Marine Corps Memorial, Washington Dc

Fidelity – “faithfulness,” is to many a concept that fits into nice little pigeon holes. You remain faithful to your spouse, and never stray sexually. You are faithful to your country, though paying taxes can be a little flexible. You’re are faithful to the truth, well unless a “little lie” might serve some greater purpose.

There are those, however, for whom fidelity is not an abstract. It is, in fact, a creed. Such loyalty is a matter of character, an indwelling integrity that is sometimes hard for others to ascertain in themselves. How can someone be cold and wet, and be deprived of sleep, that others might sleep snuggly? How can a person lay down their own life for people they have never met?

The answer is simple – fidelity. In fact, “Semper Fidelis,” the state of being always faithful is what sets some apart.


FOWC with Fandango — Fidelity

RDP Friday – Ascertain


Healer Heal Yourself

image: IWM

HM2 Yamato went down heavily.  Corporal Herrington ran to his side.

“You okay, Doc?” the Marine asked with concern on his face.

“I think so. What do you think?” the Corpsman said pointing.

“It doesn’t look good,” Herrington replied.

“You know, Steve, you could work on your bedside manner a bit,” the Corpsman replied.

“What do you need me to do?” the Marine asked.

“Go pick my bag up from over there and bring it to me,” the Corpsman instructed.

Herrington went and retrieved the medic’s bag from the roadside, where it had fallen.

Yamato pulled out a roll of tape and began wrapping his shoe.  “That’s the last time I’m going to let you talk me into buying cheap running shoes.”


Field Day (Chores)

Cleaning Up, Broom, Bucket, Home, Ground, Cleaning, Mop

“Okay Marines, liberty is scheduled to commence at 1100.  Unless this field day is finished, not a single one of you wastes of space is setting foot out of this barracks,” the sergeant snapped, before turning on his heel and heading back to his office.

“You heard him,” Corporal Chin said to his squad.  “Meissner and Reece empty those shit cans.  White and Cortez get this deck swabbed.  Doc, you and Smitty get the head swabbed.”

The head was a daunting proposition, but Hospitalman Davis used Navy ingenuity, finishing on time by overflowing the toilets to speed the mopping.


Flash Fiction Challenge: Chores

A sadly semi-autobiographical tale.

Remembering Military Chow

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Both Napoleon and Frederick the Great are credited with the quote, “an army marches on its stomach.” Whoever actually coined the phrase hit on an important factor in warfare – logistics. And within the realm of supply,  food is vital.

My own time serving in the 1980s saw a transition in some aspects of military rations, but the age-old necessity of feeding troops, and some of the traditions associated with it remained the same.

Field rations are literally the meals an army marches on. I was first introduced to C-Rations when I went to Infantry Training School. These canned (tinned) meals were issued at three a day when in the field.  Poultry loaf, beans a franks, and plain tinned tuna were among the offerings. There was also the dreaded eggs and ham, which had to have been the inspiration for Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, as they did actually have a slight greenish tinge to them. These meals were accompanied with crackers, sometimes canned cheese spread, and always coffee, sugar and creamer. Dessert was a semi-chew-able cookie which took some effort to bite through or brake.

Certain points of fairness, etiquette, and tradition came into play with these tinned meals.  To keep the first Marines drawing their meals from grabbing the favourites and leaving latecomers with green eggs and ham, the sergeant would open the ration case from the bottom, so only the bottoms of the individual meal boxes could be seen.  This hide the labels, and made it a bit of a lottery of who drew which meal.  That said there was a fair measure of trading after the fact, if time allowed.

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John Wayne from my key chain.  Most Marine P-38s were mat base metal, somehow, I ended up with one of the shiny ones (though my other is dull metal).

Time was indeed a factor, the cans had to be opened with a P-38 can opener, known to us as a John Wayne. This little device was essential in getting into your meal. There were a few of them in every C-Ration case, and once you had one you hung onto it for dear life. Most of us had them attached to our dog tags, and a spare somewhere in a pocket. [I still have one stored in a jewelry box, and another always with me on my key chain]. These little wonders opened cans, were used to cut string, and the flat end could be used as a screwdriver. These openers were absolutely manual using a lever action, and thus the time pressure.  This was accentuated by the NCOs regulating the eating time. From the sergeant saying “Crack them” to “You’re done” never seemed long enough.

One thing about these rations and Marine tradition that has always impressed me is the reversed eating order.  When in the field the enlisted were given meals first.  Only after the troops were taken care of did the officers and staff NCOs get theirs.

As you can see from the above description, these meals were mostly eaten cold, and straight from the can. Occasionally we would have enough down time to heat the meals in the supplied “heat tabs.” Even more occasionally we would have the opportunity to pool our meals into a Mulligan Stew.  Everything went into the pot, even the eggs and ham, and it was stewed up and there was always an “Old Salt” that had a bottle of Tabasco to spice it up.  It was said that in the “Old Corps” such stews were cooked in a helmet. I really can’t remember ever seeing it done, but I do remember a large cook pot appearing to make it.  By the time I was out in the fleet for a year or two this became a mute point as we handed in our steel pots in exchange for Kevlar helmets, so stewing in you helmet went to the wind. But in the end,  these hot stew days were a real treat when in the field.

The problem with C-Rations was that they were heavy. Remember an infantryman carries everything. Uncle Sam in his infinite wisdom, therefore devised a new field ration – the MRE.  Officially these “Meals Ready to Eat” were an improvement.  Many of the the items were freeze dried and the entrees were vacuum packed in an “easy open” pouch.  There was no longer a need for a can opener. They were more portable, and  lighter. Of course with so much of the MRE content being dried, it did require carrying more water, or eating it as cardboard.  It is why many of us dubbed them “Meals Rarely Edible.”

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Chaplain’s altar made from ration boxes

It can’t be said that MREs were any better than C-Rats in choice either. There was a new eggs and ham equivalent, “Chicken Chow Mein.” This creamed chicken-based paste was avoided.  It is notable that while we were in Korea we sometimes tossed some of our food packets out of the perimeter to the kids that used to come to see us. It is laughable to think that they took every meal tossed to them except the Chow Mein.  In the morning there would still be these packets left where they landed the day before.

MREs introduced some other new varients.  The “Gorilla” cookies still existed, and were just as hard to eat.  Hash brown paddies were like eating Styrofoam, unless moistened (an there never seemed enough time for that).  There was also an overly sweet fruit cake, which was a love or hate affair.

Back at base there was the mess hall.  Marine Corps chow is hot, it is nutritious, and it is a bit predictable.  Salad seemed to always be on hand, and hot meals were very much cafeteria style. We often joked that there were seconds available in the mess hall, but it was a measure of the time you had to eat, rather than the quantity available.

Not surprisingly we enjoyed the meals when “on float.” The Navy fed us with more variety, and often more abundantly. But the real “holy grail” was getting the chance to eat on an Air Force base.  I know of a few Marine duty drivers that managed to always arrange their rounds in such a way that they were at or near the air base at meal time.  There is a Meme which shows Willy Wanka and the golden ticket winners when they first see inside the factory.  Their wide-eyed looks of wonder are shown, but the caption reads, “The first time you visit an Air Force base.”  It really is!  The Enlisted Dining Facility (note not mess hall or chow hall, but “dining” facility) is a thing of wonder!  Choices of entrees, seconds (this time meaning helpings), and real desserts – yes, dining.

Ironically, Napoleon said “an army marches on its stomach.”  But the best military meals are provided to those who don’t march. Well, such is life.



Belleau Wood: Semper Fidelis


It was a pilgrimage of sorts. We were travelling in northern France and staying at a holiday rental, in a small villages just short of the Belgian border. While there we noticed a plaque near the church which noted the occupation of the village.  No, not “The Occupation” of the 1940s, but rather of World War One.  This small community had been just inside German lines for much of The Great War.

This gave us a thought.   We could visit a WWI site as part of our stay.  This especially interested my English wife as she had through her tracing of her family tree found that that conflict had cost her the life of  a great grandfather (whose war grave she had already visited in Egypt), and a limb of another great grandfather.

What we found was not her heritage, but mine.  We were relatively near Château-Thierry.  A name I knew from a young age from my Marine father, and drilled into me in my own time serving with the Corps.  Our destination then became Belleau Wood.

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Belleau Woods Sign


We knew we were on the right track when we saw the brown information sign “Bois Belleau,” and we continued past the stone gate marked “Bois de la Brigade de Marine.” Shortly afterwards we were there.  The black marble monument of the shirtless Marine, and a cluster of period artillery pieces said we had arrived.

We took some time taking in the tranquility of the wood, and examined the guns, then off we were to the solemn visit to the cemetery.  The rows of white crosses and stars never cease to make me emotional.  What more emotive way could these young men have said, Semper Fidelis?”

The Battle of Belleau Wood took place from the 1st to 26th of June 1918.  The recent capitulation of the Russians had freed the German high command to move almost fifty divisions to the Western Front.  These were immediately employed in a major offensive with the hope of defeating the Allies before the new American presence in the war could have an effect.  The result was that the Germans would engage the US 2nd Division, including its elements of the 5th and 6th Marines.  The result (put concisely) was that the German offensive was halted, and then repulsed.

The legacy of the battle is great.  Tradition says that it was here that the USMC earned one of its nicknames Teufelshunde, “Devil Dogs.” A great epitaph for a fighting man, especially when given to him by an enemy.  Of the Marines at “The Wood,”  Blackjack Pershing said, “The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle.”  The French as well weighed in on the Marines’ valour, awarding the 5th and 6th Marines the  right to wear the fourragère, and renaming the wood, “Bois de la Brigade de Marine.”

The greatest legacy, however, is found at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. Here the crosses and stars mark the graves of the 2,289 fallen, plus 250 for the unknown, and there is also a listing of the 1,060 missing.  While not all of these were “Devil Dog’s,” it should be noted that more Marines died in that battle than the Corps had lost from 1775 until that time.

Belleau Wood is an important part of history.  As a “tourist” destination it is emotive.  As a “pilgrimage” site for the families of the fallen and for those who have worn Marine Corps green, it is a must.