Chesty Puller On Espirit de Corps, Loyalty...

Dick Gaines
Dick Gaines

September 29th, 2002, 4:46 pm #1

Maverick Marines:
The Controversial and Politically Incorrect Among Us!
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 espirit de corps. Now my definition--that I was taught, that I've always believed in--is that espirit 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."

The book, " Marine, The Life of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, USMC (Ret.)"
By Burke Davis, 1962, Bantam
Last edited by Dick Gaines on September 29th, 2002, 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

October 6th, 2002, 11:34 am #2

"There has been a great deal of talk about loyalty from the bottom to the top. Loyalty from the top to the bottom is much more important, and also much less prevalent. It is this loyalty from the top to the bottom which binds juniors to their seniors with the strength of steel.

Few generals speak of loyalty extending from the top down, as well as the oposite.

Georgie was a distant cousin of Lewis Puller, y'know!!!

Semper Fidelis,
Dick Gaines