Thoughts on being a Marine

James Evans, former SSgt, Force Recon, Vietnam, USMC, PhD Univ Prof

Consider the Battle of Belleau Wood fought in the summer of 1918 (1 June 1918 to 26 June 1918).

German field commanders sent messages to their headquarters that went something like this: “We are fighting the American Marines. We are winning the fight, but the Marines do not know that they have lost. Even when we shoot them, they continue to attack. Please advise.”

After this battle, U. S. Army General, Black Jack Pershing, overall commander of the AEF in Europe (American Expeditionary Force), said, “The Deadliest Weapon in the World is a Marine and His Rifle.”
Nothing has changed today, and the rest of the world knows this to be true. Here’s my view of why.

The Germans last gasp in WWI was their Spring Offensive in 1918. They had just acquired 50 fresh divisions from the Eastern Front after the Russians quit the fight (over 500,000 men). As a result, the Germans were in complete control of their Spring Offensive and they were pushing the allies back. They were on their way to Paris. The French were worn out. Their reserves were depleted, and they had no fresh divisions to send to the front. The Brits were also worn out.

Enter the Americans. Fresh, and rugged. Rough kids from the streets and alleys of urban America. Tough farm kids from the countryside. Factory workers from mid-America. Rough necks from the oil fields. Tough kids from the mines. Ranch hands from cattle country. Supply clerks from department stores. And teachers from everywhere.

It didn’t matter what kind of work Americans did before military service (or even if they hadn’t worked) because whatever their circumstance was growing up in 1916, just staying alive had made them tough and hard.

What the German High Command learned is that Americans were different from other people on the planet. The Germans called it a character difference. And the Germans said that Marines took this character difference to a higher level than other Americans.

What the Germans learned about American Marines in 1918 is still true today. Why? What’s different about Marines? We’re all Americans, aren’t we? Yes, but. . .

The but is that quite simply every Marine who’s ever lived has learned to not quit. Moreover, they have learned to give up their life for another Marine, and to never, ever leave another Marine behind, no matter the cost of bringing him or her out. It doesn’t matter if you like or dislike the other Marine, for what’s important is that they are a Marine.

This fact is in every Marine’s DNA given to them at Graduation from Boot Camp or OCS (Officers Candidate School) when they are born into the Marine Corps!

Quite simply, this is the essence of the expression, “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”

What the Germans experienced at Belleau Wood was repeated in the Caribbean wars and in China in the run-up to the U.S.’s entry into WWII. It was repeated again in WWII. And again in Korea. And again in Vietnam. And in Iraq. And again today in Afghanistan. And it will be repeated as long as there are conflicts that involve the U. S. Marine Corps!

Suffice to say, the whole world views the U. S. Marine Corps as a fighting force that does not quit, and that is comprised of individuals who will sacrifice their lives for each other.

People have different views of why this is so. Here’s my view:

Imagine that you are part of an organization that will never leave you behind. No matter what the circumstances, no matter what it takes, no matter what it costs, no matter what the sacrifices are, this organization will not leave you behind. They will come and get you.

But this is not the end of it. This organization will do whatever it takes to keep you current so that you never become obsolete. Furthermore, you will not be replaced by those who will work for less because this organization will not move to a place where labor is cheaper, or costs are lower.

What this organization asks of you in return is that you keep yourself healthy and fit. To that end, the organization will help you stay healthy and fit by providing the best heath care, the best exercise facilities, the best instruction, the best advice for your diet and for anything else that you need.

And the costs of doing this will not be passed on to you or the other workers. Nor are the costs hidden from you or the other workers. Those who pay the costs are the investors. And they agree to pay them because they know that having workers such as those described above makes the organization stronger and more effective and, in the end, makes the organization a safer bet for their investment money.

The question is, if you worked for this organization, how would you feel about it?

I submit that you would feel you were part of a special organization. I believe that you would feel you were a part of a Brotherhood. Furthermore, I believe that you would do whatever it takes to keep this organization a Brotherhood. Indeed, you would give your life for your Brothers as they would for you.

I submit that American Marines felt this way about the U. S. Marine Corps in my day (S/Sgt-Force Recon, Vietnam, and in my father’s day (1933–1966 ret, Sgt/Maj with 5 Purple Hearts). Marines today feel the same way.

To fight such an organization means that you are fighting people who will not quit, no matter the setting, no matter the circumstance.

James Evans -Marine-PhD/Political Science (Political Theory, Economics, History, Mathematics)

“Old Corps, New Corps, Same Corps”

“The change is forever” SEMPER FI 

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