Saturday, February 07, 2004


The young Marine was weary
And he sought a little rest.
With his helmet for a pillow
And his rifle on his chest.
He had seen the gunships fire.
He had heard the cannons roar.
He had seen the Navy's power
As he made his way ashore.
Then he thought about his rifle
And he found it rather small.
With the gunships and the cannons,
It was nothing much at all.
The efforts of a rifleman
Meant little, it would seem.
Then, as he slipped to slumber,
He dreamed himself a dream.

The man who stood beside him
Held a musket in his hand,
And close around his neck he wore
A heavy leather band.
"When I was an Old Ironsides"
The apparition said,
"There were cannonballs and cutlasses
Wherever danger led.
There were pistols too, and daggers
At every fighter's side,
When the ships would come together
On the rolling, heaving tide.
But when it came to boarding,
With the battle fury hot,
It was rifles, always rifles
That made the telling shot."

When we were in the trenches
The apparition faded
And standing in its place
Beneath a shallow helmet
He saw another face.
"When we were in the trenches
In the Wood they call Marine,
There were mortars, tanks, and cannons,
More than I had ever seen.
But when the final charge was made
To push the Germans back
It was rifles, always rifles
At the point of the attack."

Who fought and fell at Wake
The face changed only slightly.
And the helmet stayed the same,
But the island that he spoke of
Had a more familiar name.
"They hit us very early
On the day the war begun.
On the wings of all their bombers
We could see the Rising Sun.
Our pilots and our gunners
Who fought and fell at Wake
Wrote a story full of glory
That time can never shake.
But when the enemy drew near,
To make his final reach,
It was rifles, always rifles
That met him on the beach."

In 'Fifty at the Chosin,
There next appeared a shadow
In a swirl of stinging snow,
And it breathed a fierce defiance,
And its eyes were all aglow.
In 'Fifty at the Chosin,
When the big guns couldn't talk,
And the First Marine Divison
Took a fighting, freezing walk,
When all the world, except the Corps
Had counted us as gone,
It was rifles, always rifles,
That let us carry on."

At Khe Sahn when they shelled us,
The scene was changed to summer.
And the face was hard and lean,
And the tired eyes were fired
With the light that says "Marine".
"At Khe Sahn when they shelled us,
We were wrapped in rolling smoke,
And the thought of our survival
Was a grim and ghastly joke.
But when the waves came swarming in
To finish the assault,
It was rifles, always rifles
That called the final halt."

There next appeared a general
As solid as a tank,
With three stars on his collar
To signify his rank.
His stature and demeanor
Were the military type,
And in his hand he carried
A stubby little pipe.
His jaw was squarely chiseled;
His eyes were clear and keen,
And his bearing left no question..
He was all Marine's Marine.
"The message they're conveying,"
The burly General said,
"Is that through our troubled history,
The rifles always led.
We've had cannons, tanks, and mortars;
We've had weapons by the score;
We've had battleships and fighter planes
To complement the Corps."

"We've a most impressive arsenal--
That's obviously true--
But the final thrust for victory
Has always been with you.
It was rifles, always rifles,
When the Corps was sorely pressed,
And the rifle that you carry
Must meet the final test.
So sling that rifle proudly,
For everything we do
With mortars, tanks, and cannons
Is just an aid to you."

The young Marine awakened
And put the dream aside,
Though now he clutched his rifle
With a certain touch of pride.
And then he chanced to notice
That lying near his hand
Was a stubby little pipe
And a heavy leather band.

-Author Unknown
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By R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Semper Fidelis