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This Month In USMC History
1 October 1997:
The first African-American female colonel in the Marine Corps was promoted to that rank during a ceremony at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. Colonel Gilda A. Jackson, a native of Columbus, Ohio, made Marine Corps history when she achieved the rank of colonel. She was serving as Special Projects Officer, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing at the time of her promotion.

5 October 1775:
Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the 2d Continental Congress used the word "Marines" on one of the earliest known occasions, when it directed General George Washington to secure two vessels on "Continental risque and pay", and to give orders for the "proper encouragement to the Marines and seamen" to serve on the two armed ships.

6 October 1945:
Major General Keller E. Rockey, Commanding General, III Amphibious Corps, accepted the surrender of 50,000 Japanese troops in North China on behalf of the Chinese Nationalist government.

8 October 1889:
A force of 375 Marines under command of future Commandant George F. Elliott, attacked and captured the insurgent town of Novaleta, Luzon, Philippine Islands, and linked up with U.S. Army troops. There were 11 Marine casualties.

9 October 1917:
The 8th Marines was activated at Quantico, Virginia. Although the regiment would not see combat in Europe during World War I, the officers and enlisted men of the 8th Marines participated in operations against dissidents in Haiti for over five years during the 1920s. During World War II, the regiment was assigned to the 2d Marine Division and participated in combat operations on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Okinawa, and earned three Presidential Unit Citations.

11 October 1951:
A Marine battalion was flown by transport helicopters to a frontline combat position for the first time, when HMR-161 lifted the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, and its equipment, during Operation Bumblebee, northeast of Yanggu, Korea.

19 October 1968:
Operation Maui Peak, a combined regimental-sized operation which began on 6 October, ended 11 miles northwest of An Hoa, Vietnam. More than 300 enemy were killed in the 13-day operation.

23 October 1983:
At 0622 an explosive-laden truck slammed into the BLT headquarters building in Beirut, Lebanon, where more than 300 men were billeted. The massive explosion collapsed the building in seconds, and took the lives of 241 Americans--including 220 Marines. This was the highest loss of life in a single day for Marines since D-Day on Iwo Jima in 1945.

28 October 1962:
An 11,000-man 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade left Camp Pendleton by sea for the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis. One week earlier, the entire 189,000-man Marine Corps had been put on alert and elements of the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions were sent to Guantanamo Bay to reinforce the defenders of the U.S. Naval Base. Other 2d Division units and squadrons from five Marine Aircraft Groups were deployed at Key West, Florida, or in Caribbean waters during the Cuban crisis.

31 October 1919:
A patrol of Marines and gendarmes, led by Sergeant Herman H. Hanneken, disguised themselves as Cacos and entered the headquarters of the Haitian Caco Leader, Charlemagne Peralte, killing the bandit chief, and dispersing his followers. Sergeant Hanneken and Corporal William R. Button were each awarded the Medal of Honor.

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The Jeep Incident

The Jeep Incident

My unit was conducting a field operation on the big island of Hawaii. This was not an unusual occurrence. We were in the field at least four times a year for a minimum of one month to a maximum of three months. The longer field operations were normally when we went to 29 Palms for the combined arms exercises. This particular time we were at the Pohakolua Training Area or PTA. PTA was situated in the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. It is not the kind of place that you would expect to find in Hawaii. The terrain was much what you would expect to find on the surface of the moon. There were mostly lava rocks, lava dust, and scrub trees. It was a cool climate year round. The temperatures went from highs in the seventies to lows in the fifties. My unit normally lived in Quonset huts at the base camp. They were not insulated with concrete floors. The heads are basically eight seat outhouses. The shower facilities were very good though. There was a small PX, an E-Club, a pizza place, and a hamburger shop. We normally didn’t stay in the bush for more than a week or so while performing the actual missions that we were supposed to be mastering. On this particular field operation, we were to stay in a tent city the entire time we were there. Headquarters battery had just gotten a new commanding officer. Captain Sondheimer had come to us from the eleventh Marines out of Camp LeJuene. He was pretty much of a hard ass and did not suffer fools lightly. I assume that his idea of toughening up his Marines was to live in a tent city without the luxuries of the base camp. Looking back, it is hard to think of outhouses as a luxury but they sure were at that time.

Life in the tent city was different at best. While in the tents, you either froze or sweltered. There wasn’t much in between. Instead of the relative luxury of outhouses, the head facilities consisted of a wooden box with a hole in it over a fifty-five gallon drum cut down to about one foot tall. About two gallons of diesel fuel was poured into the cut off drum and it had to be burned twice a day. I can assure you that this was one of if not the most unpleasant tasks that I have ever had to do. Burning the shitters, as it was called, rotated from platoon to platoon on a daily basis. When it was our platoon’s day, the non-rate that was at the top of the Gunny’s list got the pleasure of burning the shitters. I had never before nor have I since smelled anything like that. There is no way to describe this, it has to be experienced. Needless to say, I ended up with the unenviable task on a fairly regular basis. Not that I was a shitbird, I just seemed to have a knack for pissing the Gunny off. We also didn’t have regular shower facilities in the tent city so we basically cleaned up and shaved in our steel pots. I suppose, in retrospect, that it did prepare us for some of the minor hardships that being in combat would bring. I am sure that you can’t simulate the terror of being in harm’s way on a daily basis but at least the day to day stuff would seem somewhat normal since we had already lived through that. We did have portable showers that ran once a week and it was quite a treat to get a hot shower. Usually, when we went to PTA, we could hop down to the pizza place or E-Club and catch a movie and toss down a few beers most nights. This time, however, we weren’t going to go to base camp for the entire operation.

Of course, we knew about this before we left Kaneohe. One of our buddies was in the supply section. Bird was born and raised about forty miles or so from me in Newton, Illinois. We had been buddies from the time that he got to Kaneohe. It seemed like you just gravitated to certain people in the Marine Corps. I can’t explain it. It just worked that way. Since Bird was in supply, he had access to the embarkation boxes. We managed to smuggle about ten bottles of Everclear into the tent city. This was probably not the smartest thing to do but we did it anyway. If you don’t know what Everclear is, it is super strong liquor that is 180 proof. In other words, it is ninety percent alcohol where Budweiser is six percent. Needless to say, this stuff will clear your sinuses and put you on your ass if you aren’t careful.

The normal day went like this. We would roll out of the rack about five thirty or six o’clock in the morning. That gave us about an hour for the three S’s (shit, shower, and shave) even though the shower consisted of a sponge bath in the ole steel pot. The chow truck would show up around six thirty to seven. Most days we got hot chow in the morning and evening unless we were working late and missed the evening truck. We had hot chow every morning except while the actual exercise was going on. Even though the menu was exactly the same every day, hot breakfast really hit the spot. The menu was scrambled eggs, biscuits, shit on a shingle, and hot coffee. It didn’t really matter what it was. It was hot and there was plenty of it. After morning chow, myself and the other drivers would head down to the truck corral and perform the daily check on the M-880. These were mid seventies Dodge pickup trucks. These were pretty much shit trucks. I am pretty sure that most of them had spent their entire lives in Hawaii. The Dodge trucks of that era were pretty bad to rust out and these were no exception. Being in Hawaii didn’t help that situation out at all. We would get replacement trucks before I got out of the Corps but I had to put up with the M-880 for most of my enlistment. As far as the drive train went, you could not stop these trucks. But, by the time that I came along, we had to wire the doors shut, we had plywood on the floor of the bed, and the windows went all the way to the bottom with one crank. These things had manual steering, an automatic three speed tranny, and no power brakes. In short, they were a bitch to drive but they never got stuck. The rest of the survey section would prepare the gear for the coming day. The standard load was survey stakes, witness stakes, and marking tape as far as supplies go. The equipment was a magnetic aiming circle, a T-16 theodolite, and surveyor’s chain. We had to make sure that all the gear was in top shape. You didn’t want to incur the wrath of the Gunny if you didn’t have your shit or it broke down. Each of the three survey teams had ten to fifteen firing points assigned to them each day. We were required to supply grid coordinates and an azimuth point for each. With this information, the firing batteries had a much better chance of a first shot hit. So, our job was pretty important in the grand scheme of the field artillery. Once we got our daily assignments, the survey party chief and driver would map out the route for the day, do a radio check, double check the gear once more, and head out. Around noon, we would stop wherever we were and eat lunch. The lunch meal was C rations for the first half of my enlistment and MREs the second half. I will say that I liked the C rations much better. I have recently eaten the latest version of the MRE and it is much better than the first ones. We were the guinea pigs and it appears that they actually took our criticism to heart and improved them greatly. We would normally head back to tent city and would have all the gear unloaded and the truck gassed up and put away about six or six thirty. The chow truck arrived around that time. You never really knew what to expect but it was always hot. The only constant at evening chow was the bug juice.

Bug juice is also commonly known as Kool Aid. The Marine Corps version was a little less flavorful. I really don’t know where the name came from. That was just the way that some things were. When the chow truck left, they would leave the bug juice for us and would pick up the container when they brought morning chow. After things quieted down, Bird, Bobby, Gator, and I would gather round the bug juice container and have a few cocktails. We usually didn’t get really drunk. We were in too close of quarters to flaunt the fact that we had booze. So, we took it pretty easy most nights. That is, until the night that we were down to the last bottle. We got pretty messed up that night. After we finished off the bottle, I was just drunk enough to suggest that we go on a booze run. I really wish that I could go back to that point in time and change that decision. Bird and Gator begged off and headed to bed. Bobby and I were raring to go so we went to the motor pool and found a jeep with gas in it. It was a blessed wonder that we didn’t blow ourselves up in the process of selecting a jeep. The gas tanks were fitted with a filler hole that was about five inches across. We were striking a Bic lighter to see if there was gas in it. A few inches closer and there would have been a huge fireball and a couple of crispy Jarheads. Anyway, we found a jeep that was full. Bobby pushed and I steered away from tent city. Once we got to the road, we cranked it up and headed down to Kailua. That’s when all the fun began.

The road that split the island in two was called Saddle road. I assume that it was called that because it went right through the saddle of the two mountains. It was built at the beginning of World War II when the Army and Marine Corps started using this area for training. It was built flat with very sharp curves to prevent an enemy quick access to the training areas and give the defenders as much time as possible to get ready in case of an attack. That said driving this road at night, in excess of the posted speed limit, and intoxicated was pretty much a dangerous pursuit. The M151A1 jeep was equipped with a governor. Even though it was governed, top speed was still about sixty or sixty-five. Most of the curves on this road were posted at about twenty-five or thirty miles an hour. Bobby and I had traveled ten miles or so. We skidded or bunny hopped around most of the curves. Finally, our luck ran out. As we bunny hopped around one curve, headlights appeared at the other end of the curve. I slammed the brakes and attempted to swerve out of the way. I didn’t get out of the way and all I could see was sparks where the two vehicles were making contact. There was a loud bang and then the sound of metal contacting the pavement. All of a sudden, I was flying through the air and I landed flat on my back with a thud and all the air escaping my body. I heard what I thought was the jeep flying towards me. I instinctively put my left hand up to keep it from smashing me. I don’t know if I actually kept the jeep off of me but I definitely made contact with it. I later learned that I had severely torn my rotator cuff. After the jeep rolled over me, I heard it roll a few more times and come to a stop. I hopped up and ran toward it shouting my buddy’s name. He didn’t answer and I kept shouting it out over and over. I got to the jeep and it was on its top. The only roll protection that this vehicle had was the windshield. It was flat and I couldn’t find Bobby anywhere. I kept shouting. I finally heard a faint voice calling my name back. I ran out into the field where I heard the voice. I knew that it was Bobby and I was very happy that he was alive. He had flown about sixty or seventy feet. I didn’t know if he was hurt at that time and when I got to him, he was pretty much in one piece. He only had bumps, bruises, and scrapes. My neck and back muscles were strained and my shoulder was hurting like hell. It was a wonder that we had survived. Those vehicles didn’t have much safety equipment. There were no seat belts, no air bags, and no roll bars. We got back up to the road hoping that no one was seriously hurt in the other vehicle.

When we got back up to the road, we were relieved to find out that, in fact, no one was seriously injured. They were understandably shaky and pissed off. Come to find out, they were on the big island on a church retreat. I guess that we kind of fucked up their vacation. Cell phones weren’t too common back then. So, we waited for someone to come along and had them call an ambulance and the police. We were taken by ambulance down to Kailua. There was a three-bed hospital there and we were looked at and kept over night. Neither of us had life threatening injuries but we both had plenty of bumps and bruises not to mention a pretty wicked hang over. The next morning, our warrant officer, CWO4 Terpstra came to get us. His normal driver, LCpl Meyers, drove him. Meyers was a big ugly fat fucker, which is probably how he earned the knick name B.U.F.F. I still to this day do not know how he made it through boot camp. He had to be at least twenty-five pounds overweight, he had little if any military bearing, and his uniforms were always unsatisfactory. Add to all this that he had a few college classes and he thought that he knew absolutely everything. We called him “The Professor” until we figured out that he actually liked the name. What a dick! I’d like to run into him now and punch that fucked up smirk off of his face. Anyway, the Gunner signed us out of the hospital and made arrangements for them to get paid. Somehow, they never did get paid and I was sued for unpaid services rendered about ten years later. We got back to tent city an hour or so later. Everyone in the battalion and probably regiment knew what had happened already. That had to be one of the most uncomfortable times in my life. The only guys that really didn’t fuck with me were Gator and Bubba. They were always good friends and they proved it once more.

The next day, we went back to the scene of the accident. It had all been a blur the night before. It all happened so quickly and it was quite dark. In the glare of the day, I actually had a shiver thinking how close we were to buying the farm. We stopped at the top of the curve in the direction that I was traveling. The Gunner was taking pictures and Meyers was writing down all that he said. Thinking back, it was a little fucked up that my OIC had to be the one to conduct the investigation and proffer charges to the CO. I was fortunate that Gunner Terpstra was an honorable man to a fault. I don’t think that anyone else on the face of the earth would have conducted a more thorough and fair investigation. Anyway, as we walked into the curve, you could see skid marks the width of the jeep’s wheels and about a foot long. They were spaced about three feet apart. I am sure that this was a direct result of the bunny hopping. After about four sets of the bunny hop marks, there was a solid deceleration skid about ten feet long. By the position of the tire marks, we were completely on the wrong side of the road when I attempted to avoid the oncoming vehicle. At the end of the skid marks there was a black mark and a chunk of pavement missing from the road. This was about one foot by one foot. What had happened was that the right front wheel of the jeep had been torn from its attachment and the bumper dug into the side of the van. I saw the van later and it had a hole ripped all the way down the side about eight inches wide. The right rear tire of the van was smashed to half its original size. It appeared that the impact with the rear tire stopped the van in its place and I am sure that it gave the passengers a good jolt. About three or four feet beyond the chunk made by the van tire was another spot where the pavement was missing. When the jeep came off the van, there was no right front tire so the bumper went straight to the road and literally pole vaulted the jeep over forward. I remember being thrust forward and flying out the driver’s door opening (there weren’t any doors on the jeep). Bobby must have flown over on the first roll. I found him to the left of the vehicle in the cow pasture about sixty or seventy feet from the road. I am still not sure how he managed to get out there. In the daylight, you could see the lava rocks sticking up in the pasture. It’s a wonder the Bobby didn’t hit one and crack his skull open. After the jeep started flipping end over end, it continued down the road in pretty much a straight line. By counting the marks on the road and shoulder, we surmised that it fully flipped over six times. Halfway through the seventh flip, it apparently briefly stopped on its nose, pirouetted, and fell on its top.

The investigation was pretty straightforward. The next step was to proffer charges and then the CO would decide what to do as far as punishment.

Submitted by Squadbay member ccoale

Marine Of The Month

Lance Cpl. James M. Gluff

20, of Tunnel Hill, Ga.; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Jan. 19 in Ramadi, Iraq, while conducting combat operations.


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