Have a question or feel like sounding off? Address your letter to: Sound Off, Leatherneck Magazine, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134, or send an email to: [email protected]. Due to the heavy volume, we cannot answer every letter received. Do not send original photographs, as we cannot guarantee their return. All letters must be signed, and emails must contain complete names and postal mailing addresses. Anonymous letters will not be published.—Editor
Leatherneck will pay $25 for a “Sound Off Letter of the Month” submitted by an MCA&F member or provide a one-year courtesy subscription to a non-member whose letter is selected.)
For three days this summer, Aug. 3-5, members of The Basic School’s “Echo” Company, 5-83, will be gathering for their 35th reunion. As we’ve been preparing for the reunion, many of us have been sharing bios and updates of where we’ve been and what we’ve done since we graduated in 1983.
Here’s a short story that I’ve shared many times as I’ve opened up about my time in the “Old Corps.” It uniquely demonstrates the “We” not “Me” ethic that the Marine Corps instills in all Marines.
Just before “tank week” in August 1983, my dad, C.J. McBride, passed away suddenly. I highlight that it was “tank week” because it ties in closely to my relationship with my dad.
He and my mom were high school sweethearts who met in 1938. They were both members of the Greatest Generation. He was with the Army’s 710th Tank Battalion attached to the 1st Marine Division on Peleliu, while mom did “war work” at the old land title building in downtown Philadelphia.
Peleliu is not a battle we hear a lot about as we lost more than 1,200 men, and after it was taken, it was decided that it wasn’t needed as an air base after all.
World War II Marine Eugene Sledge wrote about the battle in his memoir, “With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa,” a tough, but historically significant read. HBO’s “The Pacific” devoted an episode to the battle as well.
That’s the ancient history as my kids call it. Here’s the Echo Co part.
My dad died Sunday evening, Aug. 21, 1983. On the 22nd, at zero-dark-thirty, I was called to the office of our company commander, Captain Mike Reep. My roommates all looked at me quizzically as none of us had any idea why I was being called to the CO’s office. One of them humorously asked, “Did you park in Reep’s spot last night?”
After an emotional meeting with Capt Reep and the chaplain where I was told of my dad’s passing, I was granted 10 days emergency leave. As I packed up and began driving back to “Philly,” I realized that I was not going to be able to share any tank stories with my dad.
While I was standing in the receiving line at the funeral in a civilian suit and tie, Second Lieutenants Preston McLaughlin, Rich Regan and Fran Rosato showed up in their “Alphas” with mine in a dry cleaning package. They had gotten them out of the tailors; they were being altered when I left.
I’m one of seven, and most of my siblings’ spouses are from large families as well—more than 70 immediate family members. In addition, all of our collective friends were paying their respects. A couple of hundred people were waiting in line.
When my three “brothers” from Echo Co arrived and hustled me out of the receiving line and downstairs to change, everyone took notice. In less than 10 minutes I was back in the line in my perfectly tailored and pressed Alphas.
When word spread that they had driven three hours north, helped get me squared away, paid their respects and then drove three hours south back to Quantico, Va., it caused quite a stir.
Having my uniform made a huge impact the next day when I was handed the folded flag from the Army funeral detail and had the privilege of saluting it as I presented it to my mom.
One of my younger cousins who witnessed the Marines taking care of their own decided to join a year later when he graduated high school.
It’s still talked about at family get-togethers 34 years later.
I recently finished reading “Bloody Ridge and Beyond,” by Marlin “Whitey” Groft and Larry Alexander. As is my habit, when my April Leatherneck arrived, I checked “In Memoriam” for familiar names. I was deeply moved at finding Sgt Marlin F. Groft there. The few words devoted to his World War II service struck me as woefully inadequate. A member of Edson’s Raiders, 1st Raider Battalion, he fought on Tulagi, Guadalcanal, and New Georgia. After serving a year back in the States, he requested a transfer back to action and was rewarded with an assignment to the 22nd Marines, 6thMarDiv with whom he fought on Okinawa. When the war ended he served in China with the 22nd Marines. Notably, he served and fought as a grunt in three distinguished organizations: Edison’s Raiders, the 1stMarDiv, and the only Marine division never to set foot on U.S. soil, the 6thMarDiv.
The harsh conditions and many battles including hand-to-hand combat he experienced gave him no reason to look kindly on the enemy. But to me, a veteran of WW II and Korea, the true greatness of Whitey Groft, is revealed in the words in which he described his feelings in August 2002 on Guadalcanal. He had been asked to lay a wreath on the memorial to the U.S. troops who liberated the Solomon Islands. He was surprised to learn a Japanese army veteran would participate with him.
After jointly placing the wreath, Groft relayed, “We turned to face each other, and I looked at the man for the first time. I mean, I truly looked at him. What I saw was a little old man, just like me. His skin was wrinkled, he was slightly stooped, and his hair was thin and graying, just as mine had turned snow white.
“In essence, this man was a sort of mirror image of me, and I realized it had been an intensely emotional moment for him as well. He had, I’m sure, lost comrades in the fighting on this island, just as I had. For all I know he and I may have shot at each other on Edson’s Ridge. Tears welled up in our eyes and the Japanese man and I embraced.”
MSgt Marsden E. Champaign
USMCR, 1942-1946, 1948-1952
• Sgt Groft is featured in the article “Bless’em All: July 20, 1943: Raider Attack on Bairoko Harbor, New Georgia,” on page 16 of this issue.—Editor
What happened to the black leather belts? Urban legend from my days in the Corps has it that they were used as weapons in a bar fight so they got rid of them. Can anyone verify this?
Also, can anyone identify the Iwo Jima Marines pictured at right from Co B, 10th Amtrac Bn, 4th Marine Division?
Cpl Bil Pederson
When I came home from my assignment as a Navy medical officer with the First Marine Division in Korea in April 1953, I was sent to Naval Hospital Great Lakes, Ill., as a junior officer on the urology ward. Senior to me was a lieutenant commander and a captain. I was very happy to “sit back and relax” after six months as a battalion surgeon with 3/5 and nine months as commanding officer of “Easy” Medical Company, one of four Navy/Marine forward tent hospitals.
On the day I reported for duty, the captain was detached in order to be treated for TB. Two weeks later the commander was ordered to USS Oriskany (CVA-34).
“Where’s their replacements?” I asked. “He’s here” was the answer. “You!”
I, as a lieutenant, was now chief of urology of the 9th Naval District, comprising eight or nine mid-western states.
I’d had a very good two-year internship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, with a year and a half on various surgical wards. I’d done a lot of trauma surgery at Easy Med but my total exposure to urological surgery was one month on the urology ward.
It all worked out. Almost all the surgery cases were well within my expertise—hydroceles, circumcisions, and other relatively minor problems. The few cases I wasn’t qualified to handle were easily transferred to a general surgeon with the expertise.
Eau Claire, Wis.
In my role as a historian I was recently looking up information on the Grenada invasion of October 1983 and VMI [Virginia Military Institute] football stars of the 1960s. A friend of mine looked up information on Granville Amos, who lettered in varsity football at VMI from 1962-1964. He was VMI’s leading rusher in 1964 and holds the record for the longest touchdown run from scrimmage in VMI’s cadet history. Upon graduation he was commissioned a second lieutenant in June 1965 through the Platoon Cadet Class program. He served in Vietnam in 1968 and participated in the final evacuation in the spring of 1975.
In September 1964 in the opening game of the season against William & Mary, Amos ran 98 yards for a touchdown but William & Mary won the game 14-12. VMI finished 1-9 that season. They beat Davidson 35-0 in week 6 for their only win.
During the turbulent Vietnam War era, VMI only had one winning season when they finished 6-4 in 1967. In 1974 they made a big comeback winning the southern conference title with a 7-4 record.
I have always had an interest in VMI. 40 years ago I was a senior at T.C. Williams high school in my hometown of Alexandria, Va. T.C. Williams is the largest high school in the state and it was named after a VMI graduate, T.C. Williams, who graduated from VMI in 1915.
Gregory G. Pappati
Captain Cynthia L. (Stewart) Hollingsworth of Wenachee, Wash., (May Sound Off letter) was disappointed that women Marines were often given short shrift when it came to their accomplishments. This reminded me of an ad (see below photo) that appeared on page 60 in the August 2016 Leatherneck featuring three Marine Corps League veterans saluting. The photo was taken in 2009 at the burial of Sergeant Miriam Cohen who died on Veterans Day at the age of 101, just short of her 102nd birthday. Enlisting in our Corps at the age of 35 she went on to serve 10 years in both World War II and the Korean War.
Although we did not know her, no one hesitated for a moment to show our respects for this Marine. We are truly a band of brothers and sisters.
I just wanted to say thank you for featuring “Corporal’s Course: 15th MEU Conducts Professional Training at Sea,” in the April issue. The Marines in the unit were really excited to see it.
Capt Maida K. Zheng, USMC
I would like to draw your attention to the story of a great friend and Marine, Dr. James Nicholson. Dr. Nicholson is a Korean War veteran, and a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient. Several years ago, Dr. Nicholson wrote a book called, “George 3-7th Marines: A Brief Glimpse Through Time of a Group of Young Marines.” In his book he relates his story and talks about those he grew up with in Dallas, and those who he served with. One story caught my attention one year on a Memorial Day weekend as we prepared to participate in a memorial march. It was of Johnny Posey, a classmate of Nicholson from Dallas. Johnny was killed on a mountain top in Korea and his remains were returned to the States a couple of years ago. I carry his name tape in memory as I walk.
After Korea, Nicholson completed medical school and practiced medicine in Greenville, Texas, until his recent retirement. During his time practicing medicine, he treated and counseled many veterans of Chosin. Although he was not at that battle, he was made a member of their group because of the care he provided them over the years.
Nicholson recently asked me, “Who were the spotters in your life?” He was talking about those in our life who provided encouragement or even a kind word that helped you keep striving for improvement and greatness. It prompted me to contemplate his question for the remainder of the weekend and I decided to reach out to those who spotted for me over the years, some without even knowing it.
Nicholson still practices his commitment by reaching out and continually encouraging others to think and become the best they are capable of.
I started reading Leatherneck magazine after my oldest son joined the Marine Corps in 2004.
Terry D. Garrett
I may be able to bring some clarification to those Marines who felt they lost a stripe along the line.
In 1958, I was a buck sergeant with MABS [Marine Air Base Squadron] 11, MAG [Marine Air Group] 11, in Taiwan during the Taiwan Straits Crisis. I was proud of those three stripes, I felt I had earned them, and, yes, I enjoyed being called “Sarge.” Then the Marine Corps changed the rank structure. It added lance corporal between private first class and corporal, changed the title tech sergeant back to gunnery sergeant, and added two pay grades at the top of the enlisted ranks.
One day I was Sergeant Mueller; the next day I was acting sergeant (E-4) Mueller. To civilians, acting sergeant meant I was a corporal who was given the provisional rank of sergeant for that week or month. To me, it meant my next promotion would be to … wait for it … sergeant again and my hope for entry into the staff noncommissioned officer ranks was suddenly put off for another two or three or more years.
Eventually, all the “acting” Marines were either promoted or got out, so it all evened out except for what I consider to be the worst outcome of the entire process. Everyone was suddenly aware of the pay grades instead of the ranks. “Is he an E-5?” “No, he’s only an E-4.” For the remaining 15 years of my career, I don’t know how many times I heard comments like, “We have a new E-7 coming in.”
So, to all those Marines I mentioned in the beginning of this letter, don’t feel as if you were singled out. You were just some of the unintended consequences needed for the greater good.
MSgt James D. Mueller, USMC (Ret)
Brook Park, Ohio
I recently received a Marine Corps Basic Badge with “Ex Bayonet” listed just below U.S. Marine Corps. Research shows that it was authorized to wear in 1937 and was discontinued in 1968. I served 1958 to 1961 and never saw or heard of it. What did you have to do to earn one?
Stephen F. Grady
• According to the History Division, the Basic Badge was introduced in 1937 for weapons qualifications. The “Ex Bayonet” denotes expert qualification. The badge was discontinued in 1968.—Editor
What a surprise seeing Len Maffioli and Damaso Sutis, veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima, in Leatherneck’s May issue in We—the Marines.
I had the pleasure of serving under Master Gunnery Sergeant Maffioli as a Marine Security Guard in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1969 and 1970.
Approximately 15 years ago, my neighbor asked me if I read the book, “Grown Gray in War: The Len Maffioli Story.” He handed me the book and when I fanned through it, I noticed a photo of Maffioli greeting Mrs. Robert Newman, the ambassador’s wife, at the 1969 Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I was shocked because I was standing right next to MGySgt Maffioli when that picture was taken. I have the same photograph, but in his book I was cropped out.
My neighbor met Maffioli at the Marine Corps Museum at MCRD San Diego, and happened to get his phone number. He gave me the number and I immediately called Len. He picked up on the first ring. I asked if this was Len Maffioli. He said, “Speaking.” I said, “This is John Foster.” He said, “I used to know a Sergeant John Foster.” I said, “Speaking.” After about an hour of catching up, he apologized for the editor cutting me out of the picture. And he graciously sent me an autographed copy of his book.
GySgt John D. Foster, USMC (Ret)
Palm Springs, Calif.
I recently read the “Sound Off” letter of Joseph B. Tedder in the January 2017 edition regarding John H. Hubacher Jr., who was killed in action on March 1, 1945, on Iwo Jima. It might interest Mr. Tedder to know that the Hubacher family also lost two other men earlier that year.
Raymond Hubacher, John’s brother, was a QM3 USCGR on USS Serpens (AK-97), anchored in Lunga Bay on Jan. 29, 1945, when the ship blew up in what the Navy said was an accident. Raymond and more than 250 officers and men were killed in the explosion. The names of the casualties are inscribed on the USS Serpens Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. Their remains are buried there as well.
Bernard W. Hubacher, a cousin who was a private in the U.S. Army, died Feb. 23, 1945, of wounds sustained in action while serving with the 5th Infantry Division, 11th Infantry Regiment. He is buried in in the Luxembourg American Cemetery, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg.
I am an Associate Member of Marine Corps League Detachment 569, Medina County, Ohio, and play “Taps” with the Honor Guard. For several years I have played “Taps” at the grave marker for Raymond and John and their parents. Additionally, I drive to Calvary Cemetery in Kettering, Ohio, to play “Taps” at the grave of Tony Stein, who also was killed on March 1, 1945, and was from my mother’s childhood neighborhood.
Scott T. Hartman
General Bolden has seen more cultural change than most over the past six decades. He was a good Intruder pilot, a good leader of Marines, a good astronaut, a good NASA administrator and throughout it all, he has been a great man. I am glad to have served with Charlie Bolden, aka “Panther.” After reading the interview, I am even more impressed with my former fellow 533 Marine. He is an inspiration, and I look forward to renewing our friendship when he comes to the “Rose Garden” reunion in Pensacola. Oorah Gen Bolden! Your life has exemplified the essence of Semper Fi!