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Tuesday, September 16, 2003

EVANS CARLSON AND LEWIS PULLER ON ESPRIT DE CORPS....by Gunny G!

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EVANS CARLSON AND LEWIS PULLER ON ESPRIT DE CORPS....by Gunny G!
by DickG

Gung Ho!


The basis of Carlson's thinking was what he called Gung Ho, basically, "work together." But his concept of this was not merely a battle cry, a slogan or a motto, etc.; it is an ideal that goes to the very root and core of leadership and the social structure of the military unit.

He held open " Gung Ho Talks" with his troops with all hands having a say in the matters at hand. Leaders were those who were recognized by their ability to lead, rather than being appointed to rank. Of course, this all came from his experience with the Chinese 8th Route Army, where he had first recognized that the true basis of leadership was ethics itself (something he had pondered upon all his life to that point).

Thus he attempted to teach and guide his raiders in what he referred to as Ethical Indoctrination. Some thought that he carried this too far, but not his own men. He did not carry his ideals of leadership and organization beyond the confines of Marine Corps regulations, but others feared that he would.

Carlson insisted on officers and enlisted alike eating the same food, being provided the same quarters, etc. They sang hymns and patriotic songs together, often with Carlson playing his harmonica. He not only allowed, he insisted each of his own men make decisions on their own.

Carlson had a grasp of what it is that makes men fight. His long and varied service plus his constant study and reflection upon the subject left him with beliefs and theories that he had been developing for many years. These he used in establishing his 2d Raider Battalion. He knew it was necessary for men to know why and for what they were fighting.

He taught his Marines the implications involved between the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific. And every man could ask questions and state his views. They also discussed matters such as what kind of society they wanted after the war, etc.

Interviewed by Robert Sherrod aboard ship just prior to the Tarawa invasion Carlson said, "You spoke about espirit de corps...the Marine Corps has it to a high degree.

But when the going gets toughest, when it takes a little more drive to stay sane and to keep going, and a man is hungry and tired, then he needs more than espirit de corps. It takes conviction....Our greatest weakness is the caliber of our officers, and that, of course, is a reflection of our system of education." Carlson went on to state that the best officers were enlisted men after they had proven themselves in battle.

Within a few days after the battle for Tarawa, Carlson was flown home. He spoke before a meeting of one thousand officers at Camp Pendleton. "Tarawa was won," Carlson told them, "because a few enlisted men of great courage called out simply to their comrades, 'Come on, fellows. Follow me!'

And then went on, followed by men who took heart at their example, to knock out, at great sacrifice, one Jap position after another, slowly, until there were no more.
Tarawa is a victory because some enlisted men, unaffected by the loss of their officers, many of whom were casualties in the first hour, became great and heroic commanders in their own right.

"But--" He paused for a long time. "But with all that courage and fortitude and willingness to die on the part of some of the men, too many others lacked initiative and resourcefulness.

They were not trained to understand the need for sacrifice. Too many men waited for orders--and while they waited they died. What if they had been trained not to wait for orders?"

He was deeply angry. Lives could have been saved. It was this very matter he had mentioned to Robert Sherrod of Time...."What if they had been trained not to wait for orders?" Carlson had asked.

And how extraordinary was the resourcefulness of the few!...But if all had been trained to act by themselves...."Our leaders did not give them that chance," Carlson told the thousand Marine officers at Camp Pendleton."

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Lieutenant Geneneral
Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC (Ret.)
Now, Chesty Puller is so well known to every Marine that just about anything that could be written here about him would be redundant. Outspoken and Outstanding, The Marine's Marine! What more could be said? Very little more, and much, much more, both answers would be correct at the same time.

But here is one thing that might be mentioned here. This is in regard to the infamous Ribbon Creek incident and court-martial of the 1956 Marine Corps . The following is neither as well known nor as often quoted as most other stories about Chesty Puller, yet it stands as much as any other to present a clear picture as to who he was and what he stood for, and what he always will be in the eyes and hearts of Marines everywhere.

"On the dimly moonlit night of April 8, 1956, a platoon of Marine recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina, was marched into a tidal arm of Broad River by a thirty-one-year-old veteran drill instructor, Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon. Six recruits drowned."
McKeon had had several drinks of vodka that day, the CMC relieved the commanding officer of the recruit depot, and told Congress that McKeon would be punished.
McKeon was court-martialed.

Amid a nationwide public outcry regarding the whole matter of the drownings in particular and Marine Corps training practices in general, LtGen Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller was recalled to active duty to testify at the trial regarding Marine training and tradition. Mrs. Puller protested to her husband citing previous trouble and controversy in Puller's career. Puller told her, "...The important thing is the Marine Corps. If we let 'em, they'll tear it to pieces. Headquarters won't speak up. It's my duty to do it."

At the trial, Puller was asked questions pertaining to his own military service, the mission of the Marine Corps, the most important element of Marine training, etc. In part, Puller replied that:, "...The definition of military training is success in battle. In my opinion, it is the only objective of military training..."
He quoted Napoleon. "He stated that the most important thing in military training is discipline. Without discipline an army becomes a mob."
Puller was asked what he had learned here (PISC) as a recruit. He replied, "Well, the main thing--that I have rememberd all my life--is the definition of esprit de corps. Now my definition--that I was taught, that I've always believed in--is that esprit de corps means love for one's military legion. In my case the United States Marine Corps. I also learned that this loyalty to one's Corps travels both ways, up and down."

"Q: Now, general, I want you to assume that what is the evidence in this case is a fact. That on a Sunday evening a drill instructor took a platoon that was undisciplined and lacked spirit and on whom he' tried other methods of discipline. And that for purposes of teaching discipline and instilling morale he took that platoon into a marsh or creek--all the way in front of his troops--would you consider that oppression?
A: In my opinion it is not."
"Q: So, in your opinion, was this act of this drill instructor in leading his troops, under those conditions and for that purpose, good or bad military practice?
A: Good...
...I would train my troops as I thought--as I knew they should be trained--regardless of a directive."
"Q: ...I lead these recruits into water over their heads and I lose six of those men by drowning. Would you say that some action should be taken against me?
A: I would say that this night march was and is a deplorable accident."
"Q: Would you take any action against me if I were the one who did that, if you were my Commanding Officer, sir?
A: ...I think, from what I read in the papers yesterday of the testimony of General Pate before this court, that he agrees and regrets that this man was ever ordered tried by general court-martial."

"Puller went into the noncom's club that night with Berman, two Marine generals and other officers; the big crowd stood, shouting until he spoke:
'I've talked enough for today. This will be my last request. Do your duty and the Marine Corps will be as great as it has always been for another thousand years.'
The applause was deafening."

Re
The book, " Marine, The Life of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, USMC (Ret.)"
By Burke Davis, 1962, Bantam

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