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 Anonymous letters will not be published.—Editor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.)
If you should ever be traveling along Route 15 in Rush, N.Y., you will likely drive by a large white farmhouse with a flagpole that has both the American and Marine Corps flags on it. More importantly, situated prominently in the front yard on a concrete slab is a larger-than-life wooden statue of a young, hard-charging Marine.
There is a story behind this statue and it is a story of loyalty, remembrance, commitment, determination and reverence for a fallen Marine who might have been forgotten were it not for the owner of the house, Captain Richard Updaw, USMCR, a Vietnam veteran who served from 1966-1970.
On Memorial Day 2004, Capt Updaw said to his wife, Yvonne, “Let’s go out to the cemetery.” While there he came across a simple headstone that read, “Robert Hodes, Cpl., USMC, KIA on Iwo Jima on February 21, 1945.” When Updaw left the cemetery, he was determined to find out more about Cpl Hodes. He searched the Internet and was able to trace Hodes’ outfit, Co F, 2nd Bn, 24th Marine Regiment, right up to when they got to Iwo Jima but the trail ended there.
Capt Updaw decided to travel to Iwo Jima to see if he could find out more. He first traveled to Los Angeles where he met several Iwo Jima vets who were also going back to Iwo. As luck would have it, one of the veterans, Colonel John Fordone, had been the commanding officer of Cpl Hodes’ unit. Col Fordone put Capt Updaw in touch with a Marine who had been wounded by the same mortar shell that killed Cpl Hodes, and he was able to tell the captain how Cpl Hodes died.
A year later, Capt Updaw wanted to do something to memorialize Cpl Hodes. He considered himself the corporal’s spokesman and he felt responsible for not letting his memory die. This is when he had the statue of Cpl Hodes carved and placed in his front yard. He also placed a bulletin board behind the statue which tells the story of how it came to be. There is a place on the board that holds cards that directs those wanting to know the whole story to the website www.agricolamedia.com.
I have driven by the statue many times and I usually stop and render a hand salute to both Cpl Hodes and Capt Updaw. I’ve never been fortunate enough to meet Capt Updaw but hope to someday and shake his hand. What he did to preserve the memory of a young, brave, hard-charging Marine killed long ago in action tells me all I need to know about Capt Updaw. Well done, Sir.
Carl R. Withey
Thank you, Colonel Reinwald, for the article, “Legacy of the 29th Commandant: General Alfred M. Gray Continues to Serve,” in the July issue. I was a member of A/1/4 when he assumed command of the 4th Marines on Okinawa. About six months later I became a member of the Marine Security Guard Detachment at the embassy in Saigon at the time of its evacuation. It says a lot about Gen Gray that the events of April 29, 1975, would still impact him, especially leaving behind the bodies of Lance Corporal Darwin Judge and Corporal Charles McMahon Jr., the two Marines he was referencing in his comments. I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for Gen Gray and continue to do so to this very day.
Great articles on our 29th CMC. It was about 10 years ago when I went on a tour of Korea sponsored by Military Historical Tours. My good friend Colonel Warren Wiedhahn encouraged me to sign up for this particular tour as General Al Gray would be coming along. In addition to the so-called typical tourist activities, I had a number of opportunities to chat with the general. On one occasion I asked him about his coffee cup. He assured me that he did indeed have a canteen cup, painted in camouflage, from which he drank his coffee.
There were a number of formal events in which the general participated including laying wreaths and acknowledging the close relations of the Korean people and the United States. We were there in November, so we celebrated our birthday at Camp Casey. It was a memorable event. Everyone received tokens and Gen Gray, clad in a camouflage sport coat and strutting around the floor, gave a rousing speech before the traditional cake cutting.
I shall always cherish this trip and especially the opportunity to spend time with such a legend of our Corps.
Maj James L. Murphy, USMC (Ret)
Los Osos, Calif.
I appreciate the article about General Alfred M. Gray in the July issue. Gen Gray will always be a Marine hero of mine for two reasons. He made a personal visit to my battalion and kept his word. I was with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines in 1990 in Twentynine Palms. We were on a routine deployment in Okinawa when Desert Shield started. We were supposed to be home by Thanksgiving and many had already put in for leave for the holidays. Instead of preparing to go home, we got word to prepare for war and redeploy from Okinawa to Saudi Arabia.
During this time we got an unexpected visitor at Camp Hansen—the Commandant, Gen Gray. We all loved “Uncle Al,” as we called him, because we saw him as one of us. He was a Mustang, a Marine’s Marine.
The battalion all gathered in the base theater in which he told us how he understood that we would not be home in time for the holidays and that he understood that we would go off to the first war since Vietnam without the opportunity to see loved ones. He explained that in the coming weeks we would train and learn of our mission. He made it clear that there was a special need for us. He said no one knows how long this conflict will be and that some of us may not come home. However, he made a promise that when combat operations were over we would be the first CONUS unit back to the United States.
We became part of Task Force Grizzly and crossed the border into Kuwait hours before the official launch of the Desert Storm ground war. We were the “Tip of the Spear.” We did lose two good Marines before it was over. Once the cease fire was ordered, it was almost immediate that 3/7 was to return to the rear. Once in the rear Marine working parties were there to help us with gear and to prepare to leave. Things moved quickly. We flew from the air base (at the time) to Norton Air Force Base. With all that a Commandant had to deal with during a major conflict and deployment of so many Marines, Gen Gray kept his promise to one of his many battalions, demonstrating firsthand the meaning of “always faithful.”
I’ve never had the opportunity to render a salute and personally thank my Commandant for keeping the promise he made that day at Camp Hansen in the fall of 1990, so I’ll do it publicly. “Thank you, General, Semper Fi.”
Cpl David Jackson
• Col Christopher Woodbridge, USMC (Ret), editor of
Marine Corps Gazette, and I were privileged to spend several hours with Gen Gray. We both were lieutenants when the general served as the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps so we were especially thrilled. Gen Gray lived up to our memories and remains one of the Corps’ most beloved icons.—Editor
I have recently read quite a number of stories and articles concerning women Marines and would like to contribute the following in honor of my sister-in-law who was a woman Marine.
Helen Magdalena McNutt was born July 21, 1918, in Edenton, Penn. In April 1943 she joined the Marine Corps in Cleveland, Ohio. Helen was assigned to duty at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., where she attended Quartermaster School and was assigned to duty in the disbursing section.
In October 1944, Helen married my older brother, Master Sergeant Jack R. Olsen who was a supply man. Jack later became a navigator and retired after 20 years of service in the Marines.
In October 1945, Helen was honorably discharged as a sergeant/quartermaster. She is currently on the Marine Corps rolls as an Annuitant. On July 21, Helen turned 100 years old. Happy Birthday, Helen!
MGySgt Gary L. Olsen, USMC (Ret)
New Bern, N.C.
In the June issue [Sound Off letter] Sgt Mike Loughney appealed for info about a military aircraft that had crashed in Biscayne Bay during the early 1950s. As a shrimper in the bay I can report that the aircraft had been gone before the 1970s when I began fishing there. However, numerous fragments of aluminum constantly would jam our iron pipe trawls in certain areas. In addition a radar magnetron magnet stuck to one captain’s trawls.
As an F-4 RIO of the 1960s, I could identify the magnetron easily. I dragged up a Martin-Baker ejection seat which I brought back to the dock aboard my shrimp boat. I then called Homestead AFB, which has a runway approach over the bay, and spoke with the duty officer. He forwarded my call to a rather arrogant junior officer who said, “I understand you have found what you think is an ejection seat.” Tired at the end of a night of fishing, I’m not sure what my exact words were but something like, “I’ve got more time sitting in a Martin-Baker than you’ve got in the chow line and you better get a team down here as some of the explosives on the seat haven’t been used and may be dangerous!” Shortly, an AFB truck appeared with a crew and retrieved the seat. In hindsight, I regret reporting the seat as it would have made a wonderful addition to my living room, barnacles and all.
I can’t say this is the sergeant’s aircraft, but certainly it is very possible.
As an aside, I read Leatherneck secondhand given to me by my 92-year-old neighbor, Corporal John Hinds. At 19, Cpl Hinds landed in an early wave on Red Beach at the foot of Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. After reading it I give the magazine to my chiropractor who reads it and then puts it on his magazine rack. It doesn’t stay there long.
I promise to start my own subscription.
LT Scott Roberts
I have read several of Major Allan Bevilacqua’s stories in Leatherneck magazine but his last story, “Korea 1952: The Hook,” [January 2018] hit a soft spot in me as I was in “Item” Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines which relieved Able Co, 1st Bn, 7th Marines.
I hope that you will follow up and write another article about The Hook involving Co I. I would be glad to give input as I was there where the trucks left us under some trees. As we got off the trucks the 7th Marines boarded the same trucks.
When we got to The Hook, the Chinese had taken it over. From there on it was a day long battle into the night. We suffered a lot of casualties. My platoon leader, Lieutenant Rogers, and Platoon Sergeant Hornbeak and a buddy of mine, Lett, were killed in action. Lett was awarded the Navy Cross.
We were on Bunker Hill in August and we had a battle on our hands but The Hook was worse.
Gustavo C. Mendez
• Here at
Leatherneck, we are big fans of Major Bevilacqua, and we always eagerly await his next story. I will pass along your offer to assist him with any future articles on The Hook.—Editor
I read your reply in regard to the Sound Off letter from Corporal Joe Green found in the June edition of Leatherneck. You state that the NDSM was awarded for honorable “active service” and you further define the dates of eligibility. Just for clarification, I would like to add that by Executive Order of President George Bush certain members of the reserve forces, not on active duty, were awarded the NDSM for reserve service between Aug. 2, 1990, and Nov. 30, 1995 and between Sept. 11, 2001 and a closing date to be determined.
While I served on active duty with the Marine Corps in the 1950s, I also served and retired from the Air National Guard. I was awarded the NDSM for having served in the ANG during the 1990-1995 time period.
TSgt Joseph E. Williams, USAF (Ret)
The longest war in American history gets zero respect in Leatherneck magazine. Why? I refuse to accept that Marines haven’t done anything of note in the last decade or so. Instead the July issue included articles about Marines in 1898 Cuba, 1918 World War I, and 1969 Vietnam. The article, “The Matthew Freeman Project: Amidst Tragedy, Gold Star Mother Finds Healing in Honoring Son’s Memory,” isn’t in the same genre. The article “Legacy of the 29th Commandant: General Alfred M. Gray Continues to Serve,” was interesting to me, a 76-year-old 0802 (my Battery M/4/11 supported him in Vietnam, 1965-1966), but isn’t current; it’s old, old history.
Do younger Marines have to get old before they read about their battles? C’mon, get out in the field. Leatherneck has apparently chosen to not be relevant for younger Marines.
I recently read “Red Platoon,” a book about a U.S. Army unit assigned to a stupid position and survived (this should be a movie). Marines don’t have equivalent stories? Of course they do!
At a Marine Corps Birthday Ball in Orlando I stood next to an E-5, in dress blues, who appeared to have been wounded badly. A small dog with an official looking backpack refused to leave him. His pretty wife watched every move. He has a story, I’ll bet.
A minimum one third of Leatherneck articles should be about operations, and stories about individual Marines which are less than 15 years old. If you can’t do that, CSMO ... go home. Low subscriptions will follow.
Richard J. Stier
• One thing I’ve learned during my tenure as
editor is that we can’t please everyone. For every letter complaining that we don’t cover today’s wars enough, we receive five requesting more articles on Vietnam or Korea or World War II. Our challenge each month is to provide the right mix of articles to keep our readers interested, whether they are the 16-year-old who wants to join the Corps or the 95-year-old veteran of Tarawa. Your statement that
Leatherneck has “zero respect” for those who served in the Corps’ longest war is not only factually incorrect, but insulting to the Leatherneck staff, the majority of whom have worked on the Magazine of Marines for decades and have a deep love and respect for Marines of all eras.
has run numerous articles on OIF and OEF, and while they may not appear in every issue, we have worked hard to ensure that the Marines of the last 20 years, many of whom I personally served alongside, are given the respect and admiration they are due. So, no, we won’t CSMO, but rather continue to carry on
Leatherneck’s legacy of ensuring the stories of Marines—yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s—are told in the pages of our beloved magazine.—Editor
I owe you and your staff a huge thank you. This past week has brought forth a myriad of feelings just seeing Chuck’s letter in print in your June issue. When I sent it in I really never thought it would be published and in such a wonderful way. It is truly a tribute that you printed “Priceless Treasures: Letters Home,” 50 years after Vietnam.
I received more than 100 letters from Chuck in the three months he was there until he was shot March 28, 1968. Those letters were priceless to me.
A huge thank you for the beautiful mug you sent me. I shall treasure it always. It will bring forth warm, loving and wonderful memories just looking at it. I know Chuck is smiling (he had a warm, beautiful smile) in heaven.
Las Vegas, Nev.
I am an 83-year-old Marine veteran who did two tours in Korea. While I was there, my parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. I sent a letter to a local DJ in Bridgeport, Conn., asking him to play a record on their anniversary. Believe it or not, the DJ was Bob Crane. It was before he made a name for himself. He wrote back that it was the policy of the station not to play requests but because I was in Korea he made an exception. He played the requested recording saying that it was requested by me for my parent’s anniversary and hoped they heard it.
He also sent me newspaper clippings of the high school sports activities and invited me to visit him in the studio when I returned home. By the time I got home he was making a name for himself in California.
I wrote a poem for my parent’s anniversary and was surprised that after my mother’s death, my sister found it in my mother’s belongings. It was hard for me to believe that she kept it all those years.
Dec. 14, 1954—Korea
To Mom & Dad,
Nowhere in the world can you find such a wonderful pair.
Sharing their happy moments and their moments of despair.
Of their 25 years of marriage I could tell some stories and jokes
But here’s what I like the most to tell;
I’m proud, ’cause they’re my folks.”
Former SSgt Frank Perry
In the June issue, J. Michael Miller discusses the Bulldog Fountain at Belleau. In 1980, the American director of the cemetery at Belleau and I met the then-mayor of Belleau for a pleasant afternoon in the village.
Besides telling us that as a young boy, he and his mother took bottles of wine to fill the canteen cups of the Marines in the assembly area prior to their attack, he also mentioned that the woods had been a hunting preserve and remnants of the lodge remain above the cemetery. It was here that the count of Belleau kept his bull mastiffs. The mayor told us they were the model for the fountain, not a bull dog. The dogs panicked under the din of battle and were destroyed attacking the defending Germans.
The mayor contended that the Germans alluded to these crazed animals as “Teufelhunden” and that the name transferred to the Marines as the Germans were pushed out of the woods. I’d be interested if any of his ramblings could be verified. We did drink some wine during the course of the day.
LtCol Scott W. McKenzie, USMC (Ret)
General Pershing, who was to command the American Expeditionary Force to France, was not in favor of taking Marines along. He told Marine Corps Commandant Major General George Barnett that there was no room on the transports. MajGen Barnett wanted his Marines to go because many had joined due to an extensive “First to Fight” recruitment campaign. He turned to an old friend, CNO Admiral Benson, who made room for the Marines on the convoy escort ships. Once ashore, Pershing scattered the Marines among the Army units essentially as military police. Back in Washington, MajGen Barnett convinced Secretary of War Josephus Daniels and the president that another regiment of Marines should be sent to operate with the 5th as a brigade.
When the 6th Marines arrived, the Army joined it with the 5th Marines and termed it the 4th Infantry Brigade as part of the Second Division. The Marines called themselves the 4th Marine Brigade and it wasn’t long before that term caught on.
The first news the American public got of the AEF in combat came when a war correspondent began his dispatch, “I am up front and entering Belleau Wood with the U.S. Marines.” The media continued to feed the public acclaim. Pershing made no secret that he thought the Marines were “headlight hunters.” No Marine officer with the AEF was ever awarded the Medal of Honor. More than 30 years later, the President of the United States, himself an Army veteran of World War I, apparently still chafing even after World War II at the outsized reputation of the Marine Corps, would write, “The Marines have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.”
But the little-known Marine Corps at Belleau Wood introduced itself as one of the world’s great fighting units.
Capt Richard E. Dixon, USMCR (Ret)
In the July issue [Sound Off Letters] Cpl Bil Pederson inquired about the black leather belts worn in a 1945 photo. As a collector of Marine Corps uniforms for over 35 years, I have obtained several of these belts.
First, they are cordovan, not black, although period photos would suggest they are black. I have seen only one with an altered brass buckle, the edges sharpened perhaps as a fighting weapon. I’ve heard sea stories how the belt would be wrapped around the hand and used like a flail but never met any old Corps Marines who actually used it as such.
The belts were discontinued as an issue item about mid-1942 to save leather and replaced with the cloth belt still used with the Service (green) Alpha uniform today. Obviously, salty Marines would never give up their belts and it’s likely the Marines in the 1945 photo wore theirs until forced to retire them.
Marines continued using cordovan leather for dress shoes and barracks cover visors until about 1959-1960, when the change was made to black color. The old items were simply dyed black, not replaced. The leather belt tradition has carried on with the black duty belt now worn by senior drill instructors.
C.M. “Stoney” Brook
Santa Cruz, Calif.
I remember sitting in the “E” Club with hashmarked PFCs who would mesmerize us with stories of battling members of other nation’s military in a foreign port-of-call. As the brawl began, they would deftly spin their leather belt around their fists with the buckle swinging free. They were always victorious in spreading the word that they were the finest fighting force in the world. They’d whisper conspiratorially that before pulling liberty, they would hone the edges of the brass buckle just to add a little insurance.
Master Sergeant Mueller’s letter, “Loss of Stripe,” really captured the essence, in my opinion, of what happened and the many ramifications that ensued after we went through that rank restructuring. It had an impact that reached out for years as he so graphically stated. Such could have never been envisioned by those who implemented it.
Having enlisted in 1957 I do remember the Marine Corps Basic Badge though I certainly couldn’t recall the proper name. I did earn a couple of bars to hang from the award though my memory is foggy as to which ones. I would see old salts with a ladder of their many qualifications nearly reaching the belt of their greens. I seem to recall that not long afterwards the badge disappeared. I’m thinking that it was pulled in 1958 or 1959, perhaps in conjunction with the new rank structure though I can’t see a connection. 1969 seems a decade off.
Obviously, I enjoy reading Leatherneck as I have for the past 61 years. 61 years? Can’t be, I’m ready to re-up.
CWO-5 Robert W. Dart, USMC (Ret)
A fond memory was brought up concerning the star on the hilt of the Marine sword.
I was the detachment noncommissioned officer in charge of the U.S. Embassy, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from 1980 to 1983.
One of the incoming Marines had his sword confiscated at the airport due to the belief that it was Israeli. (We did not get diplomatic passports until 1982.)
Our ambassador intervened and got the sword back. Needless to say, he endeared himself even more to the Marines.
1stSgt Greg Casler, USMC (Ret)
I’m a 72-year-old Marine Vietnam veteran. With my part-time job at the VA, three hours a day managing my lung transplant and a heavy history reading list, I just received the June issue of Leatherneck.
This issue carried, back to back, the two most moving stories I have ever read in Leatherneck. I was choked up when I finished reading “Chosin Twins: The Service and Sacrifice of the Thosath Family,” and weeping by the time I finished Captain Brian Worley’s “Constraints: That Which We Must Do.” Well done!
SSgt Robert A. Hall
• We’ve heard from numerous readers that both the articles had a similar impact on them. They are yet more reminders of the sacrifices made by both our Marines and their loving families.—Editor
Terry D. Garrett’s letter in the July issue about Dr. James Nicholson and his practice of acknowledging the spotters in his life really struck a chord with me. I’m both honored and privileged to do volunteer work with other combat vets suffering from PTSD, by facilitating retreats.
As soon as I read Mr. Garrett’s words about spotting, I realized that is what we should all be doing, especially for the younger vets returning from combat zones. We have had the experience of a return to civilian life, and I believe it is our calling, in the true meaning of Semper Fidelis, to be there for our brothers and sisters in transition, especially for those who are enduring the after effects of war’s traumas.
Sgt Joe Doyle