Saturday, March 06, 2004


Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story Identification Number: 20043420327
Story by Cpl. Paul W. Leicht

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif.(March 5, 2004) -- Red is a color often characterized by violence and bloodshed in real life as well as in art and literature. It often suggests the meaning of courage and sacrifice.

Traditionally, officers and noncommissioned officers of the Marine Corps wear a scarlet red stripe on their dress blue trousers to commemorate the courage and tenacious fighting of the men who battled before Chapultapec in the Mexican War.

In the Corps, this stripe is more commonly known as the “Blood Stripe.”

Ask any good Marine and he or she will tell you this is true.

But how many realize that the battle at Chapultepec took place during one of the least bloody conflicts in the annals of U.S. Marine Corps history?

Interestingly, more Marines were killed or wounded during the “Mayaguez Incident” battle with Khmer Rouge forces at Koh Tang Island, Cambodia, on May 14, 1975, than during the entire Mexican War. How many active duty Marines today remember the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, and the human cost of the Koh Tang helicopter assault that closed America’s longest war in Southeast Asia?

Until the Mexican War when the Marines stormed the steps of Chapultepec more Marines were killed or wounded during another conflict in American history often forgotten, the War of 1812.

The death of any Marine who willingly sacrificed his or her life for our nation deserves remembrance and the deepest respect. Yet the relative “bloodless” cost for Marines who stormed the stone course of glory atop Chapultepec in Mexico almost 160 years ago, now seems to pale in comparison next to the loss of Marines in action in more modern, industrial times.

Traditions bring meaning to our lives and, for the Marine Corps, a greater sense of purpose and pride among its servicemembers and leaders.

President Ronald Reagan recognized this pride after the Oct. 23, 1983, bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, when he is reputed to have said, “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”

Ever mindful of past sacrifices, the Marines are proud of their contributions to their country on the battlefield.

That legacy of duty defines what it means to serve and is recognized today as it was generations ago. So long as historians, writers, photographers, artists and anyone with a talent for a bar room story continues to extol the actions of Marines for the benefit of future generations, the tradition will remain timeless.

But cultural traditions and myths can sometimes evolve over time like any good human story. Historical personalities, events and observations are often viewed and interpreted through the looking glass of contemporary times, reflecting a different meaning from previous or to future generations.

In the realm of military history, more contemporary battles and conflicts often eclipse those previously and change the way people view war entirely, especially when the cost in blood is extraordinarily high.
For example, the carnage of World War I that virtually annihilated an entire generation of British masculine youth shocked a dying empire. In comparision, the vast number of American casualties during the battles of the Civil War, World War II and Vietnam was equally stunning to American society and the national psyche.

World War II in particular - the war of our grandparents - is now slowly fading into distant history.

The number of sacrifices by fellow Marines in that monumental and global conflict to this day leaves an indelible impression on Marines past and present.

Perhaps this mark is so strong that it will influence a turn toward redefining the traditional meaning behind our own myth and meaning behind the coveted “blood stripe.”
For Marines putting on the scarlet stripe for the first time, whatever the specific historical reference, remembering the Corps’ blood sacrifice while fulfilling a legacy of leadership spanning generations can feel like an overwhelming honor.

Photos included with story

Text version of story is attached below:

From GyG's G&A Sites & Forums....

Blood Stripes!
Chapultapec Or Uniform Regulations?
From the book, The Marines, by Edwin Howard Simmons, J. Robert Moskin, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, 1998

"...For generations drill instructors have solemnly told recruits that the scarlet stripe on the blue trousers of Marine officers and noncommissioned officers are "blood stripes" in honor of Marines killed in storming of Chapultapec in Mexico City in 1847.

Interesting but not true.

The wearing of stripes on the trousers began in 1834, following the Army's practice of having trouser stripes the color of the facings. Col. Henderson prescribed buff-white stripes for officers and sergeants. When in 1839 the uniform changed back to dark blue coats faced red, officer trouser stripes became dark blue edged in red. Ten years later officer stripes changed to red and in 1859 the uniform regulations prescribed a scarlet welt inserted into the outer seam for officers, and a scarlet cord for staff noncommissioned officers and musicians.

After more variations were tried, finally, in 1904 the simple and striking all-scarlet stripe was adopted..."
To GyG's Source Webpage...

Strange that these myths can go on and on unchecked--as in the example above-- despite that this, and other myths, have been long corrected by (Gen. Simmons) none less than the Head of History and Museums, USMC.

Well, as one Marine colonel once wrote me regarding this, "Gunny, I don't give a damn about your facts, tradition is all that counts" (paraphrased). And a very telling statement that is...
Dick Gaines

This is...
Gunny G's...
Marines Sites & Forums

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