Swooping

Swooping

I was sharing some sea stories with another Marine buddy a few days ago and the subject turned to being on liberty back in the old days (mid-50s) and being WAY out-of-bounds trying to get somewhere better than where we were stationed. For example, being stationed at Camp Lejeune and having liberty from Friday at 1600 to Monday at 0600 clearly would not legally allow you to go to Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boston or Buffalo, or for that matter, any destination further than Washington and that was a stretch because there were no Interstates in those days. From Quantico, the liberty limit was Baltimore. Back-roads were often dark, narrow and treacherous. Rarely did you have a weekend when you didn’t see fatal accidents and sometimes several of them. Those Marines fortunate enough to have a personal car would take riders to share the trip and contribute to the gas and tolls cost.

I can recall coming to a stoplight somewhere and having all four doors fly open and a quick exchange of drivers take place before the light changed, then accelerating away. Getting all of your riders back to a collection point on Sunday at the appointed time was always a challenge because you didn’t want to leave someone behind. It was generally accepted that somehow you had to get back in bounds before turning in sick and you better NOT have any trouble when you were 400 miles or so out of bounds. God forbid the wrath of the First Sergeant upon your return. Many stories, many memories!

A related thought is the subject of base tags on cars. In the mid-50s many bases had metal tags mounted above the front and rear license plates. (There were no universal DoD base decals in those days and every base had their own ID). The metal tags became reflective decals applied to the front and rear bumpers with different colors for officers, enlisted civilian workers, etc. At that point in time Camp Lejeune had gold colored decals for officers with red numbers, enlisted tags were red with gold numbers and they could be seen at a distance especially at night when illuminated by oncoming headlights. It was the standard and very common practice to eyeball any car stopped along the roadside on the way back to base and quickly pull over to assist another Marine who had broken down. (Cars weren’t all that mechanically reliable in those days after a long haul, nor were the drivers). If you had “boat space” in your car, you took as many stranded riders with you as possible to minimize the potential disciplinary fallout back at base. I’m sure the same circumstances were in play at all bases on both coasts so this should generate some reflections. By the way, the over-riding issue was to get back alive!

Semper Fidelis
Joe Featherston
1956-1978

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