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January 9, 2010

Some good old classic Marine propaganda for the new year. Some old and some
I had not read before.

United States Marine Corps

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Beginning this month, leathernecks from the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force will return to Iraq, replacing elements of the Army’s 82nd
Airborne Division. The return of the Marines is surely bad news for
those desperate to undermine the liberation of Iraq.

Not to take anything away from the U.S. Army — its soldiers have
performed magnificently, and will no doubt continue to do so — but
America’s enemies have a particular fear of U.S. Marines. During the
first Gulf War in 1991, over 100,000 Iraqi soldiers were deployed along
the Iraqi-Kuwaiti coastline in anticipation of a landing by some 17,000
U.S. Marines. Terrified by what they had been taught about the combat
prowess of Marines, the Iraqi soldiers had nicknamed them “Angels of
Death.”

The moniker — first published by Pulitzer-winner Rick Atkinson in his
best-selling Crusade — carried over into the second Gulf war, last year,
as the 1st Marine Division swept across the Iraqi plains. Attacking
American forces were unsettling enough, but reports of the seaborne
“Angels of Death” being among the lead elements were paralyzing to many
Iraqi combatants.
Despite less armor than other American ground forces, the Marines were
among the first to fight their way into Baghdad. And when intelligence
indicated that foreign troops were coming to the aid of Iraqi diehards,
Marine Brig. Gen. John Kelly stated, “we want all Jihad fighters to come
here. That way we can kill them all before they get bus tickets to New
York City.”

Typical Marine bravado, some say. But it works. Best-selling author Tom
Clancy once wrote, “Marines are mystical. They have magic.” It is this
same magic, Clancy added, that “may well frighten potential opponents
more than the actual violence Marines can generate in combat.”

Fear of Marines is not a new phenomenon, nor is it unique to Iraqi
soldiers. Established in 1775, the U.S. Marine Corps came of age in
World War I during the 1918 Chateau Thierry campaign near the French
village of Bouresches. There, Marines assaulted a line of German
machine-gun nests on an old hunting preserve known as Belleau Wood. The
fighting was terrible. Those Marines who weren’t cut down by the enemy
guns captured the nests in a grisly close-quarters slugfest.

The shocked Germans nicknamed their foes, teufelhunden (devil dogs).
“Marines are considered a sort of elite Corps designed to go into action
outside the United States,” read a German intelligence report following
the battle. “They consider their membership in the Marine Corps to be
something of an honor. They proudly resent any attempts to place their
regiments on a par with other infantry regiments.”

Twenty-four years later as the 1st Marine Division was steaming toward
Guadalcanal, a Japanese radio propagandist taunted that which the
Japanese soldiers feared most. “Where are the famous United States
Marines hiding?” the announcer asked. “The Marines are supposed to be
the finest soldiers in the world, but no one has seen them yet?”
Over the next three years, Marines would further their reputation at
places with names like Tarawa, Saipan, and Iwo Jima.

That reputation carried over into the Korean War. “Panic sweeps my men
when they are facing the American Marines,” confessed a captured North
Korean major. It was a fear echoed by his Chinese allies. In late 1950,
Chinese premier Mao Tse Tung put out a contract on the 1st Marine
Division. The Marine division, according to Mao in written orders to the
commander of the Chinese 9th Army Group, “has the highest combat
effectiveness in the American armed forces. It seems not enough for our
four divisions to surround and annihilate its two regiments. You should
have one or two more divisions as a reserve force.” Though costly for
both sides, the subsequent Chinese trap failed to destroy the 1st Marine
Division.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Frank Lowe later admitted, “The safest place in
Korea was right behind a platoon of Marines. Lord, how they could
fight!”

Over a decade later, Marines were the first major ground combat force in
Vietnam. Army Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who commanded all American
military forces in that country, conservatively stated he “admired the
élan of Marines.” But despite the admiration, some Army leaders found
their equally proficient units wanting for similar respect.

In 1982, during the invasion of Grenada, Army General John Vesey, then
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telephoned one of his officers
and demanded to know why there were “two companies of Marines running
all over the island and thousands of Army troops doing nothing. What the
hell is going on?”

The reputation of Marines stems from a variety of factors: The Marine
Corps is the smallest, most unique branch of the U.S armed forces.
Though it is organized as a separate armed service, it is officially a
Naval infantry/combined-arms force overseen by the secretary of the
Navy. The Corps’ philosophical approach to training and combat differs
from other
branches. Marine boot camp — more of a rite-of-passage than a training
program — is the longest and toughest recruit indoctrination program of
any of the military services. Men and women train separately. All
Marines from private to Commandant are considered to be
first-and-foremost riflemen. And special-operations units in the Marines
are not accorded the same respect as they are in other branches. The
Marines view special operations as simply another realm of warfighting.
Marines are Marines, and no individual Marine or Marine unit is
considered more elite than the other.

Consequently, newly minted Marines believe themselves to be superior to
other soldiers, spawning understandable resentment from other branches.
But do Marines actually fight better than other soldiers? Rivals argue
it’s not so much their ability to fight — though that’s never been a
question — but that Marines are simply masters in the art of public
relations.
President Harry Truman once stated that Marines “have a propaganda
machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s.” Fact is, while other armed
services have lured recruits with promises of money for college, “a
great way of life,” or “being all you can be;” the Marines have asked
only “for a few good men [and today, women]” with the mettle to join
their ranks.

Not surprisingly, there have been numerous unsuccessful efforts —
primarily on the part of some Army and Navy officers — to have the Corps
either disbanded or absorbed into the Army or Navy. Most of those
efforts took place in the first half of the 20th Century But even after
the Marines’ stellar performance in World War II, Army General Frank
Armstrong proposed bringing them into the Army fold and condescendingly
referring to the Corps as “a small bitched-up army talking Navy lingo.”

As late as 1997, Assistant Secretary of the Army Sara Lister took aim at
the Marines. “I think the Army is much more connected to society than
the Marines are.” Lister said before an audience at Harvard University.
“Marines are extremists. Wherever you have extremists, you’ve got some
risks of total disconnection with society. And that’s a little
dangerous.”

Of course, the Commandant of the Marine Corps demanded an apology.
Lister was fired. And Marines secretly said among themselves, “Yes we
are extremists. We are dangerous. That’s why we win wars and are feared
throughout the world.”

Despite its detractors, the Marines have become a wholly American
institution — like baseball players, cowboys, and astronauts — in the
eyes of most Americans. Marines indeed may be extreme, but America loves
them, extremism and all. And fortunately for America, her enemies in the
war against terror will continue to shudder upon hearing, “the Marines
have landed.”

— A former U.S. Marine infantry leader, W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a
freelance journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of national
and international publications. His third book, Alpha Bravo Delta Guide
to American Airborne Forces, has just been published.

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