Musings of the Chronologically Challenged™ Fourth Generation
Friday, March 04, 2005
Yesterday the Sailor had a very informative update on The United States of America versus 2nd Lt.Ilario Pantano, U.S.M.C. This is an article that should be read by every American. Last night I endeavored to compose a post worthy of the Sailor and Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com, who authored the article. But POOF! All disappeared. This is my second (and second-rate) effort. Please go here and read the details and facts regarding the case, and read the following article from February 28 which has an essay written by 2nd Lt. Pantano's mother, "A Mother Takes the Offensive."
Then read this:
OUR HILARIOUS HEROES: THEM U.S. MARINES!
by CMDR William J. Lederer, USN
Cocky, tough, and unpredictable, they're professional soldiers -and proud of it! Everyone asks, "How the heck do the Marines get that way? What is it that makes them such good troops?" I tried to find the answer in military textbooks. No luck there. So I went into the field and started asking around.
When the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade was getting ready to embark for Korea, I put the question bluntly to a group of them in front of a recruiting station. "Hey, how come you guys've got such a good reputation?"
The veterans in the crowd didn't answer. But a beardless kid without any ribbons spoke up. "Mister," he said crisply, "we're respected because we're professionals."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll show you," he said, leading me inside.
On the Army bulletin board hung a clipping from a recent magazine, "Join the New U. S. Army and Be Treated Like a Gentleman."
"So?" I asked. "What's that got to do with the Marines?"
The kid winked and dragged me to the Navy section. Here a poster showed a destroyer cutting the waves. It said: "Join the Navy and See the World."
Next he took me to an Air Force recruiting ad. A handsome aviator with gleaming medals smiled from the wall. The caption said something about joining the Air Force for a career and promotion.
Now," said the young Marine, "look at our poster."
At the Marine office there hung no printed matter at all. But there was a crudely painted picture of a red, hairy, doubled-up fist. Under it were splattered these words: "You're not good enough to be a Marine!"
"See?" said the fuzzy-faced private. "We don't fool around with mama's boys or kids who need their noses wiped or guys looking for a home or a cheap vacation. The Marines are professional fighters. If the recruit can't 'take it and dish it out,' he isn't going to make the grade."
I've heard this talk of "being pros" on posts all over the world. And the longer a Marine stays in service, the more firmly he seems to believe that either you're a professional fighter or a dead one. There's no place for amateurs.
After World War II, the Marines came into the debate about how Germany should be occupied. Duty in a conquered country offers many temptations to troops; the unsettled conditions often taint men and make them soft. John McCloy suggested to Congressman Vinson that it might be a good idea to expand the Marines and have them act as occupation troops. Vinson, in turn, sent for General Vandegrift, then commandant of the Marine Corps.
"Well, General," said Congressman Vinson, explaining the proposition, "how would the Corps like to be expanded to 750,000 men?"
"Sir," replied the General, "that's impossible."
"Oh, I believe Congress would enact the legislation."
"But, sir," said General Vandegrift, "that has nothing to do with it. There aren't 750,000 men in the United States who are good enough to be Marines!"
The Marines don't advertise how unique is their breed, or how tough and well trained they are. Still, they have an uncanny way of demonstrating it to anyone who may have doubts.
In Korea, some British Commandos, who aren't exactly sissies, joined up with the Marines. There had been a lot of talk about which group was the most rugged.
One night, two Commandos and two Marines were isolated in a foxhole forward of the main lines. At dawn one Commando said: "We're surrounded by a couple of hundred enemy in the hills. Are you blokes ready to attack?"
The other Commando replied, "I'm ready, matey, but what about these Yankee Marines? Think they can keep up the pace?"
One of the Marines stuck his head out of the foxhole to look around. An enemy bullet at the end of its trajectory landed in his mouth, knocking out two teeth.
"Blimey!" said a Commando; "you caught it with your teeth!"
The Marine casually removed the bullet from his mouth. "I don't make a practice of it," he said, "but it's a quick way of estimating range. The gooks are about 500 yards off. Let's wait till they get closer before attacking. Then we can use bayonets." The other Marine looked disgusted. "You clumsy dope," he growled, "if you'd rolled with it like they taught us at Parris Island, you wouldn't have lost those teeth."
When I was in Pusan, I asked a Marine major, "Why are the Marines so good?"
"We get along okay," he replied, "because we've got discipline."
"What do you mean, discipline?"
"Well," he said, "there's the apocryphal story of the Marine lieutenant who operates a rest camp. A company of battle-weary Marines came down from up north for a couple of days of relaxing.
"That night, about 2 A.M., it was cold, and the lieutenant sat in his jeep smoking and just keeping his eyes on things. Suddenly he was startled by a woman's scream. A girl with no clothes on ran from one of the houses with a Marine in pursuit. He wasn't in full uniform.
"The girl raced past the jeep. The Marine was gaining on her, but when he reached the lieutenant's jeep, he stopped and saluted.
"That," said the major, "is discipline."
When I stopped laughing, I said, "What did the lieutenant do?"
"Do?" said the Major, surprised. "I don't know. But my guess is he did what any self-respecting officer would do. He returned the salute and said, 'Hey, Marine, that babe's got a head start on you. You better take the jeep!' "
In spite of their hilarious antics, the Marines sometimes try to give the impression of being a mousy little outfit, devoid of color and famous "characters."
One of their greats was Gunnery Sergeant Dan Daly. As an enlisted man he won two Medals of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Cross, and three French decorations. And all these while he was still alive!
Daly was the firebrand who led his platoon into a hazardous position in Belleau Wood, shouting, "C'mon, you SOBs! Do you want to live forever!"
This battle cry became known all over the world, and when Daly arrived in Paris the press besieged him with interviews. "How," asked a reporter, "did you think up your wonderful command?"
"What command?" said Daly.
"C'mon, you SOBs! Do you want to live forever!"
Daly's face lighted with what is known as baby-faced disdain. Then very earnestly he said: "Do you think that a Marine noncommissioned officer would use such bad language to the men under him? What I really said was, 'For goodness sake, you chaps, let us advance against the foe!' "
Being an organization of individualists, the Marines have an internal loyalty unknown to other normal units. But loyalty is something they never discuss. In fact, Marines speak of other Marines in terms of cynical contempt. I heard two sergeants discussing a colonel who was on the staff of the Secretary of the Navy.
"Him?" said one of the sergeants upon hearing the colonel's name. "I know that slopehead."
"We were at Peleliu together."
"What'd he do?"
"Oh, the joker got the idea that a wounded guy laying in front of a Nip cave should be rescued. And the dumb buzzard felt that he was the only guy in the outfit to do the job. They just don't come any stupider than the colonel."
"The knucklehead runs out to rescue the wounded guy. About every Jap in the island was shooting at him. But he made it by luck. After dark he dragged me back."
"It was you he rescued?" "Yeh, the dumb cluck!"
The one thing all Marines accept is that their only function is to fight for the United States and the Marine Corps. Even the lady Marines catch the spirit. (Don't mention "lady Marine" to their face. "Don't call me that," one told me. "I'm just a plain ornery Marine!")
After the normal indoctrination, a group of Marines (female) were sent out to watch combat troops in maneuvers. After this, one of the Leathernecks (female) was handed a flamethrower. She strapped it on and let loose an arc of flame. Then she said, "Isn't there any place on this gadget to fix a bayonet?"
Marine Officers generally are regarded as guys who have had more experience and know more soldiering than enlisted men. As of this day, 87.5 per cent of the officers on active duty in the Corps have served as enlisted men. The Marine brass doesn't go in for quickie inspections of the front lines-with a photographer along for home consumption. They're up there all the time, with the combat troops. For instance, way back in 1836, when the Marines were ordered to active duty along the Florida-Georgia border, the commandant, Colonel Henderson, went out to take personal charge of his troops. Before he left he tacked a sign on the door of his Washington office:
"Gone to Florida to fight the Indians. Will be back when the war is over."
When Congressmen Hugh Scott and Henry Latham went with the Marines at the Naktong Bulge front, they found the commanding officer, Brig. Gen. Edward A.Craig, sleeping on the ground and eating exactly the same food as his men.
"Have you a headquarters with a bunk and mess table and orderlies?" asked the congressmen.
General Craig said: "When the rest of the Marine troops get bunks and tables, then we'll think about giving them to the officers too."
When I visited the Marines at Quantico, I saw a magnificent redbrick building and wondered what it was. It was lush, with beautiful hardwood floors, lovely murals, a fine band and bar. Marines sat about drinking beer with some of the best-looking and best-dressed girls I had seen for some time.
I thought, "What are enlisted men doing in the Officers' Club?"
A Leatherneck approached me. "I beg your pardon, sir, this club is for privates and noncoms only"
"Hey!" I said, "I just heard that funds for enlisted recreational projects were being reduced. How did you Marines wangle Congress out of the appropriations for this club? It must have cost $200,000."
"Wangle Congress out of it, my foot!" he said. "We raised the money and built it ourselves."
I asked: "Is it legal to build private buildings of this nature on government reservations?"
He replied: "In the Marine Corps, anything which improves the fighting qualities and morale of the Corps is legitimate."
A fighting man must use extreme initiative to get along. If the idea appears too radical you test it by (l) Will it help win battles? (2) Will it help the Corps' morale and efficiency?
The story goes that in Korea a company of Marines was temporarily assigned to the Army Quartermaster Corps. The Leathernecks were griping because they didn't like Army food and they didn't like the idea of carrying stores. They wanted to go to the front.
One day a carton they were carrying broke open. Onto the ground spilled certain pieces of clothing equipment assigned to a Philippine Army general.
The Leathernecks had an idea. They debated whether or not it would help win battles or improve Marine morale and efficiency. They decided that it would come under the latter. They dressed one of their South Korean helpers in the uniform of a Philippine Army general and named him General Gonzales.
Taking him over to the Army Quartermaster depot, the Marines told the Army that the Filipino general, who came from Zamboanga and spoke Chabacano, was observing the Marines, and that he desired a jeep of his own and a flag officer's mess.
The Marines enjoyed their "general's" food for about a week. Then a note came from the Army. "Lieutenant General -------, USA, will visit here in a couple of days. He has spent many years in Zamboanga and speaks Chabacano. He would enjoy very much having lunch with General Gonzales." General Gonzales suddenly decided it was time to observe the Marines at the front.
Because of their continued success in battle and out, the Leathernecks have developed a self-confidence which sometimes is offensive to other units of the service.
A social-relations professor, trying an experiment in morale for the Navy, asked permission to interview some Marines. His first contact was a rifleman who had just come off watch as a sentry. "I'd like to ask you a question," said the professor, "about Marine officers."
"Be happy to help you, sir."
"Suppose a Marine officer gave you an order, and then left the immediate area. Later, the officer realized he had made a mistake. He had given you a wrong order. What would most Marine officers do in such a case? Would they say nothing and let you carry out a wrong order-or would they come back and admit to an enlisted man that they had made a mistake?"
"Sir," replied the private, "what you asked me is what we call a hypothetical question."
"How so?" said the professor, whipping out his notebook.
"Well, sir, no Marine officer ever makes a mistake!"
Which is like the time an Army three-star general was making a courtesy inspection of a Marine artillery battery in Korea. Inspecting down the ranks, he found a USMC private who was a shell passer.
"Private," the general said, "suppose you were in a cold climate and the hydraulic-recoil mechanism on your howitzer froze. How would you fire the piece?"
"Why, General, sir, a Marine would never let his equipment freeze. That's impossible."
"But suppose you were way north and it did freeze. How would you then fire your weapon?"
"General," said the private, shaking his head, "you just don't understand Marines. That mechanism wouldn't dare freeze! Unless all of us was dead first."
During the breakout from the freezing Changjin Reservoir area in Korea, the Marines were in a mountainous terrain totally devoid of airstrips. They knew that if the badly wounded didn't get air evacuation, they might not get out at all. Military experts were pessimistic. They perhaps didn't recognize that all Marine aviators, enlisted and officers alike, in tactical units must qualify in carrier-deck landings.
The Leathernecks found a small piece of stony ground about the size of a couple of tennis courts. "If we can land on a flattop, we can land, on that," they decided.
A carrier flight-officer got down there with his flags and wigwagged the Marine planes to their landings. As many as ten wounded men were crammed in a torpedo bomber. The plane's wings were held until the props had revved up, and then released for high-speed take-off carrying the wounded to safety.
A newspaperman said that it was a heroic performance.
"Nuts!" said a Marine. "It was routine. The only guy who really was on the ball was O'Malley. He flew in eight five-gallon gasoline cans in the back of his plane."
"You needed gas on the march?"
"And how! That was the best drinking gasoline we ever tasted."
A tenet of the Leathernecks is that they are prepared for any emergencies and must always practice for them.
During the peacetime years, there was a Marine general who had put on too much weight. So he took up riding. He would drive his car from his quarters to the stables which were outside the post. There he changed to riding clothes, got on the horse, and cantered back to his quarters. After a drink he rode back to the stables, showered, and then came home by auto.
One afternoon as he rode into the post, a Marine private, with his carbine set at the ready position, stepped out from behind a hedge.
"Dismount, advance, and be recognized!" he ordered.
The general smiled. "I'm General -------."
The sentry cocked his rifle. "Dismount, advance, and be recognized!" he repeated.
The general stopped smiling and dismounted.
"Show your identification card!" said the sentry.
The general didn't have it. It was back at the stables.
"Then you can't enter here!"
The general didn't argue; he mounted his horse and returned to the stable. Picking up his card, he rode back to the same entrance. Once more the sentry stepped from behind the bush. "Dismount, advance, and be recognized!"
Again the general dismounted, advanced, respectfully displayed his identification card.
"Proceed in, sir."
The general entered the post. Then he reined in the horse. "Sentry."
"This is peacetime. Who gave you orders to challenge everyone coming through this gate?"
"No one, sir. I was just practicing. My sergeant says that's the only way to become a professional."
That word professional comes up all the time. The Leathernecks operate like a ball club-doing everything neatly and taking advantage of all breaks.
A Corps news release tells of a company of Marines which had lost its light machine gun to the Korean Reds in a night raid.
"Let's get it back," a squad leader told his men. They moved out with the sergeant, away from the defense perimeter, soon sighted 25 Reds lugging the weapon along.
"I'll throw a grenade," volunteered one rifleman.
"No, you might damage the gun!" replied the sergeant. "Pick 'em off with your rifles."
Wherever you see Marines, you see professionals taking care of themselves.
Another story about them goes like this:
An isolated company was surrounded by Reds in the mountains close to Koto-Ri. Marine planes dropped them supplies. One of the drops, containing most of the food for the company, was caught in an air current just as the parachutes opened, and the drop crew could do nothing but gaze sorrowfully back as the packets dropped into communist-held territory
Next day the drop crew met one of the riflemen who had broken through.
"Jees, we were sorry to see that food drop go over into the Red lines," the sergeant apologized to the grizzled front-line veteran who was all of 23 years. "I suppose you went hungry last night."
"We did like hell! The company commander broke us out of our holes and made us capture that Sector so we could get the chow back... We all ate!"
That's the way the Leathernecks operate. You can't explain them. But from the Marine concoction of self-ridicule, horseplay, pride, and fierce training comes the old Marine magic. It has a unique glow to it, a quality which is lyrical and intangible. The Leathernecks call it esprit de corps.
Marines somehow usually manage to win. When the Panama Canal was opened, the ships of the U. S. Fleet were lined up to be the first vessels to steam through the world's newest wonder.
As the fleet entered the channel, it was learned that two Marines had started earlier that day and already had paddled the length of the canal in a dugout.
Although the Leathernecks won't breathe a word about it in public, they give the impression that in performance a Marine rifleman is the most effective military man alive fully equal to a Navy lieutenant, an Army major, or an Air Force colonel. In other words, the Marine rifleman is somewhat like a king. It is he who gets the honors and the privileges. The officers feel the same way about it. Col. Sam Moore, a Marine aviator, described himself as "a rifleman who at present is flying a plane."
The old Marine witchery has been boiling for almost 200 years of United States history. The Marines accept it as normal procedure. It's like the sergeant who won a Medal of Honor in the Pacific for single-handedly holding back a Japanese attack all night.
"Hell's fire!" he said, "if I had been on the ball and hadn't lost my pistol in the lagoon, I'd have brought back the whole damn company of them Japs as prisoners."
"The colonel must be crazy recommending me for a Medal of Honor. The dumb knucklehead should have court-martialed me for losing my equipment!"