By: Jim Barber
I’m not privy to the type of budget information and discussion that is entailed in the funding of the various military branches as Lt. Gen. Spoehr and Rear Adm. Beard obviously are. Both protested a Journal op-ed that found the Marine Corps getting shorted on funding through the defense budget. (“Marines May Need More, But The Navy Helps”, Letters, WSJ, 12/5/19). I can only speak from the personal observations of a lowly Marine grunt, but it is historically true that the Marine Corps has always been on the dirty end of the stick in peacetime (relatively speaking) funding. Doug MacArthur hated the Marines – and used them to spearhead his Pacific drive. Harry Truman was no fan – until he was caught flat-footed by the North Koreans. Dwight Eisenhower felt they should be absorbed by the Army. The Corps had to survive on crumbs to keep from being disbanded.
When the Marines landed on Guadalcanal riflemen carried the 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle. While the Corps was actively engaged in combat the Army was being issued the new M-1 Garand which the Corps didn’t receive until the end of 1942. At the end of the war the Army dumped millions of tons of arms and equipment in the oceans, or otherwise disposed of them, confident they would all be replaced with updated weaponry as it came on line. The Marines, kept their weapons and ammunition, packed them in cosmolene, and warehoused them while their ranks were thinned to bare bones. When North Korea invaded the South the Marines were the only viable force to form the fire-brigade that saved the day at Pusan after the Army had been routed from the 38th Parallel.
Equal funding? When my battalion was staging to rotate to Okinawa in 1959 I personally saw our chow hall receiving a shipment of beef clearly stamped “Rejected, U.S. Navy.” Why did the Corps accept it? It was cheaper once the Navy rejected it. In 1960, while serving on Okinawa, we suddenly started receiving tons of WWII type C-rations. Why? The Army was receiving the newest type of field rations and the Corps bought up their old rations.
When my younger brother went to Vietnam in the earliest part of the war Air Force personnel were wearing camouflaged combat uniforms before his battalion ever saw one. They had to scrounge jeep radio antennae’s from discarded Army equipment. To get extra batteries for field radios they traded liquor brought in by pilots. Their Supply NCO made weekly trips to various Army dumps to see what they could salvage.
Does the Navy “help” the Corps? Hell yes! Ask any Marine what he thinks about Navy Corpsmen who go into the field with them and you’ll get nothing but glowing admiration. Doctors and nurses, the same. They school officers at Annapolis, train pilots, build facilities. Not mentioned by Adm. Beard is Marines provide security and man battle stations on all Navy warships. Marines run the brigs that house their miscreants. And, when my youngest brother went to Vietnam in 1971, he did TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) with the Brown Water Navy that needed extra fire power on their PBR river boats – His weapon was the M79 grenade launcher.
Marines have had to use the “Midnight Requisition” (theft from other branches) and other nefarious means to succeed in their mission – such as on Guadalcanal when they stole extra M-1s from the Army ordnance depot. A Marine recruit in WWII had a 95% chance of seeing combat and it was probably the case in Vietnam. I don’t know what that figure is today but, yes, they need logistical support. I respect the contribution every veteran makes to our country, but excuse my skepticism if I believe the Corps may be getting the short end of funding. Semper Fi.