Ribbon Creek PISC Plt #71 1956 S/Sgt Matt McKeon USMC

Ribbon Creek PISC Plt #71 1956 S/Sgt Matt McKeon USMC

Dick Gaines
Dick Gaines

September 29th, 2002, 4:15 pm #1

The following is from

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt

"Despite the great care thus used in the selection of men assigned to
train recruits, a tragedy resulting from the grievous errors of judgment of a
junior drill instructor occurred on Parris Island in April 1956. Various
regulations and standing orders of the post were violated at the same time.

The offending DI was Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon, assigned to Platoon 71,
"A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion.<81> On Sunday night, 8 April,
between 2000 and 2045, he marched 74 men of Platoon 71 from their barracks to
Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island, and led the men into
the water. Some of them got into depths over their heads, panic ensued, and
six recruits drowned in the resulting confusion.

The ostensible purpose of
the march was to teach the recruits discipline.<82> A court of inquiry was convened the next day by Major General Joseph C.
Burger, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to
investigate the circumstances. Evidence presented to the court showed that
Sergeant McKeon had graduated from the Drill Instructors' School in February
1956, ranking 14th in a class of 55 graduates; a total of 90 students had
begun the course in his class.

He had been screened by the Psychiatric
Observation Unit on 3 January 1956 and given the highest possible rating on
"motivation," "emotional stability," and "hostility factors," and a
better-than-average rating on "achievement." The conclusion of the
psychiatric unit was that McKeon was a mature, stable appearing career
Marine."<83> 16



The court was of the opinion, after considering all the evidence brought
before it, that the directives governing the recruit-training program were
correct and adequate.<84> These directives, which went into some detail in
prohibiting oppression of recruits and in forbidding training operations in
the nature of punishment, were repeatedly impressed upon students in the Drill
Instructor's School and upon senior and junior drill instructors.<85> In the
opinion of the court, supervision of the training program was adequate.<86>

The court's findings of fact and its opinions based on these findings placed
the blame for the accident squarely on Sergeant McKeon, who, "in conducting an
unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard...which
resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, not only broke established
regulations but violated the fine traditions of the noncommissioned officers
of the United States Marine Corps and betrayed the trust reposed in him by his
Country, his Corps, his lost comrades and the families of the dead."<87> It
recommended, among other that the sergeant be tried by general
court-martial.<88> After making certain clarifying and supplementary remarks, General Burger
approved the proceedings, findings, opinions, and recommendations.<89>

When the record of proceedings of the court of inquiry was reviewed by
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, he was of the
opinion that the court's action in the case had not gone as far as it should
have. The degree of guilt attributable to Sergeant McKeon, he believed, was
only part of the question.

The Marine Corps itself was on trial in a moral
sense for the death of the six recruits, in his opinion, and he believed that
a reorganization of training procedures at Parris Island, "insofar as the
supervision thereof is concerned," was necessary.<90> Thus, a separate recruit training command was established at Parris
Island, to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the Commandant and
reporting directly to him.

In this way, the Commandant could "personally
control and monitor the steps which must be taken to insure more effective
supervision of our recruit training system." A similar recruit training
command was to be established at San Diego. Each of these recruit training
commands was to be staffed with specially selected officers "to supervise and
monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of
recruits.

At Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, the Commandant
appointed an Inspector General of Recruit Training to assist him in the close
supervision of this new administrative machinery. These extraordinary
measures would remain in effect, he said, until he was convinced that no
reasonable objection could be made to the Marine Corps training program.<91> 17





Thus Sergeant McKeon's ill-fated march set off immediate repercussions
which shook Marine Corps training from top to bottom. Moreover, an
uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio, and television literally
divided the entire country into two opposing camps, those who condemmed McKeon
for what had happened and those who sympathized with him.

It was in this glare of public gaze that McKeon's court-martial began at
Parris Island on 16 July 1956. A noted New York trial counsel, Emile Zola
Berman, undertook the sergeant's defense before the military court. For three
weeks, the battle ebbed and flowed, concerned as much with the propriety of
the rationale and practices of Marine Corps training as with McKeon's
responsibility for the Ribbon Creek affair. Witnesses came forward to defend
Marine training, others came forth to condemn it.

The defense presentation
culminated in the appearance on the stand of retired Lieutenant General Lewis
B. Puller and the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself.

Finally, on 4 August 1956, the court handed down its decision: McKeon
was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops; he was
found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was a
fine of $270, nine months confinement at hard labor as a private and a
bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. Upon review by the Secretary of
the Navy, the sentence was reduced to three months hard labor and reduction to
the rank of private; the discharge was set aside and the fine remitted.

Having already served part of his term prior to sentencing, McKeon was
released from custody on 19 October 1956 and restored to duty commensurate
with his reduced rank. By then, most of the public tumult had died, but there
was little doubt that 8 April 1956 had become an historic date in the history
of Marine Corps training, whether it be at Parris Island or elsewhere. The
drownings at Ribbon Creek had brought the training system of the Corps to
public attention in an exceedingly unfavorable light. The Marine Corps,
normally a strictly voluntary organization, had always derived much of its
strength and prestige from the confidence reposed in it by the general
citizenry of the United States.

If this confidence, which had been seriously
shaken in many sectors of the populace, could not be restored, the general
cause of the Corps would suffer. In the 41 years of its existence as a major
center of Marine training, Parris Island had never faced a more serious
challenge; for now, in addition to its primary mission of training new
Marines, it was of utmost importance to assure the American people, by the
power of example, that the rigors of recruit discipline and work were
sufficiently tempered by humanity and common sense as to prevent the
recurrence of tragedies such as Ribbon Creek.


18



Basically, nothing was wrong with recruit training at Parris Island, but
some changes were instituted in training procedures, customs, and philosophy.
Most of the changes can be traced to the objective of saving for the drill
instructor his over-all authority while eliminating every reason that might
cause him to abuse it.<92> Drill instructors were more carefully selected, and a special school was
established to assure that only the best of them became recruit trainers.


Three instructors were assigned each recruit platoon instead of two, while
extra pay of $30 a month was provided each DI to help compensate him for the
extra hours his job required. All training was closely supervised by a team
of officers to seek ways of improving procedures so as to best provide the
type of Marine recruit graduate desired. Drill instructors were directed to
put a greater premium on example, persuasion, psychology, and leadership in
bringing a platoon of recruits into shape.<93>

A special training unit was set up at Parris Island to take care of
recruits with specific problems. A conditioning platoon, designed to take
care of those overweight, provided special diet and proper exercise to help
its members lose up to 30 pounds within three weeks. A motivation platoon for
the recalcitrants and a proficiency platoon for the slow learners were
established.

A strength platoon provided for those requiring special
exercises to build up flabby muscles, and a hospital platoon took care of
those requiring medical attention. More than three-fourths of the recruits
sent to such special platoons return to their regular platoons to successfully
complete the training program.

The Marine Corps does not give up on a recruit
until he has had thorough physical and psychiatric examinations and has had
repeated interviews and careful study by a board of officers. Most of them
get through boot camp, with the rejection rate about 4-1/2 percent at Parris
Island in 1959.<94> There is general agreement that the basic training at Parris Island is
professionally excellent and that the physical training is the best in the
history of the Recruit Depot.

It may not be like the 'old Corps,' but Parris
Island is turning out Marines mentally and physically ready to maintain, and
even enhance, the reputation of the Marine Corps. In the words of Commandant
David M. Shoup, "The Marines we are turning out at Parris Island today can cut
the mustard with any Marine who ever lived and fought.<95>


ADDENDUM:
From Gunny G's Maverick Marines....



R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
<>
Gunny G's Marines Sites & Forums!

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Dick Gaines
Dick Gaines

September 29th, 2002, 4:17 pm #2

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

September 30th, 2002, 9:56 am #3

The following is from

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt

"Despite the great care thus used in the selection of men assigned to
train recruits, a tragedy resulting from the grievous errors of judgment of a
junior drill instructor occurred on Parris Island in April 1956. Various
regulations and standing orders of the post were violated at the same time.

The offending DI was Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon, assigned to Platoon 71,
"A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion.<81> On Sunday night, 8 April,
between 2000 and 2045, he marched 74 men of Platoon 71 from their barracks to
Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island, and led the men into
the water. Some of them got into depths over their heads, panic ensued, and
six recruits drowned in the resulting confusion.

The ostensible purpose of
the march was to teach the recruits discipline.<82> A court of inquiry was convened the next day by Major General Joseph C.
Burger, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to
investigate the circumstances. Evidence presented to the court showed that
Sergeant McKeon had graduated from the Drill Instructors' School in February
1956, ranking 14th in a class of 55 graduates; a total of 90 students had
begun the course in his class.

He had been screened by the Psychiatric
Observation Unit on 3 January 1956 and given the highest possible rating on
"motivation," "emotional stability," and "hostility factors," and a
better-than-average rating on "achievement." The conclusion of the
psychiatric unit was that McKeon was a mature, stable appearing career
Marine."<83> 16



The court was of the opinion, after considering all the evidence brought
before it, that the directives governing the recruit-training program were
correct and adequate.<84> These directives, which went into some detail in
prohibiting oppression of recruits and in forbidding training operations in
the nature of punishment, were repeatedly impressed upon students in the Drill
Instructor's School and upon senior and junior drill instructors.<85> In the
opinion of the court, supervision of the training program was adequate.<86>

The court's findings of fact and its opinions based on these findings placed
the blame for the accident squarely on Sergeant McKeon, who, "in conducting an
unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard...which
resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, not only broke established
regulations but violated the fine traditions of the noncommissioned officers
of the United States Marine Corps and betrayed the trust reposed in him by his
Country, his Corps, his lost comrades and the families of the dead."<87> It
recommended, among other that the sergeant be tried by general
court-martial.<88> After making certain clarifying and supplementary remarks, General Burger
approved the proceedings, findings, opinions, and recommendations.<89>

When the record of proceedings of the court of inquiry was reviewed by
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, he was of the
opinion that the court's action in the case had not gone as far as it should
have. The degree of guilt attributable to Sergeant McKeon, he believed, was
only part of the question.

The Marine Corps itself was on trial in a moral
sense for the death of the six recruits, in his opinion, and he believed that
a reorganization of training procedures at Parris Island, "insofar as the
supervision thereof is concerned," was necessary.<90> Thus, a separate recruit training command was established at Parris
Island, to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the Commandant and
reporting directly to him.

In this way, the Commandant could "personally
control and monitor the steps which must be taken to insure more effective
supervision of our recruit training system." A similar recruit training
command was to be established at San Diego. Each of these recruit training
commands was to be staffed with specially selected officers "to supervise and
monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of
recruits.

At Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, the Commandant
appointed an Inspector General of Recruit Training to assist him in the close
supervision of this new administrative machinery. These extraordinary
measures would remain in effect, he said, until he was convinced that no
reasonable objection could be made to the Marine Corps training program.<91> 17





Thus Sergeant McKeon's ill-fated march set off immediate repercussions
which shook Marine Corps training from top to bottom. Moreover, an
uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio, and television literally
divided the entire country into two opposing camps, those who condemmed McKeon
for what had happened and those who sympathized with him.

It was in this glare of public gaze that McKeon's court-martial began at
Parris Island on 16 July 1956. A noted New York trial counsel, Emile Zola
Berman, undertook the sergeant's defense before the military court. For three
weeks, the battle ebbed and flowed, concerned as much with the propriety of
the rationale and practices of Marine Corps training as with McKeon's
responsibility for the Ribbon Creek affair. Witnesses came forward to defend
Marine training, others came forth to condemn it.

The defense presentation
culminated in the appearance on the stand of retired Lieutenant General Lewis
B. Puller and the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself.

Finally, on 4 August 1956, the court handed down its decision: McKeon
was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops; he was
found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was a
fine of $270, nine months confinement at hard labor as a private and a
bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. Upon review by the Secretary of
the Navy, the sentence was reduced to three months hard labor and reduction to
the rank of private; the discharge was set aside and the fine remitted.

Having already served part of his term prior to sentencing, McKeon was
released from custody on 19 October 1956 and restored to duty commensurate
with his reduced rank. By then, most of the public tumult had died, but there
was little doubt that 8 April 1956 had become an historic date in the history
of Marine Corps training, whether it be at Parris Island or elsewhere. The
drownings at Ribbon Creek had brought the training system of the Corps to
public attention in an exceedingly unfavorable light. The Marine Corps,
normally a strictly voluntary organization, had always derived much of its
strength and prestige from the confidence reposed in it by the general
citizenry of the United States.

If this confidence, which had been seriously
shaken in many sectors of the populace, could not be restored, the general
cause of the Corps would suffer. In the 41 years of its existence as a major
center of Marine training, Parris Island had never faced a more serious
challenge; for now, in addition to its primary mission of training new
Marines, it was of utmost importance to assure the American people, by the
power of example, that the rigors of recruit discipline and work were
sufficiently tempered by humanity and common sense as to prevent the
recurrence of tragedies such as Ribbon Creek.


18



Basically, nothing was wrong with recruit training at Parris Island, but
some changes were instituted in training procedures, customs, and philosophy.
Most of the changes can be traced to the objective of saving for the drill
instructor his over-all authority while eliminating every reason that might
cause him to abuse it.<92> Drill instructors were more carefully selected, and a special school was
established to assure that only the best of them became recruit trainers.


Three instructors were assigned each recruit platoon instead of two, while
extra pay of $30 a month was provided each DI to help compensate him for the
extra hours his job required. All training was closely supervised by a team
of officers to seek ways of improving procedures so as to best provide the
type of Marine recruit graduate desired. Drill instructors were directed to
put a greater premium on example, persuasion, psychology, and leadership in
bringing a platoon of recruits into shape.<93>

A special training unit was set up at Parris Island to take care of
recruits with specific problems. A conditioning platoon, designed to take
care of those overweight, provided special diet and proper exercise to help
its members lose up to 30 pounds within three weeks. A motivation platoon for
the recalcitrants and a proficiency platoon for the slow learners were
established.

A strength platoon provided for those requiring special
exercises to build up flabby muscles, and a hospital platoon took care of
those requiring medical attention. More than three-fourths of the recruits
sent to such special platoons return to their regular platoons to successfully
complete the training program.

The Marine Corps does not give up on a recruit
until he has had thorough physical and psychiatric examinations and has had
repeated interviews and careful study by a board of officers. Most of them
get through boot camp, with the rejection rate about 4-1/2 percent at Parris
Island in 1959.<94> There is general agreement that the basic training at Parris Island is
professionally excellent and that the physical training is the best in the
history of the Recruit Depot.

It may not be like the 'old Corps,' but Parris
Island is turning out Marines mentally and physically ready to maintain, and
even enhance, the reputation of the Marine Corps. In the words of Commandant
David M. Shoup, "The Marines we are turning out at Parris Island today can cut
the mustard with any Marine who ever lived and fought.<95>


ADDENDUM:
From Gunny G's Maverick Marines....



R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
<>
Gunny G's Marines Sites & Forums!
Due to the obvious presence of my Gunny G's Marines Site & Forums on the Internet, I continue to occasionally receive requests from those both seeking information in general regarding Platoon #71, SSgt McKeon, the Ribbon Creek incident, and those wishing to contact those Marines who were members of Platoon #71 in 1956 at Parris Island, etc.

To date, I have received e-mail from only two members of Plt #71; one for which I do have an e-mail addy, and the other, the Platoon Guide, and for which I no longer have available an e-mail address.

SSgt McKeon, I understand passed on just a few years ago it is believed.

Should any of Platoon #71 read this, and wish to contact others regarding this, you may contact me through, preferably my websites, or e-mail (not reliable w/spamguards in effect) and I can post information to my sites, pass on to others, as you wish. Your comments are invited.

Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72

GunnyG@hotmail.com
GyG1345@yahoo.com

Gunny G's Sites & Forums
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/gunny.html
http://www.network54.com/Forum/135069
Last edited by Dick Gaines on December 26th, 2002, 3:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

October 12th, 2002, 10:37 pm #4

The following is from

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt

"Despite the great care thus used in the selection of men assigned to
train recruits, a tragedy resulting from the grievous errors of judgment of a
junior drill instructor occurred on Parris Island in April 1956. Various
regulations and standing orders of the post were violated at the same time.

The offending DI was Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon, assigned to Platoon 71,
"A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion.<81> On Sunday night, 8 April,
between 2000 and 2045, he marched 74 men of Platoon 71 from their barracks to
Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island, and led the men into
the water. Some of them got into depths over their heads, panic ensued, and
six recruits drowned in the resulting confusion.

The ostensible purpose of
the march was to teach the recruits discipline.<82> A court of inquiry was convened the next day by Major General Joseph C.
Burger, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to
investigate the circumstances. Evidence presented to the court showed that
Sergeant McKeon had graduated from the Drill Instructors' School in February
1956, ranking 14th in a class of 55 graduates; a total of 90 students had
begun the course in his class.

He had been screened by the Psychiatric
Observation Unit on 3 January 1956 and given the highest possible rating on
"motivation," "emotional stability," and "hostility factors," and a
better-than-average rating on "achievement." The conclusion of the
psychiatric unit was that McKeon was a mature, stable appearing career
Marine."<83> 16



The court was of the opinion, after considering all the evidence brought
before it, that the directives governing the recruit-training program were
correct and adequate.<84> These directives, which went into some detail in
prohibiting oppression of recruits and in forbidding training operations in
the nature of punishment, were repeatedly impressed upon students in the Drill
Instructor's School and upon senior and junior drill instructors.<85> In the
opinion of the court, supervision of the training program was adequate.<86>

The court's findings of fact and its opinions based on these findings placed
the blame for the accident squarely on Sergeant McKeon, who, "in conducting an
unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard...which
resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, not only broke established
regulations but violated the fine traditions of the noncommissioned officers
of the United States Marine Corps and betrayed the trust reposed in him by his
Country, his Corps, his lost comrades and the families of the dead."<87> It
recommended, among other that the sergeant be tried by general
court-martial.<88> After making certain clarifying and supplementary remarks, General Burger
approved the proceedings, findings, opinions, and recommendations.<89>

When the record of proceedings of the court of inquiry was reviewed by
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, he was of the
opinion that the court's action in the case had not gone as far as it should
have. The degree of guilt attributable to Sergeant McKeon, he believed, was
only part of the question.

The Marine Corps itself was on trial in a moral
sense for the death of the six recruits, in his opinion, and he believed that
a reorganization of training procedures at Parris Island, "insofar as the
supervision thereof is concerned," was necessary.<90> Thus, a separate recruit training command was established at Parris
Island, to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the Commandant and
reporting directly to him.

In this way, the Commandant could "personally
control and monitor the steps which must be taken to insure more effective
supervision of our recruit training system." A similar recruit training
command was to be established at San Diego. Each of these recruit training
commands was to be staffed with specially selected officers "to supervise and
monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of
recruits.

At Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, the Commandant
appointed an Inspector General of Recruit Training to assist him in the close
supervision of this new administrative machinery. These extraordinary
measures would remain in effect, he said, until he was convinced that no
reasonable objection could be made to the Marine Corps training program.<91> 17





Thus Sergeant McKeon's ill-fated march set off immediate repercussions
which shook Marine Corps training from top to bottom. Moreover, an
uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio, and television literally
divided the entire country into two opposing camps, those who condemmed McKeon
for what had happened and those who sympathized with him.

It was in this glare of public gaze that McKeon's court-martial began at
Parris Island on 16 July 1956. A noted New York trial counsel, Emile Zola
Berman, undertook the sergeant's defense before the military court. For three
weeks, the battle ebbed and flowed, concerned as much with the propriety of
the rationale and practices of Marine Corps training as with McKeon's
responsibility for the Ribbon Creek affair. Witnesses came forward to defend
Marine training, others came forth to condemn it.

The defense presentation
culminated in the appearance on the stand of retired Lieutenant General Lewis
B. Puller and the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself.

Finally, on 4 August 1956, the court handed down its decision: McKeon
was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops; he was
found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was a
fine of $270, nine months confinement at hard labor as a private and a
bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. Upon review by the Secretary of
the Navy, the sentence was reduced to three months hard labor and reduction to
the rank of private; the discharge was set aside and the fine remitted.

Having already served part of his term prior to sentencing, McKeon was
released from custody on 19 October 1956 and restored to duty commensurate
with his reduced rank. By then, most of the public tumult had died, but there
was little doubt that 8 April 1956 had become an historic date in the history
of Marine Corps training, whether it be at Parris Island or elsewhere. The
drownings at Ribbon Creek had brought the training system of the Corps to
public attention in an exceedingly unfavorable light. The Marine Corps,
normally a strictly voluntary organization, had always derived much of its
strength and prestige from the confidence reposed in it by the general
citizenry of the United States.

If this confidence, which had been seriously
shaken in many sectors of the populace, could not be restored, the general
cause of the Corps would suffer. In the 41 years of its existence as a major
center of Marine training, Parris Island had never faced a more serious
challenge; for now, in addition to its primary mission of training new
Marines, it was of utmost importance to assure the American people, by the
power of example, that the rigors of recruit discipline and work were
sufficiently tempered by humanity and common sense as to prevent the
recurrence of tragedies such as Ribbon Creek.


18



Basically, nothing was wrong with recruit training at Parris Island, but
some changes were instituted in training procedures, customs, and philosophy.
Most of the changes can be traced to the objective of saving for the drill
instructor his over-all authority while eliminating every reason that might
cause him to abuse it.<92> Drill instructors were more carefully selected, and a special school was
established to assure that only the best of them became recruit trainers.


Three instructors were assigned each recruit platoon instead of two, while
extra pay of $30 a month was provided each DI to help compensate him for the
extra hours his job required. All training was closely supervised by a team
of officers to seek ways of improving procedures so as to best provide the
type of Marine recruit graduate desired. Drill instructors were directed to
put a greater premium on example, persuasion, psychology, and leadership in
bringing a platoon of recruits into shape.<93>

A special training unit was set up at Parris Island to take care of
recruits with specific problems. A conditioning platoon, designed to take
care of those overweight, provided special diet and proper exercise to help
its members lose up to 30 pounds within three weeks. A motivation platoon for
the recalcitrants and a proficiency platoon for the slow learners were
established.

A strength platoon provided for those requiring special
exercises to build up flabby muscles, and a hospital platoon took care of
those requiring medical attention. More than three-fourths of the recruits
sent to such special platoons return to their regular platoons to successfully
complete the training program.

The Marine Corps does not give up on a recruit
until he has had thorough physical and psychiatric examinations and has had
repeated interviews and careful study by a board of officers. Most of them
get through boot camp, with the rejection rate about 4-1/2 percent at Parris
Island in 1959.<94> There is general agreement that the basic training at Parris Island is
professionally excellent and that the physical training is the best in the
history of the Recruit Depot.

It may not be like the 'old Corps,' but Parris
Island is turning out Marines mentally and physically ready to maintain, and
even enhance, the reputation of the Marine Corps. In the words of Commandant
David M. Shoup, "The Marines we are turning out at Parris Island today can cut
the mustard with any Marine who ever lived and fought.<95>


ADDENDUM:
From Gunny G's Maverick Marines....



R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
<>
Gunny G's Marines Sites & Forums!
http://www.network54.com/Forum/message? ... 1033318016


http://www.network54.com/Forum/message? ... 1033318016
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george lauer
george lauer

December 6th, 2002, 11:46 pm #5

nm
my platoon went through irt at camp giehger,n.c
with platoon # 71. june or july of 56, so long ago i cant remember the exact dates. i know we awaited
transfer from parris island because of the drownings and the investigation that was to come
later on. my di at pi was sgt.m.gonzales.
i made buddies with one of those guys from platoon # 71 but for the heck of me i cant
remember his name- o'niel or something like that.
he was from new jersey. i still have my graduation
book with all the names of my platoon in it from
parris island. great bunch of guys platoon # 71.
they could hack it with the best of us. enough of
my rambling. god bless all of you.
george lauer
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gene ervin
gene ervin

February 9th, 2003, 6:10 am #6

nm
Hey Gunny,
I'm Gene Ervin from platoon 71. I was the Right Guide for the platoon when we went through in the
winter/spring of '56. I don't know whether you have had the occasion to read a fine book on the incident written by Judge John Stevens from Massachusetts. He wrote the book from a trial standpoint, himself being a lawyer. I'm mentioned in the book several times and I contacted him a couple of years ago.
the name of the book is " Incident at Ribbon Creek " by John C. Stevens published by Naval Press Institute.
Semper Fi
Gene Ervin
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

February 11th, 2003, 2:19 pm #7

I was hoping you'd see this--lost your e-mail and addy from a couple years ago--hoping this gets you and others in contact w/one another!

SemperFidelis

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

March 10th, 2003, 9:25 pm #8

The following is from

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt

"Despite the great care thus used in the selection of men assigned to
train recruits, a tragedy resulting from the grievous errors of judgment of a
junior drill instructor occurred on Parris Island in April 1956. Various
regulations and standing orders of the post were violated at the same time.

The offending DI was Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon, assigned to Platoon 71,
"A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion.<81> On Sunday night, 8 April,
between 2000 and 2045, he marched 74 men of Platoon 71 from their barracks to
Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island, and led the men into
the water. Some of them got into depths over their heads, panic ensued, and
six recruits drowned in the resulting confusion.

The ostensible purpose of
the march was to teach the recruits discipline.<82> A court of inquiry was convened the next day by Major General Joseph C.
Burger, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to
investigate the circumstances. Evidence presented to the court showed that
Sergeant McKeon had graduated from the Drill Instructors' School in February
1956, ranking 14th in a class of 55 graduates; a total of 90 students had
begun the course in his class.

He had been screened by the Psychiatric
Observation Unit on 3 January 1956 and given the highest possible rating on
"motivation," "emotional stability," and "hostility factors," and a
better-than-average rating on "achievement." The conclusion of the
psychiatric unit was that McKeon was a mature, stable appearing career
Marine."<83> 16



The court was of the opinion, after considering all the evidence brought
before it, that the directives governing the recruit-training program were
correct and adequate.<84> These directives, which went into some detail in
prohibiting oppression of recruits and in forbidding training operations in
the nature of punishment, were repeatedly impressed upon students in the Drill
Instructor's School and upon senior and junior drill instructors.<85> In the
opinion of the court, supervision of the training program was adequate.<86>

The court's findings of fact and its opinions based on these findings placed
the blame for the accident squarely on Sergeant McKeon, who, "in conducting an
unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard...which
resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, not only broke established
regulations but violated the fine traditions of the noncommissioned officers
of the United States Marine Corps and betrayed the trust reposed in him by his
Country, his Corps, his lost comrades and the families of the dead."<87> It
recommended, among other that the sergeant be tried by general
court-martial.<88> After making certain clarifying and supplementary remarks, General Burger
approved the proceedings, findings, opinions, and recommendations.<89>

When the record of proceedings of the court of inquiry was reviewed by
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, he was of the
opinion that the court's action in the case had not gone as far as it should
have. The degree of guilt attributable to Sergeant McKeon, he believed, was
only part of the question.

The Marine Corps itself was on trial in a moral
sense for the death of the six recruits, in his opinion, and he believed that
a reorganization of training procedures at Parris Island, "insofar as the
supervision thereof is concerned," was necessary.<90> Thus, a separate recruit training command was established at Parris
Island, to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the Commandant and
reporting directly to him.

In this way, the Commandant could "personally
control and monitor the steps which must be taken to insure more effective
supervision of our recruit training system." A similar recruit training
command was to be established at San Diego. Each of these recruit training
commands was to be staffed with specially selected officers "to supervise and
monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of
recruits.

At Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, the Commandant
appointed an Inspector General of Recruit Training to assist him in the close
supervision of this new administrative machinery. These extraordinary
measures would remain in effect, he said, until he was convinced that no
reasonable objection could be made to the Marine Corps training program.<91> 17





Thus Sergeant McKeon's ill-fated march set off immediate repercussions
which shook Marine Corps training from top to bottom. Moreover, an
uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio, and television literally
divided the entire country into two opposing camps, those who condemmed McKeon
for what had happened and those who sympathized with him.

It was in this glare of public gaze that McKeon's court-martial began at
Parris Island on 16 July 1956. A noted New York trial counsel, Emile Zola
Berman, undertook the sergeant's defense before the military court. For three
weeks, the battle ebbed and flowed, concerned as much with the propriety of
the rationale and practices of Marine Corps training as with McKeon's
responsibility for the Ribbon Creek affair. Witnesses came forward to defend
Marine training, others came forth to condemn it.

The defense presentation
culminated in the appearance on the stand of retired Lieutenant General Lewis
B. Puller and the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself.

Finally, on 4 August 1956, the court handed down its decision: McKeon
was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops; he was
found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was a
fine of $270, nine months confinement at hard labor as a private and a
bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. Upon review by the Secretary of
the Navy, the sentence was reduced to three months hard labor and reduction to
the rank of private; the discharge was set aside and the fine remitted.

Having already served part of his term prior to sentencing, McKeon was
released from custody on 19 October 1956 and restored to duty commensurate
with his reduced rank. By then, most of the public tumult had died, but there
was little doubt that 8 April 1956 had become an historic date in the history
of Marine Corps training, whether it be at Parris Island or elsewhere. The
drownings at Ribbon Creek had brought the training system of the Corps to
public attention in an exceedingly unfavorable light. The Marine Corps,
normally a strictly voluntary organization, had always derived much of its
strength and prestige from the confidence reposed in it by the general
citizenry of the United States.

If this confidence, which had been seriously
shaken in many sectors of the populace, could not be restored, the general
cause of the Corps would suffer. In the 41 years of its existence as a major
center of Marine training, Parris Island had never faced a more serious
challenge; for now, in addition to its primary mission of training new
Marines, it was of utmost importance to assure the American people, by the
power of example, that the rigors of recruit discipline and work were
sufficiently tempered by humanity and common sense as to prevent the
recurrence of tragedies such as Ribbon Creek.


18



Basically, nothing was wrong with recruit training at Parris Island, but
some changes were instituted in training procedures, customs, and philosophy.
Most of the changes can be traced to the objective of saving for the drill
instructor his over-all authority while eliminating every reason that might
cause him to abuse it.<92> Drill instructors were more carefully selected, and a special school was
established to assure that only the best of them became recruit trainers.


Three instructors were assigned each recruit platoon instead of two, while
extra pay of $30 a month was provided each DI to help compensate him for the
extra hours his job required. All training was closely supervised by a team
of officers to seek ways of improving procedures so as to best provide the
type of Marine recruit graduate desired. Drill instructors were directed to
put a greater premium on example, persuasion, psychology, and leadership in
bringing a platoon of recruits into shape.<93>

A special training unit was set up at Parris Island to take care of
recruits with specific problems. A conditioning platoon, designed to take
care of those overweight, provided special diet and proper exercise to help
its members lose up to 30 pounds within three weeks. A motivation platoon for
the recalcitrants and a proficiency platoon for the slow learners were
established.

A strength platoon provided for those requiring special
exercises to build up flabby muscles, and a hospital platoon took care of
those requiring medical attention. More than three-fourths of the recruits
sent to such special platoons return to their regular platoons to successfully
complete the training program.

The Marine Corps does not give up on a recruit
until he has had thorough physical and psychiatric examinations and has had
repeated interviews and careful study by a board of officers. Most of them
get through boot camp, with the rejection rate about 4-1/2 percent at Parris
Island in 1959.<94> There is general agreement that the basic training at Parris Island is
professionally excellent and that the physical training is the best in the
history of the Recruit Depot.

It may not be like the 'old Corps,' but Parris
Island is turning out Marines mentally and physically ready to maintain, and
even enhance, the reputation of the Marine Corps. In the words of Commandant
David M. Shoup, "The Marines we are turning out at Parris Island today can cut
the mustard with any Marine who ever lived and fought.<95>


ADDENDUM:
From Gunny G's Maverick Marines....



R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
<>
Gunny G's Marines Sites & Forums!
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These search terms have been highlighted: puller mckeon court martial
Page 1
1
Overview and Comments
Court-Martial at Parris Island ­ The Ribbon Creek Incident
By John C. Stevens III
Not a suggestion regarding Stevens excellent and objective text, but I have always disliked books or
reviews that require one to try and unravel a writer's or reviewer's point of view. Sometimes a
viewpoint is never made explicit and we only come away with an implicit feeling as to the writer's
point. Therefore I want to begin my comments by saying this is a thoughtful, balanced book and that
Stevens deserves a lot of credit. I would highly recommend it to any Marine or others interested in
Marine Corps history or military history in general. It is a story that needed to be told!
I will also state that I feel S.Sgt. Matthew McKeon was a good man who made a tragic mistake. The
factors leading up to the events of the evening of April 8, 1956 are manifold and can only be fully
understood by reading Stevens' book. My objective is to simply focus on some of the material that
substantiates my perception that McKeon was a good guy, and would have become a good DI!
My perspective comes from having served in the USMC and USMCR from October 1956 until August
1962. My service number was 1551264 and I was Honorably discharged as a Corporal E-4. I went to
Parris Island in early February of 1957 and was in Platoon 43, First Recruit Battalion. My recruit-
training period virtually overlaps the events of a year earlier and put me at the rifle range at about the
same time of year.
As it was for Stevens, six months later, the events of Ribbon Creek were fresh in everyone's mind. We
were greeted with a recount and told right up front: "We can't touch you little maggots but we can sure
work your ass to death" and they did. We were also told we could write our Congressman if we wanted
to, but they were still going to make Marines out of us "By the Book!"
The pressure was intense during the initial "fear and shock" period and I saw several buckle under the
pressure into a Section 8 discharge. This is not the place to relate my recruit training, other than to
admit I was mildly "thumped" one evening and years later met that same senior DI at Pendleton. I still
treasure the experience of becoming a Marine!
Like all of us who went though boot training, I too pulled butts at the range. As Stevens points out the
discipline and control there was far different than it was back at main side. This lack of supervision
was especially true in the butts where there were no DI's. Only those who know me well know my
quest for understanding things, and I wanted to understand this incident. On several days I took the
opportunity to spend my entire lunch break walking all over the Ribbon Creek area. That was nearly 46
years ago so I don't remember a lot of detail, but I
vividly
recall my reactions and those thoughts will
be expressed in this review.
Page 2
2
Definitions from Webster...
Marine:
Of or relating to the sea.
Amphibious:
Able to live on both land and in water.
Swim:
To propel oneself in water... To float on a liquid...
DI Motto:
Let's be damn sure that no man's ghost will ever say "If your training program had only
done its job."
And from Chesty Puller we learn the mission of Marine Corps training!
"... success in battle... "
1
From Stevens' book, and my opinions...
Stevens tells us "At that time platoons were numbered consecutively as they were formed in each
calendar year."
2
McKeon's February 22, 1956 platoon was number 71. A year later my February 5,
1957 platoon was number 43.
The average platoon in February 1956 was between 70 and 80 recruits. A year later my platoon had 60.
Run the numbers and you will see recruitment to Parris Island had been cut in half. Command's
concern over the incident affecting the Corps ability to attract the necessary supply of new recruits was
well founded and was the principal reason for needing to make McKeon the bad guy ­ not the Corps.
I was well aware of the incident when I enlisted. I also had been told a great deal about what to expect
by Peter Daly, John Vaughn and Peter Kettle, hometown friends, who had each been through PI boot
camp in 1956. I clearly remember thinking, am I man enough to make it through and become a Marine.
It was a challenge to myself I never thought twice about and I enlisted in the USMCR in October 1956
and left for Parris Island in February 4, 1957.
Stevens' also points out the duration of recruit training in 1956 was "... eleven weeks of basic
training."
3
"... twenty-four hours a day for the next eleven weeks."
4
Near the end of the book he
separates the orientation week to emphasize "... disciplined basic marines out of raw recruits in ten
weeks."
5
By 1957 the standard training schedule was three months or between 12 and 13 weeks. I got to PI on
February 4, 1957 and was still there for a platoon picture on May 2, 1957.
1
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2
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3
page 16
4
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5
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Page 3
3
The "Swimming" section
6
of my Graduation Book states in part: "For Marines, whose primary role in
the Armed Forces is amphibious operations, swimming is an important phase of each recruit's 12
weeks of training."
During my training I was surprised to see recruits who could not swim had joined a service called the
Marine Corps. I also thought it strange the USMC would then accept anyone who could not swim, but
I guess the Navy did too. To me it seems like a basic requisite.
How much W.W.II footage have you seen with Marines wading ashore under heavy fire when the
Peter and Mike boats could not make it to the beach? Or, in jungles up to their chests and necks in
water at Guadalcanal and then all over the south Pacific and Vietnam as well.
HELLO! This is the mission!
In training "... the nonswimmers had been taught how to float, tread water, and dog paddle. All recruits
in the platoon had received ten hours of swimming instruction before April 8."
7
Platoon 71 got themselves into trouble by not following McKeon and by "joking, kidding, and
slapping others with twigs while yelling "Snake" or "Shark! Suddenly there was a cry for help and
panic broke out... "
8
One of the lost recruits was Thomas Hardeman. At the trial McKeon met his mother, Maggie Meeks,
and stated "Your son was one of the finest boys in my platoon... "
9
There is no way to know but this
would indicate those who McKeon euphemistically called "foul Balls" may have caused the death of
good Marines who were trying to save them. There are several descriptions in the book of panic and
desperate clinging and dragging down into the shallow water.
"The impressive and valorous performance of the Marines in combat was considered to be a testament
to the rigorous training program that had been used for years, and essentially the DI was free to use
whatever methods of discipline and punishment he chose."
10
As the common saying goes McKeon was being "hung out to dry". Marsh marches had long been a
common threat and practice at PI but with the political storm over this incident no one, especially
another DI was going to risk his career by coming forward. Except, no less than Platoon 71 SDI, Staff
Sergeant Huff, himself.
Under oath Huff was asked "... if he knew of a practice, for the purpose of training discipline and
boosting morale, of taking platoons on night marches into the boondocks, swamps, marshes and water
around Parris Island, Huff replied, As far as I know, yes, sir." "He also acknowledged that he had
earlier told the recruits of Platoon 71 that if their performance didn't improve, he would take them into
6
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7
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8
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10
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4
the swamps."
11
Also under oath McKeon stated "... that swamp marches had long been an accepted
practice in boot camp" and as a recruit that he had been taken "On several occasions, sir."
12
"At best, a congressional investigation would generate widespread negative publicity for the Marine
Corps as well as risk further budgetary constraints... " and "... publicity seeking congressman could
find and use [this incident] to stir up public passion against the Corps"
13
for their own political
advantage.
Not to excuse McKeon's tragic mistake, but this is just plain disgusting politics! The Corps, and
McKeon, who had fought so valiantly in W.W.II and Korea, were now on the defensive. However, the
Commandant, "General Pate, by proclaiming that the Marine Corps was on trial, may have skillfully
averted a congressional investigation".
14
The initial negative reactions of both Chesty Puller and Commandant Pate where motivated by a
defense of the Corps and to support there was "... nothing wrong with the system... "
15
In the Court Martial itself Commandant Pate stated "... I suspect I would have transferred him away for
stupidity, or, if you want to be more polite, for lack of judgement. I would probably have written in his
service record book that under no conditions would this Sergeant ever drill recruits again. I think I
would let it go at that."
16
Puller then stated "... I think from what I read in the papers yesterday of the testimony of General
Randolph MacPate [sic] (Puller apparently did not know the Commandants name!) before this court,
that he agrees and regrets that this man was ever ordered tried by a general court martial."
17
I think
this, and Stevens' whole book pretty well says that McKeon was in a political situation that never
would have developed if the Corps had not been on the defensive!
Regarding Platoon 71, "About three-fourths of the platoon was squared away. But the remainder were
foul balls."
18
"For example, eight of the men in Platoon 71 were either illiterate or had General
Classification Test scores ­ approximately equivalent to an IQ test ­ below 70."
19
McKeon's colorful assessment that 25 percent of the platoon were "foul balls", may not have been far
off the mark based on the testimony of several members of the platoon at the trial and in later
interviews"
20
"The quality of some of the men under McKeon's tutelage may also be measured by their behavior
after completing boot camp. At the time of the court-martial, two men were AWOL from Parris Island,
one was AWOL from Camp Lejeune, one had deserted, one was in the brig, and one was awaiting
11
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5
punishment by his commanding officer."
21
Remember these men did not complete their recruit training
under McKeon, so other DI's also had a chance to make these guys good Marines.
In Platoon 71 "Staff Sergeant Huff was the senior of the three DI's... had been a drill instructor for
more than a year and a half and had trained four previous platoons... "
22
"Huff was held in the lowest esteem by the recruits in Platoon 71... he just wanted to get it over
with."
23
Huff was tired of being a DI and was dumping the majority of the responsibility on McKeon
with little or no disciplinary help from King. "Huff, ... viewed Platoon 71 as the most undisciplined of
the five platoons he had worked with."
24
It also needs to be emphasized that "Staff Sergeant Huff's
testimony that he had threatened to take the platoon into the swamps authorized McKeon by
implication to do the same... "
25
Staff Sergeant Huff had basically washed his hands of the young men under him... Sergeant King
... was hardly more than a recruit himself... The upshot of it all was that Sergeant McKeon became the
man in the middle ­ a combat-savvy but inexperienced drill instructor trying to mold a quality platoon
from extremely raw material with only limited help from his two colleagues."
26
"Neither McKeon not
King had prior experience. Both had graduated from DI school on February 5, 1956."
27
Sgt. Richard J. King had also countermanded Huff's disciplinary order that the men were to forgo
cigarettes for two weeks when he "... surreptitiously allowed the men a smoke."
28
This was not the
"good guy, bad guy" game sometimes played by the DI's, but plain evidence that King was not helping
square away this "rag tag" platoon!
Stevens states "McKeon was failing, and he knew it."
29
I think it was Huff who was failing. He had
abdicated setting an overall standard of discipline and King was further undermining any chance of
correcting the "foul ball" behavior of a quarter of the platoon. McKeon was taking it on, himself, to try
and get the situation under control.
Matthew McKeon "... left high school in 1942 before graduation to serve in the navy and was assigned
to the Carrier
Essex
, which saw extensive service in the South Pacific until the battle of Okinawa was
won."
30
His tour of duty took him... around Bougainville, Rabaul, the Gilberts, Marshalls, Mariannas,
Iwo Jima, up through Okinawa"
31
"He received an honorable discharge from the navy in 1946 and enlisted in the Marine Corp in
1948."
32
After his first tour in the Corps he reenlisted again and served "... briefly at Camp Lejeune
before being sent to Korea in December 1952 for a combat assignment as sergeant of a machine-gun
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6
platoon.
33
"Following his third honorable discharge in 1955, he promptly reenlisted and volunteered
for DI school".
34
On February 4, 1956, McKeon completed the intensive... drill instructors training program... finishing
fourteenth in a class of fifty-five... "
35
in a class that had started with 90. "Platoon 71 was his first
assignment since graduating from drill instructor's school two months earlier."
36
"Every approach he
had used so far to instill discipline and cohesiveness seemed to have failed. Now, at wit's end,
McKeon was about to try a different approach".
37
As far as the charge of being drunk the testimony is flawed and inconclusive. "In sum, McKeon's
alcohol consumption was no more than ­ and perhaps less than ­ about three ounces of vodka near
midday, a sip of whiskey and a few swallows of beer at about 1:30 P.M., and probably a swig of vodka
near 8:00 P. M. [This last drink was a gesture of tipping a capped bottle to his lips and not a swig] In
the meantime, he slept for about two hours in the afternoon and ate a full meal shortly before 6:00 PM.
It may be that McKeon had an odor of alcohol on his breath. It defies common experience to conclude
that such a modest amount of alcohol, nearly all of which was consumed seven hours or more before
he first set foot in Ribbon Creek, would have had the slightest influence on his judgement or conduct
on the evening of April 8."
38
"Not until the court-martial nearly four months later would Dr. Atcheson admit that there was no
clinical evidence of intoxication."
39
His own recruits "... testified that there was no evidence that Mckeon was drunk or impaired by
drinking". Of all the recruits in the platoon who had made statements "... not one... had anything
negative or critical to say about Sergeant McKeon".
40
"... the survivors had spoken not of maltreatment, but rather `almost to a man have sung [McKeonn's]
praises'."
41
Gerald Langhorn, the former section leader, did his best to defend his former DI, whom he
thought "was the best on the Island, in my opinion, and I think most of the men agreed with me, sir."
42
By contrast T.Sgt. Elwyn Scarborough, the Platoons Range Instructor "... had a checkered military
career."
43
Scarborough came to McKeon's room and asked him to drive him to his car to get a partially
consumed bottle of vodka since he had had a rough night and needed a drink.
Scarborough then asked McKeon to drive him to the NCO club "Here's your bottle, Gunny. Take it
with you. Leave it here. I'll pick it up later"
44
The bottle would not have been there later if
Scarborough had taken it back to his car, as McKeon had asked him.
33
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7
McKeon was victim of being a nice guy by helping Scarborough with his bottle, allowing him to leave
it in the barracks, driving Scarborough to the NCO club and accepting congratulattory drinks he never
finished. Granted, McKeon used bad judgement but he was certainly not a bad guy. McKeon left the
NCO club about 1:40 PM. Back at the range he took a nap till 5:00 PM.
The scene of the accident was described as "Some fifty to seventy-five feet beyond the marsh was a
meandering tidal stream known as Ribbon Creek."
45
I want to stress that S.Sgt. McKeon was the first
person in the water and he was the last one out. He was leading, not just ordering recruits into an
unknown situation. It is empirically obvious that if they had just followed him, as instructed, they all
would have gotten back safely. Basic for military training!
"One day in the butts Sergeant McKeon had seen a drill instructor march his platoon out that pier and
off the end, right into the creek. The men had emerged chastened, muddy, and perhaps wiser for the
experience. The incident had not been lost on Matt McKeon."
46
"He (McKeon) was also led into the
marshes behind the rifle range into water up to his knees and ordered to drop into the mud when his
drill instructor simulated an air raid alert."
47
I also want to point out the caption on one of the Ribbon Creek photos in Stevens' book says, "The
view is toward the ocean... " giving the impression that Ribbon Creek was directly adjacent to the
Atlantic. In fact, Ribbon Creek adjoins Edding Creek, and they both empty into Broad River and Port
Royal Sound. The Ocean is several miles down the Sound to the east. Let's not have images of a
surging swamp with the tide acting like the parting of the Red Sea!
In fact, the tidal forces around Parris Island were not strong enough to "clean" the beaches let alone the
marshes. A base order stated that due to "... the contamination of the water adjacent to Parris Island, all
personnel of this Command are prohibited from bathing or swimming therein."
48
This was not the case on the beach at Hilton Head Island where I vacationed for three years in the
1980's. But even on the beach the tide is not a high-speed thing that can suck you away, but a gradual
raising and lowering of the water. We swam there for weeks, women and children alike, building
sandcastles and watching the tide slowly wash them away while cleaning the beach.
"M. Sgt. John E. Clement... had spent a total of seven of eight years at Parris Island... " He was
"... assigned to water transportation... was familiar with Ribbon Creek... " and "... estimated the water
in the marsh and the grassy area between the creek and the filled land behind Charlie range to be two
and a half to three feet deep at high tide."
49
John Stevens is from Massachusetts so I am sure he has gone "crabbing" in the tidal marshes off Cape
Cod or the mainland. I first started doing this as a 10-year-old. Crab net in one hand and a fish head on
a string in the other. I used to wade in tidal swamps and marshes catching crabs so I know about the
pull of a tide in marshes directly adjacent to, and even in view of the Atlantic.
45
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46
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47
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8
We used to work the drainage pipes that went under the road near Chatham. You could barely sense
the tidal flow in the marshes, but at the inland mouth of the pipe there was a current with crabs riding
it, which made them easy to net.
My preamble noted I had looked closely at Ribbon Creek while at the rifle range and my "v
ivid"
reaction then, and on a return visit when vacationing at Hilton Head, was that someone would need to
be retarded or radically incompetent to drown in that area! Several in platoon 71 fit this description.
Surely these men would never have survived the conditions in many amphibious landings, and they
would have been in worse trouble in any combat situation involving water.
Then there was the claim of dangerous mud which "... was anywhere from several inches to more than
a foot deep... in a marsh "... covered by two to three feet of cool water"
50
Big deal! In a monsoon in the
northern training area of Okinawa I once slipped and fell dropping a machine gun in mud so deep it
took three of us a minute to find it. Granted I was not in a tidal swamp but it was late at night, pitch
dark, and we had been wading through creeks in a dense jungle for hours with lots of water and
precipitous drops. I wonder what these guys would have done there!
At one point they got a shrimp fisherman to bring his boat over but " The shrimper proved to be of no
practical use, however, as his boat ran aground in the ebbing tide."
51
It is certainly interesting that after
a shrimper runs aground they bring in "a Marine frogman named Gerald Seybold... to don his wet suit
and comb the creek bed."
52
I can just seed him flopping around in the mud.
When the incident occurred it must be put in the context that McKeon had been a Junior DI for only a
few weeks. He graduated from DI school on February 4, 1956 and did not pick up platoon 71 until
February 22, 1956 and the accident was April 8, 1956. This was his first platoon assignment and he
was only about six weeks into the job.
When the platoon left on this maneuver "... the tide, which had crested shortly after 6:34 P. M. was
beginning to recede."
53
It was nearly two hours since high tide, yet Stevens characterizes it as
"... coursing strongly back to the sea... The swiftly moving waters acted like an undertow on the
men... "
54
Yet "... a body is invariably found near the spot of drowning even in swiftly moving tidal
waters."
55
"About ten to fifteen feet from the point of entry, he [McKeon] ordered the column to turn ninety
degrees to the right so it was now moving parallel to the bank in knee-deep water. McKeon advised the
recruits within ear shot that in combat it was important to stay near the bank of a stream and out of the
moonlight to avoid detection by the enemy".
56
"McKeon continued the platoon on its course parallel to the water's edge for at least thirty feet. He
then turned toward the deeper waters for ten to fifteen feet, and then left again. The column now
50
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51
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52
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53
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54
Page 7
55
Page 32
56
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9
resembled a U-shaped snake as the men in the front were doubling back, again parallel to the water's
edge but nearer to the center of the creek bed".
57
Then "... several of the young men began what in military terms would be deemed "grab-assing."
Someone yelled, "Gator!" Others were slapping the water and pretending to be in trouble... "
58
We then have Stevens dramatic description that "... the nervous and frightened young men, many
quelling their apprehension by joking and fooling around... " were faced with "... the ever deeper
water; the force of the outgoing tide; and the precipitous drop-off of the creek bed leading to the
sudden eruption of panic and chaos followed by a number of valiant and sometimes futile rescue
efforts."
59
"All five of the young men had been found within forty yards of each other in a depression in the creek
bottom known to local fishermen as the "trout hole."
60
This infamous "... trout hole, which he (S.Sgt.
George W. Sparks) testified was about one and one-half feet deeper that the rest of the creek bed."
61
One of my former NCO's who was later a DI told me recruits would rather sandpaper the ass of a lion
in a phone booth than laugh at a DI if he had control of the platoon. I surely agree, but the most
important question of this whole incident is, what about S.Sgt. Edward A. Huff? He was the senior
drill instructor, and had been a drill instructor for more than a year and a half. He had also trained four
previous platoons? Huff was the leader who should have set the overall tone of discipline and should
also have been a trainer and mentor for his brand new junior DI's.
Bottom line, McKeon was a new junior DI carrying virtually the whole burden of squaring away this
platoon. When I got there a year later there was a "Motivation Platoon" along with "Slow learner" and
"Fat Man" Platoons. I don't know if this approach existed in 1956 but what I saw of the "Motivation
Platoon" regimen would have straightened out these "foul balls".
If a "Motivation Platoon" did not get their heads on straight they would have received section 8 or
other unfit discharges and would not have been a disrupting influence on Platoon 71.
Having these men in a regular platoon was not only unfair to the whole training program but to the rest
of Platoon 71, where seventy-five percent of men were good recruits. When I was there we wanted to
look good! We were proud of our Platoon 43 and we all strutted behind our Guidon to the cadence of
our DI's. As we passed other platoons our DI's used to say to us, "let's show these guys how good we
are". We were becoming Marines and would have thumped these "foul balls" ourselves if they had
been in our platoon!
Stevens points out that Platoon 71 was housed in "... building 761, one of a uniform row of H-shaped
white wooden buildings with four squad bays that housed recruit platoons while they were at the rifle
range."
62
They had stopped using these old wooden "H" buildings by 1957; at least all of us at the
57
Page 6
58
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59
Page 43
60
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61
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62
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10
range were in Quonset huts along Wake Boulevard. Stevens points out they were called Nissen huts
63
,
a term I had never heard. Apparently Nissen was the inventor and Quonset was a brand name.
Anyway, there were only about half as many recruits on the range in March/April 1957. When I visited
PI in the 1980's the huts were gone, as were virtually all the old wooden barracks at main side. Air-
conditioned brick buildings are now the order of the day!
Although busted to Private, McKeon was allowed to stay in the Marine Corps. At Cherry Point, North
Carolina, he attempted to rebuild his career, capitalizing on his W.W.II carrier experience. He worked
with an all-weather fighter squadron and supplemented his private's pay by working nights in the EM
club kitchen. Remember he had a wife and kids!
Still suffering from the same ailing back he had struggled with on that fateful night in 1956, he was
found to be medically disabled and received and honorable discharge in 1959.
Earlier that year he had earned his squadron's "Marine of the Month" award.
"With one exception, all of the men interviewed forty years later spoke as highly of their former drill
instructor as they had at the trial."
64
Enough said!
Sincerely,
Robert L. Rohrer
USMC 1551264
63
Page 18
64
Page 172
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

March 15th, 2003, 2:28 pm #9

The following is from

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt

"Despite the great care thus used in the selection of men assigned to
train recruits, a tragedy resulting from the grievous errors of judgment of a
junior drill instructor occurred on Parris Island in April 1956. Various
regulations and standing orders of the post were violated at the same time.

The offending DI was Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon, assigned to Platoon 71,
"A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion.<81> On Sunday night, 8 April,
between 2000 and 2045, he marched 74 men of Platoon 71 from their barracks to
Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island, and led the men into
the water. Some of them got into depths over their heads, panic ensued, and
six recruits drowned in the resulting confusion.

The ostensible purpose of
the march was to teach the recruits discipline.<82> A court of inquiry was convened the next day by Major General Joseph C.
Burger, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to
investigate the circumstances. Evidence presented to the court showed that
Sergeant McKeon had graduated from the Drill Instructors' School in February
1956, ranking 14th in a class of 55 graduates; a total of 90 students had
begun the course in his class.

He had been screened by the Psychiatric
Observation Unit on 3 January 1956 and given the highest possible rating on
"motivation," "emotional stability," and "hostility factors," and a
better-than-average rating on "achievement." The conclusion of the
psychiatric unit was that McKeon was a mature, stable appearing career
Marine."<83> 16



The court was of the opinion, after considering all the evidence brought
before it, that the directives governing the recruit-training program were
correct and adequate.<84> These directives, which went into some detail in
prohibiting oppression of recruits and in forbidding training operations in
the nature of punishment, were repeatedly impressed upon students in the Drill
Instructor's School and upon senior and junior drill instructors.<85> In the
opinion of the court, supervision of the training program was adequate.<86>

The court's findings of fact and its opinions based on these findings placed
the blame for the accident squarely on Sergeant McKeon, who, "in conducting an
unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard...which
resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, not only broke established
regulations but violated the fine traditions of the noncommissioned officers
of the United States Marine Corps and betrayed the trust reposed in him by his
Country, his Corps, his lost comrades and the families of the dead."<87> It
recommended, among other that the sergeant be tried by general
court-martial.<88> After making certain clarifying and supplementary remarks, General Burger
approved the proceedings, findings, opinions, and recommendations.<89>

When the record of proceedings of the court of inquiry was reviewed by
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, he was of the
opinion that the court's action in the case had not gone as far as it should
have. The degree of guilt attributable to Sergeant McKeon, he believed, was
only part of the question.

The Marine Corps itself was on trial in a moral
sense for the death of the six recruits, in his opinion, and he believed that
a reorganization of training procedures at Parris Island, "insofar as the
supervision thereof is concerned," was necessary.<90> Thus, a separate recruit training command was established at Parris
Island, to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the Commandant and
reporting directly to him.

In this way, the Commandant could "personally
control and monitor the steps which must be taken to insure more effective
supervision of our recruit training system." A similar recruit training
command was to be established at San Diego. Each of these recruit training
commands was to be staffed with specially selected officers "to supervise and
monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of
recruits.

At Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, the Commandant
appointed an Inspector General of Recruit Training to assist him in the close
supervision of this new administrative machinery. These extraordinary
measures would remain in effect, he said, until he was convinced that no
reasonable objection could be made to the Marine Corps training program.<91> 17





Thus Sergeant McKeon's ill-fated march set off immediate repercussions
which shook Marine Corps training from top to bottom. Moreover, an
uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio, and television literally
divided the entire country into two opposing camps, those who condemmed McKeon
for what had happened and those who sympathized with him.

It was in this glare of public gaze that McKeon's court-martial began at
Parris Island on 16 July 1956. A noted New York trial counsel, Emile Zola
Berman, undertook the sergeant's defense before the military court. For three
weeks, the battle ebbed and flowed, concerned as much with the propriety of
the rationale and practices of Marine Corps training as with McKeon's
responsibility for the Ribbon Creek affair. Witnesses came forward to defend
Marine training, others came forth to condemn it.

The defense presentation
culminated in the appearance on the stand of retired Lieutenant General Lewis
B. Puller and the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself.

Finally, on 4 August 1956, the court handed down its decision: McKeon
was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops; he was
found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was a
fine of $270, nine months confinement at hard labor as a private and a
bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. Upon review by the Secretary of
the Navy, the sentence was reduced to three months hard labor and reduction to
the rank of private; the discharge was set aside and the fine remitted.

Having already served part of his term prior to sentencing, McKeon was
released from custody on 19 October 1956 and restored to duty commensurate
with his reduced rank. By then, most of the public tumult had died, but there
was little doubt that 8 April 1956 had become an historic date in the history
of Marine Corps training, whether it be at Parris Island or elsewhere. The
drownings at Ribbon Creek had brought the training system of the Corps to
public attention in an exceedingly unfavorable light. The Marine Corps,
normally a strictly voluntary organization, had always derived much of its
strength and prestige from the confidence reposed in it by the general
citizenry of the United States.

If this confidence, which had been seriously
shaken in many sectors of the populace, could not be restored, the general
cause of the Corps would suffer. In the 41 years of its existence as a major
center of Marine training, Parris Island had never faced a more serious
challenge; for now, in addition to its primary mission of training new
Marines, it was of utmost importance to assure the American people, by the
power of example, that the rigors of recruit discipline and work were
sufficiently tempered by humanity and common sense as to prevent the
recurrence of tragedies such as Ribbon Creek.


18



Basically, nothing was wrong with recruit training at Parris Island, but
some changes were instituted in training procedures, customs, and philosophy.
Most of the changes can be traced to the objective of saving for the drill
instructor his over-all authority while eliminating every reason that might
cause him to abuse it.<92> Drill instructors were more carefully selected, and a special school was
established to assure that only the best of them became recruit trainers.


Three instructors were assigned each recruit platoon instead of two, while
extra pay of $30 a month was provided each DI to help compensate him for the
extra hours his job required. All training was closely supervised by a team
of officers to seek ways of improving procedures so as to best provide the
type of Marine recruit graduate desired. Drill instructors were directed to
put a greater premium on example, persuasion, psychology, and leadership in
bringing a platoon of recruits into shape.<93>

A special training unit was set up at Parris Island to take care of
recruits with specific problems. A conditioning platoon, designed to take
care of those overweight, provided special diet and proper exercise to help
its members lose up to 30 pounds within three weeks. A motivation platoon for
the recalcitrants and a proficiency platoon for the slow learners were
established.

A strength platoon provided for those requiring special
exercises to build up flabby muscles, and a hospital platoon took care of
those requiring medical attention. More than three-fourths of the recruits
sent to such special platoons return to their regular platoons to successfully
complete the training program.

The Marine Corps does not give up on a recruit
until he has had thorough physical and psychiatric examinations and has had
repeated interviews and careful study by a board of officers. Most of them
get through boot camp, with the rejection rate about 4-1/2 percent at Parris
Island in 1959.<94> There is general agreement that the basic training at Parris Island is
professionally excellent and that the physical training is the best in the
history of the Recruit Depot.

It may not be like the 'old Corps,' but Parris
Island is turning out Marines mentally and physically ready to maintain, and
even enhance, the reputation of the Marine Corps. In the words of Commandant
David M. Shoup, "The Marines we are turning out at Parris Island today can cut
the mustard with any Marine who ever lived and fought.<95>


ADDENDUM:
From Gunny G's Maverick Marines....



R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
<>
Gunny G's Marines Sites & Forums!
From: "Richard Gaines" <gunnyg@hotmail.com> | This is Spam | Add to Address Book
To: bjordan@atpco.com
Subject: Re: Gen. Greene
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 13:24:49 -0500

Bryant:
My favorite from all of the material re the
trial, is the piece I use on my
own website as to what Chesty Puller had to say
at the McKeon trial.....(See
Below)

Also, I have exchanged e-mail with Gene Ervin who
was the Platoon Guide, Plt
#71, and he provided information to Judge Stevens
for his recent book,
Court-Martial At Parris island...

Gene's e-mail addy is

geneervin@hotmail.com

should you wish to contact him.
**************************************

Dick Gaines

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."

Re
The book, " Marine, The Life of Lt. Gen. Lewis B.
(Chesty) Puller, USMC
(Ret.)"
By Burke Davis, 1962, Bantam




Semper Fidelis
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
(1952-1972)
***************
Note: You should be on my Contact List or e-mail
to this address may not
reach me, as I am now restricting e-mail for all
but pre-selected
individuals (due to spam!)--otherwise you may
contact me by posting at my
Weblog shown below.
****************
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern
(Sites & Forums)
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/gunny.html
***************
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern Weblog!
http://network54.com/Forum/135069
****************
The Best Way To Find Old Marine Corps Buddies!
http://expage.com/friendsusmc




>From: Bryant Jordan <bjordan@atpco.com>
>To: Richard Gaines <gunnyg@hotmail.com>
>Subject: Re: Gen. Greene
>Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 13:02:48 -0500
>
>Hello, Gunny;
> Thanks for your note. Though I'm not sure
there is anything I can mine
>from
>it for this article, it does make me want to
write something about Ribbon
>Creek
>-- especially looking at what happened to
McKeon, and the fact his men all
>had
>good things to say about him.
> What do you think?
> Bryant
>
>
>Richard Gaines wrote:
>
> > Mr. Jordan:
> >
> > Thank you for your e-mail.
> > I do not have any special insight into the
aftermath of Ribbon Creek,
>etc.
> > Like most Marines of my time (1952-72) I
share the general opinion that
>much
> > was lost in Marine training after the SSgt
McKeon incident, but I think
> > w/all that has occurred in our country/world
these last 50 years, that
>the
> > same result would have come upon us anyway.
In many ways, I also
>recognize
> > that the physical demands on recruits today
are much greater and a good
> > thing. The decision as to where to draw the
line in 1956 was inevitable,
>in
> > any case. And I cannot second guess those who
made the decisions at that
> > time.
> >
> > The higher education standard for today's
recruits is also not to be
>denied
> > and is a good thing. I do regret, however,
that those of today who lack
>a
> > high school education, at seventeen or
eighteen, are generally denied
> > enlistment. I think many of those kids would
still make good Marines, as
> > were those of my generation.
> >
> > In my opinion, the Marines of today are "up
to snuff" and will perform
>as
> > Marines have always done, and are expected to
do today, as always. It is
>the
> > general society of America that has changed,
and not just Marine
>training
> > alone; and it is this society from which we
draw the basic resources for
>the
> > Corps--the young men and women of
America--and, in spite of differences,
> > however great, we will still
prevail--whatever it takes!
> >
> > My motivation in establishing a webpage on
the Ribbon Creek tragedy, was
> > that, over the years, I have received
numerous inquiries from members of
> > Platoon #71(and other Marines as well)
seeking information on other
>platoon
> > members and/or SSgt McKeon. To a man, all
have spoken favorably of
>their
> > drill instructor. I, therfore, put up the
website, to assist those Plt
>#71
> > Marines in establishing contact with one
another if desired, and for the
> > information of other interested Marines.
> >
> > Regret that I cannot be of more asistance to
you on this. Please feel
>free
> > to post on my webpages if you desire to
attract the attention of
>concerned
> > Marines and their comments.
> >
> > Best Wishes,
> > Dick Gaines
> > Semper Fidelis
> > R.W. "Dick" Gaines
> > GySgt USMC (Ret.)
> > (1952-1972)
> > ***************
> > Note: You should be on my Contact List or
e-mail to this address may not
> > reach me, as I am now restricting e-mail for
all but pre-selected
> > individuals (due to spam!)--otherwise you may
contact me by posting at
>my
> > Weblog shown below.
> > ****************
> > Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern
> > (Sites & Forums)
> > http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/gunny.html
> > ***************
> > Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern Weblog!
> > http://network54.com/Forum/135069
> > ****************
> > The Best Way To Find Old Marine Corps
Buddies!
> > http://expage.com/friendsusmc
> >
> > >From: Bryant Jordan <bjordan@atpco.com>
> > >To: gunnyg@hotmail.com
> > >Subject: Gen. Greene
> > >Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 11:31:53 -0500
> > >
> > >Hi, Gunny;
> > > I'm writing the obituary on Gen.
Wallace Greene, the Corps 23rd
> > >commandant. I saw your piece online about
Ribbon Creek and its
> > >aftermath, and wondered if you had any
thoughts on Gen. Greene's role
>in
> > >changing recruit training at Parris Island
after he was put in charge.
> > > I'm writing this for today, so drop me
a note or call as soon as
> > >possible.
> > > Thanks.
> > >Bryant Jordan
> > >Deputy News Editor
> > >Marine Corps Times
> > >6883 Commercial Drive
> > >Springfield, VA 22159
> > >
> > >Phone: 703 750 8113
> > >Fax: 703 750 8767
> >
> >
_________________________________________________________________
> > MSN 8 with e-mail virus protection service: 2
months FREE*
> > http://join.msn.com/?page=features/virus
>
>--
>Bryant Jordan
>Deputy News Editor
>Marine Corps Times
>6883 Commercial Drive
>Springfield, VA 22159
>
>Phone: 703 750 8113
>Fax: 703 750 8767
Quote
Like
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

March 30th, 2003, 5:00 pm #10

The following is from

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usmchist/parris.txt

"Despite the great care thus used in the selection of men assigned to
train recruits, a tragedy resulting from the grievous errors of judgment of a
junior drill instructor occurred on Parris Island in April 1956. Various
regulations and standing orders of the post were violated at the same time.

The offending DI was Staff Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon, assigned to Platoon 71,
"A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion.<81> On Sunday night, 8 April,
between 2000 and 2045, he marched 74 men of Platoon 71 from their barracks to
Ribbon Creek, one of the tidal streams on Parris Island, and led the men into
the water. Some of them got into depths over their heads, panic ensued, and
six recruits drowned in the resulting confusion.

The ostensible purpose of
the march was to teach the recruits discipline.<82> A court of inquiry was convened the next day by Major General Joseph C.
Burger, Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, to
investigate the circumstances. Evidence presented to the court showed that
Sergeant McKeon had graduated from the Drill Instructors' School in February
1956, ranking 14th in a class of 55 graduates; a total of 90 students had
begun the course in his class.

He had been screened by the Psychiatric
Observation Unit on 3 January 1956 and given the highest possible rating on
"motivation," "emotional stability," and "hostility factors," and a
better-than-average rating on "achievement." The conclusion of the
psychiatric unit was that McKeon was a mature, stable appearing career
Marine."<83> 16



The court was of the opinion, after considering all the evidence brought
before it, that the directives governing the recruit-training program were
correct and adequate.<84> These directives, which went into some detail in
prohibiting oppression of recruits and in forbidding training operations in
the nature of punishment, were repeatedly impressed upon students in the Drill
Instructor's School and upon senior and junior drill instructors.<85> In the
opinion of the court, supervision of the training program was adequate.<86>

The court's findings of fact and its opinions based on these findings placed
the blame for the accident squarely on Sergeant McKeon, who, "in conducting an
unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard...which
resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, not only broke established
regulations but violated the fine traditions of the noncommissioned officers
of the United States Marine Corps and betrayed the trust reposed in him by his
Country, his Corps, his lost comrades and the families of the dead."<87> It
recommended, among other that the sergeant be tried by general
court-martial.<88> After making certain clarifying and supplementary remarks, General Burger
approved the proceedings, findings, opinions, and recommendations.<89>

When the record of proceedings of the court of inquiry was reviewed by
the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Randolph McC. Pate, he was of the
opinion that the court's action in the case had not gone as far as it should
have. The degree of guilt attributable to Sergeant McKeon, he believed, was
only part of the question.

The Marine Corps itself was on trial in a moral
sense for the death of the six recruits, in his opinion, and he believed that
a reorganization of training procedures at Parris Island, "insofar as the
supervision thereof is concerned," was necessary.<90> Thus, a separate recruit training command was established at Parris
Island, to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the Commandant and
reporting directly to him.

In this way, the Commandant could "personally
control and monitor the steps which must be taken to insure more effective
supervision of our recruit training system." A similar recruit training
command was to be established at San Diego. Each of these recruit training
commands was to be staffed with specially selected officers "to supervise and
monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of
recruits.

At Headquarters Marine Corps, in Washington, the Commandant
appointed an Inspector General of Recruit Training to assist him in the close
supervision of this new administrative machinery. These extraordinary
measures would remain in effect, he said, until he was convinced that no
reasonable objection could be made to the Marine Corps training program.<91> 17





Thus Sergeant McKeon's ill-fated march set off immediate repercussions
which shook Marine Corps training from top to bottom. Moreover, an
uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio, and television literally
divided the entire country into two opposing camps, those who condemmed McKeon
for what had happened and those who sympathized with him.

It was in this glare of public gaze that McKeon's court-martial began at
Parris Island on 16 July 1956. A noted New York trial counsel, Emile Zola
Berman, undertook the sergeant's defense before the military court. For three
weeks, the battle ebbed and flowed, concerned as much with the propriety of
the rationale and practices of Marine Corps training as with McKeon's
responsibility for the Ribbon Creek affair. Witnesses came forward to defend
Marine training, others came forth to condemn it.

The defense presentation
culminated in the appearance on the stand of retired Lieutenant General Lewis
B. Puller and the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself.

Finally, on 4 August 1956, the court handed down its decision: McKeon
was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops; he was
found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty. The sentence was a
fine of $270, nine months confinement at hard labor as a private and a
bad-conduct discharge from the Marine Corps. Upon review by the Secretary of
the Navy, the sentence was reduced to three months hard labor and reduction to
the rank of private; the discharge was set aside and the fine remitted.

Having already served part of his term prior to sentencing, McKeon was
released from custody on 19 October 1956 and restored to duty commensurate
with his reduced rank. By then, most of the public tumult had died, but there
was little doubt that 8 April 1956 had become an historic date in the history
of Marine Corps training, whether it be at Parris Island or elsewhere. The
drownings at Ribbon Creek had brought the training system of the Corps to
public attention in an exceedingly unfavorable light. The Marine Corps,
normally a strictly voluntary organization, had always derived much of its
strength and prestige from the confidence reposed in it by the general
citizenry of the United States.

If this confidence, which had been seriously
shaken in many sectors of the populace, could not be restored, the general
cause of the Corps would suffer. In the 41 years of its existence as a major
center of Marine training, Parris Island had never faced a more serious
challenge; for now, in addition to its primary mission of training new
Marines, it was of utmost importance to assure the American people, by the
power of example, that the rigors of recruit discipline and work were
sufficiently tempered by humanity and common sense as to prevent the
recurrence of tragedies such as Ribbon Creek.


18



Basically, nothing was wrong with recruit training at Parris Island, but
some changes were instituted in training procedures, customs, and philosophy.
Most of the changes can be traced to the objective of saving for the drill
instructor his over-all authority while eliminating every reason that might
cause him to abuse it.<92> Drill instructors were more carefully selected, and a special school was
established to assure that only the best of them became recruit trainers.


Three instructors were assigned each recruit platoon instead of two, while
extra pay of $30 a month was provided each DI to help compensate him for the
extra hours his job required. All training was closely supervised by a team
of officers to seek ways of improving procedures so as to best provide the
type of Marine recruit graduate desired. Drill instructors were directed to
put a greater premium on example, persuasion, psychology, and leadership in
bringing a platoon of recruits into shape.<93>

A special training unit was set up at Parris Island to take care of
recruits with specific problems. A conditioning platoon, designed to take
care of those overweight, provided special diet and proper exercise to help
its members lose up to 30 pounds within three weeks. A motivation platoon for
the recalcitrants and a proficiency platoon for the slow learners were
established.

A strength platoon provided for those requiring special
exercises to build up flabby muscles, and a hospital platoon took care of
those requiring medical attention. More than three-fourths of the recruits
sent to such special platoons return to their regular platoons to successfully
complete the training program.

The Marine Corps does not give up on a recruit
until he has had thorough physical and psychiatric examinations and has had
repeated interviews and careful study by a board of officers. Most of them
get through boot camp, with the rejection rate about 4-1/2 percent at Parris
Island in 1959.<94> There is general agreement that the basic training at Parris Island is
professionally excellent and that the physical training is the best in the
history of the Recruit Depot.

It may not be like the 'old Corps,' but Parris
Island is turning out Marines mentally and physically ready to maintain, and
even enhance, the reputation of the Marine Corps. In the words of Commandant
David M. Shoup, "The Marines we are turning out at Parris Island today can cut
the mustard with any Marine who ever lived and fought.<95>


ADDENDUM:
From Gunny G's Maverick Marines....



R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
<>
Gunny G's Marines Sites & Forums!
Wallace Greene Jr. Removing Stars from His Uniform

Original caption: Marine-to-Marine talk.

Parris Island, S.C.:

Brig. Gen. Wallace M. Greene, Jr., commanding general, Recruit Training command here, removes stars from his collar as he said, "I don't want to talk to you as a general officer in the Marine Corps. I want to speak just as a Marine."

The incident occurred during his speech to graduating members of the ill-fated Platoon 71 who were involved in the disciplinary march in which six members lost their lives April 8th.

© Bettmann/CORBIS Date Photographed May 11, 1956 Location Information Parris Island, South Carolina, USA



Note:
The above from....
http://pro.corbis.com/

A Good Source To Research photos Online!!!


R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern
Sites & Forums!


R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952-72
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern
Sites & Forums!
Last edited by Dick Gaines on March 30th, 2003, 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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