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.
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