Indigo Insights

Saturday, November 05, 2005

An old friend turned up again for me last night. In the course of his moving around and my frequent discombobulations this year, I had lost track of him. What a joyful surprise it was to find him in my nightly blog surfing while I was reading Uncle Sam's Cabin. There was his link on her blog, and following it over, there was my link on his! It is with great pleasure that I reinstate - and welcome back - The Mulatto Advocate to my blogroll.

That I happened upon his new blog in time to read the November 1st post is more than fortuitous. It almost seems destined. Please link over to it here and read what he wanted to say about 1st Lt. Laura M. Walker who was KIA in Afghanistan a couple of months ago.


A couple of weeks ago I was requesting information on the origin of the Marine Corps term "jarhead." One response came in but was lost before I could act on it. A follow-up asking that the responding Marine please resend the email got no reply. Maybe he was on his way to Iraq with a few cans of whoop and had no more time to mess with email. At any rate, it seemed that was the end of that when DOJ came through with the following a couple of days ago. [No, not Department of Justice. Dear Old Jack!]


I've been waiting for one of your neighbors [USMC - ed] to come forward and share some tradition with us concerning the term Jarhead.

My Army unit was charged with supplying Ammunition, Fuel, Water and other rations to the Army's 1st. Cavalry Division, later the 101st Air Cavalry while the 3rd. Marine Division was being rotated from their positions along the DMZ in Vietnam. We arrived just after the KheSanh seige ended and hauled everything from Class I to Class IX to them as far as the roads would allow to both the Army and Marines and rubbed elbows with them almost daily, things don't move as fast on the ground as they do in the press. I always felt at home on the Marines' turf and we were treated superbly at all of their camps. They had the least to work with, the most minimal of supplies and were always gracious and grateful for whatever we could bring them. I do have a special affinity for them and refer to them as Jarheads, but not in any derogatory sense; they're great people.

The title refers both to the short "high and tight" haircut that many Marines wear, and to the fact that many other services think of Marines as exceptionally hard-headed or obstinate and use the pejorative term for Marines. While many Marines use this term with affection, no Marine appreciates being called a jarhead by a soldier, sailor or air-person.

My understanding of the term "jarhead" as referring to a Marine derives from the same thing that gave them the nickname "leathernecks" -- the leather collars on some of their uniforms.

Before rubber was commonly available, the rings used to seal canning jars were made of leather. So the implication is that the Marine's leather collar is akin to the leather sealing rings once used on canning jars, making him, literally, a "jar head." This was the term confirmed here.

There is proof of leather being used to seal jars here.

Another explanation of the term Jarhead comes from: Records from Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps cite references that state, "Jarhead is probably parallel to, or derived from, jug head." Leatherneck magazine in 1933 cited Army soldiers as being called jarheads. However, according to limited information, the term as it applies to Marines is traced to the Navy in WW II. Sailors referred to Marines, drawing from the resemblance of the Marine dress blue uniform, with its high collar, to a Mason jar.

Scant information for such a popular term. I'll stick to the Leatherneck derivative until a better explanation comes along.