Monday, June 25, 2007

"Remembering Marines, Long Forgotten, But Who Marines of Any Era Should Know..."

"Remembering Marines, Long Forgotten, But Who Marines of Any Era Should Know..."

The Real 6 June
By: Michael Miller

Today is 6 June 1918. June 6 is thought of as D-Day in Normandy, but in 1918, it meant the first attacks thought the Wheat fields at Belleau Wood. For us in the Archives, this is the real significance of 6 June.

With over 1100 casualties, it was the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history until Tarawa in 1943. At least 94 Marines revived the Navy Cross/DSC, most posthumously. All on 6 June 1918.

This date was so significant that 6 June and 10 Nov were the two choices for the Marine Corps birthday celebration by CMC Lejeune. 6 June lost, and the rest is history.

However, we should remember some of these Marines, long forgotten, but who Marines of any era should know. "Pop" Hunter is certainly one of those. The following is from a manuscript I am working on that one day, 170 pages and still going. Thanks mike

First Sergeant Daniel A."Pop" Hunter, Navy Cross 6 June 1918 and Killed in Action 6 June 1918

Hunter was an old time Marine who enlisted in the Army during the Spanish American War in 1898. After serving four enlistments with the regulars and leaving the United States service as a private, Hunter joined the Marine Corps in 1910 at the same rank. Multiple decorative tattoos must have earned him a certain reputation within the barracks and initially, the life of a Marine appealed to Hunter. He became a corporal within two months. While on deployment, the young man from Baltimore was in his element. As for many young Marines, however, stateside duty in New Orleans proved too much a temptation and Hunter became involved in a long string of alcohol related offenses which resulted in four rounds of punishment and four separate court-martial's in one year. Of course, his corporal's stripes were lost due to his time spent off duty drinking in the "dives" of New Orleans.

Hunter was transferred to the Marine Detachment, Naval Prison Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The duty of guarding prisoners instead of being guarded matured Hunter in many ways and he became an outstanding Marine. After duty in Cuba, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, Hunter rose steadily in rank to become the First Sergeant of the Marine detachment aboard the battleship USS Alabama in 1917. When the detachment was taken ashore and made into the 67th Company that same year, Hunter made the transition as well.

On 6 June 1918, First Lieutenant Orlando C. Crowther commanded the 67th Company facing Hill 142. He depended on First Sergeant Daniel A."Pop" Hunter to get the young Marines across the wheat fields. At 0350 with the first sign of light on the horizon, First Sergeant Daniel A. "Pop" Hunter calmly stepped into the wheat field, looked left and right, making certain that the line of his 67th Company was absolutely dressed. Satisfied, the First Sergeant blew his whistle to announce the attack, and then "His cane swung overhead and forward, pointing toward the first objective." The Marines of the 67th Company moved swiftly forward, running toward the Germans in the far tree line.

The first Marine in the 67th Company went down into the wheat, struck by machine gun bullets. Another Marine yelled over to "Pop" Hunter, calling out the man was hurt. The tough First Sergeant replied with the wisdom of many years of Marine Corps service, "C'mon goddammit! He ain't the last man who's gonna be hit today."

Once on the brow of Hill 142, Lieutenant Jonas Platt of the 49th Company pulled together the remnants of his platoon and any other Marine he could find in the trees. He surprisingly discovered First Sergeant Hunter with twenty Marines from the 67th Company in his front. Platt questioned Hunter, asking who was his commanding officer. "Me," Hunter replied, "All the rest are deados." The First Sergeant then added, 'We are going over." When Platt saw that the small band of Marines was attacking toward Torcy, he responded, "Why, man, the whole Boche army is over there." Hunter simply shrugged and said, "Well, My tactics are simple: go get them." After arguing for several minutes with Hunter to cancel his attack due to German numbers, Hunter simply stated he would take the ground and reaffirmed his belief in the numbers by saying he would win, "Not if they're not more'n twenty to one!" Platt then extracted a promise from the stubborn First Sergeant that he would remain there with his men until Platt returned with orders from Hamilton. Hunter reluctantly spoke, "I'll promise sir," but Platt noticed every one of these words "dragged from his lips." The Marines behind "Pop" Hunter were also disappointed, "looking about as pleased as a man who has bitten into a green persimmon."

Marine Gunner Henry L. Hulbert and First Sergeant "Pop" Hunter were the only survivors of the senior leadership of the 67th Company. Every other officer and staff noncommissioned officer was killed or wounded. Together, Hulbert and "Pop" Hunter pulled the company line together, moving about the position as if immune from the enemy fire. Hunter inspired the Marines about him to repulse the German attacks, but was wounded three times in the effort. He died sometime in the morning from a gunshot wound to the head. First Sergeant Hunter was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery. Despite the confusion of the battle, Hunter's personal effects were recovered and returned to his widow, Mrs. Ida May Hunter. One of Hunters requests was to have his watch returned to his wife, and Major Keller Rockey personally carried the watch until returning the timepiece to Mrs. Hunter in 1919.

Quotes from Elton C. Makin, Suddenly We Didn't Want to Die , (Presidio, 199); and Jonas Platt, "Holding Back the Marines," The Ladies Home Journal , September 1919.

J. Michael Miller
Head, Archives and Special Collections
Library of the Marine Corps

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