I went through boot camp in 1962, just after the PURGE at PI, and experienced and witnessed abuse almost daily. The first time was when a recruit, the DIs called a porker, was striped to the pull-up bar with web belts and left hanging there, it seemed like a half an hour. The second was more personal. I was under 18 when I went to boot and my birthday came up at the rife range. The senior drill instructor called me to the duty tent. When I reported there he said he had a birthday present for me. His and the two other DIs give me three slugs in the goodie locker.
The combat boots pictured on your “Salty old Marine” tee shirt reminds me of my experience with an Army Surgeon, a full bird colonel.
In 1958 the Corps was issuing recruits 2 pairs of boots for field wear – the venerable “boondocker” low cut boot (just above the ankle), and the full combat boot. Both were made of rough, unfinished leather because (it was said) they “breathed better” on the feet. Regardless of design purpose, this was not acceptable –unofficially I’m sure – to the Corps. Our DIs immediately informed us that these boots would be worked on until they could carry a spit-shine like a patent leather shoe! And we did. And after weeks of labor – using shoe polish which we melted into the leather with matches or lighters, smooth, rounded bottles to press the polish and leather firmly down and smooth, and elbow grease by the hour – we lovingly produced a shine you could shave by. Those boots were worn at every inspection held in utilities for the next four years.
Advance the story a little over 2 years. Wearing my prized combat boots, I had boarded the APA USS Navarro in a harbor on Okinawa at the very beginning of the largest exercise by the Corps to that day – Operation Blue Star – and the battalion was still loading. By a freak accident I was knocked into an open hatch on the mess deck and fell a couple of decks to the hold, landing in a sitting position, feet hitting first, then butt and slamming backward to bounce my head off the steel. As a side note, I vividly remember the actual fall and had no fear – just an overwhelming anger telling myself what a dumbass I must be to be in that situation. It didn’t knock me out but did knock every ounce of air out of my lungs. The corpsmen, not knowing how severely I might be injured, got me on a stretcher and I was raised by rope to the deck, put on a motor launch and rushed ashore to be taken to the emergency room at the Army hospital. I was conscious the whole time but obviously in a little shock.
Great care had been taken to try to not move my spine for fear it was shattered and might kill me. They got me on a table in the emergency room and a minute or two later the head surgeon of the hospital arrived to check me out. The first thing he told the nurses, male and female, was to cut my clothes off so there would be no reason to move me unnecessarily. No problem. I could buy another set of utilities and skivvies. But when the guy with the scissors moved to my feet I spoke up. “Don’t cut my boots.”
He stopped and looked at the Doc who snapped “Cut ‘em off.”
Again, the guy goes for my boot and I said, a little irritated, “I said, don’t cut my boots!”
The Doc is now agitated that his order is being contradicted by an E-3, f**king 19 year old Marine. “You cannot be moved until I can examine you to see if your back is broken!” and to the nurse “Now cut the damned boots off!”
The guy goes for the boot. I start trying to sit up and, in a very loud, disrespectful tone, “I said don’t cut my f**king boots!”
The Doc, afraid he’s about to lose a patient says “Okay! Okay!” and I relax as he tells the nurse “Just cut the damned laces and see if you can ease them off without killing him.” He turns to the others and, shrugging his shoulders like “What can I do?!!” he mutters “F**king Marines”. He was one highly pissed bird colonel but I still had my prized boots.
I spent the summer of 1965 in boot camp at MCRD Parris Island at the ripe old age of 17, straight out of high school. If you left PI or ITR as a Pfc you did a lot of things right. If you made L/Cpl, I certainly never heard about it. Sounds like bullshit to me. Rank was quick then for the right people but E-3 your first what, 6 months? I don’t think so. And for the 60 lbs. (or whatever) of “muscle” out of boot! Man, I thought people had to see me before they would think I was that stupid. Save it for your 50th class reunion. Maybe by then people will forget the truth and buy it. Semper Fi but save the bullshit for the boyscouts.
It seems that every day goes by our vets are disappearing before our eyes and all the history of what they went through and the sacrifice that they put up with is lost. Semper Fi brother and may you rest in peace guarding the pearly gates of heaven
Hello to all Marines! My sad news is that my son Sean P Armstrong, who served in the Marine Corp. from 1993-2002 has passed away. He graduated from Camp Lejeune, NC. My heart is broken and I will never be the same without him. He was my life. He was going to the VA for help at the time of his death but whatever was wrong with him they apparently couldn’t fix. This all happened in January and we are still waiting to hear what/why he passed away. I am so hurt that I couldn’t have his service until now. I hope I’m strong enough to handle it. I’ve looked through his belongings and he still has so much of his Marine gear. I was told to donate all the uniforms, including the dress blues to the VFW. We were told they use the uniforms for parades. I had all his military uniforms cleaned at a local cleaners who charged me half off because they were being donated. (wonderful, thoughtful and caring people) He left two graduation books which I would like to give to someone who graduated at that time and couldn’t afford the book or have lost theirs. I don’t want any of his things to go to waste. He and every Marine deserves better. I remember when he was in boot camp he told me that one of his DI’s name was Armstrong. If there is anyone out there that remembers this DI or was in at that time please contact me with more information that would match what I have and I would be glad to send you a book. Thanks! Semper Fi
Yes it was a thrill to find your rack after marching around the deck, I was in 2nd Bn Platoon 232 1957 and things did not change much even after Ribbon Creek. I met SSgt McKeon later L/Cpl Mc Keon at Quantico waiting discharged under Medical. What a shame the Platoon backed him till the end but they needed a escape goat and he was it! It was awful cause I felt he was not guilty and a really true “Marine. Gen Mac Call Pate, “guilty until you proved innocent”. The Forced Marches were now called “Fire Drills” out side in PT gear with Bucket and shower shoes to run around the block. Usually this happen around 0200-0300. What fun. I love the Corps and wish I stayed in for 20 but not to be. Only 3 years.
Retrospect( dmz-67) in my mind i am often back in vietnam i can once again feel the muggy hot as the red sun rises unveiling steamy green jungle mountains and low land rice paddies of a almost mystical land thatched roof hotches balanced on bamboo poles or dirt floored huts with hiding holes water buffalos and funny little people of many guises who dig underground complexes like groundhogs and tiny moles long winding trails up and down around and around pungi stakes ambush sites and booby traps on jungle trails and paddy dikes both lost and found roads and ancient cities villages and pagodas thousands of strange people in their ever changing wraps with endless chattering and peculiar orders the wack smack sound of chopper blades carrying wounded buddies who gave more than blood in the distance heightens and fades mcnamaras line no place for the boot or the blind hilltop fortresses to keep back the human flood places occupied with fear guts and dragging time operations called search and destroy tracked armor and men on line deployed in the vast dragons domain looking for a so called illusive enemy master of decoy phantom jets and spectacular napalm and bomb blasts chewing up country side and human hide at a voices command chemically saturated and plowed up land now in a barron and decaying mode meant to last funny thing about an enemy a marine must kill at first they are sick and can feel but soon comes a callus and cool at practicing their warrior skills back home there was protests riots and morals under fire but moms and dads kept uneasily still even though the news told of baby killers and murder for hire then came the day when one was snatched from the asian mire back to the real world of ones own choosing to a home where freedom and love was said to flower soon to find that those who sent them listened more to public eyed loosing directed by the news cameras own choosing became to quickly to be hellbent against them so here we are to many decades later fought and silently struggled to make a way without the help of the war lovers and haters we do not want any ones praise it is way to late when numb are the feelings and hurts of earlier days so leave us be and let us our own flags raise as for those who had to die while for years politicians pretended to rage they did not have the chance or time to question or reason why theirs is a memorial wall dedicated in our capital town where the names of those real heroes are found although much to long in coming one might resound but if they were up and walking around at parades they would not be found they would be looking for the lost and forgotten ones who have not harped and sounded who have not always cried for attention to be surrounded who are still out there hiding from the nam and at the same time searching to be found by c.r.hurst,jr (usmc nam12/66 to 12/67 dmz ) 2/96
Some of us had trouble getting up a rope – or just being agile around one. One recruit was not fat, but not coordinated either– the poor guy could not get up the rope? The D I took a bayonet and had a few of us get him about 4 feet off the ground- then the D I said “climb maggot?’ The guy started shaking and blubbering- next he D I keeps jabbing him in the ass and screaming at him that he will insert the bayonet up his ass- the recruit panics and starts up the rope. The recruit eventually had to go to sick bay with cuts or slashes on his butt= the Series Lieutenant questioned the recruit about how it happened and told him he would be placed in another platoon and all he had to describe what happened. The recruit said he fell on the bayonet- Recruit became a hero and all D I ‘s went to his support and helped him after that- ( he was a hero ) A few other guys went to sick bay for other maladies- and would not rat out D I’s either. Training tough- but we survived. No regrets- and a shitload of funny stories of how some of my fellow recruits really seemed that they fell off a turnip truck. Some had common sense and little brain power- and others were very streetwise and some were very commonsense oriented. We all worked together= and became United States Marines.
July 31 1967 platoon 1026 senior DI said the same thing,most of you are going to nam,half will make it back.I went,landed in country January 23 1968 0311, I got back,with a lot of help from those DIs,a smack now and then worked.SF
25 years later……88-92….Semper Fi!