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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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Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers
Navajo Code Talkers in World War IIThe Marine Corps’ Navajo Code Talker Program was established in September 1942 as the result of a recommendation made the previous February by Mr. Philip Johnston to Major General Clayton B. Vogel, USMC, Commanding General, Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, whose headquarters was at Camp Elliott, California. Mr. Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajo tribe, was fluent in the language, having lived among the Navajos for 24 years. He believed that the use by the Marine Corps of Navajo as a code language in voice (radio and wire) transmission could guarantee communications security.

Mr. Johnston’s rationale for this belief was that Navajo is an unwritten language and completely unintelligible to anyone except another Navajo and that it is a rich, fluent language for which code words, in Navajo, could be devised for specialized military terms, such as the Navajo word for “turtle” to represent a tank. With the cooperation of four Navajos residing in the Los Angeles area, and another who was already on active naval service in San Diego, Mr. Johnston presented a demonstration of his theory to General Vogel and his staff at Camp Elliott on 28 February 1942. Marine staff officers composed simulated field combat messages which were handed to a Navajo, who then translated it into tribal dialect and transmitted it to another Navajo on the other end of the line. The second Indian then translated it back into perfect English and in the same form which had been provided originally. The demonstration proved entirely successful, and as a result, General Vogel recommended the recruitment into the Marine Corps of at least 200 Navajos for the code talker program. As a footnote, tests in the Pacific under combat conditions proved that classified messages could be translated into Navajo, transmitted, received, and translated back into English quicker than messages which were encoded, transmitted, and decoded employing conventional cryptographic facilities and techniques.

With the Commandant’s approval, recruitment began in May 1942. Each Navajo recruit underwent basic boot camp training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego before assignment to the Field Signal Battalion, Training Center at Camp Pendleton. It should be noted that, at the outset, the entire Navajo code talker project was highly classified and there is no indication that any message traffic in the Navajo language- - while undoubtedly intercepted - - was ever deciphered.

Initially, the course at Camp Pendleton consisted of training in basic communications procedures and equipment. At the same time, the 29 Navajos comprising the first group recruited devised Navajo words for military terms which were not part of their language. Alternate terms were provided in the code for letters frequently repeated in the English language. To compound the difficulty of the program, all code talkers had to memorize both the primary and alternate code terms, for while much of the basic material was printed for use in training, the utmost observance of security precautions curtailed the use of the printed material in a combat situation.

Once the code talkers completed training in the States, they were sent to the Pacific for assignment to the Marine combat divisions. In May 1943, in response to a request for a report on the subject, the various division commanders reported to the Commandant that excellent results had been achieved to date in the employment of Navajo code talkers in training and combat situations, and that they had performed in a highly commendable fashion. This high degree of praise concerning the Navajos’ performances prevailed throughout the war and came from commanders at all levels.

Although recruitment of the Navajos was comparatively slow at the time the program was first established, Marine recruiting teams were sent to the Navajo territory and a central recruitment office was set up at Fort Wingate, New Mexico. By August 1943, a total of 191 Navajos had joined the Marine Corps for this specific program. Estimates have placed the total number of Navajos in the code talker program variously between 37 and 420 individuals. It is known that many more Navajos volunteered to become code talkers than could be accepted; however, an undetermined number of other Navajos served as Marines, in the war, but not as code talkers.

The unique achievements of the Navajo Code Talkers constitute a proud chapter in the history of the United States Marine Corps. Their patriotism, resourcefulness, and courage have earned them the gratitude of all Americans.

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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