SECNAV Spencer’s 243rd Marine Corps Birthday Message

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By Richard V. Spencer
Secretary of the Navy

To our Marines, civilians, families, and friends:

For 243 years, United States Marines have set the standard for military excellence, ready to respond at any time, in any place, whenever there is a need.

One hundred years ago, the enemy called them the Devil Dogs for the way they turned the tide at Belleau Wood. Seventy-five years ago, the shores and jungles of Tarawa shook with the determined charge of United States Marines. And fifty years ago, Marines like Gunnery Sergeant John Canley imposed order on the chaotic urban battlefield of Hue.

WASHINGTON (Oct. 18, 2018) Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley, the 300th Marine Medal of Honor recipient, gives closing remarks at the Pentagon. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968, in the Republic of Vietnam, Canley, the company gunnery sergeant assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, took command of the company, led multiple attacks against enemy-fortified positions, rushed across fire-swept terrain despite his own wounds, and carried wounded Marines into Hue City, including his commanding officer, in order to relieve friendly forces who were surrounded. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daisha R. Johnson/Released)
WASHINGTON (Oct. 18, 2018) Retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley, the 300th Marine Medal of Honor recipient, gives closing remarks at the Pentagon. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968, in the Republic of Vietnam, Canley, the company gunnery sergeant assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, took command of the company, led multiple attacks against enemy-fortified positions, rushed across fire-swept terrain despite his own wounds, and carried wounded Marines into Hue City, including his commanding officer, in order to relieve friendly forces who were surrounded. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daisha R. Johnson/Released)

It was my honor to meet now Sergeant Major Canley (retired) and to add his name to the Hall of Valor following his receipt of the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was a reminder of the service and sacrifice of the unbroken line of patriots, from its beginning in the earliest days of the revolution, through the Marines it was my honor to serve alongside, to the warriors who stand watch throughout the globe today.

Polly and I are forever grateful for all that you, your families, and your loved ones do for our nation. Because of your hard work and dedication, the foundation for restoring readiness and increasing lethality has been set. But as we enter our 244th year of service, we must now build on that foundation with a committed sense of urgency. We are accountable for how and where we invest our time and our resources, and we must understand the readiness and lethality we gain from those investments.

Solve the problems in front of you. Send solutions up the chain, and empower those you command to do the same. Ask yourselves and each other how can we accomplish our mission better, faster, and more efficiently. With your help, I have no doubt we will leverage every resource, leading practice, and efficiency we can find with the professionalism, integrity, and accountability the American people have come to expect from the Corps after 243 years of honor and valor.

Happy Birthday, Marines. God bless you, God bless the United States Marine Corps, and God bless the United States of America. Semper Fi.


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SECNAV Spencer’s 243rd Marine Corps Birthday Message

Worth A Thousand Words: Dog Day Afternoon

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Wilbur, a U.S. Marine Corps military working dog assigned to a Marine special operations team, takes a break with his handler after successfully searching a build site for an Afghan local police checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2013. The ALP complemented counterinsurgency efforts by assisting and supporting rural areas with a limited Afghan national security forces presence. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

Wilbur, a U.S. Marine Corps military working dog assigned to a Marine special operations team, takes a break with his handler after successfully searching a build site for an Afghan local police checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2013. The ALP complemented counterinsurgency efforts by assisting and supporting rural areas with a limited Afghan national security forces presence. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

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Worth A Thousand Words: Dog Day Afternoon

Marines Blog

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Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret)

DiamondVsBasilone

Who is the Ultimate Marine’s Marine? Each day, we’ll compare two Marine Corps legends across three categories: Service (actions while in uniform), Legacy (how their service continued to impact the Corps and the world) and Motivation (esprit de corps and overall badassery). The Marines Blog will judge initial rounds internally and guest writers will take over for the final rounds. Be sure to make your voice heard by voting in our simultaneous fan bracket here on the Marines Blog. Share your opinion on our Facebook page, or tweet your thoughts with us @usmc using the hashtag: #UltimateMarine

This round is being judged by Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret), the publisher for Marine Corps Association periodicals and editor of Leatherneck Magazine. Leatherneck, started by then-Brigadier General John A. Lejeune in 1917 as the Marine Barracks Quantico newspaper, and becoming a magazine published by the Marine Corps Institute in 1921, was an official publication of the Marine Corps, staffed by active duty Marines until 1972. It’s mission continues to be to tell the Marine Corps story, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Searchable archived articles back to 1921 may be accessed via the magazine’s website.

ViewBracketThe Marine Corps has more than its share of myths and legends, but few Marines are surrounded by less fact and more fiction than Master Gunnery Sgt. Leland “Lou” Diamond and Gunnery Sgt. John “Manila John” Basilone. While these two definitely rate high in the pantheon of Leatherneck Lore as “Giants of the Corps,” and previous bloggers have superbly presented much about each and his legacy, I’ll add a few tidbits for your consideration and, for what it’s worth, give you my take on each, relative to theViewFanBracket established criteria: Service — Their actions while serving in uniform. Motivation — motivating stories/anecdotes/details about them. Legacy — How their actions continued to impact the Corps/world after they left. From that we’ll consider which of these two legends has the more lasting impact on our Corps of Marines.

MGySgt Leland “Lou” Diamond (and not Diamond Lou, who would also make for a very interesting discussion), famously known as “The Honker” because of his loud, often obnoxious voice clearly heard above the din of barroom or battle, was heralded as the master-mortarman of World War II, and certainly was one of the most eccentric Devil Dogs to ever pull on dungarees.

He was a fairly old railroad switchman when he decided to take part in the action in France. Promoted to corporal before deploying from Quantico, the self-confident, cocky Marine cussed and killed the “Boche” from Belleau Wood to the Armistice. Returning Stateside, the salty Lou Diamond was discharged in August 1919. But he quickly found “civvies” didn’t fit him well and came back to his family — the Corps. For the next two decades, America forgot about professional warfighters like Lou Diamond. But Diamond was happy. First he served as an armorer. Then he was in a machine gun company while doing duty with those machine gun artists, the Fourth Marines, in China.

The mortars became Lou’s sweethearts and hundreds of stories began to circulate through the Corps about the amazing accuracy of Lou Diamond’s 81mm mortars. His proficiency with the 37mm cannon and heavy machine guns gained the respect of the Japanese too.

Manila John Basilone — well, he’s documented as coming to the Corps in July 1940 as a “doggie” and didn’t even go to Marine boot camp. Is that important? Over the history of the Corps, there have been a great many soldiers see the light and come to the Corps. Boot camp? While few WWII leathernecks did not complete recruit training, a great many Marines who went to war as part of “The Fire Brigade” in August 1950 had not gone to boot camp — don’t make the mistake of telling one of them he’s not a real Marine!

Both these leathernecks were brave, dedicated to their profession and much loved by their Marines who would follow them to Hell and bring back the Devil if asked. In the case of Lou Diamond, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in WWII, but this came years after the fact. Manila John was recommended for the Medal of Honor by the battalion commander of 1st Bn, 7th Marines, LtCol Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, for his actions on the night of Oct. 24-25, 1942. He was awarded the medal during a formation in Balcombe, Australia, in May 1943. Basilone also earned a Navy Cross leading his men on Iwo Jima, and the Purple Heart when he was killed in action on Iwo.

Service: GySgt John “Manila John” Basilone

Both these giants were loved by their Marines as professionals, but also because of their often eccentric personalities.

When Diamond was on liberty, he was known to have a beer bottle in each hand but was no roisterer. Still, he liked his beer. Once at a China station, where the nearest bar was far from the post, Diamond is said to have set up a Chinese man in the bar business right across the street from the Marine barracks. He was known to hold forth with salty tales even after the lights were out.

But Diamond has no edge on Basilone. Basilone’s prodigious appreciation of alcoholic libations was heralded from the Philippines to the States, certainly in New Zealand and Australia, and his homemade “hooch” on Guadalcanal was legendary. Opposite of Lou, Manila John was known as a bit of a brawler on liberty who really could turn out your lights.

Family, well Lou was married to the Corps — right to the end. Manila John — he enjoyed the ladies until a very pretty young hash-slinger in a Camp Pendleton mess hall, Sgt. Lena Mae Riggi, won his heart. They married on July 7, 1944, and shortly thereafter Gunnery Sgt. Basilone was sent back to the Pacific where he was killed on Iwo Jima leading his Marines, Feb. 19, 1945.

She christened the Navy destroyer escort USS Basilone (DDE-824) in 1949 and later helped erect a statue in her husband’s honor at Raritan, N.J. She never remarried, stating, “Once you have the best, you can’t settle for less.”

Lou’s family members were all Marines and the families of his Marines. Many of the Marine children on base at San Diego imagined that the Lord had a scraggly white goatee, a lot of hash marks on his sleeve and a stern visage, just like Master Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond.

How did Lou Diamond look? Well, we know from the photo above about his goatee and white hair, but let’s read what Gunny Sgt. Mickey Finn said on that subject:

“One day, coming back from Nicaragua, I got off the train at Quantico, and there was Lou Diamond with his bulldog, Bozo. This Bozo was the ugliest bulldog I ever saw. But, I would say that Bozo was considerably prettier than Diamond.”

Beside Bozo, the homely bulldog at Quantico, Diamond had many pets. At the time the First Marine Division was preparing to leave New River for the South Seas, Diamond was the owner of a particularly ornery goat named “Rufus” and a couple of “trained” chickens whose names were said to be too impolite to print. These were left in New River under the care of a farmer. While he was in the Solomons, rumor had it that Diamond sweated about meat shortages back in the States because he was fearful that Rufus and the educated chickens might be barbecued in his absence.

Basilone? Well, he had no known pets.

Motivation: Master Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond

Both Lou Diamond and Manila John were media darlings. Both were on the cover of various magazines such as Time, Life and Leatherneck. In 1949, several million Americans once again re-heard Diamond’s story via the “Cavalcade of America.” Then in a June 1, 1955, television version on the “Cavalcade of America” originally entitled, “The Old Breed,” and later dubbed “The Marine Who Lived 200 Years,” Ward Bond played Lou embellishing the already ostentatious reputation of the by-then deceased “Diamond in the Rough.”

Of course, Basilone is much more well-known today because of the 2010 HBO miniseries, “The Pacific.” Basilone was also featured in the 1995 Iwo Jima documentary, “Red Blood, Black Sand.”

Books, well I don’t recall any on Lou Diamond, but two 2010 books quickly jump to mind on Manila John. One, billed as family-authorized and on the Commandant’s Professional Reading List is, “I’m Staying With My Boys: The Heroic Life Of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC.” Opinion only — a much more balanced, well-presented book on Manila John is “The Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone,” by noted Marine veteran and author, now-deceased James Brady. Both books positively portray Manila John.

Legacy: GySgt Manila John Basilone

Every Marine today is taught of the heroism, leadership and commitment of Manila John Basilone. Lou Diamond is lost in history to most Marines. Bringing him to life again via this blog is fantastic and I’m proud to be part of the effort. But, in overall service, motivation and legacy, the tip of the hat and hand salute has to go to Gunnery Sgt. John “Manila John” Basilone.

— — — — — —

Round One

Daly vs Lejeune

Foss vs Hulbert

Diamond vs Gray

Basilone vs Johnson

Puller vs Barnum

Hathcock vs Mawhinney

Vittori vs Glenn

Butler vs Davis

Round Two

Daly vs Foss

Diamond vs Basilone

Puller vs Hathcock

Glenn vs Butler

— — — — — —

The fan bracket has taken a different turn than the Marines Blog. Today’s fan match is between Gen. Alfred Gray and Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone. Read the first round blog to catch up on Gray and cast your vote below.

Take Our Poll
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Japanese, US Veterans Reunite for Battle of Iwo Jima Ceremony

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By 1st Lt. Taylor Clarke, III Marine Expeditionary Force

Japanese and U.S. veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima, along with active-duty service members, came together on Iwo To, Japan, for the annual Reunion of Honor Ceremony March 13, commemorating the 68th anniversary of the battle.

The ceremony is a testament to the hard fought battle of the past and the relationship that arose from that prior clash of arms.

“The war ended 68 years ago, and now we’re good friends with Japan, so I have a different attitude,” said retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lawrence Snowden. “We may not forget, but we certainly can forgive.”

The island has been overtaken by foliage since the days of the battle, and the vegetation has grown like the Japan-U.S. alliance, said William Schott, a former Marine sergeant and veteran of the battle.

“This ceremony has been a wonderful experience, to return to where we once fought now as allies and partners in peace” said Schott.

Approximately 30,000 Japanese and American service members lost their lives during the 36-day battle that took place 68 years ago, a battle which has been transformed in the minds of Marines to mean much more, according to Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

“The battle of Iwo Jima has become central to the history of the Marine Corps,” said Paxton. “For Marines, this battle long ago transcended the physical realm and became part of our ethos.”

Marines and Japanese service members fought hard during the arduous battle, and their reputation lives on to this day.

“I had an opportunity to watch young Marines earn the title ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and they truly earned it,” said Snowden. “They fought tenaciously and had no lack of courage, lots of determination, and a willingness to do whatever was needed because they were not going to fail.”

The reunion ceremony centered around a granite plaque presented by veterans during the 40th anniversary of the battle. The English translation faces the beach where the U.S. forces landed, while the Japanese translation faces the inland where Japanese troops defended their position, and reads:

“On the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery and honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never repeated.”

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.

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Japanese, US Veterans Reunite for Battle of Iwo Jima Ceremony

War Dogs

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Photo: U.S. Air Force SGT David J. Filchak the handler for Turbo, a military working dog and beagle, inspect a car for narcotics.  Turbo is a narcotics detecting working dog for the base and has been right 95 percent of the time.

U.S. Air Force SGT David J. Filchak the handler for Turbo, a military working dog and beagle, inspect a car for narcotics. Turbo is a narcotics detecting working dog for the base and has been right 95 percent of the time.

Story by Brittany Brown
Edited by MC2 Bryan Niegel

Have you ever wondered when or how military working dogs became what they are today? As a dog owner and lover I have always been fascinated by working dogs and how well trained and obedient they are. It is hard enough to get my dog to listen when I call her name or to stop her from chasing a squirrel up a tree. I always wonder, How do the trainers get them to behave so well? And how do the whole program got started in the first place.

Dogs have been associated with the U.S. Army since its inception, but their role was primarily that of a mascot or in some other unofficial capacity. Not until World War II did the Army make the connection official. In January 1942, members of the American Kennel Club and other dog lovers formed a civilian organization called Dogs for Defense. They intended to train dogs to perform sentry duty for the Army along the coast of the United States. Aware of this effort, Lt. Col. Clifford C. Smith, chief of the Plant Protection Branch, Inspection Division, Quartermaster Corps, met with his commander, Maj. Gen. Edmund B. Gregory, and suggested that the Army use the sentry dogs at supply depots. Gregory gave his approval to an experimental program, and on March 13, 1942, Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson approved Gregory’s application and created the K-9 Corps.

Controlled aggression exercise

Master-at-Arms Seaman Apprentice Randy Tallman, assigned to Commander, Navy Region Southwest, acts as a military working dog moving target during a controlled aggression exercise Jan. 10, 2013 in San Diego. The exercises are conducted to train the dogs in subduing noncompliant suspects. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mark El-Rayes

Check out these facts about the K-9 Corps and military dogs:

    • The K-9 Corps initially accepted for training thirty-two breeds of dogs. By 1944, that list had been reduced to seven: German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, Belgian sheep dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs and Malamutes.
    • The Quartermaster Corps experimented with training dogs to locate casualties on the battlefield. Dogs were first tested for this at Carlisle Barracks on May 4, 1944. Ultimately, the Army abandoned this program because the dogs did not or could not make a distinction between men not wounded, men who had received wounds, or men who had died.
    • Well over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and providing some measure of psychological comfort to the Soldiers. The most famous dog to emerge from the war was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy of German war dogs found in France in 1918 and taken to the United States, where he made his film debut in the 1922 silent film The Man from Hell’s River.
Photo: U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Christopher Coolahan and Military Working Dog Meky, assigned to Camp Lemonnier Base Security, participate in controlled training exercises at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Jan. 30, 2013. Military Working Dogs are used to apprehend suspects, perform searches, and detect explosives and narcotics. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Nick Strocchia

U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Christopher Coolahan and Military Working Dog Meky, assigned to Camp Lemonnier Base Security, participate in controlled training exercises at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Jan. 30, 2013. Military Working Dogs are used to apprehend suspects, perform searches, and detect explosives and narcotics. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Nick Strocchia

  • The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart–all of which were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals. 
  • After World War II, the Military Police Corps took over responsibility for training military dogs. They have continued to serve with distinction in other conflicts.
  • It is estimated that the Army employed 1,500 dogs during the Korean War and 4,000 in the Vietnam War.
  • Gabe, a retired military dog who completed more than 200 combat missions in Iraq, was namedAmerican Hero Dog of 2012 at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards in Los Angeles.
  • Every military working dog is a non-commissioned officer – in tradition at least. Some say the custom was to prevent handlers from mistreating their dogs; hence, a dog is always one rank higher than its handler.
Photo: Paris, a coalition force military working dog gets ready to attend a transition shura in Khak-E-Safed district, Farah province, Afghanistan, Feb. 23, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

Paris, a coalition force military working dog gets ready to attend a transition shura in Khak-E-Safed district, Farah province, Afghanistan, Feb. 23, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

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Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.

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War Dogs

Children’s Story Books Come to Life

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Gavyn, 19 months, hugs one of his favorite Sesame Street characters, Cookie Monster, during the Marine Corps Community Service’s event, “Storybook Fantasy Night” at the Clubs at Quantico on March 7. More than 40 children attended the event. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antwaun L. Jefferson

More than 40 children, accompanied by their parents, came out to the Marine Corps Community Service’s event, “Storybook Fantasy Night” at the Clubs at Quantico on March 7.

“The purpose of this event is to have a really nice dinner, have a little entertainment for the children and to promote reading,” said Beth Cranz, recreation supervisor, Simper Fit Branch, Marine Corps Community Services.

With the freedom to dress as any of their favorite story book characters, children came dressed in classic outfits such as princesses and super heroes and movie characters such as Harry Potter. There was also MCCS staff that dressed up as well.

Soon after, entering the building, the buffet opened and children, with their parents help, enjoyed a healthy menu, including baby carrots, bagged apples, baked chicken and steamed broccoli.
Because the event promoted reading, every child received a free book to take home.

Three volunteers dressed in Cat in the Hat outfits and read books to the children.

Across the sea of children there was nothing but smiles and laughter. The final event of the night was Bob Brown Puppet Theater who performed a skit called “Mother Goose Caboose.”

“My shows are performed with trick marionettes that have been strung to perform seemingly impossible feats such as skating, performing on a trapeze, juggling and even blowing up a balloon,” said Bob Brown, co-owner, Bob Brown Puppet Theater. “These tricks really draw in the older crowds and parents by making them wonder how I did it.”

Brown easily stole the spot light and the children’s attention through silly, ridiculous and creative puppets.

“This is mostly a night to dress up and enjoy a night with the family,” Cranz said. “The children were excited and seemed more attentive at the storytelling and the puppet show. Overall, the event was a success.”

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Children’s Story Books Come to Life