M1 Thumb

M1 Thumb

It was Mid October 1961. I was a member of Recruit Platoon 341 at Parris Island. On this day we where in formation for our Final Field inspection. The next day we would graduate as Marines. My SDI was Staff Sgt E6 Sal Vigliotti.( about 1967 or 68 there was an article in Leather Neck Magazine that he had become the Senior Chief Drill Instructor of P.I.). I added this to show the type of Marine that I was honored to have served with. My 2 JDI’s where Staff Sgt J.E Schroeder and Sgt. W.M Hemlepp. (some years later Hemlepp would be my Plt. leader as a Ist Grade Warrant Officer). Here was another cool head. Anyway, in the formation, I was about center in the first squad. The first Officer to inspect was a 1st Lt. who was our Series Commander. As he stepped to my front I raised my M1 rifle to inspection arms while jacking open the rifles bolt to lock open position. The Lt. smartly lifted the rifle from my hands, did the usual show of flipping the rifle around looking at the butt and down the barrel then pressed down on the follower. As the back of his hand slipped off the operating rod handle the bolt flew forward and chambered his thumb with a muffled thump. His face turned an ash grey color as the pain reached his brain. I winched as he began to remove his mangled thumb from the rifles chamber and face of the bolts extractor. I believed that I must have had an amused look on my face as he said, “Do you think there is something funny about this?’ I answered NO SIR!! but I did feel his pain, after all no Marine ever escaped (at least once), the rath of the M1 thumb. The poor dude was both embarrass and pissed. He then quickly removed the trigger housing group and the stock from the barrel group and dropped it near my feet then verbally excusing himself saying he was off for medical attention at sick bay. As he walked off there was a dead silence. Before me lay my issue, U.S. Cal. 30 M1, Winchester ser.#1631101 in pieces. The silence was then broken by a very calm voice of Uncle Sal Vigliotte. “well Roessler, do you realize the magnitude of what has just happened here?” I answered “YES SIR, What ever it is, is not going to be good”.” Oh you think so? Well do you realize that you just bagged an officer. You are my hero of the day, well done. Beside that, I was never to fond of that cocky little Son of a so an so anyway”. The next day we became Marines. I would never see Staff Sgt S. Vigliotte again. Hardly a day passes where I don’t think about the Staff Sgt. who must have trained a few thousand Marines in his day. All 3 of those D.I,s became a part of me for the rest of my life. And So it was. Over a half of a Century ago.
Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!

18 comments


  • Sgt Court Conkwright

    Sgt Court Conkwright here with something that connects you up with one of your D.I.’s for sure. I was at P.I. in June of 1962 in Plt 238 L Company 2nd BN. A good Marine friend from Plt 236 lift the Island a Pvt and came back a Officer to P.I. in 1966. I had posted your story to my group of Marines that loved it. I have found 153 Marines from L Company, but only have around 90 of them on my email list. We have had 2 reunions back at the Island. Enjoy what you are going to read. Please contact me at courtcurtis@usa.net, I would like to talk to you. What you are going to read is a from a Major Jim Burch who knew your D.I. Gunnery Sergeant Vigliotti Enjoy and thanks to Sgt Grit for helping put Brother Marines back together again. Semper Fi Court On Mar 28, 2018, at 11:35 PM, James Burch wrote:
    Court,
    Please send this to the guys.
    Your addressees are too many for my system to handle.
    Well, the Corps just got smaller again. From October until February, then Gunnery Sergeant Vigliotti served as my Series Gunnery Sergeant in 1966-67! Not only that, Platoon 227 of that series had the finest group of DI’s to ever trod the parade deck at PISC. SDI S/Sgt. R. J. McCartick had a couple of noteworthy ADI’s. S/Sgt. David W. Sommers, twenty years later the 11th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and then there was our very own, Sergeant Randy P. Abernathy. They were so good, that when
    I became the CO, I reluctantly broke them up because all of the best recruits on the Island would have come from ONE platoon. They took all six streamers!!! Just a little tongue in cheek, but with Gunny Vigliotti and that team how could I go wrong. Jim Burch
    Sent from my iPhone


  • Harry

    I was platoon 3056 in 67 Also know there was a platoon 3056 in 86 Harry


  • C. Stoney Brook

    I was fortunate(?) to have been in ROTC in high school in 1959-60 and trained with the M1 Garand. That allowed me to field strip and handle the M1, and suffering the ‘M1 Thumb’ before MCRD San Diego in 1961.In Boot Camp. I initially impressed the senior DI with my panther-like reflexes being able to field strip and reassemble the M1 so fast, plus knowing the nomenclature, thanks to my old PMST Master Sergeant in high school. Then, when I mentioned “ROTC”, Wrath of God was unleashed (about a thousand step-ups on the washrack).. In the 50’s and 60’s, the series and platoons had three numbers [I recall based on the Training Battalion numbers] and, yes, the numbers were recycled as were the platoon guideons. I was with Platoon 371 in Sept-Dec 1961.


  • Henry Young

    I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist. All you turds who didn’t listen to instructions got what you deserved.(M-1 thumb) served proudly 64/69, Plt 324/221 MCRD San Diego. Had both M-1 and M-14. NEVER M-1 thumb. Love you my brothers, Semper Fi. L/cpl H Young RVN 65/66/69


  • Edward Roessler

    Hi Billy. I am Ed Roessler, the guy who wrote M1 Thumb. You are one of the few who got lucky and never got the thumb treatment.. I did once but it was at ITR at Camp Geiger NC. Over the years I had a collection of M1’s ( all 4 manufactures, Springfield, Winchester, H&R and International Harvester. I also had 5 M1 Carbines of different makes among dozens of other U.S Martial Arms. Most everything was sold off when my Kids headed off to College. I still managed to hold onto WW1, 1903 Spfld. made in 1906. With the open sights it still shoots a 2″ group at 100 yds with my reloads. Later on I got another M1 from the DCM. Having the misfortune of living in The Peoples Communist Police State of N.J. the carbines where outlawed in the 90,s. Firing those was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I could bull shit all day so I will sign off. Oh, hey, I am 75 too. Shoot straight old timer! Semper Fi Brother


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