SEA STORY OF THE MONTH
Parris Island Waiter
When I was in boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., in August 1963, we had to perform kitchen patrol (KP) duty for one week.
Because I was a college graduate, my drill instructor assigned me as a waiter for officer meals, hoping I would perform satisfactorily. I had to run from table to table, trying to serve impatient officers.
During one meal, a cockroach appeared on the dining table. A major, seated in his dress uniform, called to me and said, “Hey, boy! Kill that roach!”
I was so nervous, I quickly grabbed the first thing I saw which was a small milk carton, and slammed it on the roach. Unfortunately, the milk carton was open and the milk spilled all over the major’s uniform.
A Shortage of Silver Bars
In December 1957, along with a number of other second lieutenants assigned to the First Marine Brigade located at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, I learned that we were selected for promotion to first lieutenant. I don’t recall the total number of “butter bars” in the brigade included on the promotion list, but considering that the brigade consisted of a Marine Air Group (MAG), an infantry regiment, an artillery battalion, a service battalion and various supporting units, it was a fairly large number. There were at least seven of us in 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines alone.
Those of us in the battalion were informed that the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Foster C. Lahue, wished for us to appear in his office later that week where he would personally appoint us to our new rank. Upon receiving this good news, we immediately proceeded to the Post Exchange (PX) located in the regimental area to purchase our new silver bars. Imagine our disappointment, however, to learn that there were none available. It appeared that the sudden large demand for these items had exceeded the supply.
At the appointed time we arrived at the battalion command post (CP) and discussed among ourselves how we were going to mitigate our embarrassment at not being prepared to wear our new rank. Upon entering the CO’s office, however, we were immediately made aware of at least part of the reason for the shortage of first lieutenant bars at the PX. On his desk were neatly lined up boxes of the highly sought devices which LtCol Lahue had personally purchased.
Prior to pinning each of us with our new rank, LtCol Lahue mentioned that he had never worn the silver bars of a first lieutenant. At the time he was selected for the rank he was heavily engaged as a platoon leader and eventually company commander with the 1st Raider Bn on Guadalcanal. There were no PXs. By the time he was in a position where first lieutenant bars were available, he had been promoted to captain.
Needless to say, we very much appreciated the CO’s gesture and were relieved not to be embarrassed by our lack of foresight.
One of our newly promoted group members collected the no longer needed “butter bars” and had them chrome plated in Honolulu. Supply problem solved!
Lieutenant General Lahue retired as Chief of Staff, HQMC in 1974 and passed away at his home in Ormond, Fla. on Feb. 12, 1996, at the age of 78.
Col Richard H. Stableford
The General’s Inspection
In the 1950s I was the mess sergeant at the Noncommissioned Officer Leadership School at Camp Lejeune, N.C. One of the messmen said he could paint and would paint something on the inside of the Butler Building.
Creating scaffolding by stacking mess tables on top of each other and making a wall of cardboard, the messman painted a wonderful picture of the flag raising on Iwo Jima.
Shortly after, there was an inspection by General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller. I was the last sergeant in the lineup followed by the school executive officer, the sergeant major and various instructors.
Gen Puller approached me, put his hand out to shake mine and said, “My name is Puller.” I of course gave him my name, rank and serial number. He asked for my MOS and I replied, “Mess sergeant, Sir.” He then asked to see the mess hall. The general was impressed when he saw the painting as we entered the mess hall. So much so that he said to the sergeant major, “This would be a great place for a beer party! Can you get us some beer?” And that’s what he did.
That was the extent of the inspection and we passed with flying colors.
GySgt Charles Setzer USMC (Ret)
Stick ’Em Up!
The year was 1954. The place, Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan. The outfit, Marine Air Group (MAG) 11, First Marine Air Wing. I was a “Beebee Stacker” (aviation ordnanceman) in H&MS-11, the headquarters squadron.
East Camp, the Marine portion of the NAS, had its own guard company separate from the “spit and polish” outfit at mainside. Although our provost marshal and sergeants and corporals of the guard were permanent personnel, the peons who walked posts were guys from various squadrons doing “on four, off eight” guard duty stints.
Even though scuttlebutt around East Camp was that all the surrounding villages were lousy with Communists, there was absolutely nothing in the way of potential aggressor infiltration for us to be concerned with. Each sentry walked his post armed with a 12-gauge riot gun with four brass case 00 buck shells in the tubular magazine. Walking the guard post for four hours was extremely boring. One night, while assigned to walk post on the 2400 to 0400 watch, it seemed like the only sure way to stay awake was to “shoot the breeze” with the sentry on an adjoining post. My closest guard duty neighbor was an aircraft mechanic named “Mac.” Like most jarheads, we each thought of ourselves as authorities on any subject so conversation came easy.
About a half hour into our tour, a group of Mac’s squadron buddies passed our posts after working the night shift. Mac pointed his riot gun at them, waving it back and forth and hollered, “Alright you guys, stick ’em up!” When his cronies were out of sight, I gave Mac a piece of my mind saying, “… Are you nuts pointing a loaded weapon at those guys?” Seemingly unimpressed he replied, “Oh that’s nothing. If you really want to scare somebody, pretend you’re puttin’ a round in the chamber like this.” Then I heard, click, clack, BOOM! When his 12-gauge discharged, Mac turned white as a ghost and started shaking all over. He stammered out, “What the hell am I gonna do?”
My butt wasn’t in a sling so I could think clearly and quickly. I said, “Get on the field phone to the sergeant of the guard and tell him you saw some guy sneak through the fence and yelled Halt three times, then fired a round over his head just before he disappeared into the brush.”
Mac took my advice and minutes after he cranked the phone, the area was full of guard company jeeps and a half dozen flood lights sweeping the other side of the fence.
The next time we stood formal guard mount a voice bellowed out his name shouting, “Report to the Provost Marshal’s office on the double!” As he scampered out of ranks, I heard, “I’ve really had it now.” After the guard mount was dismissed I ran into Mac and asked how he made out. With a sheepish look and a red face he confided, “They congratulated me on being an alert sentry.”
Sgt Edward D. MacIntyre
On our second or third day of Officer Candidates School, Gunnery Sergeant Hoyt Whitaker, our platoon sergeant, announced that we were going to have a field day. I was considering running the 220 yard dash or the 440 which were my best events in college. Imagine my surprise when we were issued buckets, mops and brushes. I never did learn who had the best time for these events.
Col Malcolm S. Underwood, USMCR (Ret)
Stuarts Draft, Va.
No Sleep for the Tech Sergeant
It was June 1957. I was one of 86 recruits in Platoon 126, Company C, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Parris Island, S.C. My battalion commander was Lieutenant Colonel Fenton. Our drill instructors were Technical Sergeant Forestall Bowman, Staff Sergeant Glenn and Sergeant Madson.
It was 0500 and we were getting our bunks made up. We were always up well before the field music played his merry tune. I had the top bunk and Private Causey had the bottom one.
“You entertained us last night, Whitten,” Causey said as he tightened the blanket on his bunk.
“You mean my snoring?” I asked.
He laughed, “Yeah, that haaak, haaak, haaak, is the loudest in the squad bay. But there was more last night.
“We had been in the racks about two minutes when Bowman came in, switched on the lights and yelled for us to hit the deck.”
“Did he?” I asked. “I don’t remember that.”
“I know you don’t. That’s the story. Bowman sauntered in and began to amble down the line of men in skivvies and flip flops. When he got to me he stopped because I was standing alone. I had punched you but you didn’t move.
“Bowman looked around me and heard you, ‘Haaaaak, haaaak, haaaak!’ He yelled, Hit the deck!”
Causey laughed, and Pipkin, on the next bunk, joined him.
“You didn’t budge. Bowman ambled over and yelled in your ear, ‘Hit the deck!’
“He took his leather-covered swagger stick and tapped you on the head. ‘Haaaaak, haaaaak!’
“He poked you in the arm and rapped your foot. No response except for your snores. The good sergeant used the lord’s name in vain as he returned to center stage and said softly, ‘Get in the racks, men.’ ”
Bowman switched off the lights but he didn’t leave. We could hear him breathing and expected those lights to come back on, but they didn’t. After two minutes he said softly, “Good night, men.”
The squad bay resounded with our “Good night, Sir!”
Dr. David O. Whitten
Hoist the Sail
In the summer of 1963 I was a private first class in Camp Lejeune, N.C. During my free time I took sailing lessons taught by the wife of a Navy officer at the Wallace Creek boat house.
One day I was sailing on a Sunfish which is like a large surf board with a mast and sail. The instructor was sailing next to me and shouted, “You would go a lot faster if you would hoist your sail all the way to the top of the mast.” Then the Navy wife showed that she understood the philosophy of the Marine Corps when she added, “Just like a Marine, always doing things the hard way.”
MGySgt Tom Milhausen USMCR (Ret)
Do you have an interesting story from your time in the Corps that will give our readers a good chuckle? Maybe it’s a boot camp tale or a good old sea story that will have us in stitches? We would love to hear your stories and see any accompanying photographs. Write them down (500 words or less) and send them to: Patricia Everett, Leatherneck Magazine, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134, or email them to [email protected]. We offer $25 or a one-year MCA&F membership for the “Sea Story of the Month.” Spread the word!