. (I am only 72.) I hope he is doing well, of course. He and my other Drill Instructors taught me everything I needed to know about life: how to march, how to properly fold my clothes, how to stay in shape, how to brush my teeth, how to kill other men, how to shoot straight, how to keep my rack tight, how to run long and hard, how to keep my brass shiny, and how to keep my boots and shoes brightly spit-shined. Keep in touch if you wish, Marines. Sgt. Nyerges, David T. My nick name for the past forty years has been Mr. Nitro, or just Nitro…given to me by the delinquent teen boys I worked with for eight years. It was easier than Mr. Nyerges. My email: libertykid@juno.com Semper Fi

David T. “Nitro” Nyerges,

I went to boot camp in January of 1968 and our senior DI was Gunny Blue, and our Drill Sgt was S/Sgt Zoucha and S/Sgt St Pierre. We were honor Plt 123. After we were all discharged we held our 1st reunion which was our 10th year, on our 30th I believe we had another reunion and were lucky enough to get all our Drill instructors to join us. We held this in Thousand Oaks, Ca.Our Plt were all from California and our DI’s would have us count cadence in a pussy cadence which was in a high voice like a woman every time another Plt would march by. It was kind of embarrassing for us but got us motivated to say the least! At our reunion some of the guys were bragging about what they would do if they ever ran into one of our Instructors, well when they came out of the restaurant with their smokey bears and yelled Atten-hut we all jumped up to attention. It was a beautiful reunion but a few years later our Gunny died. Cpl Ted Flores, Plt 123

Cpl Flores T. 1968,

Hey Sgt Daly. When were you at La-Vang? Did not know 1st Engrs. were that far north. I was with E-2/1 68-69 we were south of Da-Nang “Dodge City ” Hoi-An area. Not doubting,just curious. Bill 0331 E-2/1

bill 0331,

I went to Parris Island on September 29, 1965. We flew out of Newark, NJ on a Capital Airlines. Landed in Charleston, SC and boarded 2 Grayhound buses. We had two guys that were former Army and they were Acting PFC and directed is to the buses. Arrived about two hours later at Parris Island. DI got on the bus yelling. On to the footprints. Later assigned to Plt. 291 H Company 2D Battalion. Two weeks later myself and I think two more were moved to Plt. 292 L Company 2D Battalion. We graduated on 3 December 1965. My SDI was S/SGT C.V. Edwards later met him in Vietnam in the 1st. Marines BAS. He got hit with shrapnel while in action with 2/1. I was with A Co. 1st. Engineer Bn HQ Plt and the BAS was in the same compound as we were in a village called La Vang. I herd he was there and went to visit him. Brought him a carton of Marlboro and some pogie bait. Two weeks later I saw him walking down the road. I was on my mile and offered him a ride out the gate to the main road to get a ride to 2/1 which was down the road a few miles. That was the last I saw of him. Returned back to the states in July of 1968 and to
My former company 2D Bridge At Camp Geiger. Seperated out as a Sgt on 25 September 1969.

Sgt. Daniel J. Daly,

I road a train from Baltimore down the East coast. We were eight young men all graduated from same high school class and joined the Marine Corps together. We stopped a number of times any guy going to basic training was directed to our train car. The last stop for us was Yemassee, S.C. I don’t know the time but I would guess it was after midnight or later. A few NCO’s gathered our group of young men and got us loaded on some buses. It was a long quiet ride to Parris Island in the darkness of night. When we stopped and got off the buses the screaming & shouting started and never stopped. We were told to stand on the yellow foot prints. I really don’t remember what they made us do but after a while they had us all in a large room full of bunk beds. They told us to lie down and go to sleep. Believe they may have turned the lights out for maybe 2 hours….just long enough for some of us to really get to sleep. Then they turned the bright lights and the screaming and yelling never stopped. It was maybe 3 or 4 A.M. on July 19, 1961.
About 85 of us new recruits would be in Platoon #343. Our SDI was SSgt. E-6 McGreger, next was SSgt. E-5 Livingston, then Sgt. E-4 Ward. After 13 weeks of basic training we ended up with 80 Marines at graduation. We lost a few recruits during training exercises along the way. Most of us were in pretty good shape and had no problems with getting with the program…..a few could not, they left our platoon. SEMPER FI !! MARINES.

Glen Bradshaw , Cpl. E-4 (1961-1965),

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