A Visit To The WALL

In May, 2002 I took a trip back east with two of my children: my daughter, Kristy, and my son, Travis. On that trip we spent two days in Washington DC. While in DC, I took my kids to visit our India Company Brothers at The Wall. Before I left home I had a copy made of the picture we had taken of our Company in Okinawa. I had written on it “You are not forgotten!” My idea was to place it at the foot of the monument.

On our arrival at The Wall, we went to the panel where our brothers’ names appear. I laid the picture at the foot of the monument, stepped back and saluted our Brothers. As I did, I noticed a group of girls watching me. They came over to where I was, looked at the picture, and started asking questions about it. They got me talking about you guys in the picture.

I told them about us. Those who did come home: our sacrifice, leaving our families, the horrors of combat and how we were treated when we came home. I told them about the Webers, the Callahans, the Denmans, and the Lt. Careys. I told them about the Olsens, the Dodsons, the Simplers and the Houghtons. I told them about Michael Bednar and his great courage. But mostly I told them about the guys that didn’t come home: the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice the ones whose names are on the wall.

I would touch a name on The Wall then show them that guy in the picture. I told them a little about each guy that I knew. I told them about Rodney Westcott and how he died trying to help those dying men in the streambed. I told them about Johnny Smith (Pappy), the oldest Sergeant I have ever known, yet, when he died he was right in front with his men. I told them about Lt Kopfler and the inspiring leader he was and the lady waiting for him back home. I told them about Lawrence Denny and Steve Kettle and how young they were. I told them about the next morning, our feelings on the hill as we loaded our dead Marine Brothers on the helicopter. I wish I would have had time and the knowledge to tell them about each one on The Wall but, of course, I did not.

I told them how young most of these men were who died. How they never had a chance to marry and feel a woman’s love. How they never had the chance to be a father or a grandfather. How those who were married and those who had children never had a chance to see their children grow up or to see their grandchildren. I told them, how blessed I felt, yet somehow guilty when I look at my children and grandchildren. I have so many. They never had that blessing.

As I talked, more people stopped and the crowd grew. When I looked at the young girls, tears were streaming down their faces. They were crying. When I stopped talking and tried to leave, some applauded me. I said, “don’t applaud me, applaud those on The Wall. They are the real heroes.”

One of the teachers who was chaperoning the girls, came up to me and said, “Mr. Campbell, I need to hug you. You don’t know what a blessing you are to us. We have been trying to make these young girls understand the sacrifices others have made for them. We had not been able to do that until now. You are an answer to our prayers! Thank you!”

I was so touched to see that others cared, touched to see that they had some of the same emotions for our Brothers as I did. It was a very emotional experience. It touched me deeply. It was my privilege for about 30 short minutes to tell that group of people about you guys. I love you guys and as long as I am around, you will not be forgotten, especially the guys on The Wall.

Author/Gary Campbell

The Tree Line

In November 1966, 3rd Platoon was assigned to an outpost in front of the main lines of Chu Lai. We called it The Tree Line. I remember we were there for Christmas so I know we were there for a few months.

It was kind of a little island of brush and trees in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sand. Our bunkers were set up in a 360-degree circle, surrounded by concertina wire with claymore mines set in the wire.

At the time I was the platoon guide of 3rd platoon. I stayed in a bunker in the middle of the compound, with the squad leaders.

On December 4, 1966 our platoon commander and our platoon sergeant were called into company headquarters for the day.

Just before dark I got a call on the radio saying they would not be back until the next morning. As the platoon guide, I was now in charge. It made me a little nervous knowing I was in charge of the platoon, but I convinced myself that it was no big deal. The platoon had been there for over a month and never had fired a shot. Well, all that changed that night. We were hit. When we came under fire I remember running from the bunker along with the squad leaders to check the lines. As we ran from position to position checking on the troops, grenades were going off around us. I don’t remember being scared, but I do remember worrying about doing the right thing and not getting anyone killed. We had a hard time getting the 60mm mortars up and firing, but once they were, we did OK.

I had nothing to worry about; all the Marines performed exceptionally well. Although over 40 grenades were thrown into the compound, no one was hurt and they never penetrated our wire.

One other interesting note: Some weeks later when we moved from the tree line and took down our bunkers, we found a python snake that had been living under the pallets in our bunker. No wonder we had no mice or rats while we were there!

Author/Gary Campbell

After Hastings

We all pretty well know what took place in India Company before and during operation Hastings, because we were all still together. Many of you left India company after Hastings, or shortly thereafter because of wounds of transfers. A few of us remained with I Company our whole tour in Vietnam. I believe there were only eight of us originals left when I left Vietnam in April 1967. I can’t remember everyone’s name but I do remember that in my platoon there was: Cpl. Houghton, Cpl. Dodson, Cpl. Richardson and myself. I’m sorry I can’t remember whom else.

I would like to know where the rest of you went and what you did after leaving India Company. Tell us about the experiences you had during your remaining time in Vietnam or after you were evacuated. To get things started I’d like to tell you some of our experiences after you left India company.

Operation Napa

Operation Napa took place in September 1966, not too far from the village of Tam Ky, just off Highway 1. I had a little experience on that operation that I will never forget.

As I remember it, we had been sweeping an area for most of the day. At dusk we set in for the night on a small hill in the middle of a valley. Edward Leonard and I were placed in a position to cover the trail as it came up the hill. We started to dig our fox hole but after only a few feet, hit solid rock and could not dig any deeper. We were tired so instead of moving our position to where we could dig a deeper hole, we convinced ourselves it was deep enough, a decision we would later regret.

At about that same time, they found some Vietcong hiding in the brush within our perimeter. It caused quite a stir. By the time the excitement had died down it was getting dark. Because of the delays we had not cleared a proper field of fire in front of our foxhole. There was brush and bushes within grenade range of our position. Because of the darkness we ignored that little detail, another decision we would later regret.

Leonard took first watch. He woke me up around midnight then curled up in the bottom of our hole. After Leonard fell asleep, I remember looking at my new Seiko watch and the time was 0020 (12:20am_. I remember the time so well because even though my new watch did not have an illuminated dial, the moon was so bright I could see the time. It amazed me how bright the night was. A few seconds later, I heard a noise to my front. As I listened I could hear whispering.

It confused me because it sounded like English yet I had not been told of any listening posts or patrols that might be out there. As I listened I realized it was not English but Vietnamese. As I reached over to wake Leonard, I saw two faces in the brush to my front. The moon was so bright it shone off their faces. It scared the hell out of me! I could see them so clearly. As I opened fire I was wishing we had cleared a better field of fire and had taken the time to dig a deeper hole. As I fired, I believe they did the same. I’m really not sure. Everything happened so fast and it has been so long ago. For the rest of the night I could hear noises to my front.

I did not know it at the time, but I had hit 2 Vietcong. One in the head and the other, in the side of the stomach I believe. The one hit in the head lay dead in the brush where I had first seen him. He had grenades strapped to his body and a 9mm automatic rifle in his hand. The second one who was hit ran down the trail where he died. The Vietcong were trying to retrieve the body and the weapons, of the one hit in the head, most of the night. As you all know, they hate to lose a weapon, especially an automatic one.

At first light it got very quite so I stood up and told Leonard I was going to see if anything was out there. As I stood up my heart skipped a beat and I became weak in the knees. In front of me just a foot from the edge of our hole was a grenade that had been thrown during the firefight. If it had gone off, it would have killed us both. I remember saying a little silent prayer as I stood there thanking my Father in Heaven for his protection. Back home I had a wife, and a new baby daughter who was born after I had left the states that I had not yet seen.

I never went down the trail to see the dead Vietcong. The one in the brush close to my hole was enough for me. I only saw him from a distance. He looked so young. Knowing I had ended his life was not easy for me. I’m sure he had a family waiting for him as well. I still have problems today with that thought.

Author/Gary Campbell

Roughrider

This roughrider took place in March 1967. India Company was security for a convoy going down Highway I from Chu Lai to Da Nang.

Why they needed to send convoys down that highway I’ll never know! Sitting on those trucks, going down that road, you are sitting ducks for ambush or any sniper who wants to take a shot at you. Anything going from Chu Lai to Da Nang could very easily go by air or by ship down the coast. When I asked why use a truck convoy, I was told it was a show of force.

I was particularly nervous about going because my 13 months were up. I figured if I was going to get hit, it would be on this convoy because I should have been home by then.

Somewhere between Chu Lai and Da Nang we were ambushed. The lead truck was blown up and we could not get around it because the road dropped off into rice paddies on both sides. We were taking fire from a village across from the rice paddies. The order was given to bail out of the trucks. We dived into the rice paddies and returned fire. I clearly remember as I lay there in that paddy, looking up and seeing Jerry Richardson kneeling and firing his rocket launcher. I remember yelling at him to get down before he got hit. He ignored me, stayed up and calmly fired his launcher until he was out of rocket rounds. As I lay there face down in the rice paddy sucking up that filthy water, I remember thinking he was either an idiot of very courageous. I’m sure it was the latter.

Once they pushed the destroyed truck off the road, the order was given to mount up so we could get the hell out of there. I believe that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, to climb out of the relative safety of the paddy and back into those very exposed trucks. I think the only casualties we had were the men in that lead truck. After arriving in Da Nang, we were happy when they decided to fly us back to Chu Lai.

Author/Gary Campbell

Tuff Skin

Every grunt takes care of his buddies, his weapon and his feet. That’s the proper order. The team leaders and squad leaders ensure that a Marine does the first two. The platoon’s Navy Corpsman makes sure that a Marine takes care of the third.

But, when a Marine hasn’t been able to take his boots off for three or four days and he’s been walking in water and mud through rice paddies during the rainy season, or down asphalt, rocky or dirt roads during the 120 degree dry season, well, an Infantryman’s feet take the worst of it.

That’s the way it’s been since Valley Forge. Vietnam was no different. Operation Nathan Hale was winding down. 3rd Battalion was moving down Highway 1 in parallel columns. India Company was smack-dab in the middle of Highway 1. At the end of the day, around 1600, we were scheduled to board Mike and Papa boats and return to the USS Pickaway. It was 125 degrees in the shade; the asphalt was melting on the highway and sticking to our boots.

The Company was moving south in a long column formation, with Marines on each side of the road. Lieutenant Kopfler, the Executive Officer, was wearing me out running up and down the column trying to keep it “tight”, taking care of the requests of the Marines while still planning our rendezvous with the Pickaway’s landing boats. As we moved forward, the two of us came between a Marine on each side. From the flank, or side, it was an opportunity for one enemy to kill four Marines. It’s called “enfilade” fire, hitting a bunch of guys lined up in a row with one bullet.

A message came over the net for the Lieutenant. I went to hand him the handset. That’s when the gook opened up. The only thing we had going for us is that this dirtball wasn’t much of a gunner. Highway 1 was being pock-marked by exploding asphalt in front of us as the ambusher started to “walk” his aim toward the four of us, all lined up like ducks in a shooting gallery.

The Marines on each side of the road hit the deck and found cover in the road side ditch. Lieutenant Kopfler took a dive to my right and found cover. There I stood like a statue holding my arm out with the hand-set in my hand while the world was exploding in front of me! Well, hell, with discretion being the better part of valor, I took off running. I was looking over my left shoulder and, maybe, that gook didn’t like my looks. Rounds were popping off the asphalt and getting closer. This clown wasn’t much of a shot, but he sure could make pot holes.

Considering I ran down Highway 1 past the 1st Platoon and well into the 3rd, I must have run over a hundred yards with this asshole trying to snuff my sorry ass. I saw a big bush off to my left, took a dive and found cover. That’s when I saw Corporal Joe Dodson fire a 3.5 Willy Peter into this guy’s position. The next thing I saw, I think, was a pair of black pajamas on top of a beautiful white cloud. That was the first time Corporal Dodson saved my life.

Things were running late. We had to meet those boats on the beach so that we could get back to the Pickaway for some rest and to regroup. Pressing on at a fast pace took a toll on the Marines, especially in that heat. I had to call in a couple of “Dust-Off”, helicopter evacuations, for guys who suffered from heat exhaustion. We had to stop a few times for Marines whose feet were severely blistered from walking on the super hot asphalt.

Then, my turn came. Jesus Christ and I have one thing in common. We both walked on water. But, Jesus was God and did it on a lake. I was merely human and did it on my own feet. I had blisters on both feet from my toes to my heels. I couldn’t walk anymore.

That’s when Doc Fresquez and his miracle cure, provided by our Navy, came into play. I was wrestled to the ground by four masochistic gorillas, one on my chest, one on my butt, and one on each leg. The good Doc removed my boots and socks, then made incisions in my blisters. (I know, this is gross!)

After my wounds were dry, it was time for the “flip side”. I got turned over on my back, the Marines assumed new positions in reverse, and then that’s when Doc added the final insult. Ever been to a horror movie where each actor tries to out scream the other? Well, get some “Tuff Skin” and you won’t need a prop or any coaching. The pain endured is more than any mere mortal should be subjected to. I don’t know what a Banshee screams like, but I would have probably embarrassed one. Doc had a gleeful look on his face, mainly because I had previously given him a ton of shit. So, I think there was some “get even-ism” with his application of this naval cure-all for blisters.

About fifteen minutes later, I was able to move on with the Company. We met the boats on the beach, boarded them and had two San Marcos beers each, courtesy of the Skipper of the Pickaway.

We were finally going to get some R&R. It was well deserved. I wouldn’t wish anybody, even my worst enemy, the misery we suffered going through that heat. The Corpsmen did their best, and the welfare of “their” Marines was the most important thing to them.

Would I do it over? Could I be “Tuff-Skinned” again?

Damned straight, I would. I’d do anything a Corpsman would tell me to do.

Author/Ski II

Feelings

While interviewing an anonymous Marine scout sniper on his sniper skills a Reuters News agent asked him what he felt when shooting members of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

The Marine shrugged and replied, “Recoil.”

Author/Email

Nomenclature of a Marine

A sea-rat fed

Boondock operated

Killing machine,

That lives in holes

and thrives on chicken shit.

Author/Bill

Brief History of the United States Marine Corps

On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia passed a resolution stating that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” for service as landing forces with the fleet. This resolution, established the Continental Marines and marked the birth date of the United States Marine Corps. Serving on land and at sea, these first Marines distinguished themselves in a number of important operations, including their first amphibious raid into the Bahamas in March 1776, under the command of Captain (later Major) Samuel Nicholas. Nicholas, the first commissioned officer in the Continental Marines, remained the senior Marine officer throughout the American Revolution and is considered to be the first Marine Commandant. The Treaty of Paris in April 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War and as the last of the Navy’s ships were sold, the Continental Navy and Marines went out of existence.

Following the Revolutionary War and the formal re-establishment of the Marine Corps on 11 July 1798, Marines saw action in the quasi-war with France, landed in Santo Domingo, and took part in many operations against the Barbary pirates along the “Shores of Tripoli”. Marines participated in numerous naval operations during the War of 1812, as well as participating in the defense of Washington at Bladensburg, Maryland, and fought alongside Andrew Jackson in the defeat of the British at New Orleans. The decades following the War of 1812 saw the Marines protecting American interests around the world, in the Caribbean, at the Falkland Islands, Sumatra and off the coast of West Africa, and also close to home in the operations against the Seminole Indians in Florida.

During the Mexican War (1846-1848), Marines seized enemy seaports on both the Gulf and Pacific coasts. A battalion of Marines joined General Scott’s army at Pueblo and fought all the way to the “Halls of Montezuma,” Mexico City. Marines also served ashore and afloat in the Civil War (1861-1865). Although most service was with the Navy, a battalion fought at Bull Run and other units saw action with the blockading squadrons and at Cape Hatteras, New Orleans, Charleston, and Fort Fisher. The last third of the 19th century saw Marines making numerous landings throughout the world, especially in the Orient and in the Caribbean area.

Following the Spanish-American War (1898), in which Marines performed with valor in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, the Corps entered an era of expansion and professional development. It saw active service in the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902), the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900). and in numerous other nations, including Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Mexico, and Haiti.

In World War I the Marine Corps distinguished itself on the battlefields of France as the 4th Marine Brigade earned the title of “Devil Dogs” for heroic action during 1918 at Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Michiel, Blanc Mont, and in the final Meuse-Argonne offensive. Marine aviation, which dates from 1912, also played a part in the war effort, as Marine pilots flew day bomber missions over France and Belgium. More than 30,000 Marines had served in France and more than a third were killed or wounded in six months of intense fighting.

During the two decades before World War II, the Marine Corps began to develop in earnest the doctrine, equipment, and organization needed for amphibious warfare. The success of this effort was proven first on Guadalcanal, then on Bougainville, Tarawa, New Britain, Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. By the end of the war in 1945, the Marine Corps had grown to include six divisions, five air wings, and supporting troops. Its strength in World War II peaked at 485,113. The war cost the Marines nearly 87,000 dead and wounded and 82 Marines had earned the Medal of Honor.

While Marine units took part in the post-war occupation of Japan and North China, studies were undertaken at Quantico, Virginia, which concentrated on attaining a “vertical envelopment” capability for the Corps through the use of helicopters. Landing at Inchon, Korea in September 1950, Marines proved that the doctrine of amphibious assault was still viable and necessary. After the recapture of Seoul, the Marines advanced to the Chosin Reservoir only to see the Chinese Communists enter the war. After years of offensives, counter-offensives, seemingly endless trench warfare, and occupation duty, the last Marine ground troops were withdrawn in March 1955. More than 25,000 Marines were killed or wounded during the Korean War.

In July 1958, a brigade-size force landed in Lebanon to restore order. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, a large amphibious force was marshaled but not landed. In April 1965, a brigade of Marines landed in the Dominican Republic to protect Americans and evacuate those who wished to leave.

The landing of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Da Nang in 1965 marked the beginning of large-scale Marine involvement in Vietnam. By summer 1968, after the enemy’s Tet Offensive, Marine Corps strength in Vietnam rose to a peak of approximately 85,000. The Marine withdrawal began in 1969 as the South Vietnamese began to assume a larger role in the fighting; the last ground forces were out of Vietnam by June 1971. The Vietnam War, longest in the history of the Marine Corps, exacted a high cost as well with over 13,000 Marines killed and more than 88,000 wounded. In the spring of 1975, Marines evacuated embassy staffs, American citizens, and refugees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. Later, in May 1975, Marines played an integral role in the rescue of the crew of the SS Mayaguez captured off the coast of Cambodia.

The mid-1970s saw the Marine Corps assume an increasingly significant role in defending NATO’s northern flank as amphibious units of the 2d Marine Division participated in exercises throughout northern Europe. The Marine Corps also played a key role in the development of the Rapid Deployment Force, a multi-service organization created to insure a flexible, timely military response around the world when needed. The Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) concept was developed to enhance this capability by prestaging equipment needed for combat in the vicinity of the designated area of operations, and reduce response time as Marines travel by air to link up with MPS assets.

The 1980s brought an increasing number of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies around the world. Marine Security Guards, under the direction of the State Department, continued to serve with distinction in the face of this challenge. In August 1982, Marine units landed at Beirut, Lebanon, as part of the multi-national peace-keeping force. For the next 19 months these units faced the hazards of their mission with courage and professionalism. In October 1983, Marines took part in the highly successful, short-notice intervention in Grenada. As the decade of the 1980s came to a close, Marines were summoned to respond to instability in Central America. Operation Just Cause was launched in Panama in December 1989 to protect American lives and restore the democratic process in that nation.

Less than a year later, in August 1990, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait set in motion events that would lead to the largest movement of Marine Corps forces since World War II. Between August 1990 and January 1991, some 24 infantry battalions, 40 squadrons, and more than 92,000 Marines deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. Operation Desert Storm was launched 16 January 1991, the day the air campaign began. The main attack came overland beginning 24 February when the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions breached the Iraqi defense lines and stormed into occupied Kuwait. By the morning of February 28, 100 hours after the ground war began, almost the entire Iraqi Army in the Kuwaiti theater of operations had been encircled with 4,000 tanks destroyed and 42 divisions destroyed or rendered ineffective.

Overshadowed by the events in the Persian Gulf during 1990-91, were a number of other significant Marine deployments demonstrating the Corps’ flexible and rapid response. Included among these were non-combatant evacuation operations in Liberia and Somalia and humanitarian lifesaving operations in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and northern Iraq. In December 1992, Marines landed in Somalia marking the beginning of a two-year humanitarian relief operation in that famine-stricken and strife-torn nation. In another part of the world, Marine Corps aircraft supported Operation Deny Flight in the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. During April 1994, Marines once again demonstrated their ability to protect American citizens in remote parts of the world when a Marine task force evacuated U.S. citizens from Rwanda in response to civil unrest in that country. Closer to home, Marines went ashore in September 1994 in Haiti as part of the U.S. force participating in the restoration of democracy in that country. During this same period Marines were actively engaged in providing assistance to the Nation’s counter-drug effort, assisting in battling wild fires in the western United States, and aiding in flood and hurricane relief operations.

During the late 1990’s, Marine Corps units deployed to several African nations, including Liberia, the Central African Republic, Zaire, and Eritrea, in order to provide security and assist in the evacuation of American citizens, during periods of political and civil instability in those nations. Humanitarian and disaster relief operations were also conducted by Marines during 1998 on Kenya, and in the Central American nations of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In 1999, Marine units deployed to Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force. Soon after the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Marine units deployed to the Arabian Sea and in November set up a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Marine Corps has continued its tradition of innovation to meet the challenges of a new century. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory was created in 1995 to evaluate change, assess the impact of new technologies on warfighting, and expedite the introduction of new capabilities into the operating forces of the Marine Corps. Exercises such as “Hunter Warrior,” and “Urban Warrior” were designed to explore future tactical concepts, and to examine facets of military operations in urban environments.

Today’s Marine Corps stands ready to continue in the proud tradition of those who so valiantly fought and died at Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, and Khe Sanh. Combining a long and proud heritage of faithful service to the nation, with the resolve to face tomorrow’s challenges will continue to keep the Marine Corps the “best of the best.”

“My Rifle”

The Creed of a United States Marine

This creed, accredited to Major General William H. Rupertus, USMC (Deceased) and still taught to Marines undergoing Basic Training at the Recruit Depots at San Diego and Parris Island, was first published in the San Diego Marine Corps Chevron March 14, 1942.

  1. This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
  2. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
  3. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will.
  4. My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit.
  5. My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will.
  6. Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
  7. So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!!

History of the Creed:

In a conversation which took place sometime early in 1942 between BGen William H. Rupertus, USMC, Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, San Diego, and Capt Robert P. White, USMCR, Public Relations Officer of the base, the general stated that his men must be made to understand “that the only weapon which stands between them and Death is the rifle” they must understand that their rifle is their life & it must become a creed with them.

Whereupon Capt White suggested that the general write an editorial to that effect with the tentative title of “My Rifle is My Life.”

The general, who had won the Distinguished Marksmanship Badge as a second lieutenant in 1915, liked the title but disagreed with the idea of an editorial which he considered would sound like a sermon. Instead, he felt that the rifle creed should be “something so deep, a conviction so great, a faith so lasting that no one should have to be preached to about it.”

The very next morning, the general appeared in the captain’s office with a “random scrap of paper” on which were penciled the notes which have since become the rifle creed. Capt White’s part in the final production of the creed is best expressed in his own words: All I did was to translate it, type it, suggest a few different word usages and add a line here and there to complete the General’s thought. My job was that of an editor; and no editor could have bettered the General’s piece in that particular.

Marine Corps Navajo Code Talkers

World War II

The Marine Corps Navajo Code Talker Program was established in September 1942 as the result of a recommendation made the previous February by Mr. Philip Johnston to Major General Clayton B. Vogel, USMC, Commanding General, Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, whose headquarters was at Camp Elliott, California. Mr. Johnston, the son of a missionary to the Navajo tribe, was fluent in the language, having lived among the Navajos for 24 years. He believed that the use by the Marine Corps of Navajo as a code language in voice (radio and wire) transmission could guarantee communications security.

Mr. Johnston’s rationale for this belief was that Navajo is an unwritten language and completely unintelligible to anyone except another Navajo and that it is a rich, fluent language for which code words, in Navajo, could be devised for specialized military terms, such as the Navajo word for “turtle” to represent a tank. With the cooperation of four Navajos residing in the Los Angeles area, and another who was already on active naval service in San Diego, Mr. Johnston presented a demonstration of his theory to General Vogel and his staff at Camp Elliott on 28 February 1942. Marine staff officers composed simulated field combat messages which were handed to a Navajo, who then translated it into tribal dialect and transmitted it to another Navajo on the other end of the line. The second Indian then translated it back into perfect English and in the same form which had been provided originally. The demonstration proved entirely successful, and as a result, General Vogel recommended the recruitment into the Marine Corps of at least 200 Navajos for the code talker program. As a footnote, tests in the Pacific under combat conditions proved that classified messages could be translated into Navajo, transmitted, received, and translated back into English quicker than messages which were encoded, transmitted, and decoded employing conventional cryptographic facilities and techniques.

With the Commandant’s approval, recruitment began in May 1942. Each Navajo recruit underwent basic boot camp training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego before assignment to the Field Signal Battalion, Training Center at Camp Pendleton. It should be noted that, at the outset, the entire Navajo code talker project was highly classified and there is no indication that any message traffic in the Navajo language- – while undoubtedly intercepted – – was ever deciphered.

Initially, the course at Camp Pendleton consisted of training in basic communications procedures and equipment. At the same time, the 29 Navajos comprising the first group recruited devised Navajo words for military terms which were not part of their language. Alternate terms were provided in the code for letters frequently repeated in the English language. To compound the difficulty of the program, all code talkers had to memorize both the primary and alternate code terms, for while much of the basic material was printed for use in training, the utmost observance of security precautions curtailed the use of the printed material in a combat situation.

Once the code talkers completed training in the States, they were sent to the Pacific for assignment to the Marine combat divisions. In May 1943, in response to a request for a report on the subject, the various division commanders reported to the Commandant that excellent results had been achieved to date in the employment of Navajo code talkers in training and combat situations, and that they had performed in a highly commendable fashion. This high degree of praise concerning the Navajos’ performances prevailed throughout the war and came from commanders at all levels.

Although recruitment of the Navajos was comparatively slow at the time the program was first established, Marine recruiting teams were sent to the Navajo territory and a central recruitment office was set up at Fort Wingate, New Mexico. By August 1943, a total of 191 Navajos had joined the Marine Corps for this specific program. Estimates have placed the total number of Navajos in the code talker program variously between 37 and 420 individuals. It is known that many more Navajos volunteered to become code talkers than could be accepted; however, an undetermined number of other Navajos served as Marines, in the war, but not as code talkers.

The unique achievements of the Navajo Code Talkers constitute a proud chapter in the history of the United States Marine Corps. Their patriotism, resourcefulness, and courage have earned them the gratitude of all Americans