Happy 240th Birthday to the Corps!

Tuesday, November 10, AD 2015

Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world. But the Marines don’t have that problem.

President Ronald Reagan, letter to Lance Corporal Joe Hickey, September 23, 1983

On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress passed this resolution authored by John Adams:

“Resolved, 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 with other battalions; that particular care be taken that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said battalions but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve with advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present War with Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by names of First and Second Battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the Continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.”

At the various birthday celebrations by the Marine Corps today, the song given pride of place will of course be the Marines’ Hymn.  The oldest of the official songs of a branch of the US military, the composer of the Marines’ Hymn is unknown, but is thought to have been a Marine serving in Mexico during the Mexican War, hence the “Halls of Montezuma”.  The music is taken from the Gendarmes Duet from the Opera Genevieve de Brabant, written by Jacques Offenback in 1859.

Prior to 1929 the first verse used to end:

” Admiration of the nation,
we’re the finest ever seen;
And we glory in the title
Of United States Marines”

which the then Commandant of the Marine Corps changed to the current lines.  On November 21, 1942,  Commandant Thomas Holcomb approved a change in the words of the first verse’s fourth line from “On the land as on the sea” to “In the air, on land, and sea”.

My favorite rendition of the hymn is in the movie The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)  This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

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James Forrestal and his Prophecy

Friday, February 27, AD 2015

Flag Raising Iwo Jima

 

The last cabinet level Secretary of the Navy, and the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal was not content to remain in Washington.  As Secretary of the Navy during World War II he often visited the sites of active combat operations.  Thus it was that he was present on Iwo Jima when the flag was raised on Mount Suribachi.  What he said then has entered the lore of the Marine Corps:

The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.

Appointed the first Secretary of Defense in 1947, Forrestal fought against budget cuts proposed by President Truman that he thought endangered the nation’s security.  He also opposed the proposal to unify the services which would gut the Navy and eliminate the Marine Corps.  On March 31, 1949, Harry Truman, angered over Forrestal’s opposition to his policies, fired him.  Tragically, Forrestal, who had worked non-stop on Defense issues since he joined the Roosevelt administration in 1940, had a nervous breakdown.  While undergoing psychiatric treatment he committed suicide by jumping from the 16th floor of the National Naval Medical Center.  He left behind a note with a quotation from Sophocles’ Ajax:

Fair Salamis, the billows’ roar,

Wander around thee yet,

And sailors gaze upon thy shore

Firm in the Ocean set.

Thy son is in a foreign clime

Where Ida feeds her countless flocks,

Far from thy dear, remembered rocks,

Worn by the waste of time–

Comfortless, nameless, hopeless save

In the dark prospect of the yawning grave….

Woe to the mother in her close of day,

Woe to her desolate heart and temples gray,

When she shall hear

Her loved one’s story whispered in her ear!

“Woe, woe!’ will be the cry–

No quiet murmur like the tremulous wail

Of the lone bird, the querulous nightingale–

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10 Responses to James Forrestal and his Prophecy

  • This caught my eye for perhaps obvious reasons.

    “The Navy struck back with the Revolt of the Admirals where several admirals spoke out against the defense policies of the Truman administration at the cost of their careers.”

  • It seems that the authentic power over the A-bomb had gone to Truman’s head. To denigrate the sacrifice of the Marines on Mt. Suribachi smacks of treason. Different branches of the Armed Forces are like different personalities. Men adhere to the “Espri de Core” (sp). I knew a Marine, a paratrooper (said one had to be crazy to jump from a plane but he did) an Air Force man, but no regular Army man and almost had a Navy man as a son-in-law. These people would have been stabbed in the heart by Truman’s really stupid concept of the Armed Forces.
    .
    But would any change impact the Chaplains’ service as did Obama? During the government shutdown, Obama demanded the sacrifice from the Armed Forces encamped in government facilities by forbidding the Mass to be said, even as human beings were living out their lives unto dying. That is not a president who represents his constituents, allowing them to live and die without the consolation of their Faith, a despicable treason.

  • I think I am a Marine: Semper Fi

  • It was always heartening to see from our quarters our guarters a patrol of marines in full battle dress go down into the jungle on the lookout for “the bad guys”. My then third grade son presented me with a picture he had drawn of three heroes – a US Marine, a USN chaplain and a Navy pilot.
    I hope to run across that drawing of 20 years ago as that chaplain conducts burials at Arlington Cemetery.

  • Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa. The Marines’ Hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated. Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers.

    I’d have loved to have cross-examined William Manchester with this datum.

  • A friend pointed out certain similarities between Truman and the current CIC. I have tried not to believe them, but after reading this post, among other signs, well…

  • No US Navy equals no Navy SEALS. Horrid thought!!!

  • “There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.”

    Military brass & govt appointees who tell politicians what they want to hear are heartbreaking & sickening to the very core of my heart.

  • I had no idea that Truman tried to end the Marines & the Navy!! He was insane. Especially after WW 1 & 2. What was his reasoning?

  • Barbara G., I think that Truman, being a politician (naturally venal and ignorant), believed that the nuke weapon ended the need/utility of conventional warfare.
    .

    In Truman’s administration’s stupidity (signals/statements), Comintern gangsters – Stalin, Mao – came to assume/believe that the US would not fight over Korea. Ergo, Truman needed to unseriously (not using all the arrows in the quiver and strategically not fighting to win) fight the Korean War. And, more than 36,000 young Americans seriously fought and gave their lives for South Korean freedom.
    .

    After Obama and Carter, Truman may be the worst POTUS. The 19th century POTUS losers don’t measure down. They didn’t have the power to massively mess up everything.
    .
    JFK officially swung away from nuke dependence and presided over the formations of the green berets and SEALS; and started “playing” with American blood in Vietnam, Republic of.

John Wayne and the Sands of Iwo Jima

Saturday, February 21, AD 2015

 

 They told me to get you into shape so you can handle a piece of this war.

That’s what I’m gonna do and that means I’m gonna tell you what to do every day,

how to button your buttons and when to blow your noses.

If you do something I don’t like I’m gonna jump and when I land it’ll hurt.

I’ll ride you until you can’t stand up. When you do, you’ll be marines.

John Wayne as  Sgt. John M. Stryker, Sands of Iwo Jima

Something for the weekend.  The Marines’ Hymn.  Seventy years ago the battle of Iwo Jima was underway as the Marines took a giant step forward towards Tokyo.  The film  Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Styker as initially written in the screen play.  (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)

Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marines’ Hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated.

Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.

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Happy 237th Birthday to the Corps

Saturday, November 10, AD 2012

You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced, to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth – and the amusing thing about it is that they are…You should see the group about me as I write- dirty, bearded, their clothing food-spattered and filthy- they look like the castoffs of creation. Yet they have a sense of loyalty, generosity, even piety greater than any men I have ever known. These rugged men have the simple piety of children. You can’t help loving them, in spite of their language and their loose sense of private property. Don’t ever feel sorry for a priest in the Marines. The last eight weeks have been the happiest and most contented in my life.

 Father Kevin Keaney, 1st MarDiv Chaplain, Korean War

 

Resolved, That two Battalions of marines be raised, consisting of one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, two Majors, and other officers as usual in other regiments; and that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to office, or enlisted into said Battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress: that they be distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American Marines, and that they be considered as part of the number which the continental Army before Boston is ordered to consist of.
Ordered, That a copy of the above be transmitted to the General.

Second Continental Congress on 10 November 1775
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9 Responses to Happy 237th Birthday to the Corps

  • As a former Navy man, I have some connection to the Marine Corps. I spent two and a half years giving Marines rides around the Pacific on my first ship.

  • A good friend of mine was a Navy Corpsman Greg and served with the Marines in Vietnam. After his discharge he joined the Marines, went to OCS, and was assigned to the Fleet Marines. He likes to say he joined the Navy and slogged through the mud with the Marines, and then he joined the Marines and sailed with the Navy!

  • The ship I was on USS Dubuque (LPD-8) embarked up to around ( I think) about 1500 troops.

  • Speaking of Navy Corpsmena in Vietnam, one of dad’s cooworkers lost one of his sons, a Navy Corpsman who was KIA in Vietnam while serving with the Marines.

  • Please pray for my brother-in-law. He is going to undergo a procedure next Weds. to determine if he has lung cancer. I spoke to him the day after the election and he coughed so violently he could barely get a sentence out. He has had numerous health issues and surgeries over the past 5 years and my sister, who is a RN, is very afraid the diagnosis will be dire. He is 6 ft. tall and now weighs 125 lbs.

    He is one of the kindest, most generous men I know, my conservative ally when we talk politics with our liberal relatives. He has helped me and others, financally and in other ways, many times.

    Please pray.

    I was in mourning for my country earlier this week. Now I am in very real fear of losing a man who is more like a brother than a brother-in-law to me.

  • Please be assured that my prayers are already on the way. My dad served in the Royal Navy ,fleet air arm in WW II and got his flying training in the US in Lewiston ,Maine and Pensacola. So I have a particular affinity with and am grateful to the US navy Without whose help I might not have been born. I too served in the Royal Navy latterly with 3 Commando brigade , Royal Marines. Best job ever! I prayed to St Peregrine patron of cancer sufferers. I pray too that your faith will sustain you through these difficult times. AMDG.

  • Thank you, gentlemen.

    Right before the Walker recall election, I went to confession and told a young priest of my fears for my country and my state. (BTW, this priest is an interesting character – he was a college football star and was going to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns when he heard and obeyed the call to the priesthood. He is a very strictly orthodox priest. I’ll wager that very few make a transition from the gridiron to the priesthood. )

    He told me that that I should not put my faith in princes or politicians, but in the Lord. He told me faith is especially important during these trying times when the culture has become so debased and ugly.

    I am remembering his words now. It is a time of great trial for all of us, and a very difficult time personally. I appreciate your prayers very much.

  • James hughes, I know a (now retired) Marine who conducted joint training operations with the Royal Marines back in the 1980’s and his respect for them was very great. He said they were a crack outfit full of fine, dedicated men.