"Quantico Town"

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

July 8th, 2006, 10:02 pm #1

© All rights reserved Dr. R. E. Sullivan 2006

The Hunchback of Quantico Town brings back a flood of memories. And how about Old John Adams, the Town Cop?

And then there was the Quantico National Bank there on the corner in town, just across from Anchor Inn, where the person responsible must have had a brain like a sieve, because on an average of once every ten days he would forget to either lick the door on the bank in town or on the Annex in back of the PX on the base. Both places were on the rounds of our Base and Town Patrols, as well as our Investigators, who got in the habit of checking these places first and thereby correcting the discrepancy very early in the evening before whistles and sirens became necessary. However, the National Bank of Quantico was one who could advertise that they had a real Open Door Policy, with self-service twenty-four hours a day. I never could figure out how they ever kept any money in the till.

Then, when the 5th Basic Class was in attendance during ‘48/’49, there was a long line of clapboard houses just to the right of the side gate as you exited into Quantico Town. Since they were alike as peas in a pod, I strongly suspect that at one time they were government housing for senior NCOs. However, in 1948, they were owned by senior enlisted retired Marines, as the names on the doors proclaimed. Sergeants Major, First Sergeants, Supply Sergeants, Drum Majors, and several Quartermasters Sergeants. And it’s one of the latter that I want to address. A Quartermaster Sergeant drew the same pay, incidentally, that a Sergeant Major did. He wore three stripes, as did a Sergeant, and three flat. His rank disappeared on 1Dec46, as did some 141 enlisted ranks, and that was the last time I understood who was what in the enlisted Marine Corps. After that strange devices began to appear within the chevrons, bugles, rifles, and Lord knows what all. The first time I saw a very comely young lady, weighing all of 100 pounds, with three up and two rockers with crossed rifles I damned near swallered my chew, I did. After that I just called all enlisted Marines “Gunny” and got along just fine. Life in the Corps used to be simple. But it was pure hell after them Ginrils simplified the enlisted rank structure. I’m so old that I can remember when Sergeants Major and First Sergeants had to know how to read and write, and they weren’t some kind of cockamany alter ego to the CO who would tell the CO what the enlisted men were really thinking. I have no idea what an alter ego is. If I want to know what a trooper is thinking, GD it, I’ll ask him. Marines of my acquaintance have had a few faults, but being shy ain’t one of ‘em. I know when I had a Sergeant Major I told him that I didn’t want an alter ego and if I had caught him trying to be one I would fry him had I known for sure what one was in the first place which I didn’t. When I was Acting Sergeant Major of the 5th Marines to Colonel E. W. Fry, Jr, he didn’t say a damned thing about me being his alter ego. Maybe he just forgot. Or maybe he didn’t know. But I doubt it.

But let me tell you about this one Quartermaster Sergeant back in the late 40s and early 50s. He was perpetually in attendance at one bar or another in Quantico Town. He was never drunk, nor was he ever sober. When asked, he’d say that he’d retired in 1927, or was it 1928. He wore cut off khakis, with no type of field jacket, but did effect a well worn Campaign Hat, w/emblem. He loved to gather the boots around and tell them stories about the “Old Corps.” He admitted to having been married several times before WW II, but would then say that when WW II began, he decided that he’d marry himself a “WR,” as he and we called them during the late, great souvenir hunt. The next question would be staged by one of his friends who had heard the answer many times before: “But, Quartermaster Sergeant, how many of these WRs did you marry?” A moment of silence would prevail while the QMSgt seemed to laboriously count on his fingers, and then would answer: “Can’t be positive, but about seven.” “But Quartermaster Sergeant, you ain’t married now, and you told me onc’t that you never been divorced, what happened to all them wives?” At this the QM Sgt would take off his Campaign Hat, slap the table, and roar: “What the hell do you think happened to ‘em? I dun f______d ‘em all to death.”

However, I digress from the story I really wanted to write. The rest will have to wait for my Memoirs, which, believe me, will cost you guys a pretty penny.

BGen Victor H. Krulak, (hereinafter VHK in this narrative, or whatever the hell it is.) reported aboard MCS Quantico in about ’59, he was known as being an avid horseman. Born in the saddle, so to speak, but one thing that you had to observe about VHK is that he was never accused as “being tall in the saddle.” But the day that VHK got orders to MCS every ossifer at Quantico or ordered to Quantico, excepting folks like myself whose timing could never be adjusted to that of a horse, found that his true home had always been on the range, where the buffalo roamed, the skies were not cloudy all day, and that Horse Dung in fact did faintly bear the aroma of Perfumed Princes. Suddenly the Post stable became the most heavily used facility at MCS. Ossifers whose last acquaintance with a horse had been at a Saturday afternoon matinee when they were nine and they sported Gene Autry pistols at their belts, could not live another day without a saddle and at least a gallon of neat’s-foot oil. They would spend all non-duty hours at the stable working that oil into their saddles, neglecting hearth and home, hoping that VHK would stroll by and nod approvingly. Only the good Lord knows how many divorces resulted from this strange anomaly that had infected MCS. The golf course emptied overnight, and the rabbits and birds began to reoccupy their normal habitat in its vicinity. The field grade ossifers in particular put on a full court press (mixing metaphors) trying to convince VHK. that they could sit a fine horse, or whatever it was you did with a horse. The poor 2dLts at Basic School had to go out and rent mules so they could learn to use the diamond packs and properly stow antiquated weapons, which hadn’t been used anyway with any real effect since the Philippines Campaign, so that might complete their atomic age curriculum.

The mules, accustomed to ill treatment only once a year from wave after wave of insufferably stupid Basic School Students, would make things as difficult as possible for this new crop of terrorists let loose upon them. After the demonstration by experts, the 2dLts would approach with the diamond saddles, boxes, 1918 MGs in their three integral parts, miles of line, and all in the or in the near vicinity of the stable where the ossifers were trying to mount their ponies to make points with you-know-who. For some reason or others the Powers-That-Were dictated that the 2dLts wear khaki instead of utilities. Well, have you ever seen a cross between chaos and pure bedlam? The mules got mixed up with the horses, the diamond saddles became dislodged, as did man of the ossifers from the saddles they had been in, and some 60 horses, mules, and sweating 2dLts roared out of the stable area, up Potomac Avenue, and out the Main Gate without so much as a by-you-leave. There was something to be thankful for. Can you imagine a through train hitting the crossing about the time that column of mules, horses, and 2dLts did? How would you like to have written the incident report on that? Whatever, the column took a sharp turn on Fuller Road, and followed down to Dead Man’s Curve, somehow managed to cross with the light at Highway #1 without fatal mishap either to the column or to auto traffic, and spread themselves throughout the Guadalcanal Area. Most of them would be rounded up over the next few weeks. However, the lore of the Corps today supports the notion that on chilly nights on Samsky’s Ridge that the lonely sound of a jackass is still occasionally heard in the far distance. Could that be the vestiges of that historical day at the post stables when the mules and horses made a break for it? Stranger things have happened in the lore of the Corps.

Well, with the advent of VHK at Quantico came the horsemen (is it correct to say horse-ossifers, since Horse-Marines were definitely out of style) can horse shows be far behind?

Of course not! Virginia was horse country, for goodness sakes. Every weekend just north of Charlottesville the hounds bayed, the trumpets blared, and the sounds of “Tally-Ho” resounded through the countryside. With trophies, streamers, bugles, devices that horses jumped over, and ran around, with judges with stop watches, with pop-corn stands, champagne and the entire panoply including crowds, and the whole nine yards. With all that going on, how could Quantico be far behind? Well, it wasn’t. Sometime that early summer of 60, with stupendous publicity, the countryside from Baltimore to Charlottesville were made aware that MCS was going to sponsor its own horse show!

OK you ask. But if I’ve already excused myself from the horsey-set, why the hell was it any business of mine what those yahoos did on their time off. Well, as the officer-in-charge-of-manure at the stables used to say, thereby hangs a tail. So permit me to digress yet again so that I might explain what the hell I had to do with all of that horse poop.

My two year tour of supply duty with Aviation had expired in November, 1959, and my monitor had assured me that I had been handpicked for the Canadian Army Staff College in Windsor Ontario. Had I been so posted it would have been the first decent assignment I'd had in my sixteen years in the Corps. I could see it in my minds eye. A group of Genrils at HQMC with just a few OQJs to paw over, and they select one. Mine. And they whisper to each other: This one has the Right Stuff! The Gods of Olympus Have Marked Him. He Has Stars In His Future! Therefore We Shall Send Him To a Prestigious Scholl Instead of With the Riff-Raff that Attend Junior School! Hah! But the Gods of the Assignment Desk were but toying with me, and I should have known better. There went the stars in my eyes. Get back in the herd! Who the hell do you think you are! So my orders were changed to MCS Quantico, to await the Junior School Class of 60/61. When learning of my new assignment, my Father asked: "Didn't you already do that a dozen years or so ago?" Pulling my forelock, and looking down with real shame in my eyes, being too utterly humiliated to explain the difference between Basic School and Junior School since they didn’t sound a bit different, I could but remain mute. My father, lived on for several more years, I’m happy to report, so I’m relatively confident he didn’t die of the ignominy of it all. So, anyway, I left El Toro considerably crestfallen, and reported to Quantico, expecting to be put in charge of garbage details in the Guadalcanal areas until liberated to go to school in September.

Not that I was looking forward to Junior School one hell of a lot. I had heard that Major Guildo Codespoti, merely an acquaintance at the time, but with a reputation as being one of the finest young operations officers in the Corps, had graduated from Junior School in the class of ’59. Guildo had evidently locked horns with everyone from the Director of JS on down and with every school solution since his first day as a student. The problem was that his alternate solutions were always as good as and frequently better than the school solution. So he graduated with a gentleman’s C. For the class picture Guildo showed up in a rented clown suit, and over the protests of the other students, was not permitted to appear in the class picture. His stated opinion of the school was evident however. I was later to work hand in glove with Guildo at HQMC. He was brilliant. He would never make Ginril, but the last slot I knew he was in was as FMF Plans Officer, 7th Fleet. I hope the Admiral had a sense of humor. When I write Tour of Duty about my four and a half years at HQMC I’ll have a great deal more to say about Guildo. He was the only one I ever saw who could absolutely make General Greene listen to him. Not always. But when Guildo was on a roll….

I reported into Building 1006, more than somewhat amazed that the structure was still standing, knowing it was due solely to the excellent wax and paint that had been used over the years since 1918. We figured that the termites had eaten the last bit of wood in what had been the first Post Headquarters in about 1924. This is where I, and many excellent Marines including 1stSgt George W. Bolkow and GySgt Bob Cornelly had sweated bullets working for LtCol Leonard, he of the golden toothpick who measured hair length and wrote offense reports and got us, his staff, in constant hot water, with the other commands on MCS back in '51 and '52. Thank God, Leonard was no longer there.

However, as I stopped at the Pass Office to get Temporary Tags, the first person I see is my bosom friend from ‘5l/’52, now MGySgt, and ProvSgtMajor Bob Cornelly. We greeted each other effusively, as one might imagine, and from the PMs door steps the MCS Provost Marshal, LtCol Earl McLaughlin, for whom I had worked briefly in '55 on first joining the 3dMarDiv at McGill, Japan. Earl had been the DivPM, and I had commanded the DivMP Company, been Earl’s ADivPM, and then the BasePM. In the latter capacity, since the U. S. Army was the Host Service, I worked directly for an Army Major with a date of rank preceding Pearl Harbor Day. You gotta wonder whose mess kit he s__t in to remain a major when his year group had to be colonels and ginrils. However, once you met him, you’d understand why. as and even more startling, my bosom friend from '51/'52, my Provost Sergeant, GySgt Robert Cornelly with whom I had formed a joint pact of survival to escape the idiocies of the Provost Marshal. So the Provost Marshal invited me in to his office while Bob Cornelly made himself scarce. This made me very nervous. Very nervous. Cornelly is a type that one needs to keep within one’s line of sight at all times.

When I reported to the Personnel Office at Building 1, he escorted me to the G-1 who immediately showed me in to meet the Chief of Staff, Colonel Ormond Simpson. I'd never met Colonel Simpson before. After opening pleasantries, the CofS indicated that he understood that I'd had previous experience as a PM, and on that basis he was assigning me as APM until the current PM was detached in May. I wailed and sputtered, cried, held my breath, pled insanity, nolo contendere, and said a complete Latin mass backwards and forwards, including the “Suscipiat….,” and the “Confiteor Deo Omnipotenti....” and maintained that there ought to be some kind of a statute of limitation, or law or regulation, relating to being assigned to the PM office, especially at Quantico twice in one career. At Quantico there were so GD many senior officers, and every SOB and his brother was senior to the PM, and therefore believed sincerely that his suggestion should instantly become law on the reservation. In short, they would drive you crazy if you weren’t already crazy, which I had already claimed I was from my last tour there. Colonel Simpson was not impressed, and instead smiled beatifically and assured me that he promised that I would be in the next year's Junior class, and wished me a pleasant tour in the PM office until then. I exited into the G-1 office, and Bob Cornelly was standing there with a smirk on his face. That Irish moniker with that smirk gave me a focus for my rage, and had I been able to lay hands on him at that moment I would have murdered him on the spot in the G-1’s office. Now I knew why he had left the PM office early while I was having a cup of coffee.

OK. Back to the damned horse show, now that I've explained the reason that I had to be there. Of course my MPs were there in great numbers as I been given to understand that this was one show that was to come off without a hitch. Hitch? Doesn't a hitch have something to do with horses? Well. Not to worry. We had safety lines up, and MPs in full regalia stationed around the field, which as I recall was right next to what we then called the Senior School. All the Horse Persons, male and female, were all dressed up, spurs were a jangling, and all present, even had those silly little hats on, even VHK hisself, and some kind of gauze things at their necks, and riding crops.

The ossifers were all a-salutin’ each other, and of course a-salutin’ and bowing to all the ladies, some of which I’d seen when riding with my Base Patrols around the streets of Quantico Town and I had grave suspicions concerning their virtue. Also bein saluted saluted with them silly lookin’ horse switches were all the retired and active brass who had gathered from miles around, including some who looked as though they might have taken the afternoon off from Arlington. The cemetery, I mean. The horse-ossifers performed these salutes extremely smartly, with their ridin’ crops, just touching the ends of their crops to their cute little brims of their darling hats, as they gave just the right twitch to their heads, with the tip of the switch just a fraction of an inch from their noses. I could help but wonder, as the lower classes will do, if they ever got the ends of their crops mixed up, and ended up with an eye full of horse….well, if you’re of a low enough class, you can just picture it. I had my eyes peeled all afternoon, just waiting, and never was rewarded with the scene I was looking for, and come to think of it, didn’t know what I’d do if I did see it. Guess you could say something apropos like: “Here’s mud in your eye!” But wouldn’t it be something grand to tell the children years later?

They judges in striped shirts much like football referees also had some kind of a tote board where they were a keeping score of some kind which I and I figure most of the folks there didn't have a clue as to what it all meant. I stationed myself with that traitorous PMSgt Bob Cornelly at one side of the field, away from the flowing champagne fountain.

I always went to sporting events incognito and for a very good reason. I did not want to be any more conspicuous than required by law and I absolutely did not anyone to recognize me as the PM. The reason was simple. I didn’t want some GD Colonel complaining to me about the “Stop” sign at the end of his street where his quarters were, and presenting me with a thirty page staff study prepared by one of his flunkies arguing that the “Stop” sign be changed to a “Yield” sign immediately if not sooner. The reasoning behind the proposal was backed by more statistics and “J” curves than went into the construction of the first atomic device, and I promised to have it looked into for further action. No one who has not been the Provost Marshal at Quantico really understands what suffering is.

Anyway, a bunch of the Ginrils were down from Washington for the day, and there was a special bubbly table set up for them over on the other side of the field from where Bob Cornelly and I has stationed ourselves, and they was a-helping themselves quite liberally. A course Ginril Shoup wasn’t there. You see, Ginril Shoup would be our next CMC, and you might just think that Ginril Shoup, what with bein’ from Battle Ground, Indiana and all, and raised on a farm, would have been right there with the other horse folks. But I’d known the Ginril when he was CofS of the 1stMarDiv at Pendleton before the Korean Unpleasantness, and to tell you the truth, unless there had been a class for them horses that pulled the Budweiser Wagon, which personally I’d have loved to see, with the Genril himself astride a couple of em, I don’t suppose that Genril Shoup would have had much interest in the kind of Horse Shows we had at Quantico that day.

I must admit that VHK was lookin right splendid that day. Noticing VHK’s style of ridin’ though, it seemed that he was takin’ advantage of his lack of avoirdupois’ since he reminded me a lot of the popular boxer Muhammed Ali. VHK, if not “Stinging like a Bee,” he certainly did “Float like a Butterfly.” It seemed like that horse-critter hardly ever bore his weight at all, and the good Ginril’s face bore the look that would have been envied by the celestial angels themselves, as he floated over his steed’s back from one triumph to another in the various events.

There were many ossifers I recognized there under the VIP tent, a swigin away at that champagny while me and Bob Cornelly bein on duty and all couldn’t even have a beer. Many had once been my friends but had abandoned me for their horsey-set friends. They could hardly take note of me, obviously a dismounted infantryman, now that they had their officious horse-riding togs on and I was in the uniform of the day, so to speak. I however, had no option but to take their looks of derision in good humor, having expected no more or less from them.

I must say that when three or four of these former friends came a cropper, and broke arms and legs taking jumps or falling from Old Baldy, or Lollipop, or whatever, they took it in good stead, and smiled bravely as they were carted off to the Ossifer’s Ward at the Nasal Horsepistol. The one I liked best was the Light Colonel Aviator who sort of hit his ejection seat at the highest point of his jump, and just barely hit the top of the tent with his heels, and managed to land in a roll that must have gone twenty feet. The crowd was hushed, as we waited for him to burst into flames, but no such luck, although it would have been a hell of an ending and probably scored high points. He was muttering something about his Reserve Chute not opening when they hauled him off. Obviously he didn’t have the “Right Stuff” at all. But, like the man said. You got to look at the bright side of things. These injuries and near fatalities were all “Line of Duty.” and someday, at retirement, it would be worth 90% or more on a VA pension. While the casualties were recovering they could become reacquainted with their families. That is, of course, if their wives had not divorced them, naming a horse as the correspondent.

I’d been out to Hardin, Montana a few years back, and been impressed by the size of Ginril Custer’s uniforms. Comparing VHK’s miniature dimensions with Custer’s uniforms led me to believe that he could have easily been leading the 7th Cavalry that fated day at the Little Big Horn. The difference being, of course, is that the Injuns would still be fleeing west, and after swimming the Pacific, and running across the Eurasian land mass, would be just about now be reaching the English channel where they even now would be feverishly building canoes to paddle to England.

Well, anyway, VHK was obviously in the lead in every category of horsemanship, or at least his name seemed to be at the top of every division on the tote board. There was a final jump to make, and good sport that he was, although it was just a matter of good sportsmanship, VHK was going to fulfill that role. As he rode around on his steed, gathering speed, Bob Cornelly and I looked down the jump dead in front of us and just on the far side of the jump where neither VHK or his mighty steed could see it….gasp…..horrors….what did we see…..to our left….VHK and his faithful charger…..as incredible as it seems picked up additional speed as they approached the final jump, the Ginril’s was out of his saddle standing straight legged, the body of the horse was stretched straight, neck out, nose flaring, eyes wide, and, and, what had Cornelly and I seen on the blind side of that jump?


Well, Bob Cornelly and I had that identical type of déjà vu experience….like watching the film of Hindenburg, we could forsee precisely what was going to happen, and there was absolute no way that the catastrophe could have been prevented. I’m telling you, this event, at the horse-show, as that of the Hindenburg, was preordained with the creation of the world. It would happen, and it would happen at that place and precise time and to VHK. IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE STARS BEFORE THERE WERE STARS. THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED SO THAT THIS EVENT MIGHT OCCUR. AND THEN PEOPLE WHO KNOW NOTHING ASK ME WHY I NEVER MADE GINRIL. BECAUSE THE GODS OF OLYMPUS WILLED IT SO, YOU DUMB ASS. THEY DID NOT SMILE ON ME. HOW ELSE COULD A TOTALLY UNCONNECTED SERIES OF EVENTS MANDATED THAT I WOULD I HAVE BEEN NEXT TO THAT DAMNED HORSE JUMP ON THAT VERY DAY AND TIME? HAVE YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION? IT WAS A MATTER OF FATE. NONE OF THOSE THINGS COULD POSSIBLY HAVE HAPPENED ACCIDENTALLY. SO THERE!)

To get back to the story, and that damned horse show, a Marine Photographer had sneaked directly under the blind side of the jump that VHK’s steed, to say nothing of VHK, were in mid-air over, and at that instant had snapped a flash bulb….

In a fraction of a fraction of a second several things happened:

(a) The steed stopped in mid air.

(b) VHK didn’t.

(c) By the time VHK had picked himself off the photographer had cleared the immediate area, and probably the State of Virginia.

I figured I’d blown whatever chances I’d had for ginril once again. The good side was that there was to be no more horse shows that summer.

But then, by golly, I had another chance to get back in the spotlight big time. It was well known that CMCS LtGen Silverthorn was bucking for CMC. His brother was already Air Force CofS and I guess the Silverthorn boys wanted to corner the market. Well, they were both almost too handsome for words. Anyway, the MC Silverthorn had formed some kind of relationship with Dick Nixon, the VP, and Nixon liked to sail and play golf. So CMCS would invite him down to golf on Sunday, and Nixon would sail down, disembark at the Post Dock, meet CMCS for a round of golf, then go back to Washington by his car. As PM my duty was to meet Nixon at the dock and get him out to the dock. If you know Quantico, you know there were two ways out to the Golf Course, one over the RR tracks, the other through the side gate and underpass to Barnett Avenue. The latter (side gate) was closed on week ends. By the time that we set up defile control and the necessary comm. gear here and there, and of course we couldn’t secure until Nixon had left the post and that wasn’t usually until late in the evening, it meant 60 MPs tied up every Sunday and enough Comm gear to land a Corps over an enemy beach.

Oh, well. For God and Country and the Republican Ticket was the way I looked at it. I could faintly see those stars gleaming again. Here was the way I looked at it. Nixon was always very pleasant when I greeted him at the Post Dock and always called me by name. Point 1 for old Sully. My wife and I would surely vote for him in November, and of course he’d win. However, should he lose, we felt Silverthorn would be the next CMC for sure. Shoup looked as though he’d spent too much time under a bridge, and Silverthorn was such a fine looking Marine that on looks alone Silverthorn was a shoe in. So if Silverthorn became CMC, look at all those nice letters telling me what a grand job I’d done shaking hands with Nixon. Hmmmm. Didn’t Kennedy sail too? Why the hell didn’t he bring his boat down to Washinton occasionally so I could greet him as well? Well, the Silverthorn thing might not be quite as good as I thought after all. Of course, after Shoup made it, since I too was from Indiana, I figured, maybe what they’re looking for now are guys from Indiana, so….hope springs eternal….ah, well.

Since I mentioned fox hunting above, and talked a great deal about horses, I should really end this with a quote from Churchill: “Fox hunting is a sport in which the unspeakable pursue the inedible.” Come to think of it, that fits golf rather well too, I suppose.
© All rights reserved Dr. R. E. Sullivan 2006

R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952 (Plt #437)--'72
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Last edited by Dick Gaines on July 10th, 2006, 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.