Taps--Bob Mathias USMC, By; Maj. Robert Farmer, USMC (Ret.)

Joined: 12:00 AM - Jan 01, 1970

11:27 PM - Sep 03, 2006 #1

MILINET: Taps--Bob Mathias USMC Inbox

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More options 6:24 pm (44 minutes ago)
3 September

MILINET: Taps--Bob Mathias USMC

By; Maj. Robert Farmer, USMC (Ret.)


Anthony, Saturday Bob Mathias passed away at 75. He was the 1948 and 1952 Gold Medalist for the Olympic Decathlon. I read several newspaper articles including the AP story and they didn’t mention that he had served in the Marine Corps.

I served under Lieutenant Bob Mathias in 1955 at Camp Pendleton, California. He was the Platoon Commander, Third Platoon, Reconnaissance Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

I joined Recon Company right after the Division came back from Korea in March and April 1955. After returning to the states, I pulled a small stint as the Division Bell Ringer. I didn’t like it and volunteered for Recon Company. Later, they told me that Lieutenant Bob Mathias was joining the Company and was going to be the Platoon Leader of the 3rd Platoon – my platoon.

We were proud, of course, but a little fearful at the same time. After all, he was an Olympic Gold Medalist. He also had made a movie in 1954 “The Bob Mathias Story”, starring himself, so we all knew who he was.

Our Platoon ran three to four miles a day before breakfast in boots and utilities. After breakfast we started the day with a rifle inspection and then physical training lifting logs followed by judo and karate training conducted on concrete or asphalt. Training was already tough, but what was Lt. Mathias going to do?

The first time Lt. Mathias spoke to the 3rd Platoon he put us at ease. He was just a regular Marine Officer. No big ego as far as we could determine, but professional and squared away. A few weeks later we went to Delmar beach for a week of boat training. We did run every day, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I noticed that Lt. Mathias, leading from the front, would look back off and on, and call a halt when we had reached our limit.

Another story is one day I was told to report to Lt. Mathias, for some reason I can’t remember. He has a small office at the end of the 3rd Platoon squad bay. I ran down, knocked on the hatch and reported as ordered. He told me to come in. As I got close to his desk I noticed he was reading a FM Manual. When I got closer I saw that there was a paperback book inside the FM. Later I saw a Mickey Spillane paperback on his desk. I knew he was human then. (grin)

I made Corporal in the fall of 1955. Lt. Mathias presented me my Corporal Warrant. I still have it. Our Platoon Sergeant was Sergeant Burke who later was a Division Sergeant Major.

Recon Company was an outstanding Company. Sadly, many were killed in Vietnam a decade later. The Company Commander was Captain David Finne. Our Company Gunny was Gunny Sergeant John E. Massaro who became the 8th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. His behind-the-back affectionate nickname was “Daddy Rabbit”.

When we got the word that Lt Mathias was leaving Recon to run track for the Marine Corps we were all saddened.

I heard that in his later years he made some public speeches and talked about his time in the Marine Corps with a lot of pride. I wish I could have heard one of those speeches.

Semper Fidelis

Major Robert Farmer USMC (Ret)

Note: If anyone would like to talk to me about Lt Mathis feel free to give them my email and/or telephone: 760-433-4709

R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952 (Plt #437)--'72
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