Chapter 3-4 (1959-1963) Marine Corps Years
Chapter 5 – Military Service- The United States Marine Corps
In January 1959, six of us entered the U.S. Marine Corps under the delayed enlistment program, since we were seniors in high school. The six were Gary E. Stevens, Bryce E. Kater, Robert L. Everly, George G. Thompson, Jr., Carlton Bruce Phelps, and me.
Our Recruiter – SSgt Beckett
On 3 June 1959, we Marine recruits left for Cleveland, Ohio by train, where we took our physicals and were issued orders. We stayed overnight in Cleveland and the next day left by train for Parris Island. We were looking forward to arriving. We had a layover in Washington D.C. It was the first that any of us had been in the Capitol and we went sightseeing.
We arrived in Yemassee, South Carolina on the night of the 5thof June. It was raining and we got our first taste of Marine Corps Discipline. As we got off the train an MP met us and made us run to a barracks nearby. That night I stood my first ”Fire Watch.” I was awakened at 4:30 A.M. to stand watch. At 5:30 reveille was held. After cleaning up and scrubbing the deck (Marine Corps language for the floor), we proceeded by bus to Parris Island.
If you have ever seen a movie describing Marine Boot Camp, it is probably true. If anything, it might be understated. I cannot describe the absolute terror that grips most Marine recruits, at least for the first couple of weeks. We were taken from the bus to a receiving station. We stood in a long line, and when we got to the desk, a Corporal took the orders, and after a few minutes, our names were called. We were required to supply our religion, Social Security Number, state of birth, and date of birth. Dog tags were then prepared and issued. When he asked my religion, my Mom always said I was a Mormon. I had been baptized at age 11, but when we moved to the farm, we stopped going to church. The only time I attended any church was when a girlfriend asked me to go with her. When I said “Mormon”, the Marine Corporal said, “Ok, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. I said, “No, Mormon.” He then explained that this was the name of my church. I had no idea!
We were then taken to a building and we had to take all of our civilian clothing and any personal effects and package them in a bundle and address the bundle to our parents. This included our underwear and wallets, watches, and any jewelry. We were then sent into a shower. From there we were issued our clothing and were told to put on underwear. We then marched through a shot-line where we received several immunizations. From there we sat in chairs and our heads were shaved. Then dentists checked our teeth, and our dental and medical records were prepared.
We were then taken to the Classification Building where we filled out even more paperwork and were issued cash so we could go to the BX.
I was assigned to the Second Battalion, Platoon 233, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. We were then assigned to a platoon and the Drill Instructors (DI’s) gathered their platoons.
My Drill Instructors
We were given cash – an advance on our first month’s pay and taken to the PX where we bought hygiene supplies; soap, shaving cream, razor, toothbrush, and toothpaste. For some reason, everyone was required to buy a carton of cigarettes whether we smoked or not. We were even told the brand. This seemed really odd until we arrived at our barracks and were required to turn in the cigarettes to the drill instructors. For some strange reason, the brands we bought were what our drill instructors smoked!
We then went to our first meal in the chow hall. Mealtime was a welcome time. We marched in, went through a line and received our food on metal trays, then marched to a table. We stood at attention, while the DI read a prayer, then we sat and ate. The food was actually very good and nutritious. For some Marines, it was probably better than they ate at home.
Parris Island – Chow Time
This was a point in my life when I learned how to accept responsibility and respect authority. I also learned how to be a Marine and how to wear my clothing without looking sloppy. We were taught how to talk, walk, and think. This is something that has always stayed with me.
The next day, we were issued our rifles and combat gear.
Parris Island – Rifle Issue
Then the day began. This is a typical schedule: Bugle calls are in red (better than watching the clock!)
6:15 a.m. Off to latrine for a shower, shave, etc. Make bed
6:25 a.m. Assembly– Fall out for Colors
6:30 a.m. Morning Colors– Raise the Flag – Calisthenics
7:00 a.m. Mess Call– Breakfast
8:00 a.m. Two-mile run
9:00: a.m. Drill Call- Close order drill
10:00 a.m. School- Classroom Instruction
11:30 a.m. Mess Call– Call Lunch
12.30 p.m. Wash Clothing. Clean barracks
2:00 p.m. Gym for combat training. Swimming instruction
4:00 p.m. Classroom instruction
5:00 p.m. Drill Call- Close order drill and inspection
6:00 p.m. Mess Call– Dinner
7:00 p.m. Retreat– Flag is lowered
7:30 p.m. Clean shoes and equipment
8:15 p.m. Mail Call– Mail, DI time. Clean weapon
9:00 p.m. Free time, Write and read letters, shine shoes
9:50 p.m. Tattoo – Get ready for bed
10:00 p.m. Taps– Lights out
This was not every day. There were days when we were on the rifle range, or taking long hikes. There were days when we prepared for inspection, then had a major inspection of equipment and weapons. There were days for immunizations and physicals. We had days where we took tests or prepared forms requesting particular duty assignments following basic.
Parris Island – Cleaning and Inspection
I did not mind the classroom instruction. We learned military customs and history. It was interesting. We had to memorize a lot of information and know significant events and persons in Marine Corps history. For instance, the Marine Corps was founded on November 10, 1775, and is part of the Department of the Navy. We learned that the first amphibious assault was in the Bahamas in 1776. We had to know about the Battle of Tripoli, under Captain Presley O’Bannon, against the Barbary Pirates in Derne Harbor in 1805, the first time the United States flag was raised over foreign soil. We studied the Battle of Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City in 1847 during the Spanish-American war. This battle was so bloody that it is commemorated by the red stripe on the legs of the dress blue trousers worn by Marines. We studied the battle of Belleau Wood in 1918 in World War I. This battle, until Tarawa in World War II, had the most Marine casualties in history. Belleau Wood was of tactical advantage and the Marines had to cross an open wheat field that was swept by German Machine Guns. The Marines secured the objective, and this offensive ended the last major German offensive in WWI. At Belleau Wood, the enemy called by the Marines Devil Dogs. From this came the typical Marine bulldog tattoo. We studied World War II and the many Marine battles in the Pacific Islands, including Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings, and supporting troops. The war cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor. We learned about past heroes such as Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Burwell Puller, one of the most decorated Marines in the Corps, and the only Leatherneck ever to win the Navy Cross five times for heroism and gallantry in action. I loved history and absorbed every detail with fascination. I finished top of my platoon on the final exams.
Since most of Marine’s time is not spent in combat, he has to keep busy. So, cleanup details, KP, and guard duty take up his time. A Marine must also be able to protect himself, so we learned Judo, Bayonet and Knife fighting, and other combat techniques.
Parris Island – Physical Instruction
Morning and afternoon instruction in how to do left face, right face, about-face, salute, port arms, at ease, inspection arms, and all the myriad techniques for marching, inspections, and parades were constantly reinforced.
Parris Island – Final Inspection and Graduation
Since guard duty is so common, there were rules to follow. The following is a quote from my Basic Training Manual:
“The eleven General Orders for sentries never change. They constitute the unyielding bedrock upon which Marines enforce military security in the United States and throughout the world. General Orders dictate the conduct of all Marines on guard duty. These orders apply to all Marines at all bases and outposts in time of peace, and in time of war.
Marine recruits in boot camp must memorize these General Orders. Woe be unto the unfortunate recruit who cannot shout out, verbatim and without hesitation, all eleven of them. Such a recruit will incur a firestorm of wrath from his Drill Instructor. There is sound logic for this rigid training. The eleven General Orders will guide each Marine throughout his years in the Corps:
2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on then alert and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guardhouse than my own.
5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
6. To receive, obey, and pass on the sentry who relieves me, all orders from the commanding officer, officer of the day, and officers and noncommissioned officers of the guard only.
7. To talk to no one except in line of duty.
8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
9. To call the corporal of the guard in any case not covered by instructions.
10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
11. To be especially watchful at night and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.”
Our Drill instructor figured 11 General Orders were not enough, so he added another.
12. Make (censured) sure, you don’t forget the other 11!
As Marines, we added our own general orders (which we didn’t share with the DI), such as “To sit my &%$ on a bale of hay and shoot the &*^% with the Officer of the Day.”
.30 cal M-1 Garand Rifle with Bayonet – 8 round clip
The rifle range was great. We learned to shoot the .30-cal M-1 Garand Rifle. To qualify, we shot 8 rounds standing at 100 yards; then 8 rounds kneeling at 250 yards; then 8 rounds sitting at 250 yards; and finally, 8 rounds prone at 500 yards. You had to adjust the rifle for windage and elevation. The bullseye is the size of a dinner plate and at 500 yards looks like just a dot. I qualified as a sharpshooter. With the .45-cal automatic pistol. I qualified as a marksman.
Rifle Range – Prone at 500 yards
We did a lot of marching and close order drill. I actually liked this part. I had been in the high school band, and was never subjected to the DI yelling “Your other left, stupid!” Learning to do the marching commands such as left and right face, and about-face and rifle commands such as right and left-shoulder arms were fun. This was one of the few times that I was praised during basic. The only time that I ever had problems was when the DI would pick a very tall person to be a squad leader. This meant that he was at the front of the marching column. A stride length is 40 inches, with 60 steps per minute count, and a 30-inch distance maintained between columns. Some of these tall guys were not good at maintaining 40 inches and before long the stride would stretch to 46 or 48 inches. For those of us whose bottoms were built close to the ground, this was too long of a stretch and caused us to tire quickly and we would start complaining. We liked it when a person of more moderate height led the column. We all took turns as squad leaders; the idea was to get to the point where the distances became a habit and no longer a conscious routine. I reached that point and even today could march at a perfect 40-inch stride at 60 steps per minute if my arthritis would permit. You can often spot former Marines or Soldiers by the way they walk. They stride and if there are two of them, they most likely will be in step. Sometimes we would take longer hikes. During these, the habit is to sing. This helps keep marching rhythm and speed and takes your mind off the time and distance.
These songs will be familiar to anyone who has been in the military. The songs were often sung much like sea shanties. One person would sing a line, and the rest of the platoon would respond. Many of these songs had bawdy lyrics that can’t be written here. Examples:
I don’t know but I’ve been told – (Response: Babe, Babe)
I don’t know but I’ve told
Eskimo women are mighty cold (Response: Honey, oh Baby Mine)
Our DI is turning green
Our DI is turning green
Somebody took a …(leak) in his canteen
How in the “heck” would I know,
I’ve never slept in mine
I don’t want no more of the U.S. Marines
I just want to go home.
But I’m a *&^% private
And I’ve been in over nine.
I don’t want no more of the U.S. Marines
I just want to go home.
These hikes, though strenuous were never dangerous. In 1956, a Drill Instructor had taken his platoon on a night hike through the swamps. Six recruits were drowned and the Marine Corps had really cracked down on what was permissible.
Parris Island – Learning to pitch pup tent
In 1950, the old rocks and shoals justice system had been replaced by the new Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that codified both violations and permitted discipline. The rocks and shoals system of military justice meant that both the crime and the punishment rested entirely in the court. The UCMJ was implemented under the direction of the 81st Congress to eliminate improprieties in military justice, and H.R. 4080 revised the Articles of War that had been in effect since 1812. When I entered the Marines, corporal punishment still existed and I was hit on more than one occasion by a “Swagger Stick,” the stick that DI’s carried. Corporal punishment is now forbidden in all branches of the military.
I actually enjoyed the obstacle course. We climbed 10-foot walls, swam through muddy swamps, walked hand-over-hand on ropes over ponds, climbed 30-foot structures, crawled under barbed wire while machine guns fired rounds 30 inches over our heads, and other fun activities.
Parris Island Obstacle Course – The Slide for Life
We did the obstacle course on several occasions. Once we had to go down the
Slide for Life with full pack and rifle. This was an extra 70 pounds of weight. Of course, no one wanted to fall into the water while carrying equipment. I was about halfway down about 10 feet above the water when the drill instructor in charge of the obstacle course yelled “Private Penry, Attention!” I immediately came to attention and fell into the muddy water. My drill instructor praised me in front of the platoon for following orders without hesitation. He dismissed me and had me taken back to the barracks in a jeep. The platoon came in later. By this time, I had showered and changed and was sitting cleaning my muddy rifle. The drill instructor asked me for my rifle and then took it and cleaned it himself because of my obeying orders. Pretty cool!
I liked DI time in the evenings. The DI shared “war stories” and this was the only time we could actually discuss things with our DI’s. We had more than one DI. We had a senior DI, Gunny Snyder. I really disliked him. He had to be one of the meanest people I have ever met. He looked mean and acted mean. Our other DI’s were either Sergeants or Staff Sergeants and they were OK. I have a feeling that the DI’s played the “Good Cop, Bad Cop” routine with us. Much of our training was as much psychological as physical. Basic was rough, with the constant shouting. The training concept was to break down our will so that we would blindly obey authority. Generally, this worked. For some of these who had stronger feelings of identity and did not want to be part of the nameless mass, adapting was difficult and we were the ones who were always doing pushups for questioning authority. The worst part was simply homesickness. Two years later, I was the duty sergeant one evening in Quantico, Virginia, when GSgt Snyder reported in for duty. He was an entirely different person than in boot camp.
Physical training was hard but it was also fun at times. I liked the platoon competitions in a tug of war. We did chin-ups and sit-ups and used our rifles like barbells. This doesn’t sound too bad, but try lifting a 17.5 lb rifle over your head for 20 minutes. We also were issued buckets. These were used when we did our laundry, but by filling them with sand, we also used them as weights. Competitions against other platoons gave us a chance to show how we had grown.
Parris Island – Physical Competition
On Sunday, we attended religious services. The Catholic and Protestant recruits were marched to their respective chapels. As an LDS serviceman, I was able to walk to meetings on my own. We met in one of the chapel offices. There weren’t many of us, and since my family had been inactive since I was twelve, I didn’t understand what was said and didn’t really care at the time. I went to services because it was a way to get away and have a little freedom.
While in basic training, a very embarrassing incident happened, one that still makes me angry. I have always been red-green colorblind. One of the curses of this condition is that I cannot see rust. During an inspection, a spot of rust was found on the trigger guard of my rifle, even though I religiously cleaned it every night. I could not make the Lieutenant (who was Officer of the Day) understand that I could not see the rust, and I received a Summary Court Martial. The Captain who interviewed me told me that he was my defense attorney and asked me what happened? After I explained, he informed me that he was also the prosecutor and judge and that I was going to the brig for ten days. I spent seven days and was released for good behavior. After my time in the brig, I was reassigned to another platoon for the last few weeks of training. I found this time to be enjoyable and the DI’s were a much more easy-going crew than the first. Later on, I learned that I could have appealed my sentence based on my disability or demanded an attorney, but I was young and immature. I realize today, that I should not have accepted the sentence.
Finally, the big day arrived; we graduated and headed out on the bus to advanced infantry training and then home on leave.
Parris Island – Graduation and heading to Advanced Infantry Training
After leaving Parris Island, I attended Advanced Infantry Training at Monford Point, North Carolina. This training consisted of learning to fire the Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.) and .30 and .50 caliber machine guns. We had additional instruction in hand-to-hand combat with bayonet and knife.
While at AIT prior to receiving orders to my duty station, we deployed for Amphibious Training. We traveled on trucks (6-packs) to Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia, where we boarded an Armored Personnel Attack ship (APA), the USS Chilton. We then sailed into the Atlantic and anchored off North Carolina and practiced going down nets into Mike and Peter Boats and then landing on the beaches. We then reboarded the Mike boats and transferred to an LST, the USS Wood County, where we moved out into the Atlantic and learned to stand watch and man the battle stations. I was assigned to a .50 Cal Machine Gun mounted on the stern. We were supposed to go to Puerto Rico and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But, while off Cape Hatteras, we were caught in a tropical storm. For a while, it looked as if we might lose the ship. A crane broke loose and did considerable damage to vehicles and cargo and was banging against the hull. A group of Seabees went below and managed to lasso the crane with cables and secure it. The LST then came up to the beach and we disembarked and the LST headed back to Norfolk.
APA USS Chilton and LST USS Wood County
Heading for Amphibious Landing Training
After AIT, I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. My original assignment was as an artilleryman and I was to begin training on the 180 mm howitzer. However, the Marine Corps and the Navy were in the process of converting the manual pay system (up to this point, all military payroll was cash) to checks. Because I could type, I was reassigned to a new MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) as a Disbursing Clerk. The name of the organization was Service Co., Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force. Most of my free time was spent playing pool in the company recreation room, taking in movies at the base theater, or canoeing on Onslow Creek. I also spent some evenings roller-skating in Jacksonville, particularly on weekends.
When I first entered the disbursing unit, we were still doing manual pay. This meant that we went to a bank with an armored truck and picked up the payroll the day prior to payday, sorted it by unit, and then guarded it through the night. The amount of money was considerable since payday was once a month and we were paying several thousand military personnel. Early in the morning of payday, the payroll officers and clerks from the various military units came to our office. We had already calculated the amounts to be paid each serviceman and had pay rosters with the member’s name, service number, and amount. These were footed and totaled. We counted out the necessary money and the payroll officer signed for it and accompanied by guards went back to the units to make the payment. The servicemen lined up (Officers first of course) and showed their ID cards to the payroll officer, who disbursed the funds. Each payment contained several two-dollar bills. By monitoring the flow of two-dollar bills through the local economy, we were able to measure the economic impact of the base on the community. Once we made the transition to checks, unit-level payroll personnel were no longer needed. These were rotated into the main disbursing officer or reassigned to new duties. I operated the addressograph machine in the Disbursing Office. This machine put names on payrolls and checks. I also computed pay records. In order to prepare checks and post records, each Marine and Sailor that we paid had to have a metal plate prepared. This plate contained the name, and service number, of the serviceman or servicewoman. A big bulky punch machine that had a typewriter keyboard embossed the plate. You had to type very slowly because if you went too fast, the keys jammed. At that time, every member of the military was issued a service number. Today, the service number is also the individual’s Social Security Number. However, with the theft of computer information from the VA in 2006, and because of the great problem of identity theft, the military is discussing going back to service numbers, and maintaining the Social Security Number only in the finance offices for issuance of W-2’s. My Service Number was 1867002. After embossing the plate that was about the same length, but about half the width of a credit card, I took the plate and laid it on an inked, flat surface, and printed a paper label from the plate. I then examined the paper, which was easier to read than embossed metal. If correct, I took both the label and the metal plate and put them in a special frame. The frame was metal and was about the size of a credit card. These frames were then placed in trays in numerical order by Service Number.
Several days before payday, I would take these trays of plates, and mount them one at a time onto a rack fastened to the back of an Addressograph machine. On the right was a bin holding a stack of blank checks. On the left was a bin to catch checks. By pressing a foot pedal, a plate was moved from the tray onto the surface of my Addressograph Machine, kind of like the way a slide projector works, over an ink roller. Then a blast of air blew a check from the bin on the right onto the surface where it hit a stop over the plate. I then pressed the pedal a second time, and a pressure plate descended onto the check and printed the name and service number from the check plate onto the check. I pressed the pedal a third time, the stop descended, a blast of air blew the check into the left bin and the plate was moved into another tray. Once this process was completed for the fifty plates in the tray, the new tray was full. I laid it aside on a processed cart, obtained a new tray, and repeated the process. I did this until all checks were printed. The printed checks were then taken by another team and placed with the serviceman’s pay card into a special typewriter. The Marine working this typewriter typed in the amount to be paid. A verifying Marine checked the input and if correct, pressed a switch that typed the amount on the check and posted the pay card. The checks were then distributed to units for delivery. Checks were not mailed unless the serviceman was overseas or on leave and had left instructions for the check to be mailed. Direct deposit did not exist until several years later.
For this process to work efficiently, it was imperative that all pay cards and trays of plates had to be in perfect numeric order. Between paydays, our time was spent in pulling plates for service personnel being transferred or discharged and preparing and filing plates, trays, and cards. This was a full-time job for the staff. I don’t recall how many of us were in disbursing, but the unit occupied two one-story buildings about 30 by 90 feet each and these were divided into offices and work areas. I am guessing that the total staff was close to fifty personnel.
At Christmas time, 1959, the Disbursing Center (Military for Bank) had to be guarded. Since I was a Private First Class, I was at the bottom of the totem pole for seniority. I had to delay going home until New Years’. The entire base was empty and there were four of us, three Privates First Class, and one Lance Corporal guarding the two buildings. Two of us slept in each building, and one person could go to eat at a time from each building. It was extremely boring. After a couple of days, the Coke machine had run out, and we had no cigarettes. It was three days before payday and we were all broke. One of us, I think it was me, had a pipe, so we went around the buildings, getting cigarette butts out of the ash containers, shredding them for tobacco to smoke in the pipe. Today, that seems so gross. This shows just how addicting tobacco can be. One evening to amuse ourselves, we decided to see who was the fastest draw. We took the clips out of our pistols and took turns at a fast draw. One person would say “draw” and the other three would have to draw. We did this for a couple of hours until bedtime. One of our group, (last names are being omitted to protect the guilty) Mike started to go back to his building. He put his clip back in his pistol and started out the door. Roy yelled, “Draw,” and poor Mike whirled around without thinking, drew, and shot Roy right in the shin. He then panicked and forgot that another round automatically chambered, and squeezed it off. The round ricocheted and hit the side of my foot, barely grazing it, and blew off half the sole of my boot. At that point, Mike dropped his gun and started crying. We all calmed him down and decided that we had better get our stories straight or we were all going to jail. There was no way that Mike could get completely off the hook since Roy was bleeding from the shin and both he and I had our boots blown apart and the MP’s had heard the shots. So, we all worked up a story. Mike was getting ready to go to bed and instead of pulling back the slide, checking the chamber, squeezing the trigger, and inserting the clip, put in the clip first and accidentally fired his weapon again forgetting about the automatic chambering of the round. He was a PFC. They investigated and found that he had not been properly instructed in the use of the weapon and just busted him to private and fined him the cost of the two rounds. He got his stripe back the next month. Roy’s wound wasn’t too severe. The round was steel-jacketed and hit the shinbone, glanced off, and exited the side of his leg. They were able to clean the wound and just bandage it. He and I were issued new boots. Roy limped around for a while and made a big deal out of his “war wound.” Poor Mike became the butt of the jokes of course.
Guard Duty – Disbursing Building in background
So, New Year’s came around and I hitchhiked home. It was New Year’s Eve and a snowstorm was raging, when two of us hitchhiking were dropped off in the little town of Ripley, Ohio. It was cold and the possibility of making it home the last 100 miles seemed remote. We were standing along the road in our Marine uniforms, when up drove the sheriff and said, “You boys won’t make it out tonight, get in.” He took us down to the local American Legion where a New Year’s Eve party was going on. They fed and kept us supplied in beverages and dances the whole evening. They refused to let us pay for anything. They found us lodging for the night, and the next morning, we made it home. These were the days when a man in uniform was considered a hero.
While at Camp Lejeune, I dated the Battalion Commander’s daughter. The thought of his daughter dating a private didn’t sit well with the Colonel, but she was headstrong. She almost got me into very hot water. Maneuvers were being conducted at Onslow Beach, between the Army from Fort Bragg and the Marines from Camp Lejeune. Since Onslow Beach was part of the base recreation area, there were cabanas that could be used for recreation at the beach. My job was to guard these cabanas. I wasn’t part of the maneuvers, but because of so many troops being present, we were not assigned ammunition for our guard weapons. One day, I was walking my post, when I saw the Battalion Commander’s car coming up the road. I saluted, but instead of the commander, it was my girlfriend. She wasn’t allowed in the maneuver area, but who was going to stop the Battalion Commander’s vehicle? At any event, she had brought me a nice cold Coke. So there I was, my rifle leaning against the porch rail, drinking my Coke, talking to a pretty young lady, when who should come round the corner, but the Officer of the Day! Oh my! I knew I was on my way to the guardhouse, but my girlfriend informed the Second Lieutenant who her daddy was, and suggested he continue on his way. They say that discretion is the better part of valor, and the poor lieutenant turned around and never mentioned the incident. However, I did get more than my share of guard duty for several weeks.
As the maneuvers continued two very funny incidents occurred. The first occurred on the fishing pier. I was walking a post on the pier, which had a tackle shop when a jeep raced up. A Colonel Johnson came up to me and told me if the General came by to let him know that he (Colonel Johnson) had taken his forces to Red Beach. About 10 minutes later, a three-star Marine General yelled to me. “If Colonel Johnson comes by, tell him that whatever he does, don’t go Red Beach, it has been captured!”
Onslow Beach, North Carolina – Pier and Beach Cabana
The second incident happened late at night. To identify ourselves as beach patrol, we wore white armbands. When I started out on patrol that night, we were short armbands. I was sent anyway to guard a storage shed containing rations. I was walking around the building and had just turned the corner when I bumped into an Army Patrol. I told them that they were trespassing in a restricted area, and I was on beach patrol. They said “Yeh, right. Where is your armband?” Well, since I had neither ammo nor armband, they took me captive. I was taken to a POW camp, stripped to my undershorts, and put in a compound. In the meantime, I was missing from my post and reported AWOL. After two days of sitting in the compound, I spotted a beach patrol jeep, and the Sergeant of the Guard was driving. I jumped up and started yelling like crazy. He spotted me, rescued me, and took me back to the guard shack. Everything got straightened out and everyone had a great laugh at my expense.
Onslow Beach – Maneuvers – Marines vs Army
After the guard duty, I was sent back to my unit. Once the disbursing conversion was completed, the manning needs for payroll changed and since the conversion was completed in the Disbursing Office, I worked as a Company Clerk. This involved making duty rosters, preparing passes, cleaning the office, and preparing correspondence for the Company Commander (Think Radar O’Reilly). One day, we received word that there were transfers available to Quantico, Virginia. I elected the reassignment and was transferred in July 1960.
Upon arrival at Quantico, I was assigned to Casual Company, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Schools. I had several interesting jobs while there. For a time, I was a curator at the Marine Corps Museum. I cataloged and cleaned exhibits. I was then assigned as a receptionist at Marine Corps Schools Headquarters. Just outside the building was a helicopter pad. My duty was to greet VIPs and escort them to the General. I escorted many congressmen and military leaders from around the world. During this assignment, President Kennedy was elected and we were in charge of assigning billeting to military units coming to the inaugural parade. This included all active units, Reserve Units, Civil Air Patrol, etc. One very hectic day, we had received a series of crank phone calls with people trying to imitate Kennedy. All of a sudden the phone rang, and a very Southern voice, said, “Hello, this is Lyndon Johnson.” I replied “Yeh, and I’m George Washington,” and hung up. About two minutes later, the general came running down the stairs from his office and asked me “Did you just hang up on the Vice-President Elect?” I was working with a Captain who explained to the Colonel about the crank calls. The general called Johnson explained what had happened, and apologized. Lyndon Johnson laughed and said that he should have gone through an aide anyway. The general wasn’t mad at me.
Headquarters, Marine Corps School – My office was here.
We then had the Cuban Missile Crisis. Before this, the CIA led an invasion of Cuba using Cuban refugees. This invasion failed. Then the Russians installed missiles in Cuba that could target most of the United States. We seemed on the verge of war. We were restricted to the base and were briefed on the pending invasion of Cuba. We were told we would be hitting the beaches there. We were so happy when the Russian’s backed down and pulled the missiles
Several months later, our Battalion Separation Clerk was discharged and I was given his assignment. My job was to prepare discharge documents, not only for men in the battalion but also for all Marine prisoners from the Naval Prison in Portsmouth. They would be escorted to our brig, and I would have to go get them and bring them to the processing center for discharge. Since this could be a dangerous assignment, I was armed with a .45 Cal. Colt automatic. These prisoners were receiving either Bad Conduct or Dishonorable Discharges. Their crimes were not capital crimes. Capital prisoners were imprisoned and discharged from Leavenworth, Kansas. I was also qualified to use the riot gun and was occasionally assigned as a prison guard to work details. When I took this job, I was promoted to Corporal I remained at this job until my release from active duty in April 1963.
Quantico MCB Bowling Alley, Movie Theater, Restaurant
Most of my off-duty time was spent either in Washington, D.C., where I enjoyed going to the coffee houses for music and poetry (This was the era of he beatniks), roller-skating at the America-on-Wheels rink in Alexandria, Virginia, or hitchhiking to Ohio for the weekends to see my friends. Sometimes I went into the town of Quantico to the skating rink. The town of Quantico was separated from the base by railroad tracks and was totally surrounded by the base. There were three ways to get to the town: By automobile coming through the Main Gate of the Marine Base, by train from either Washington, D.C, or Richmond, Virginia, or by boat on the Potomac River. Both the base and the town were on the Potomac River about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C.
Train Station, Town of Quantico
As I said, the beatnik movement was in full swing. Jack Kerouac had written his novel “On the Road.” Bob Dylan had arrived in New York, and the folk movement was beginning to emerge in Boston. I loved the Bohemian lifestyle and tried to emulate it as much as possible; this was hard to do with a Marine Corps haircut. I wore black turtleneck sweaters and hung out at “Coffee and Confusion” or the “Subterranean Caverns” in Washington. I begin to write and recite beat poetry. In retrospect, it was really pathetic poetry. I liked the music of the folk singers and begin to learn the songs and sing them. I was not ready to be a coffeehouse musician, but I would sit and absorb the ambiance, sipping my espresso or hot cider.
Album Cover – Link Wray and the Wray Men
At the same time, there was a rock band playing in a club on E Street, “Link Wray and the Wray Men”. This was an all-instrumental band. These guys were really good. Link was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian from North Carolina. Because he was a rebel already, playing a type of country-rock, the local stations didn’t pick him up. The country station, WEAM in Arlington, had a DJ, Jimmie Dean, who went on to record “Big Bad John”, and became the sausage king. He didn’t like Link and wouldn’t play his music. Later on, Link achieved fame in the guitar community, becoming known as the king of the fuzz guitar, and recorded songs such as Rumble which was featured in the movie “Independence Day,” I sat in a few times on rhythm guitar. I picked up a 45 rpm of Rumble in 1960, and Link autographed it for me in 2004. He died on November 10, 2005.
I mentioned hitchhiking to Ohio.
Diner in Breezewood – Mandatory Stop
At the gate of our base was a bus shelter. Marines would make out a cardboard placard with a requested destination, and wait for a ride. Since all rides to Ohio had to go through Breezewood, Pennsylvania, there was a special area just for Breezewood rides. We usually had a ride on Friday afternoon within a half-hour. At Breezewood, we would all stop at the diner, have donuts and coffee, or a sandwich, and go out front to the westbound ramp to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and wait for someone to pick us up. We never had to actually “thumb.” We just stood in uniform and waited. There were often dozens of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Air Force men waiting for their turns. We all queued up. Sometimes we were lucky and got rides all the way to Columbus, sometimes just to Wheeling. It usually took as long to get from Columbus to home as from the base to Columbus. At that time, the only way through Columbus was on city streets; either High Street to Worthington and Route 23 or up the River Road, Route 33 to Marysville. From Columbus, a typical trip meant three different drivers. Most trips were uneventful and we caught a few “Z’s.” One time, several of us caught a ride with a Planters Nut salesman, who stopped and bought cartons of Coke and broke out cans of nuts. We partied all the way to Columbus. Occasionally, the weather made the trip treacherous. The worst was being picked up by a drunk driver and making an excuse to get out at the turnpike rest area and wait for another ride. Today, this lifestyle would be impossible. Servicemen now make enough to afford an automobile. My pay was $76.00 per month. In 1961, I met my wife roller-skating in Alexandria, Virginia.
Me, Mary Ann, Dottie Brickhouse & Gene Watson
I was scheduled for discharge in June of 1963, but there was an early out program. Since I was in charge of all separations, I was told that I had to wait until everyone else was processed before I could be released. This was a great motivator for typing speed. I was finally discharged in April 1963.
Before marriage, I had a series of girlfriends. There was nothing serious, just the typical dating which included roller-skating, drive-in movies, and dances. I don’t see any need to mention girl-friends by name or even elaborate. I will say that I was raised with a certain level of morality, which guided my dating experiences. I was somewhat better, and certainly no worse than most of my contemporaries in high school or in the Marines. However, I had one big problem. A girl named Kathy stalked me. I had skated with her on several occasions at the roller-skating rink in Quantico. She announced to all her friends that we were getting married. She called me on the phone every day at the office, and would not stop even after I was married. This went so far that she threatened to kill me if I would not marry her! Pretty scary considering I had never even dated her!
Drive in Restaurants and Drive in Movies – Date Time!
Mary Ann Smith
While at Quantico I met my wife Mary Ann Smith. It was on April 1, 1961, at the Roller Skating Rink in Alexandria, Virginia. She was visiting her sister Lora who lived in Alexandria. She had another sister, Wilma who lived in the area near Fort Belvoir. I saw her talking to another girl and noticed how pretty she was. I asked the two girls to skate a trio skate. Afterward, I asked Mary to skate and we begin to talk. We skated and made arrangements to date. At the time she was only 15 and I was 20, but we seemed to hit it off right away. Mary was a sophomore in High School attending Calvin Coolidge High School in Washington D.C. She lived in Takoma Park, D.C, just a block from the Maryland State Line. I asked her for a date, and she agreed.
Our first date was a movie in Takoma Park. Since I didn’t have a car, I would hitchhike from Quantico to Washington almost every night to see her.
Takoma Movie Theater, Takoma Park – Our first date
When I had the money, I would take the train from Quantico to Union Station. I always caught the bus from downtown to Takoma Park. I never had much money being a Private First-Class at the time, and we would usually just stay at home and watch TV. Sometimes we just sat on the porch steps of her home and talked, or we would go downtown to the Service Man’s Lounge on 11th Street in Washington D.C. This was a pretty neat club, run by a church group. We would play ping-pong, billiards, or put puzzles together. The club always had sandwiches and coffee and soft drinks. There was one catch; you had to listen to a sermon. This was not bad, and the staff was friendly.
Mary was working part-time at Green’s Department Store, and then later as a bookkeeper at Smith’s Transfer and Storage in Alexandria. She often had to give me a quarter to catch the bus back downtown. I spent all my money on dating Mary, but it was worth every dime.
Washington D.C. City Bus
Her family accepted me, except for her brother Bill who thought I was much too old to date his sister. One day I went to visit Mary and Bill was there. We got into a fight, crashed through her Mother’s screen door and fell over a porch rail. Mary jumped into the middle and broke it up. Bill became so angry; he headed back to Tennessee and didn’t come to our wedding. Once we were married, however, he accepted me and we became friends. In fact, he and I both joined the Air Force later and were stationed in England at the same time. Mary’s sister Lora had married a Marine also with the same age difference, so we didn’t get any static from Lora, Wilma, or Mary’s Mom. They seemed to like me. Occasionally we would visit her sisters, and I got acquainted with her nieces and nephews.
Mary had a good friend in High School named Dorothy “Dottie” Brickhouse. I introduced her to a friend of mine named Gene, and we often double-dated, usually going downtown or to the National Zoo. Mary and a friend, Diane Briquette, came down to Quantico one day on the train and joined Gene and me for a day of swimming at the base pool, and going to dinner before they went back to Washington. On one occasion, Mary and I went to a church-sponsored dance at a teen-club. We rode with another couple from Church. We especially liked the Twist. One fond memory is the night we took a Moonlight Cruise on the S.S. Mount Vernon on the Potomac and danced and went to the amusement park at Glen Echo near Chain Bridge.
By this time, Mary and her Mom had moved into another house in Tacoma Park, with a friend of her Mom’s from West Virginia – Mrs. Peters, and her two sons, Bill and Wayne. Both families and I went to church together every Sunday at the Silver Spring Church of God. Mary, Wayne Peters, and I had formed a trio. I played the guitar and the three of us sang as a gospel trio in church. Tacoma Park was the headquarters of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, so all the stores were closed on Saturday. After church on Sunday, Mary and I would go down to a local restaurant and have a veggie burger and Vernor’s ginger ale. Seventh-Day Adventists are vegetarians and so there was no meat on the menu at the restaurant.
On Friday nights, we would sometimes go roller-skating in Alexandria. Mary would take the bus, accompanied by Wayne Peters, and then take the bus back. On Saturdays, we would go downtown and take in the usual tourist attractions. We would visit the National Archives, the National Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, or the National Aquarium. Once we went to see the Mona Lisa when it was in America. Dotty Brickhouse was with us and was on crutches, so we were moved to the head of the line. Sometimes we would climb the Washington Monument. In the summer we would go down to Potomac Park and sit in the grass; and once we rode the paddleboats on the Potomac River Basin. One day, we walked to the end of Haines Point. It was in the spring and warm when we started, but it turned cold and I gave Mary my jacket so she wouldn’t freeze.
Mary Ann and me – Dating
These are the places in Washington, D.C. where we spent much of our time while dating
Mary was from Soddy, Tennessee, just north of Chattanooga. Her parents were separated and her mother had come to Washington to work as a practical nurse, both for a private patient and at the Eastern Star Nursing Home. Her dad was a coal miner, and the family had lived in West Virginia also. Mary’s genealogy was interesting, with ties to George Washington. Her family names were Smith, Davis, Varner, Millsaps, and Lee.
In May of 1961, her grandfather died and she went to Tennessee to the funeral. When she returned, I asked her to marry me and we were formally engaged in June. I bought an engagement ring and band in Quantico for $60. I also purchased a man’s gold band for another $5.
On January 22, 1962, I turned 21 years of age and Mary baked me a cake. We celebrated by going out to dinner.
One Saturday in June 1962, Mary and I were discussing what we planned to do the following week. I suggested that we go ahead and get married. Mary thought this was a great idea and approached her Mom. She wasn’t really agreeable since Mary was still a junior in High School, but we were adamant. We took the bus to the courthouse, where her Mom signed the permission form and we received our marriage license. I didn’t have a bachelor party, but my Mom more than made up for it. She and I went out to dinner and had drinks. Mom couldn’t handle alcohol and got tipsy. She kept flirting with sailors and embarrassed me to no end on the bus. Everybody stared at us. They thought I had picked her up. But then she announced to the whole bus “Thish is my wittle boy, He’s getting married tomorrow.” Then everybody on the bus clapped and congratulated me. Mom wanted to look at all the store windows in downtown Washington. I finally talked her into going to the hotel and going to bed.
After the church service on Sunday morning, July 1, 1962, the Reverend Sizemore married Mary and me at the Church of God in Silver Spring, Maryland. In attendance were my Mom, Mary’s Mom, Mary’s sister Lora and all our friends at the Church of God.
Our Wedding, July 1, 1962, Silver Spring, Maryland
Quantico Marine Base Bowling Alley and Movie Theater
Afterward the wedding ceremony, we returned to Mary’s house and had a small family reception. We then went by train to Quantico, Virginia where we ate our wedding dinner at the NCO Club on the Base. Afterward, we went bowling at the Base Bowling Alley. My Mother had come to Washington for the wedding and accompanied us. Yes, it’s true, we went bowling on our wedding night with my Mom!
The hotel where we spent our wedding night in Quantico Town
We spent our wedding night at a little hotel in Quantico. The hotel was very old with a bathroom at the end of the hallway. At dawn, Mary woke me so that we could view the sunrise over the Potomac River. The next day we visited a furniture store and Mom bought us a house full of furniture as a wedding gift. She bought hard-rock maple furniture and we still have the coffee table in our family room, and the dresser and chest of drawers in our master bedroom. Imagine, furniture lasting and being used for forty-four years! I applied and was immediately assigned to base housing at Midway Island, Virginia. When we returned from our honeymoon in Ohio, the furniture was delivered to our quarters.
Our honeymoon was really different. We rode the bus with my mom back to Ohio from Quantico and stayed with my parents. Really, really exciting! Our trip to Utah a year later was much more of a honeymoon.
Our Honeymoon Ride – Virginia to Ohio
We had our first pet while living in base housing at Midway, a German shepherd named Sergeant, who died of a throat infection. Somebody had given him to us as a pup. There is a story about Sergeant and werewolves. At the time of our marriage, Mary was still only 16 and very impressionable. One night, I kept telling her scary stories about vampires and werewolves and told her that German shepherd dogs were very closely related to wolves and that they sometimes changed into werewolves. She made poor Sergeant sleep outside that night!
Our house was small. Imagine a cracker box about 40 feet by 12 feet with steps on each end. In the center was a wall that didn’t quite meet the ceiling. Families lived on each side. The bedrooms were on each side of the partition and you could see light along with the ceiling when the neighbor turned on their bedroom light, and we could eavesdrop on each other’s conversations. We were friends with the family on the other end of our house and spent many evenings together playing pinochle. As you came into the house, you walked into the living/dining room combo. At the back wall was a coal-oil stove. To the right was a very narrow kitchen. At the back right corner behind the kitchen was the bathroom. A small bedroom was behind the bathroom, and the master bedroom was immediately behind the living room. This was substandard housing and we were able to rent for $60 per month including utilities and maintenance. By our living standards today, this first year of marriage was primitive. But we were happy. We could have been living in a tent and our love would have been all we needed.
We didn’t have a phone, but there was a common phone up on the hill above the house. On top of the hill, stood a small BX and a laundry room where everyone went to do laundry and to buy small necessities. A base bus came through several times a day, and residents could catch the bus into the main base. This was my ride to work and our way to the commissary unless we were fortunate to catch a ride with friends. If a Marine needed to contact his wife, he would call the common phone. Someone in the vicinity would answer and then go get the wife. We all had to work together. I never took a picture of the house, and many years later, we returned, but Midway Island Housing no longer existed. Our food bill at that time was about $15 every two weeks.
Mary had a frequent craving for hamburgers. At the bottom of the hill below Midway Island Housing, was U.S. Route 1, about a mile away. Just up the road were a Mom and Pop restaurant. I would walk the mile down for a hamburger and walk back up the hill for Mary. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get a ride. An unwritten rule was that anyone driving by was obligated to pick up walkers.
One day, I was sitting in my office, when a Marine Colonel walked in. Someone called the office to attention, and the Colonel came to my desk, sat on the corner, stuck out his hand, and said “Hi, I’m Jack Jones. My wife and I would like you and your wife to have lunch with us Sunday. We will pick you up at 0845 (8:45 a.m.) Be sure to dress nice.” Then he walked out. I was in shock. Everyone asked, “Who was that?” Of course, I had no idea. Well, the next Sunday, an old beat-up station wagon loaded with 5 kids, the Colonel and his wife, showed up at our house. We climbed in and were informed that we would be attending church before lunch. Well, it was an L.D.S. service. It seems that when I joined the Marines, I was asked my religion. I had said Mormon. Since my Mother had been inactive since shortly after my baptism, I had no knowledge of the Church. A Navy Dentist, Brother Cox, was the Branch President and he had screened all the medical records for the base looking for inactive L.D.S. servicemen. Jack Jones was the Sunday School President, and the Branch President figured he could pull rank. He was right.
We were assigned to a young Air Force couple for fellowshipping, Mike and Annette Wood who had two young children and a Volkswagen Beetle. We became active and I advanced in the Priesthood. While at Woodbridge, (that was the name of our branch), I was a District Missionary, and Elder Mike Wood was my companion. Mary took the missionary discussions and was a very easy convert. She said that she had always believed the Church’s doctrine and was elated. Mike and I went down to a creek and dug a hole in the creek bed to use as a baptismal font. This was in October. Mike baptized and confirmed Mary. I was the first Scoutmaster of the branch troop No 1356. After Mike got transferred to Alaska, I became a teacher of the Investigator Class. Mary and I were assigned as Genealogy Home Teachers, and I was a Branch Teacher (Now known as a Home Teacher)
In April 1963, I was discharged from the Marine Corps. Our household goods were shipped to Ohio, and I went through all the paperwork necessary for discharge. We had really looked forward to this day, but with trepidation. I had no idea what I would do for work once we returned to Ohio, or even where we would live. But, being young, we knew things would work out.
The day after I was released from the Marine Corps, we attended District Conference in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was ordained an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.