The Old Corps

The toilet was “The Head”
A drinking fountain was “The Scuttlebut”
A door was not slightly open it was “Ajar”
The uniform for going on a hike was “Spats, Gats and Tin Hats”

There were khakis, greens, and blues Some of you (not all) won’t recall a great portion of this but if you do, so be it. If you don’t, you missed a good time! The following is a page found in the book “Green Side Out” by Major H.G.Duncan, USMC (Ret) and Captain W.T. Moore, Jr., USMC (Ret).

You kept your rifle in the barracks.
Your 782 gear did not wear out.
Mess halls were mess halls (NOT dining facilities).
No vandalism wrecked the barracks.
Everyone was a Marine and his ethnic background was unimportant.
We had heroes.
Chaplains didn’t teach leadership to the experts.
Getting high meant getting drunk.
Beer was 25 cents at the slop chute.
Skivvies had tie-ties.
We starched our khakis and looked like h-ll after sitting down the first time.
We wore the short green jacket with the winter uniform.
We wore Sam Browne belts and sharpened one edge of the buckle for the bad fights.
We kept our packs made up and hanging on the edge of the rack.
We spit-shined shoes.
Brownbaggers’ first concern was the Marine Corps.
Generals cussed.
Generals paid more attention to the Marine Corps than to politics.
UA meant being a few minutes late from a great liberty, and only happened once per career.
Brigs were truly “correctional” facilities.
Sergeants were gods.
The tips of the index and middle fingers of one hand were constantly black from Kiwi shoe polish.
We scrubbed the wooden decks of the barracks with creosote.
We had wooden barracks.
Privates made less than $100.00 a month.
Privates always had money.
You weren’t transported to war by Trans World or Pan American airlines.
Barracks violence was a fight between two buddies who were buddies when it was over.
Larceny was a civilian crime.
Every trooper had all his gear.
Marines had more uniforms than civilian clothes.
Country and western music did not start race riots in the clubs.
We had no race riots because we had no recognition of races.
Marine Corps birthdays were celebrated on 10 November no matter what day of the week it may have been (except Sunday).
Support units supported.
The supply tail did not wag the maintenance dog.
The 734 form was the only supply document.
You did your own laundry, including ironing.
You aired bedding.
Daily police of outside areas was held although they were always clean.
Field stripping of cigarette butts was required.
Everyone helped at field day.
A tour as Duty NCO was an honor.
Everyone got up a reveille.
We had bugle calls.
Movies were free.
PX items were bargains.
Parking was the least of problems.
Troops couldn’t afford cars.
You weren’t married unless you could afford it.
Courts-martial orders were read in battalion formations.
We had the “Rocks and Shoals.”
Courts-martial were a rarity.
Marines receiving BCDs were drummed out the gate.
NCOs and officers were not required to be psychologists.
The mission was the most important thing.
Marines could shoot.
Marines had a decent rifle.
The BAR was the mainstay of the fire team.
Machine gunnery was an art.
Maggie’s drawers meant a miss and was considered demeaning as h-ll to the dignity of the shooter.
Carbide lamps blackened sights.
We wore leggings.
We wore herringbone utilities.
We had machine gun carts.
We mixed target paste in the butts.
We had to take and pass promotion tests.
We really had equal opportunity.
Sickbays gave APCs for all ailments.
We had short-arm inspections.
The flame tank was in the arsenal of weapons.
We had unit parties overseas with warm beer and no drugs.
Marines got haircuts.
Non-judicial punishment was non-judicial.
The squad bay rich guy was the only one with a radio.
If a Marine couldn’t make it on a hike, his buddies carried his gear and helped him stumble along so that he wouldn’t have to fall out.
The base legal section was one or two clerks and a lawyer.
We had oval dog tags.
Marines wore dog tags all the time.
We spit-shined shoes and BRUSH-shined boots.
We wore boondockers.
We starched field scarves.
We worked a five and one-half day week.
Everyone attended unit parties.
In the field we used straddle trenches instead of “Porta-Potties.”
Hitch-hiking was an offense.
We used Morse Code for difficult transmissions.
The oil burning tent stove was the center of social activity in the tent.
We had unit mail call.
We carried swagger sticks.
We had Chesty Puller.
Greater privileges for NCOs were not a “right”.
EM Clubs were where you felt at home… and safe.
We sailed on troopships.
We rode troop trains.
Sentries had some authority.
Warrant Officers were not in their teens.
Mess hall “Southern cooking” was not called “soul food.”
Marines went to chapel on Sundays.
Weekend liberty to a distant place was a rarity.
The color of a Marine’s skin was of no consequence.
The Marine Corps was a big team made up of thousands of little teams.
We landed in LCVPs and always got wet.
We debarked from ship by means of nets over the side.
We had parades.
We had pride.
We had Esprit de Corps.
Field scarves (neckties) were made of the same material as shirts, and had the same consistencies as a wet noodle. There was no tie clasp to keep it from flapping in the breeze.
Shirts were tailored and spit-shined.
Khakis were heavily starched, and you had to run your arm through the pants leg to open them up. Shirt pockets could not be opened and you carried cigarettes in your socks.
There were no back pockets in uniform trousers.
Buttons on your “Blues” were really brass, and you shined them using jewelers rouge and a button shield.
Piss-cutters had a single dip in the rear.

Semper Fi!

“Saepius Exertus, Semper Fidelis, Frater Infinitas”
“Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever”
United States Marines

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!

64 comments


  • GEORGE WILLIAMS

    You must be a CHUCK, or lived in a cocoon…I was in the Corps in 1959, and every base I went to had their group of base begets…(sp). New titles I had never herd be fore like wetback-splib- Gook-chief just to name a few……


  • Bill Weaver

    ’51-’76
    Retired and I still have the feelings every time I see a Jar head in uniform or hear any of the military
    musicals. AS far as i’m concerned, the Corps taught me every thing worth learning.
    Semper Fidelis to each and every one of you Marines. Keep your chin(s) up and things will be all right.
    Bill


  • G. Willard 0311, 8651/0321, 8511,….

    Harry, hope you get this. Wasn’t ignoring you; just don’t get the time I’d like to read Grit. DAV Transportation Site Coordinator in Fl., six and a half years on a Veteran and Family Advisory Council to the director of VA Hospital, VA “My Life, My Story” project, AND SEVEN GRAND KIDS from 2 to 21. Big money $000,000.00 LOL.
    Medevaced out spring ’69 after second hit from AK. With the 0311 and 8651 Recon (now 0321) we pretty much lived in the bush. Here’s one for a 1371’r: Where does the smart Marine run for cover? Behind the blade of a D-9 bulldozer. DAMN STRAIGHT. SEMPER FI!
    Catch you on the next Grit newsletter.


  • ‘Doc’ Litwiler, HM1 (FMF) ’53-57

    Attached to 1/7/1 and 3/7/1, ending up in 7th Mar. Reg. surgery dept.
    Went down many cargo nets, landing as HM3, Charlie company aid man. Not my favorite activity, btw. Many years ago but still great memories as a corpsman with Marines. “Once you go green, you don’t want to go back”.


  • Sgt. Art N. ’79-’82, ’84-’93

    Old Corps vs. New Corps is just perspective. Some changes are good, others not so good. I was fortunate to be on Barracks duty, I spit shined my shoes, but it became a requirement to buy the corfram shoes since we were to be uniform. The only time we distinguished the color of someone’s skin is when we had more than one Jones or Smith etc., then it was the Light Green or Dark Green Marine when pointing him out to somebody. Semper Fi !!


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