Today…November 10…is the birthday of the United States Marine Corps…which in our opinion has the highest esprit de corps of any military organization in the US and probably the entire world.
For most of us who served in other branches of the military…we generally refer to ourselves as being former Naval officers or whatever…however as any Marine will tell you…”There is no such thing as a former Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
Interesting tidbit to illustrate their dedication to their organization.
Way back when…Neil was in Officer Candidate School up in Newport RI…and back in those days the gate security at every Navy base was provided by Marines. This has since changed and now only those bases with nuclear weapons on the base are generally guarded by Marines while others get mostly active duty sailors assigned to the base garrison or in a few cases rent-a-cops…but I digress from my story.
Back in those days…the Marines at the gate of Navy Base Newport wore a uniform that included a red coat with crossed white straps on the chest and a big silver buckle right in the middle of the X where the straps crossed. Being Marines…this buckle was completely scratch free, fingerprint free, and polished to a degree that the mirror in your bathroom probably provided a worse reflection.
One night…as Neil and some of his buddies were coming back from liberty they stopped at the gate and having had a couple of beers they were a little less inhibited than they otherwise might have been. Neil was in the front passenger seat and the midshipman who was driving asked the Marine at the gate who was probably a Sargent or Staff Sargent whether Marines polished the back side of their belt buckles. The Marine answered “Of course.”…with a slight almost smile and a tone of voice that inferred “why are you asking me such an obvious question?”. Being somewhat less inhibited than normal as previously noted…the driver asked “Why, since nobody can see it?”
The Marine…with a completely dead pan expression on his face…replied…”You wipe your butt, don’t you?”…and we rolled on into the base to head to the rack. Neil coulda swore he heard snickering and laughter as we rolled away…but then Marines are serious folk and surely would never laugh while on guard duty…the Gunny would definitely frown on that.
For those of you who’ve never actually called the headquarters of the USMC…if you did so then you would have gotten their answering machine first with the typical set of options depending on who you needed to talk to.
If you click on this link…you’ll be able to hear the
USMC Answering Machine Message.
Another interesting story ‘bout the Marines.
Neil’s father was in the Marines during WWII…but did not make a career out of it.
Way back when…even before Neil was up at Newport…Connie who was dating him at the time came up to Neil’s house for spring break or some break from classes at the University of Miami. At the time…all she knew about his father was that he was a Marine during WWII and was stationed in the South Pacific.
While they were there…he went up into the attic to retrieve something or other for whoever needed it at the time…and Connie followed him up there to see what sort of family heirlooms might be lurking. As part of her poking around…she ran across a Japanese katana…that’s the long killing sword that samurai warriors carried. Here’s a picture of the actual katana she found as it is now in Neil’s possession.
The reason for the only partial withdrawal is that when a samurai allowed somebody to view his sword he only partially withdrew it from the scabbard…the only time it was fully drawn was just before he hacked you to pieces with it. An interesting point about the katana as oppose to English or French broadswords is that it is a slicing weapon instead of a hacking/chopping weapon. The longsword blade is straight and impacted the enemy (unless he was stabbed with the point) straight on like an ax and required a great deal of force to kill an enemy…as a result the broadsword is long and much heavier than a katana. Slicing weapons on the other hand…like the katana and the scimitar that Middle East soldiers used…slide along the enemy’s body and slice rather than chop. As you all know…slicing produces a wound much easier than chopping…this is why you can get a paper cut if the edge slides along your skin. Thus…a much lighter katana usually does more damage per hit on the enemy…and being lighter you can get in many more attacks before getting tired.
That’s a real one…not one of the reproduction dummies…and it’s mighty sharp despite being going on 75 years old and it was likely a common soldier’s weapon…an officer would have had one with a more highly decorated scabbard.
But again…I digress…so back to the story.
When Connie found the katana she asked where it came from so Neil spun her this story about how his father single handedly repelled a banzai attack on Guam and took it off a dead Japanese solder. She seemed impressed and we went on back to the University of Miami. She then proceeded to tell her friends and family how her boyfriend had a war hero father.
It was many years later when she found out the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say.
True…Neil’s father was a Marine and was in the South Pacific during the war but despite his story about the sword he actually acquired the katana during a visit to Japan after the war was over and before he came back to the US. In reality…his father was never in combat although he was trained for it…if you remember the character Radar from the Series MASH…well Neil’s father was essentially Radar for a rear echelon administrative unit.
She’s never forgiven him for it.
The Marine Corps was established on November 10, 1775 by the Second Continental Congress who authorized
That two battalions of Marines be raised consisting of one Colonel, two lieutenant-colonels, two majors and other officers, as usual in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates as with other battalions, that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve for and during the present war with Great Britain and the Colonies; unless dismissed by Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the First and Second Battalions of Marines.
The birthplace of the Corps was the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia where the first Marines enlisted under the first Commandant Samuel Nicholas…although it is possible that there was an earlier recruiting drive at the Conestoga Waggon…a tavern owned by the family of Samuel Nicholas.
To this day…and it’s a point of pride to Marines so that it is one of their sayings…”Every Marine is a rifleman first.” Even those who serve in administrative posts, maintenance groups, or fly planes are trained in infantry tactics and learn to shoot and shoot well…or else they don’t get to be Marines.
Anyway…Happy 245th Birthday to the USMC…Ooh Rah and Semper Fi. Today…as on every other November 10…wherever Marines are there will be an official USMC Birthday Ball…beef is always served and paraded in with bagpipes and all the other hoopla…Neil and Connie have been to numerous of these balls over his years on active duty as Navy folk are generally invited as well since the Marines are officially part of the Navy Department since back in the day they were transported to and from their missions by the Navy. We know…the Marines do know how to party and to this day remain an essential part of our military. No matter how many high altitude bombing missions you execute…and no matter how many cruise missiles you launch from offshore…eventually you have to occupy ground to win the war and that generally means Marines charging up the hill and sticking their bayonets into the enemy…and I’m mighty glad we have those guys on our side.