10 November 2011


Today is the 236th Birthday of the finest fighting force the world has ever known, with the possible exception of the XIII Legion in Gaul and Jackson's Brigade in the Valley. I speak of course, of the United States Marine Corps.

I was privileged to lead Marines in combat as a platoon commander and executive officer of Company C, First Battalion, Fifth Marines. Charlie Company was the successor to John Thomason's company of the Fifth Marines in Belleau Woods in France in 1918.

The Marines and Corpsmen of Charlie Company are always with me, especially Lucas, Zimmerman, Tews, Unfried, Phipps, Wandro and, of course, Chip--2d Lt Fred Andrew Hartman, USMC. Tonight, at sunset, I stood on my deck "at sunset and was silent, over Chilean wine, . . . thinking of those days and those men."

Semper Fidelis

No. 47 (Series 1921)
Washington, November 1, 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

Major General Commandant

The Leathernecks by Col John Thomason (Fix Bayonets!)


THEY tell the tale of an American lady of notable good works, much esteemed by the French, who, at the end of June, 1918, visited one of the field hospitals behind Degoutte’s Sixth French Army. Degoutte was fighting on the face of the Marne salient, and the 2d American Division, then in action around the Bois de Belleau, northeast of Chateau Thierry, was under his orders. It happened that occasional casualties of the Marine Brigade of the 2d American Division, wounded toward the flank where Degoutte’s own horizon-blue infantry joined on, were picked up by French stretcher-bearers and evacuated to French hospitals. And this lady, looking down a long, crowded ward, saw on a pillow a face unlike the fiercely whiskered Gallic heads there displayed in rows. She went to it.

“Oh,” she said, “surely you are an American!”

“No, ma’am,” the casualty answered. I’m a Marine.”

The men who marched up the Paris-Metz road to meet the Boche in the spring of 1918, the 5th and 6th Regiments of United States Marines, were gathered from various places. In the big war companies, 250 strong, you could find every sort of man, from every sort of calling. There were North-westerners with straw-colored hair that looked white against their tanned skins, and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them. There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle drawling voices. There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter. And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth. Their speech was flavored with navy words, and words culled from all the folk who live on the seas and the ports where our war-ships go. In easy hours their talk ran from the Tartar Wall beyond Peking to the Southern Islands down under Manila; from Portsmouth Navy Yard-New Hampshire and very cold-to obscure bush-whackings in the West Indies, where Cacao chiefs whimsically sanguinary, barefoot generals, with names like Charlemagne and Christophe, waged war according to the precepts of the French Revolution and the Cult of the Snake. They drank the eau de vie of Haute-Marne, and reminisced on sake, and vino, and Bacardi Rum-strange drinks in strange cantinas at the far ends of the earth; and they spoke fondly of Milwaukee beer. Rifles were high and holy things to them, and they knew five-inch broadside guns. They talked patronizingly of the war, and were concerned about rations. They were the Leathernecks, the Old Timers; collected from ship’s guards and shore stations all over the earth to form the 4th Brigade of Marines, the two rifle regiments detached from the Department of the Navy by order of the President for service with the American Expeditionary Forces. They were the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point to the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.

It is a pleasure to record that they found good company in the U. S. Army. The 2d Division (U. S. Regular was the official designation) was composed of the 9th and 23d Infantry, two old regiments with names from all of our wars on their battle-flags, the 2d Regiment of Engineers-and engineers are always good-and the 12th, 15th, and 17th Field Artillery. It was a division distinguished by the quality of dash and animated by an especial pride of service. It carried to a high degree esprit de corps, which some Frenchman has defined as esteeming your own corps and looking down on all the other corps. And although it paid heavily in casualties for the things it did-in five months about 100 per cent-the 2d Division never lost its professional character.

Seven years after, across the world from /France, I met a major of the American General Staff, who was on the Paris-Metz road that last week in May, 1918, and saw the Marine Brigade. “They looked fine, coming in there,” he said. “Tall fellows, healthy and fit-they looked hard and competent. We watched you going in, through those little tired Frenchmen, and we all felt better. We knew something was going to happen-“ and we were silent, over Chilean wine, in a place on the South Pacific, thinking of those days and those men.

There is no sight in all the pageant of war like young, trained men going up to battle. The columns look solid and businesslike. Each battalion is an entity, 1,200 men of one purpose. They go on like a river that flows very deep and strong. Uniforms are drab these days, but there are points of light on the helmets and the bayonets, and light in the quick, steady eyes and the brown young faces, greatly daring. There is no singing-veterans know, and they do not sing much-and there is no excitement at all; they are schooled crafts-men going up to impose their will, with the tools of their trade, on another lot of fellows; and there is nothing to make a fuss about. Battlefields are not salubrious places, and every file knows that a great many more are going in than will come out again-but that goes along with the job. And they have no illusions about the job.

There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight. And yet-such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division. All that is behind those men is in that column too: the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation-Brandywine and Trenton and Yorktown, San Jacinto and Chapultepec, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, El Caney; scores of skirmishes, far off, such as the Marines have nearly every year in which a man can be killed as dead as ever a chap in the Argonne; traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever; and the faith of men and the love of women; and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention-all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors. Common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.

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