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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

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Joe Rainey L/Cpl 75-79 - May 6, 2020


Don Harkness - May 6, 2020

if you had to call, you were always calling from “DC”.

Jim Matson - May 6, 2020

I was swooping to Ind. after returning from Vietnam in 66. The first time I tried to get riders and asked the MP to announce Indianapolis he said he could not as that was out of limits from LeJeune. Thinking it over I asked him to ask if there were any Hoosiers in the crowd. He just smiled and announced it and I had my riders. I had a 63 Ford Galaxy 500LX and I took six riders. We had six in the seats and one on the floor. We switched the floor guy every gas or potty break. I did all the driving at first but soon got “regulars” that I could trust, so I either drove or rode shotgun. I charged $20 for the roundtrip and made my car payments with the money. Made two trips a month. Traded the Ford in on a new 67 Chevelle Malibu. Lost one rider due to space but made up for it with better gas mileage. I was the battalion mail orderly for 2/10.

Harry - May 6, 2020

Sgt Sisson, Refresh my memory, was the “Swoop Circle” located at the base “Drive In”? I still remember the MP’s coming up to my car and asking “Where and how many”! Some times it would be some of the same guys.One guy was with Amtracs so I would just stop at Courthouse Bay on the way to “The Circle”and pick him up there. He was my A-Driver.I can not remember his name though. Harry

Bill (Nick) Nicoll - May 6, 2020

Both comments right on! Keith is a wannabe sh-thead!

Sgt Robert L Sisson - May 6, 2020

I was stationed at Camp Lejeune in 1968 10th Marines and would Swoop to Pittsburgh every other week end until I brought my wife down. There was never a time when I could not get a ride. MP’s would call out on a megaphone where the car was going. Then you had to RUN to the car. First come first serve. There were a few times I thought I would not get a ride.

John Vaughn - May 6, 2020

I was at Lejeune in 2/8 from Sept 61 to Oct 62 and went to the circle every weekend that I could. I remember the guys going to NYC would have numerous choices as to what ride they wanted while those of going to the Nashville Tn area, a distance of some 700 miles wee not as lucky . Many times I had a ride to Knoxville and would take a bus the rest of the way. One weekend, as a result of shooting Sharp Shooter, I got liberty at 0800 and went up the circle expecting to be there all day when to my surprise a guy in an old station wagon with Nashville plates came around looking for a rider. The car was making a “knocking ” but he said it had been doing that for a while and he wasn’t worried about it. Somewhere around Rockingham N C the engine blew and we coasted into a service station that happened to have a junker car for sale . He traded his car for the junker and a tank of gas and an hour later we were back on the road. My memory is that the only problem we had was in meeting a Semi the hood of the car blew up and he tied it down with his belt and we were back on our way. It was a one way ride so I don’t know what happened to him or the car but it should was an interesting ride. Also remember at morning formation one Friday the 1st Sgt reminded everyone of what the limits were for a weekend pass and that if you did go out of bounds to try and make it back in bounds before you called and not be like two idiots the week before who called in from Canada. A good Staff NCO who was looking out for his troops.

Bob - May 6, 2020

I had the opportunity to visit Camp Lejeune a couple years ago. I saw a couple young Marines near the gymnasium. I walked over to them and told them that on Fridays in 1967 many Marines would gather in that area to swoop for the weekend. I also told them that we called it the Swoop Circle back then. One of them politely said “Sir, I’ve heard my granddaddy talk about that”. DANG! THAT MADE ME FEEL OLD.

Former 0302 - May 6, 2020

Oh, let’s see: “Leadership based on lies, self and egotistical attitude….” Sounds like Hillary to me!

Harold Allie - May 6, 2020

I heard this straight from Chesty Pullers mouth, who was no fan of Truman nor was most Marines but when chesty over heard some Staff NCOs berating Truman he became enraged as usual Growling ” Respect the office of our President” ——- or your —– az is mine”. I may have forgotten some of it but this is what i remember

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