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The Night I Averted War with Canada
During the summer of 1993, I was a gunnery sergeant, serving as the assistant operations chief for 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Marine Division, having just finished a platoon deployment to the Mediterranean with the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit.
2d Recon Battalion was then located on Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. We pretty much had the place to ourselves, other than the beach goers or units occasionally training on the training beach. Located about a mile from the beach was Drop Zone (DZ) Falcon, one of the largest DZs on Camp Lejeune. The Canadian 1st Parachute Regiment was encamped at DZ Falcon. For whatever reason, division had placed them under the wing of 8th Marine Regiment, though it seems that it would have been logical (there’s that word) to place them with us, as we not only had the airborne capability, but were located much closer. Our 1stSgts allowed them to use our shower and laundry facilities. The battalion also opened our small club, the Harbor Site, to them. Our small battalion was heavily committed, so there usually wasn’t a lot of our Marines in the club.
One night during that summer, I was standing staff duty, assisted by Sgt. Garritt Duncan. We had been in the First Gulf War together, and Duncan later retired as the battalion sergeant major. The duty phone rang, and it was Brenda, the club manager. She said to me, “You need to get over here quick. Those Canadians have a girl in here and she’s naked!” Immediately, the tone of her call made me think that some forcible and unwanted activity was about to take place upon some innocent young damsel. I checked to ensure that I had a round chambered in my 9mm pistol, thinking that I may have to shoot some Canucks, which would likely trigger a war. When I entered the club, what I saw was not what had been described. A shapely young woman, wearing only her panties, was dancing suggestively with what must have been the youngest and most inexperienced Canadian soldier, as his mates cheered him on, his face as red as the maple leaf on the Canadian flag.
I asked who was the senior man in charge, and was directed to the deputy company commander (what we would call the executive officer). I told him this had to stop. He didn’t seem too concerned, and responded with something like, “Okay, I’ll take care of it.” However, he wasn’t in any hurry to take care of it. He seemed more interested in taking in the show. Now, full disclosure—I was a young man, and wasn’t averse to looking at an attractive woman, but I also knew that these events, particularly with alcohol and a high male to female ratio could get out of hand. Pretty soon she took the young paratrooper into the head and locked the door. I don’t know what happened, but you can probably imagine. As I could see that our allies were in no hurry to stop this, and without the real authority to stop them without creating an ugly scene, I decided just to let it play out, unless it turned into a riot (it didn’t). I went back to the duty hut, which was only about thirty yards away, and told Sgt. Duncan he may as well enjoy the show, too. Finally, the party broke up and the normal peace of Onslow Beach returned.
I wasn’t sure what to record in the log book, so I wrote nothing, though I did tell the battalion sergeant major about it the next day. A couple of days later, an agent from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) showed up, and asked me what happened that night. It turned out that the battalion commander had gotten a call from the division chief of staff, Col. Van Riper, the brother of Lt. Gen. Paul K. Van Riper. There were reports of a hooker from the Norfolk, Virginia, area working the Canadians. I told them what happened, and heard no more of it. However, driving toward mainside past DZ Falcon, I saw this same woman, with a collie on a leash. getting out of a white Mazda Miata with a blue officer’s sticker on the windshield.
I don’t know what happened to her. I assume she made a good bit of money off the Canadians and was told not to return. Not long after this incident, the Canadian 1st Parachute Regiment was found to have abused detainees in Somalia, and was disbanded by the Canadian government.
That night I was certainly on the horns of dilemma, but I like to think that I may be credited with maintaining the prolonged state of peace we enjoy with our neighbors to the north.
SgtMaj. USMC (Ret.)