by Clayton Barrow, Jr. - published April 1990
John A Lejeune, 13th Commandant (1920-1929) stands preeminent among the Corps' legendary leaders, but he remained an elusive, distant, impersonal figure. Here is the story of one man's search for the real Lejeune-a story of wonderful conversations with fine people.
On a bright fall Saturday 25 years ago, I drove over from Annapolis to Gen Thomas Holcomb's house in New Castle, DE. I was looking for John A. Lejeune. If I didn't find him there, I knew I'd be in trouble. I had just about run out of places to look. Surely, the 85-year-old Holcomb-whose note said, "I probably was associated with Gen Lejeune more closely, for more years, than anyone else still living."-could flush out and flesh out for me the elusive 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
My search began a few months before when I convinced a New York City publishing house that there was a new audience for a book about LtGen John Archer Lejeune. Since his death in 1942,1 argued, Marines themselves had grown more and more in awe of him, but with each passing year, were less sure why.
I had become interested in Gen Lejeune when I was a teenage corporal in the Pacific during World War II. Lejeune was and remains an original. He is a mystery man, and part of it is his own fault His autobiography, Reminiscences of a Marine (1930), was a book he resisted writing for a number of years and did so only at the persistent urging of his wife, daughters, and devoted sister. He wrote every word of it in longhand, and perhaps the reason it took him two years was that he considered what the impact of every word he wrote would be upon the five women he loved. He seems to be talking directly to them in the book's penultimate paragraph: ". . . it is my earnest hope that no word I have written will cause any one pain." None would.
There is a wistful sentence toward the end-"I leave unwritten many things I ought to have written."-that invites disappointed historians to supply their own list of inexplicable omissions. Some might argue that he ought to have written his side of the lamentable Barnett affair that tainted his assumption of the Commandancy.
His innermost thoughts would have helped us better understand the Corps' most celebrated firebrand, Smedley Butler, and its most enigmatic, tragic figure, Earl Ellis.
And why didn't he discuss his tattoos? Those who care about such things know that Smedley Butler had an enormous globe and anchor emblazoned across his chest. God, that must have hurt! And they know, too, that Lejeune had two tattoos on his left forearm. He could have, he should have, explained about the second one. Nobody is ever surprised to learn that the first one was an American flag, but why was the other one a rising sun? Why not a slice of mom's apple pie? Or was he simply playing it safe for World War II?
But the most disappointing aspect of Reminiscences is its lack of humor. There isn't a belly laugh in the book. Why? Was he as humorless as he looked in his unsmiling photographs?
According to his Reminiscences, he had plenty of reasons to smile. He got everything he ever wanted. He got away from a Louisiana parish that had been decimated by the Civil War; he got an appointment to the Naval Academy; he got a Marine Corps commission; he survived one of the worst hurricanes in history; he married the only girl he ever loved; he won every battle he ever fought in; and he made friends wherever he went.
If we believe his book, however, there are things he didn't get. He didn't get angry, he didn't get bored, he didn't get discouraged, he didn't get drunk, he didn't get tempted, he didn't get impatient, he didn't get jealous, he didn't even get even on occasion.
Still, all things considered, this great man's life seems to have been sublime, but, damn it, he didn't leave very many footprints for us to follow on the sands of time. And the few he did leave were mucked up by the likes of Capt John H. Craige, whose largerthan-life Lejeune rivaled Craige's earlier snow job, "The Jersey Monster."
My pitch to the publishers was that there was more to the story than he had told us. I told them I wanted to see if, after all these years, I could find the real John Lejeune. They decided to risk a $2,000 advance payment on my proposal to write a book based primarily on interviews with the dwindling number of people who had know him personally.
I began looking for him in the house on California St. in northwest Washington, DC, then occupied by two of his three daughters, Eugenia and Laura Lejeune. Eugenia Dickson Lejeune, the youngest, looked after frail Laura Turpin Lejeune, and she looked after me, too. Having served in the Marine Corps during the war, she was assisting historian Forrest Pogue in his monumental biography of Gen George C. Marshall and was thus of invaluable help to me not only in providing, but in anticipating the assistance I needed. Most supportive, too, was John and Ellie Lejeune's oldest daughter Ellie Murdaugh and her retired naval officer husband, Capt James B. Glennon, USN(Ret).
If Eugenia had any qualms about my unorthodox research methods, she kept them to herself. Still, as disciplined a researcher as she was, she must have been horrified at my initial decision to plunge right into interviews even before attacking the mountain of archival material available. But I knew time was not on my side. I could not bring myself to tell her that the bulk of the people I wanted to talk to still thought of Lejeune's daughters as his "little girls," even though all three of them were well into their 60s.
She supplied me with a steady stream of material-names and addresses (neatly typed and arranged into alphabetized categories, such as "Relatives," which she thoughtfully subdivided into "Cousins" or "Nephews"), photocopies of letters, clippings, telegrams, rosters, ad infinitum. She was her father's daughter: charming, efficient, and just a tad formal. (As a 15-year-old, her father, in his first letter to his mother from Louisiana State University, had signed himself "Jno. A. Lejeune, Cadet," Eugenia's letters to me always included Laura with the signature The Misses Lejeune.")
Every letter I sent, and the first batch numbered more than 40, brought at least one in return. One 81-year-old charmer, Col John R. Hunley, wrote me six long letters because "I remember those days so vividly, but the last 30 years are a blur." And nearly every return letter included lists of new names and addresses of people who, sometimes prosaically, but often eloquently, sang the praises of the Lejeune ladies' father.
Having begun my quest in the homes of the general's daughters, my next stop in the search was the home of Gen Clifton B. Cates, 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps, under whom I had served at Quantico. Like me, he had become an Annapolitan following his retirement. Gates' reputation as a man who minced no words hadn't changed since Belleau Wood when, as a gangly first lieutenant, he reported by field message:
I have only 2 men left out of my company and 20 out of other companies. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machinegun fire and a constant artillery barrage is upon us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold.
He did more than hold. Finding an abandoned French rifle, he led his 22 men in successfully storming the village of Bouresches and holding it against a counterattack.
The Lejeune I found within Cates' walls was not the man I had been hearing about from family and friends. Cates quickly made clear that his opinion of Lejeune was colored by his unique perspective. In 1920, Capt Gates, as aide to Gen George Barnett, was in the room when Barnett relinquished the Commandancy to Gen Lejeune-but not before the older man stood the younger at attention and chewed him out in the most acrimonious change of command in the history of that high office. To Barnett's charge that, as lifelong friends, Lejeune should have warned him of the plot by Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels to remove him from office, Lejeune could only reply, and then repeat, "George, my hands were tied."
"Although only a spectator, I was not an impartial one," Gates confessed. "I was a Barnett man. When he stayed in the Corps and was sent to San Francisco, I chose to remain his aide. He was more than my boss, he was my friend. But I could see Lejeune's dilemma: Both Barnett and Daniels were extremely close friends of his but mortal enemies of each other. And, if the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' does that make the friend of my enemy my friend still or is he now my enemy? Perhaps what it really does, as Gen Lejeune discovered, is it 'ties your hands' when your friends' interests collide."
Seven years later, Gen Cates would tell the sordid story to Benis M. Frank, an oral historian, who ably presented the facts in his memorable work, "The Relief of General Barnett."
But, apparently, Cates did not tell my friend Benis, as he told me, "If you believe, as most people who knew him do, that Lejeune was a man of luminous integrity, then no explanation of the Barnett affair is necessary; if you do not believe it, no explanation is possible."
When, somewhat puzzled but no less curious, I left Gen Cates' house, my next most logical call had to be on Cates' successor, Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., 20th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
If Clifton Cates was "a Barnett man," Lem Shepherd was an equally staunch "Lejeune man." Perhaps the Corps will never again see a "Mike and Ike, they look alike," dynamic duo such as Cates and Shepherd. Cates was older by three years but, delayed his commission by getting a law degree; Shepherd beat him into the Corps by two months and to France by six months. With the 6th Regiment, Cates fought at Belleau Wood where he was both gassed and wounded. With the 5th Regiment, Shepherd missed the gas but was wounded twice. Both would fight in every battle their regiments engaged in and acquired almost identical U.S. and French decorations for valor (with Shepherd winning the Purple Heart sweepstakes three to two). Cates was aide to Barnett from 1920-1922, the same years that Shepherd was aide to Lejeune.
So I wasn't surprised when LtGen Victor H. Krulak advised me to look for Lejeune at "Leeton Forest," Shepherd's home in Warrenton, VA, where I would find a man "who modeled himself upon Gen Lejeune's approach to military life." But Gen Shepherd, who was coming to Washington on business, suggested I meet him at the Army-Navy Club in Washington. That sounded fine. What better place could there be to look for a man whose career began as a naval cadet and who was the first Marine ever to command an Army division?
"Of his four aides, I was the Other' one," Shepherd joked.
Capt John H. "Jack" Craige, the oldest and the saltiest of the aides, was closest to the general. A former newspaperman, Jack acted as a sort of public relations officer and gave the local and national press all they could handle. The freewheeling, funloving Craige had some serious drawbacks, but he earned Lejeune's admiration for some excellent public relations work that would serve as a model for years afterward. In October 1920, for example, the expeditionary force stationed at Quantico conducted field maneuvers in the Virginia area where the Battle of the Wilderness had been fought. President and Mrs. Harding came, watched, and remained for two days. Cameras clicked and newsreel film rolled as the President posed before the five-room "Canvas White House" the Marines had erected.
Gen Lejeune escorted the President and First Lady back to Washington and got their promise to return the following year. The couple kept their word and watched 4,000 Marines conduct a field exercise on the Gettysburg battleground, including a reenactment of Pickett's famous charge. A photograph taken at Gettysburg shows President Harding's bathtub lashed to the bottom of an airplane. In his caption, Jack pointed out that the Corps would spare no expense to ensure the comfort of its Commander in Chief. The tub was indeed the President's, but it had arrived by truck.
The idea that "no man is a hero to his valet" never applied to Lem Shepherd, who ranked Lejeune as "our greatest Commandant," and an endearingly human one. Shepherd recalled, "He didn't need an aide in a reception line." Gen (then Capt) Oliver P. Smith confirmed that "his memory of names and faces was uncanny." Shepherd went on to note, however, that Lejeune didn't always remember to change his shirt. And he loved to ride horseback every day-but he was a terrible horseman. Gen Smith also agreeed on both these counts: "We were required to wear civilian clothing at work, but the General wore his uniform for his daily ride. Mrs. Lejeune conspired with the aides to see that he always had a clean civilian shirt to replace his soiled military shirt, and vice versa, every day, and I doubt that he ever realized that there had been a substitution."
One of Lejeune's aides from 1924 to 1926 was an officer who signed himself "Chas." T. Brooks, and who went on to retire as a brigadier general. Brooks rode daily on the eight-to-nine ride you could set your watch by. One morning, the general's frightened horse threw him. "He assured me that he was all right and insisted that he mount up and ride back to the stable," Brooks said. "Back in the office, I wanted to get a doctor, but he insisted on walking alone to the infirmary. We were all surprised when, his hand bandaged, he walked back to report that it was only a broken finger."
Lem Shepherd adds: "Being thrown by Dolly didn't dampen his enthusiasm. He loved those rides. He had a theory that being bounced around like that early in the morning was beneficial to his liver."
During office hours, he smoked moderately, and to be sure that his habit stayed in moderation, he would not keep cigarettes in his desk. "He kept them in my desk," Brooks recalls. "So, when he wanted to smoke and had the time, he came to the aides' office. We enjoyed his visits because we knew there would be no business discussed, and he always seemed to have a joke to tell. His jokes were always above reproach and, once, on hearing one that was a little blue, he remarked, 'I don't remember that kind.' Thereafter, none of us could either."
"He was a tease with his wife and daughters," Brooks recalls. "Mrs. Lejeune tells of the day he took the promotion test for captain. He cautioned her that it would be difficult and he would be late. When he arrived, he slowly opened the gate, inched up the walk, and dragged his feet up the porch stairs. Mrs. Lejeune was sure he had failed, and she questioned him sympathetically. Having achieved the desired result, he burst into laughter and assured her that all was well and he would be promoted."
But if he was a tease with his growing daughters, they never doubted their place in his heart or in his priorities. During the years 1911-1914, for example, his duties as the commanding officer of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and his home life were disrupted four times by expeditionary duty-twice to Cuba, once to Panama, and once to Veracruz. But the girls' memories of Brooklyn were of four uninterrupted happy years because, at the outset, he and Ellie had devoted much time, as they did at each new duty station, to finding the right church, Sunday school, and school for them.
"He was a man with an eye on the future," Lem Shepherd recalls. "His family's, his own, and the Corps'. He continuously sought expeditionary duty, which he saw as vital to his career. And who but Gen Lejeune would put overseas service to such good effect for his own and his Corps' future as he did at Guantanamo, Cuba, on 25 April 1913, when he founded the Marine Corps Association."
The Association, which LtCol Lejeune created "for the purpose of recording and publishing the history of the Marine Corps, publishing a periodical for the dissemination of information concerning the aims, purposes and deeds of the Corps, and the interchange of ideas for the betterment and improvement of its officers and men," was among his most lasting accomplishments.
When, in 1979, the Marine Corps Association reprinted Lejeune's 49year-old Reminiscences, the only change was a new preface written, fittingly, by Lem Shepherd who recommended it to all officers and staff noncommissioned officers because "It will apprise them of the problems faced and successfully overcome by Gen Lejeune." Touche!
I had by now been given many fleeting glimpses of Lejeune in the interviews with, and the letters from, those who had known him and lived to tell about it. What I yearned for now were some "warts and all" closeups. And these I hoped to obtain from Gen Thomas Holcomb. Would he be willing? And, at 85, would he be able?
Gen Holcomb greeted me at the door, calling me by my last name only. Not mister or sergeant as I expected. I told him that before the war when I enlisted, it was a last-name-only Marine Corps, but that Pearl Harbor had changed all that. A twinkle came into his eye: "It wasn't Pearl Harbor, it was that damned New Deal when the use of first names became the style. Back in my day, when a CO [commanding officer] addressed a young officer by his rank-or as 'Mister' so-and-so if he were a lieutenant-it was a matter for the young officer to ponder over as to why the CO had become suddenly so formal; had he in some way offended or annoyed the CO?"
Our talk drifted naturally toward the period, January 1915 to September 1917, when Holcomb had been aide (along with the legendary Earl "Pete" Ellis) to MajGen Commandant Barnett, and Col Lejeune had occupied the adjoining office of Assistant Commandant As Holcomb said, "Those were exciting days. Ellis and I felt as though we were in the thick of things with officers dropping in to discuss both official and personal matters with us or to pay their respects to the Commandant or the Assistant Commandant. Neither of us was designated as an aide to the Assistant Commandant, but we both worked for him on an as-available basis."
Work they did! Lejeune was only the second officer to serve in the post of Assistant Commandant. The first was LtCoI Eli "Kelly" Cole, Lejeune's classmate at the Naval Academy, but not his twin in temperament. "Cole was one of the best officers the Corps ever had," Holcomb said, "but he was hard-boiled. He did not like to see an officer get the station of his choice; this was amusing unless one was the victim! Perhaps he thought that an officer would devote more time and thought to his duty when serving in a place where there were no distractions."
With Lejeune at the helm, this newly created post that might have become a sinecure, became instead a steppingstone to the Commandant's chair for both Lejeune and Holcombbut not for the star-crossed Ellis.
The tireless trio constituted, in effect, the Corps' first executive staff. As Barnett's duties more and more called him away from the office, Lejeune and his two captains (and a third, Ralph Stover Keyser), brilliant, bilingual bachelors all, hammered out hypothetical contingency plans for the ongoing European war and masterminded realworld troop movements to troubled Haiti and Santo Domingo. And, in Barnett's increasingly frequent absences, it became Lejeune's lot to trudge up to the Hill where he continued to impress both Congress and the Wilson administration. Foremost among his congressional supporters was Thomas Butler, father of Smedley, and praising him to the President and anyone else who would listen was Josephus Daniels, who in 1913 had reluctantly selected Barnett over Lejeune to be Commandant only because of the great disparity in rank between the two.
Holcomb described the bond between Daniels and Lejeune: "Anyone who sought special dispensation from Secretary Daniels for their son (or somebody else's son) happily left the office bearing a handwritten note from Daniels to Lejeune reading, 'Do for Mr._'s son what you did for Josephus'.' What Lejeune had done for the Secretary's son was enlist him as a private in the Marine Corps."
Holcomb's duty as aide ended in October 1916 when he was promoted to major but remained at Headquarters as inspector of target practice, and his service to Lejeune continued unabated.
"I performed a wide variety of tasks for Gen Lejeune, but my work principally involved procuring officers for the war we all saw as inevitable. However, I took my target practice duties seriously," Holcomb said. "Until the turn of the century, Marine Corps' rifle and pistol training had been perfunctory, and the performance of our teams in national and international matches was disgraceful."
The years fell away as Holcomb welcomed the digression to discuss marksmanship and the two MarinesBGen Commandant George F. Elliott and Capt William C. "Beau" Harlleewho transformed the Corps from among the world's worst military marksmen to the world's best in less than 10 years.
Both men played pivotal roles in Lejeune's career. In 1880, as a 13-year-old attending boarding school in Natchez, Lejeune got his first look at a naval ship and naval officers when he was taken onboard the USS Alliance, then on a goodwill voyage up the Mississippi. The shy youngster's heart was immediately and irrevocably drawn to the dashing officer wearing sky blue trousers and braided blouse who, he was told, was lieutenant of Marines George F. Elliott. Holcomb opened Lejeune's Reminiscences and read: "Gen Lejeune called Elliott 'a frank and courageous officer and a kindly, though impulsive, and gallant gentleman.' Personally, I thought he had the most violent temper of any officer I've ever known-although Harllee was a volcano, too."
"Didn't Lejeune have a temper?" I interrupted.
"Of course, he did. But I never heard him swear and I do not recall him raising his voice in anger. When he was angered, he had a rather formidable expression on his face and seemed very much in earnest. There was no doubt in one's mind as to how he felt."
Elliott, who would become the first Commandant to hold the rank of major general, left his mark on the Corps-and on John Lejeune. During his seven-year Commandancy, he raised the educational requirements for all officers, established new posts at Hawaii and Midway, put his Marines ashore in Asia and Africa, personally commanded an expeditionary force in Central America, and founded the Advanced Base School at New London, CT, in 1910, the cradle of amphibious warfare. But his greatest triumph was in the political arena. When President Teddy Roosevelt soured on the Corps and ordered all Marines off Navy ships as a prelude to abolishing the Marine Corps, Elliott rallied congressional support and public opinion to force Roosevelt to reverse himself.
If Elliott, by thwarting one of the most willful U.S. Presidents, showed Lejeune how to wield political power, the teacher would live long enough (1931) to see his pupil outdo him. "What separated politician Elliott from statesman Lejeune," Holcomb said, "was that Lejeune fervently believed what most Americans merely paid lip service to, he was completely frank and unfailingly courteous to the elected and appointed officials who were responsible to oversee the military. They sat a little straighter in their chairs when he talked to them, always addressing them by their titles, about his and their responsibilities to the people he and they served."
Later in our conversation, Holcomb's eyes misted at the memory of Belleau Wood, where his 2d Battalion, 6th Marines- rechristened "Holcomb's Battalion"-lost 21 officers and 836 men.
"I saw Gen Lejeune soon after Belleau Wood," he recalled, "and what a joy it was to come out of that abattoir and have the general and Pete Ellis, newly arrived in France, show up at my bivouac area in a shiny Cadillac staff car. They were as happy to see us as we were to see them, but their mood was at first melancholy. They had just come from visiling "Fritz" Wise's battalion where Stover Keyser told them ofthat battalion's price tag for Belleau Wood. Wise had brought 965 men and 26 officers to the wood. He had only 350 men and 6 officers left."
They were on their way to Gen Pershing's headquarters at his invitation. Gen Lejeune had known "Black Jack" Pershing at Baguio in the Philippines. But tragedy had overtaken Pershing since the two had last seen each other. In 1915, his wife and three small daughters were burned to death in a fire at the Presidio.
"Pershing and Lejeune liked each other," Holcomb said, "and the general hoped to get a command, preferably including Marines. But he and Pete were so anxious to get into the fight, I had the feeling he would have accepted command of any Allied unit on the Western Front. Friends or not, he didn't get a command, not then anyway. And Pershing turned down Lejeune's offer to furnish a division of Marines to the American Expeditionary Forces."
Eventually, Lejeune was given command of the Marine Brigade, but he only had it a few days when Pershing gave him command of the Army's 2d Division, which included the Brigade. He turned the Brigade over to his friend Wendell "Buck" Neville and left Pete behind to serve as Buck's adjutant. "It was one of the smartest moves that smart man ever made," Holcomb said. "And Neville was smart enough to see Ellis' worth. He held the title, but Pete ran the Brigade."
Loud, profane "whispering Buck" Neville knew all about Pete. Thus, when informed, just before the battle of Blanc Mont, that Pete was "indisposed and would be for several hours," Buck snorted, "Ellis drunk is better than anyone else around here sober. Fetch him!" And nobody laughed louder than Neville when Pete promulgated "By Order of BGen Neville" a training memorandum about a Marine Brigade Dancing School whose courses would include the "cootie crawl, machinegun jig, foxhole glide, ground hug, cleaning rag, and bayonet squirm."
Pete's tireless efforts as Neville's strong right arm won him a Navy Cross, but Neville was an even bigger winner. The laurels Pete helped him win in France were the capstone of a career that made him Lejeune's most logical successor as Commandant 10 years later. Alas, he served only 16 months in that position, dying in office in July 1930. By that time, Pete was long dead, too.
It was difficult for Holcomb to speak of Ellis. "So much has been written about him that is plain fabrication and much more is romantic nonsense. One would think, for example, that Lejeune, knowing that Ellis burned the candle at both ends-and in the middle at the same time-regarded him as a prodigal son and kept him around in the hope of reforming him. Hogwash. The fact is: Lejeune saw him as a man of seemingly limitless ability and high character. Period!"
The guns had barely gone quiet on the Western Front before Ellis turned his eyes eastward toward the Rising Sun, whose postwar empire now included nearly all of Germany's former colonies in the Far East. In "Advanced Base Operations in Micronesia," a 50,000-word operation plan approved by the Commandant in June 1921, he predicted World War II. Japan would attack first, he warned, and the United States would be compelled to seize bases all across the Pacific, a job that could only be done by "Marines with Marine training."
His death in Japan's Palau Islands in 1923 left many questions unanswered-but not by his friends. On the bronze plaque in Ellis Hall at Quantico they gave their verdict. The inscription states that Pete "gave his life for his country as an intelligence officer at Koror Town."
Lejeune penned the plaque's closing lines, "His character was a most loving one, and his heart was dauntless and full of courage."
Gen Holcomb remembered: "Several months after his death, I was assigned to the Division of Operations and Training. One day, while reminiscing about Ellis with the Commandant, I suggested that Pete had never received the recognition he deserved for the command decisions he had made during the World War. Gen Lejeune said, 'Some men are born to ride on other people's shoulders and others are bom to supply the shoulders.' "
"We all went back to Quantico for demobilization," Holcomb recalled. "Gen Lejeune's postwar plans were clear: he would rebuild the Marine Corps within the framework of his three "Es": economy, efficiency, and education.' When he found Colonel Harllee already at Quantico in charge of vocational training, he knew he had a man who personified all three. Beau Harllee was a born instructor; he could teach anybody anything."
Harllee's arrival at Quantico in 1919 coincided with the founding of the Marine Corps Institute (MCI), and a year later The Lejeune-Harllee Education System, Inc. announced the formation of 13 new schools whose dual purpose would be to train Marines and to equip them to enter the civilian world upon discharge. Just as he had allied himself with the National Rifle Association to further marksmanship programs, Harllee now enlisted the help of the International Correspondence Schools in Scranton, PA. Backed to the hilt by Lejeune, Beau's Quantico experiment spread to embrace the whole Corps. When Lejeune became Commandant, he took Harllee to Washington as his chief of education. But when MCI floundered without him, Harllee put the whole shebang on barges and floated it up to D.C., where, at "Eighth and Eye," it remains to this day, a model of military education.
"Economy, efficiency, education," Holcomb said softly. "I can add some Es that applied to Gen Lejeune's Marine Corps. Enthusiasm and excitement and energy come to mind. And the adjectives most often applied to him by his admirers in Congress were ethical and earnest. They believed him and trusted him implicitly, although I am sure they knew, as he did, that his ranks were filled with eccentrics. Nobody, least of all himself, knew what a Marine might do."
Before I left, I told Gen Holcomb I would transcribe my notes and rephrase them in the form of written questions that I would mail back to him in a couple of days. He asked me if I would include in my letter how long it took me to drive home since he would be attending the Naval Academy's homecoming football game the following week and he wanted to know how much time to allow for the trip to Annapolis. I did. And he did. But it would be his last game.
Now, with the death of Gen Shepherd, all those people who helped me look for Lejeune are gone. I thought they had helped me find him, but the publishers didn't. They let me keep the $2,000, but they told me there was not enough "conflict"-psychological, not martial-in my manuscript. Too bad.