In Memoriam: Tom Bartlett

By R. R. Keene - Originally Published March 1997

Thomas P. "Tom" Bartlett, long-time managing editor of Leatherneck, Magazine of the Marines, died Jan. 20, at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., after a yearlong struggle with cancer. He was 63.

Known as "Mr. Leatherneck," Tom served on the staff for more than 25 years after his retirement as a master sergeant from the Marine Corps in 1971.

He first served with Leatherneck in 1964 when the Corps still authorized active-duty members to serve on the staff. As a combat correspondent for the magazine and later as press chief for III Marine Amphibious Force in Da Nang, Tom served four tours of duty in Vietnam. He was with Leatherneck when the magazine fully transitioned to a civilian staff and became managing editor in 1976.

He never stopped writing or shooting pictures. Over the years Leatherneck published more than 955 of his articles, often filed in combat, about young Marine enlisted men and junior officers. The stories became valuable research material, as many of those whom Tom interviewed and photographed later became some of the Corps' most decorated leaders.

He also edited the magazine's monthly "Sound Off" and other columns. When writers wanted to know about medals and ribbons, uniforms, campaigns or leaders of the Corps, etc., they called or wrote Tom Bartlett, who didn't always know the answers to their questions, but knew where to find the answers and took the time to look them up.

A 1967 photojournalism graduate of Syracuse University in New York, Tom's writing and photography earned him numerous writing and distinguished service awards from the United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, honorable mention for the Colonel Robert D. Heinl Jr. Memorial Award in Marine Corps History from the Marine Corps Historical Foundation and three honor awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.

He was a life member of the Marine Corps Association and the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association. He served on the MCCCA board of directors and was three-time president of that organization. Tom was also a member of the Armed Forces Writers' League.

A resident of Northern Virginia for most of his adult life, he was commended by the President's Committee on the Employment of the Handicapped, served locally as a Cub Scoutmaster, coached Little League baseball and was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Born in Rhode Island, he joined the Marine Corps in 1952 and served in two wars: Korea and Vietnam, where he was awarded a Bronze Star. He covered the Marine mission in Somalia in 1992 as a correspondent for Leatherneck.

MSgt Tom Bartlett was buried with military honors at the Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia.

He is survived by his widow, the former Frances Rossi of Woodbridge, Va., and three sons, Thomas of Jacksonville, Fla., Scott of Sterling, Va., and Christopher of Woodbridge.

Donations may be made in his memory to the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, 304 Glen Rock Ln., Conroe, TX 77385.