Truth.

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within."

Ariel Durant

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Apropos of Nothing

I was going through some old photos today. They are scattered  around the place. Some in boxes in the barn, some in old photo albums here and there in the house.

I figure that the paper pictures will eventually be discarded, but the digital ones should stay on here for the kids.





The rifle range at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina in the summer of 1979. All Marines had to qualify with the rifle once a year, no matter what their MOS (military occupational speciality.)  Camp Lejeune maintained the ranges used by the main base, by New River Air Station, and by Camp Geiger.

It was always hot and humid, and there was a lot of pressure. Competition among shooters to qualify as "Expert" was intense. It may give you some idea just how intense, to know that the badge for "Marksman", the lowest passing qualification, was universally known as the "toilet seat."



 The rifle is the M16A1.  It was a good rifle, with none of the frills they have today. But it was the precursor to all the fancy versions. I actually liked the M14 better. When I went through OCS in 1973, the M16A1 was general issue in the fleet, but the M14 was still issued at OCS (officer candidate school.)

There may have been carbine style M16's in use in the late 70's, but I never saw one.  Officers and crew served weapons Marines carried the Colt M1911A1 pistol.

Infantry officers often carried the rifle as well as the pistol, since not having the rifle on the battlefield indicated to the opposition that you might be someone worth shooting.

Every Marine in those days was trained as a rifleman. Even the women qualified on the range, although they were not allowed in combat billets back then. However, there was always the possibility of being overrun, and then it's all hands to the pumps.




The range lasted two weeks. The first week was just snapping in and getting "the dope" on your rifle. That means zeroing in the weapon.  To "zero " you fire a shot, adjust your sights, and repeat the process. When you are in the black, you have the dope for that rifle, for that range. You have a little book called a "range book" that you use to record your shots and your "dope."  You have different sight settings for the 100, 200 and 500 yard targets.  You shoot standing, sitting, kneeling and prone. In my day, only the Marine Corps trained all hands to fire out to 500 yards. The next week was shooting for qualification. You usually had to be at the range by 0600 in the morning. Shooting was over by noon.  Then you went back and did your normal job. The work load did not decrease, so you stayed late, which made getting up early even harder.  But that was the way it worked. I have no idea how they do it these days.


This is Camp Foster, Okinawa in Feb of 1981.   We were about to go over to the Air Station, and be lifted by C-130 to the Korean AFB in Yechon.


Yechon was a purely Korean AFB.  No permanent U.S. personnel.  We deployed for a two month exercise, and lived in a tent city.  If you have never had the experience, you don't know what you are missing. Nor would you want to.


Yechon was bitterly cold.  No one could ever get warm, even though each tent had a diesel burning stove. It smoked a lot and turned the inside of your nose black. All night, "fire watches" walked up and down the streets of the tent city, because every other week or so, one of the stove pipes would overheat and burn down the tent. You couldn't put the tent out if it got started burning, but the fire watch could wake up the people inside and sound the alarm so it didn't spread to the tents on either side.


The stoves sooted up, so they had to be cleaned about every third day. This fell to the lot of the lowest on the totem pole. I can't remember the name of the blond WM (woman Marine) on the left, but she was a nice young lady. She married the Sergeant who is helping her clean the stove. He ran the risk of being reprimanded for doing that kind of work, but everyone knew he was "interested" in her and nobody rebuked him.  Good thing for him the Wing Sergeant Major didn't pass by.

When I was a new Second Lieutenant, at New River waiting to go to Pensacola, I was told to take a detail out and set some tents up. There was a Corporal to actually run everything.  When the men were unloading the trucks, I was embarrassed to just stand there like God Almighty with my arms folded, and I started helping unload. The Corporal told me that was not a good idea.  I told him I would just help with the one  truck. But before I finished, the Squadron Sergeant Major came up in his jeep with his driver.

He explained to me why that was not satisfactory.  Then the Sergeant Major started to go after the Corporal for letting me do this. The Corporal said nothing but I told the Sergeant Major the Corporal had asked me to stop.  So the Sergeant Major told me that the reason the Corporal was there was that he knew what he was doing and I should listen to him.  The implication was both clear, and true. Forty some years later, my ears still turn red when I even think about it. But you find me a person who was a Second Lieutenant and never "stepped on his crank" and I'll show you a liar. It takes you a solid year, with good NCO's to become a good officer. Some people never do.


All of the vehicles in this picture are long since museum pieces, there were none of the vehicles they use today. But the old M151 jeep was a nice machine, and the "Gamma Goat" on the left would get you where you wanted to go.


Two friends of mine.  On the left is a WM Captain, Gloria Moyer.  On the  right is a Warrant Officer, Frank Foster.  After I left Okinawa I never ran into either of them again, but that's how the military is.


Awards ceremony in the mud and sleet at Yechon.  Life went on just like you were back at your garrison. It just wasn't as comfortable. I was in Korea in winter, and summer.  Winter was cold and the wind cut right through you. Summer everything smelled like feces, because back then the Koreans put "night soil" on all their fields.

The main thing I remember about tent city in Korea is that I was hungry a lot of the time. In the Marine Corps, officers don't eat until all the enlisted men and women have eaten. Since the cooks are reprimanded for wasting food, they always erred on the side of caution when it came to how much to make. If everybody showed up for meals, and if there were transients eating in the mess  tents ( like air crew, convoy personnel, etc) then the people who ate last got smaller and smaller amounts of food as the cooks stretched what they had. I wasn't married then so I only got packages from home when my mom sent them. On the other hand, there were 10 of us in a GP tent, so somebody got a package from their wife, or mom, or girl friend about every other day.  Everybody shared, so you could get something to eat that way. 

That's the God's Truth. The Air Force and Navy had wonderful food.

Well, no thought for the day. I have enough thoughts by looking at these old pictures. Sorry they aren't really relevant, but as I say I'm trying to have some family history here for my kids once in a while.

33 comments:

  1. My first fire Captain was a Korean War Vet. Marine. He's from NH, but said a Korean winter is tougher. Thought he'd never get warm ever again.

    About the only time he'd talk much about the war is on the anniversary that he was overrun and should have died. Got pretty drunk on that day every year.

    Great fire Captain. Took care of his men and led from the front.

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    1. There are people who are born leaders. I always admired them. They knew instinctively just what should be done, and they always took the responsibility for doing it. There were more of those types in the ground combat forces than there were in the Air Wing. Not that aviators were not capable of being good leaders of troops, some of them were. But the real cream was skimmed off for the infantry and the jet pilots. We normal mortals just did the best we could, and tried to not let down the side.

      Korea was a tough place just to go on exercise, and we were "in the rear with the gear." What it must have been like during the Korean War is beyond me. My Uncle was a Lieutenant in an artillery battery by then, and he fought all the way through the Frozen Chozen with Chesty Puller. That was the real Old Corps.

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  2. Harry - i love your posts about any topic - i always learn something, remember something or am touched by something. i was in intelligence (desk monkey) in the army...but did my basic training with an infantry squad. that was just great (sarcasm. i should have had it easy in basic.) my platoon was also the pilot platoon for circuit training in 1989. 120 hours of extra PT training than the normal infantry did. we had to qualify in basic, and then every year after that. i was trained to not only carry - but to actually fire an FNC1!!!! and a marksman in the CF is only one under sniper. we have to score 90 out of a hundred rounds in a 2inch grouping from 100, 200, and 300 yards. i managed and maintained my marksman qualification my whole 10yrs and 9 months of my career. i also was bruised for a good 4 weeks after every qualification - my whole half of my face and my shoulder and down to my elbow. even after we changed over to the C7's which had to be the most gawd-awful weapon ever known to man - jamming up all the time and at other times spitting out casings right into your face, leaving burn marks, burns on your arms and bruises. i also qualified every year on our officer's handguns - browning 9mm. at 10 ft, 20 ft and 30 ft. i always maintained my marksmanship status on the handguns too. so sorry to hear that it is such a lowly status down there in your military.

    every canadian base i was stationed to had the absolute best food i have ever eaten in my life! you could get a plate full of delicious food and go back 17 times for more if you wished. especially in ALERT, NWT - the food up there was to die for and i think i got interested in food because of my military service.

    the only thing that sucked was our ration packs. sandwiches made a day ahead, a soup packet, some crackers, a butter pat, a jam pat, a juice pat - we got those when we worked shift and they sucked.

    but eating at the mess hall - deeeelishous.

    you bringing up your memories made my brain bring up memories. thank you for your service - i deeply and truly appreciate it.

    sending much love to you Harry, always. your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Kymber, all of us who had that time in our lives have a special link, regardless of service or even of country. It's been so long now, for both you and me, that mostly there are just good things to remember. Over time, the bad things blur at the edges.

      Our food was good in garrison, but field kitchens were spartan and not overly well supplied. If the supply officers had been less worried about their indents and spent more time worrying about everybody getting enough to eat, it wouldn't have been a problem. Aboard ship, the food was always very good, especially before a landing. I ate at Air Force bases and stayed in Air Force BOQ's from time to time, and they were light years ahead of us in terms of comfort. But the Marine Corps exists on a thin budget, and most of the money goes to the pointy end. I never heard anyone say they wished they had joined the Air Force because of it though.

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    2. Harry - have you ever fired and FNC1 or C7? have any of your regular readers fired either one? i would love to hear yours/their experiences. sending love. xox

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    3. Kymber, I own a British L1A1, a Brazilian Imbel, and an Austrian STG 58. They are all varients of the original Belgian FN/FAL. I never had an FNC1, and I'm not sure if they were ever imported into the states, but maybe someone else knows. The C7 was pretty close the the M16, but I never had a C7. I think some of those were imported, but as I am more into the old guns I didn't buy one. I think it was Century International who brought them in, mid 90's, before the ban.

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  3. oh i forgot to say - i love it when you share your pics!

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    1. I am trying to put together some family history for the kids when they get interested in that sort of thing. I never talked to my son or daughter about the military, because I didn't want either of them to go that route. It just never came up.

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  4. Officers also eat last in every Army unit I ever knew. I had a "few" hungry nights when the food ran out before we officers got served.

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    1. I did some time with the Army at Fort Bragg, on CPX deals, when I had already resigned and was waiting to be released. Strangely, I probably spent more time with the Air Force than with the Army. I didn't know they had the same traditions about the men eating first, but it's a good tradition.

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  5. Replies
    1. I wish I had all my photos, in some sort of chronological order. But when I moved from Naples, Italy to Camp Lejeune the movers lost two of my boxes, and a lot of my photos were in those. Some of my books, too.

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  6. I love seeing the old vehicles.

    I was hoping to make it to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum this weekend. I know it all air vehicles, but it's the age of them I love. We didn't make it out there this weekend. Some other time I guess.

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    1. That would be a fun trip. I always go to military museums when I can. I've been to the tank museum at Aberdeen, Maryland which was really impressive. Also to a number of smaller museums here and there that specialize in military vehicles.

      I want to go to Israel with my wife and go to their armor museum and their Air Force museum. Probably the last long trip we will make.

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  7. The memories are yours, the appreciation is ours. God bless you, Harry.

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    1. It was a good part of my life. I have never regretted it.

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    2. One of my few regrets in life is that I never served in the military....

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    3. Well, on the other hand, you might have got killed when you were 18, Jim. So you never know. Might be just as well you didn't. In the old days, the Generals made the decisions, and most of them were right thinking men, with courage, who cared about the troops. Today, with communications like they are, a bunch of shit birds like Ronald Reagan's butt kissers, or a corrupt, selfish, narcissist like Hillary Clinton make all the decisions from their air conditioned offices. People who really don't care a damn about the troops, for all their false claims that they do. People who have absolutely no qualifications to be making those decisions. That's how Beiruts and Bengazis happen.It's not the same world.

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  8. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)

    Interesting stories.

    I never heard the rule about enlisted eats first in the Marines.
    In the Navy I was so far removed from any officers and any interaction with officers that I considered officers a alien species.
    I was stationed at Little Creek anphib base on temporary duty before I was assigned to the Puget Sound. I was given the task of chopping firewood for an admiral and I thought that was demeaning work and a waste of resources. Now I understand the hierarchy. If one wants to have firewood chopped for them. One must work to the top of the food chain. Now much later in life. I would not want the position of admiral even if it was offered on a silver platter because of the stress, politics and backstabbing (I was never big on selling my soul to anyone either)

    I may not have much and I don't have a wife and family, but what I do have is freedom. Freedom in my own house. Freedom of my own destiny. Freedom to choose, freedom to speak and freedom to think. I think that's the most important lesson I learned from the military and living under the UCMJ is appreciating the 'Liberty' I have now.


    One final note. Back to the rifle qualifications in the latest post. I believe the 18 inch barrel to the best configuration of the M16/M4 rifle category. Short barreled rifles (14 inch) are great urban combat but when the rubber meats the road on a battlefield. The 18 inch barrel is king.

    Now when going up against WW2 .303 Enfield rifles and larger caliber battle rifles. Break out M14's and even breakout the M-1 Garands. The Garand would be excellent in the mountains of Afghanistan. Lord knows their be a whole mess of Garands in a South Korean warehouse that would love to be repatriated and used in a 'Geezer Crusade' in Isis territory:)

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    1. Probably because on navy vessels, each level has it's own mess. I never cared much for the officer's mess because , when troops were embarked, you got assigned to one of multiple seatings for meals, and of course the lower ranking officers got the worst times. It was also expensive, as officers had to pay for their own meals, and the monthly mess bill was much higher than I usually had to pay for food.

      The Chiefs mess was the best. You could only go in there if you were specifically invited by one of the Navy Chiefs, and invitations to non-Chiefs were rare. I had a warrant officer buddy named Jim Cox, who always managed to get in good with the Chiefs and he hung out down there as much as he could.

      There are thousands of M1 Carbines and M1 Garands in Korea which were going to be imported. When Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State, she immediately cancelled the already issued import licenses.

      I like the M4 configuration for some applications, but the full on rifle is undoubtedly more accurate and more powerful if the larger size isn't a burden.

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  9. Harry, your pictures of the Korean base look just like pictures of my dad's air base at Taegu, South Korea, in 1954. All the way to the jeep, tents, mud. And he bitched about those tent heaters also.

    Did you hear the military is bringing back the jeep (a militarized Wrangler)? Seems nothing ever changes, does it?

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I wasn't aware the Jeep was coming back, but it makes sense. They were very cheap, utilitarian, and took up little space in an aircraft or on board a ship.

      I've been to Taegu, but it was in 1981.

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    2. The Marines have had a jeep variant for years, made/remanufactured/assembled in Ocala.

      Seems that the Osprey was originally spec'd for jeep and light truck width for it's interior dimensions, and then the whole military went to the HMMVVVzzzddqpdxz.

      Photos of Taegu in 1954 show lots of mud, marsten mat, jeeps, etc. Only difference in your photos really were the uniforms and lack of aircraft.

      Apparently pheasant hunting was popular, with Japanese manufactured over/under shotguns. If you were hunting in a field that had grid squares of barbed wire, you were hunting in a minefield (happened to my father.) Also, in really cold weather, you can scoop out the liquid portion of dynamite out of a bunker with buckets and pour it out to soak in the ground. (Dad used to go hunting with a British EOD officer and saw some really weird stuff, like their lack of concern over human rights.)

      Looks like the French and the German people are getting really tired of all the muslim stuff, doesn't it?

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    3. The Osprey was a really bad project. The Marine Corps was working on it for twenty years or so. I have never seen one myself. It makes sense the Marines would have some purpose built gear for the thing, it was going to "get off the ground" no matter what.

      I doubt Taegu has changed much. Korea has changed a lot though. It's more like Japan now, more modern, fewer peasants, and the people are a lot more wealthy.

      When we went to Korea for exercises, we got a little time off when the exercise was over, but not much. Most of us went to Osan to go shopping for clothes, leather goods, brass, wicker furniture, that kind of thing

      I think everybody is sick of the Moslem stuff. I'm tired of hearing about "Babu" Khan and his little uncreased copy of the Constitution. But I am trying to scan the things that may impact me and mine, and not get so wrapped around the axle about things that won't have a direct "push" on me.

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    4. Babu Khan of the Muslim Brotherhood lecturing Trump. Who isn't in command of the military. Very strange.

      Interesting thing, the Constitution is back to being a top selling book due to the DNC and all the antics in the last month.

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    5. And now Mr. Khan has been shown to be a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and his law firm works exclusively on muslim immigration. And now his firm's website is shut down.

      Curiouser and curiouser.

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  10. So..what was the reason the Corporal told you not to help? I would have thought that they'd want officers who were willing to get their hands dirty.

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    1. The Marine Corps of the 1970's and 1980's was rigidly hierarchical. Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers did not do manual labor, point, period, exclamation mark. Their function was to lead and supervise. I started reading a "graphic novel" about the Marines in Iraq, and it appears that in that particular respect, not much has changed. I can understand why. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes. Troops are not in need of "buddies" they have plenty of those. For me, personally, it was a difficult adjustment to make, since the South is culturally egalitarian. Even well off men here are hands on in the fields, or in the businesses they own. The fact that somebody has a lot of money doesn't mean he won't get down and help his workers from time to time. I found it very embarrassing to just stand there and watch others work. But that's how it is, and it's been that way since the Marine Corps was formed in 1776. Seems to work.

      That's not to say that Officers and Non-commissioned officers wouldn't buckle too in combat zones. If you ever watched "The Pacific" , which was based on two memoirs by combat Marines there, the officers the troops liked best were not high and mighty, but were still relatively aloof. The officers the troops detested were the ones who abused their authority, and who used their higher ranks to feather their own nest. Those types were rarely to be found "up front", but gravitated to the rear. I served under one of those myself, and I hated the guy. You win some, you lose some.

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  11. The old photos are nice. I am the sort the enjoy them most in my family. No one else seems to care much for them. Why did they take so many photos then. Leaves me scratching my head.

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    1. It used to be a lot more trouble to take pictures. Now phones make it seem common place. Most of my photos were taken with the same old Browning camera, until I lost it in Kiel.

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  12. I enjoy your anecdotes from the past, gives me an insight into a world I'll never know, thanks.

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    1. That's nice of you to say, Kirsty. I appreciate the kind thoughts.

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