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

September 29 2002 at 12:15 PM
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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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209.130.221.66

Platoon # 71 Are You Out There? Your comments please...

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September 29 2002, 12:17 PM 

nm

 
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209.246.103.88

platoon # 60-4th battalion-feb-to-may-1956

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December 6 2002, 6:46 PM 

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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128.114.166.108

platoon 71

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February 9 2003, 1:10 AM 

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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Dick G
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209.130.218.4

Hi, Gene....

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February 11 2003, 9:19 AM 

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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141.149.238.7

plt #55

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July 28 2003, 1:57 PM 

GENE,i was in platoon 55 next door to you.i was once a runner for sgt mckeon,when he was on week end duty.we were out marching around when whistles started blowing.we had no ideal what had happened.everthing changed for a couple of days.i understand you took a lot of hell at geiger and where ever you went.you did not deserve it.i hope the rest of your enlistment was better.semper fi

 
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128.114.166.72

Hey Gunny

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September 8 2003, 5:17 AM 

hey Dick...I was scanning through google.com and came across this site again. I'm glad you're still out there. I got in touch with Jay Stevens who wrote the book on McKeon. get in touch with me at my email and let's cover ground since our last conversation a few years back.
Semper Fi
Gene Ervin Plt 71 1956

 
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129.44.206.40

plt #55

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September 9 2003, 9:26 AM 

gene,just wondering if you got e-mail i sent you

 
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128.114.166.72

Hey Frank

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September 20 2003, 5:05 AM 

Frank..I haven't received any Eamils from you yet.
Get back to me at my hotmail address when you have time. What state are you in?

 
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Hey. Gene....

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September 10 2003, 5:18 AM 

E=Mail sent to you!
Dick Gaines

 
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24.131.98.24

plt71 1956

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September 14 2003, 2:07 PM 

hey gene,
your the very first person from the plt. that i've ran across since boot camp. And we both know how long thats been. i'm curious to know if theres ever been a reunion on the guys from 71. i've watched the leatherneck mag. for several years and have never seen anything. i'm retired from a firm here in ohio now and have a lot of time for the computor. so if you see this give a buzz at my e-mail.

semper- fi

william poole

 
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128.114.166.72

hey bill

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September 20 2003, 5:01 AM 

Hey there....I remember you, Poole. I was the Right Guide. It's been a while, but I can remember your name adn I have a foggy recollection of how you looked. Do you remember John Sapp from Savannah? I think he was in our platoon...or maybe I met him in ITR.
Get back in touch if you get this.
Gene Ervin
Semper Fidelis

 
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24.131.98.24

gene, plt guide

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September 27 2003, 9:18 AM 

hi gene, glad you got my e-mail, iwas in the 7th or 8th squad. can't remember which one. ronny geckle and thomas was in my squad. your the first person other than dick drown i've talked to from the plt. i went to jacksonville fla. after we left p.i.
i'm retired now. just loafing all day. how you doing . have you talked to others from 71.
i never knew what happened to sgt. mckeon until i read the book " incedent at ribbon creek" i'm glad it worked out for mckeon. i really think he was a good guy. will poole

 
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63.249.97.89

Hey Poole

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September 9 2005, 1:35 AM 


Hey Poole,
Gene Ervin here. I was just visiting Gunny's site and saw your name. It's been two years since we spoke. How are you and how's everything where you are since the onslaught of hurricane Katrina. Man, what wrath she brought !
I hope all is well with you and yours.
It's coming up on 50 years since the Incident at Ribbon Creek. I heard that we might be invited back there on that day to commemorate those six men and Sgt. Mac.

Write me back if you get this message.
Semper Fidelis
Gene Ervin, USMC 1956-1960

"Let it roll like a big wheel
down in a Georgia cottonfield. Honey hush."
Big Joe Turner c.1951

 
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24.131.98.24

parris island

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September 20 2005, 4:34 PM 

Hey Gene,
Scanning and seen your message. Every Things going quite well for myself, Hope your doing well your self. Yea i can't believe its been 5o years since we made the trip through Parris Island. It would be sorta nice if we could have some type of reunion to remember our six comrades. I'll be 67 years old this comming Febuary so that means every one should be 68 - 69. I joined on my 17 birthday. Idon't know how many would be able [ health wise ] to join us. i still work out every day so i'm am in pretty good shape[for a old man]. You know it would be great if Judge Stevens, The judge who wrote "court Martial At Parris Island' could join us. If you see this answer me and maybe we can get something going. I'm not sure How we could get in touch with anyone else. Richard Drown is Still in Huntington, West Virginia. I don't know about any one else.
William Poole

 
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gene ervin
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68.167.178.192

platoon 71

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October 10 2005, 12:27 AM 

hey Bill..................I just read your post of Sept 20th and thought I'd get back to you. I'm still waiting to hear from Judge Stevens about getting together in P.I. for a rememberance of those 6 guys who died. All these years, no one has said anything about them. Their memory has been supressed because Sgt. Mac was still carrying this around with him and out of respect, the 6 were put on the back burner. Well, we're coming up on 50 years and I believe it's time that these guys got some recognition and closure with all of us who are still alive.
Stay in touch.
Gene Ervin
Plt 71

 
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24.131.98.24

plt 71 reunion

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November 16 2005, 9:02 PM 

Hey Gene,
Sorry it took so long to get back to you but, i've been quite busy,
I took a new job a few weeks ago and they have kept me pretty busy.
I tried retirement but it just didn't fit. I still go to the gym daily but it just wasn't enough.
You know Gene i've been re-thinking the memorial thing for the six that didn't come back from Ribbon Creek. Something you said left a bad taste in my mouth. I'm Sure you didn't mean it that way but when you said the six were left on the back burner because Sgt. Mckeon was still alive sorta made me feel a little guilty. You know one thing kept comming to the front of my mind over the years. I wonder What those six would say about the events leading up to their deaths if we could freeze time for 1 minute and get their comments. I would like to know if they thought Sgt. Mckeons actions were justified. Even if justice prevailed at his court martial. You know no matter how we feel about him the fact remains that six innocent recruits died. I to this day don't know if we were that, as a platoon, out of control or if it was just alcohol that got us into the swamp. I never thought that it was a general practice to take platoons into Ribbon Creek.I Thought than that was a fabrication and i still do. That would make it just a really bad decision on his part. A decision undoubtly made partly because of the alcohol.
What i'm leading to is, it seems a little to have a memorial. Let me know how you feel about this.
I still believe Sgt. Mckeon was one fine Marine. After talking to him shortly before his death i know how he felt about the whole thing.
William Poole






 
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24.131.98.24

sgt. mckeon

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October 24 2003, 4:48 PM 

hey gene
thought i drop a line and let you know i just talked to sgt. mckeon this morning. he remembered me and the plt. his wife said he was just diagnosed with throat cancer and she said it is terminal. if you want to call i'm enclosing his phone #. 1-508-835-4351. he lives in mass. thank you and semper fi
will poole

 
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68.227.190.6

Sgt. Mckeon

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December 6 2003, 10:48 PM 

Just to let you know that my wifes uncle Matty passed away on Veterans Day Nov 11, 2003

 
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george f donahue usmc 1951-54
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24.50.106.56

memory of sgt mat mc keon

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December 27 2003, 11:26 AM 

my heavy machine gun was assigned to sgt mckeon's rifle platoon during the last week of the korean war in july 1953. he was an outstanding platoon sgt,and very popular with his men. it turned out that we lived 40 miles away from each other in massachusetts I remember him checking positions even when we were under heavy fire. his presence was an inspiration to all. Our paths never crossed again,but I believe that joe buckley of brookline,mass used to hear from him. I was saddened today(dec 27,03) to find out that he passed on nov 11,o3 .I hope that some member of his family will come across this article . I just wanted them to know what a fine human being and an outstanding Marine mathew C.Mckeon was.

Semper Fi,

george f donahue Dec27,o3


 
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64.12.116.133

One hell of a fine Marine

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April 18 2004, 6:37 PM 

SSGT. Mat Mckeon was my platoon sgt in Quantico in 1955. When I left in Dec of that year for Japan his last words to me were "Keep your nose clean skinhead." I was very surprised to hear when I arrived at South Camp Fuji, Japan that he was involved in the incident at PI. I am saddened to learn of his passing. I always remembered him as a Marine first and foremost.

 
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24.131.98.24

platoon 71

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September 13 2003, 3:01 PM 

Hey Gene,
your the first guy from 71 that i've seen on the inter net, thought i drop and talk for a minute, i read the book by stevens, but 47 years is a hellu'va long time, it was good to see what happened out side the platoon after we made the march. you remember we were sorta shielded from the whole thing,if you have a platoon picture i'm the sixth guy in the front row, going from left to right, i do remember you thought i 've for gotten alot of the names. william poole

 
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24.131.98.24

platoon 71

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September 13 2003, 3:22 PM 

hey gunny,
i haven't talked to any one from platoon 71 for several years. you asked for comments so here it is, first of all i'm getting tired of hearing how bad of a platoon we were. in reality i don't suppose we were any worse than any others. i thought than and i still believe the system broke down. the night of our march we were left behind the barracks at the rifle range without supervision. in the many years since the march
i've spent a great deal of time in different areas of supervision. one thing i've learned is you can't leave a large group of young people to thier own devices for any period of time with out horse play. thats where it broke down. if sgt. mckeon had been with or around the platoon that evening instead of drinking there would have been no playing chicken and consequently no march.
i talk to mckeon after graduation and he was a nice guy. but that doesn't change the fact.
I don't blame him as much as his supervisors for not knowing what was going on.
and i don't believe any of that bull **** that it was a normal training exercise to march in ribbon creek. that was a cover up. don't take this letter the wrong way i still think the marine corp is the greatest military force in the world.

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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24.99.13.138

William...

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September 13 2003, 4:07 PM 

Thank you for responding, I am happy that you have done so--and much appreciated.

Your remarks are well taken--as I understand it, S/Sgt McKeon was the junior DI, and so I don't know if he was the one responsible for nobody in authority having been there for supervision of the platoon, or if possibly somebody else dropped the ball--in any event, you were there, and in a better position to judge than any of us now reading this.

Hopefully, others from Plt #71 will see your post and come forward in dialogue on this important matter.

Again, thank you for responding, Marine!
Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines

 
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24.131.98.24

members of plt 71

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September 22 2003, 11:03 AM 

hey Gunny,
Good Day to you. You'll notice my e-mail is different. they're changing from attbi.com. to comcast.com and i don't know if comcast is up yet. you said last e-mail kept comming back to comcast so i thought i'd try something different.
I saw in your message you have e-mails for two different members of plt 71. if those are different from gene irvin and myself. could i bother you to send them on to me.
Other than dick drown in huntington, west v. i haven't been able to raise any other of the guys.

semper-fi will poole

 
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205.188.209.141

quonset huts

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September 14 2003, 5:31 PM 

will,were you guys in the quonset huts on the mainland?i e mailed gene,but got no response.if you get a chance open up mail plt#55 and read.im also retired and have plenty of time.sgt swinsburg was our d i

 
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24.131.98.24

quonset huts

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September 14 2003, 8:33 PM 

Frank,
we were in the quonset huts on the way to the rifle range, you know its been so many years ago i lose a lot of details, but i'll never forget the huts, lol . they weren't really that bad though. i also read the book , "incedent at ribbon creek". you know it beats the hell out of me how those guys can remember so much that happened over 40 years ago. all i can remember was getting wet and sgt. mckeon telling me that we lost a few men tonight.
you know parris island was a bitch but i wouldn't trade my 14 weeks there for anything.

semper - fi frank
will poole

 
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24.131.98.24

members of plt 71.

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September 23 2003, 12:40 PM 

hey gunny,
good day to you, hey i seen in one of your e-mails you said you had e-mail address's for two members of plt. 71. if these are different from gene irvin's and myself could you possably forward these to me. i would greatly appreciate this.other than dick drown in huntington, west virginia i've never been able to contact anyone.thank you for your time sir,

semper- fi will poole

 
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24.131.98.24

Sgt. King Jr. D . plt 71

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October 4 2003, 9:04 PM 

Gunny,
out of curosity have you ever heard from anyone pertaining to sgt. king. Our jr. d.i. at p.i. i ran into him once while stationed at kaneho in hawaai.there was a lot written about mckeon but very little of king.
he was a pretty good guy. maybe a little to good of a guy. i can remember him letting the guys smoke after s/sgt. huff had said no smokes. but he wasn't much older than we were.
i just was wondering what happen to him.
did you get the book from the m.c.a with the membership in it. i can't find a darn person that i know. the book was sent out in 2001.
i'll talk to you again. have a good day sir.

will poole
semper fi

 
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65.41.13.108

Hi Will...

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October 4 2003, 9:21 PM 

No, I never heard anything of King at all--I don't have the book, but I should pick it up--you Marines of Plt #71 who have posted here are the only ones I know of from Plt #71. I did meet S/Sgt McKeon at CPNC in 1958 when he was a Pfc or Cpl there at MAG-24, and he moonlighted at the EM Club nites. In about July '59 McKeon and I hit Disbursing at the same time to check out--I had orders to HQMC; and he was going out on a medical discharge.

I recall we had a brief conversation there--I had gone out myself between enlistments (1955-56) and joined the USMCR in Providence, RI--McKeon mentioned that he might join the USMCR--he was from Worcester, Mass, and I think he may have joined the USMCR unit there--I was never able to get a response from that USMCR unit when I requested info a few years ago, but apparently McK was already deceased at that time.

I have received info from other Marines indicating that McKeon had been a frequesnt guest speaker at various Marine Corps league/VFW/vets organizations for a few years prior to his death.

S/F
Dick

 
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24.110.138.111

Matthew McKeon in VMF-114 at Cherry Point

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August 19 2004, 8:50 PM 

I was the Officer of the Day in VMF-114 at Cherry Point Marine Corps
Air Station one day in the Spring or Summer of 1957. About 2 am, a Marine
came up to my desk, soluted and said Matthew McKeon reporting for duty.
At the time I did not realize who he was, but I was surprised to see hash
marks up and down his sleeve and a chestful of ribbons, but with no visible
rank. I found out later in the day that he just came in from Parris Island.
I got to know him a lot better in the days that followed. I was serving as
the squadron electronics officer in VMF-114, and Matthew was assigned to my unit.

He was a wonderful person, a fine Marine, a joy to talk with, and someone
that would make anyone a great friend.

I was deeply saddened to hear of his death. I'll remember him always.
My deepest sympathies go out to his love ones.

John A. Scigliano
First Lieutenant
USMCR 072715
Semper Fi

 
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69.34.2.55

Re S/Sgt Matt McKeon...

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October 24 2003, 2:24 AM 

As I have noted previously, A couple years or so back I attempted to contact McKeon--at that time, I received several e-mails from Marines indicating that McKeon had passed away, which I have assumed to be correct.

The following e-mail from my files is likely old information, buy I am posting it here for the record anyway.
DickG
~~~~~~~~
--- Oliver Pettit <oap3@charter.net> wrote:

---------------------------------
I read that you felt that Sgt McKeon is no long
alive. When did he pass?I am sure you have his
home address and phone number?
178 Maple St
West Boylston MA
508-835-4351
Ralph Hollenbeck was the Sgt that was told to
throw away all the transcriptsfrom the
court-martial
of Sgt Mckeon. Ralph lives in CO. I think at all
the transcripts are nota Quantico.
Oliver A Pettit
www.geocities.com/platoon233

 
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ATTN: PLATOON #71 MARINES!

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October 24 2003, 3:00 AM 

It occurs to me that you few surviving Plt #71 Marines may not be aware of the interest by Marines in general for the so-called Ribbon Creek Incident, Plt #71, SSgt McKeon, etc.

Because I have Site Meter on most of my sites (Gunny G's...)--over 100+ sites--I can see that of the 1,000--2,000 hits per day that all my sites receive, that the pages on plt #71 get a fair share-- I do not have the stats exactly for this, but I can see just from browsing my Site Meter that this is so.

The numbers that are visible to you on Site Meter are not the number of hits, but rather the number of different Visitors per day/time period. For instance, the Site Meter today indicates about 51,000+ (that is Visitors not hits) when I click on my site meter it indicates close to 200,000 Hits for those 51,000 Visitors--these numbers since May 21st this year.

Over the years, about 7 years, I have had numerous counters on some of my pages, and/or no counters at all. A conservative estimate, based on my observations during this period, would seem to be, again, a conservative estimate--about 3+ million Hits during those 7 years.

Anyway, I wanted to emphasize to you of plt #71, that there is an interest among Marines as to your experience at PISC in April of 1956. As far as I know, I am the only Marines Website who has ever made any effort to contact Marines of Plt #71, and/or to encourage you to post here. Indeed, only a couple of you have done so--I am not aware of any others out there, although it seems there must be others still around. Perhaps, others of Plt #71 have perused these pages but have declined to post here. I wish I had had the insight to have made this effort several years earlier when SSgt McKeon was still about, and might have responded here.

One of the constant topics for Marines (active-discharged-retired-reserves, etc.) is old corps vs. new corps. Ribbon Creek is often cited by Marines and professional writers alike as a turning point for the old corps. Of course, just what constitutes the "Old Corps" really is a debatable subject in itself. For me, the old corps has always been those Marines from WW II and prior--many of whom were still serving during my 20 year cruise w/the Corps.

Many old time Marines tend to claim Old Corps status, but most always concede that today's Marines are just as good. It is on this point that I, personally, take exception--and up front, I am not a combat Marine (that point will always come up in any argument/discussion that ensues)hell, I am not even a field Marine.

The Marines of the 30s, 40s, and 50s came from an America that was very much different from the America of the late 60s, and even more different from the America of recent years. Many of these people are the offspring of the hippy/yuppy generations, etc. Just visit any Marines messageboards and observe the ignorant, braggart, and arrogant "discussions" going on there. Hopefully, they are Not representative of today's Marines in general.

So, the question of the new corps being as good, or even better (as one Marine general recently stated) is not a valid question, since old and new Marines came to the Corps from two different Americas, in my opinion--hell, today's public/state school systems do not even teach the American history that we learned in our time--the socialistic/socialization of America has long been in progress.

Just some thoughts.

Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines

 
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24.131.98.24

Sgt. Mathew Mckeon

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October 24 2003, 12:24 PM 

Gunny;
i took sgt. Mckeon's phone # off your message this morning. and bingo he was there and very much alive. he does have cancer and says hes on the way out. it was so great to talk to him after almost 50 years. we talked about 20 minutes about the old days. he started to get tired so i told him semper fi and good bye. you know he was a decorated machine gunner in korea didn't you. again thanks for his #. he still remember me after all these years. he told me i wasn't the biggest guy in the plt. and told me where i was in the grad. picture. quite a memory hun.
thank you sir for your time.
semper fi

 
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Hey, Will...

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October 24 2003, 2:06 PM 

I thank you for your response and for calling SSgt McKeon!!!

I should have known better than to take the word of anyone that he was deceased, but I heard it from several reliable Marines and....

I hope you have also e-mail Gene about this.

Best Dick Gaines

 
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Will...

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October 26 2003, 7:04 AM 

I don't specifically recall that Mckeon was a MGr in Korea--but I do remember from the news accounts of the time, that he had previously served an enlistment in the Navy before joining the Corps--seems like he came into the Corps just prior to or about the time of Korea, 1950.

Dick

 
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24.131.98.24

sgt mckeon, korea?

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October 27 2003, 11:35 AM 

Gunny,
you know i'm not quite sure where i read that sgt mckeon was a machine plt leader in korea, but i believe it was in one of the books i read concerning his trial at parris island. i didn't want to keep him on the phone when i called him and i didn't want it to sound like a interragation. he sounded tired and mine was just a call from one marine concerned about the other . but i'm sure he wouldn't mind you calling. thank you for your time
semper fi will

 
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129.44.237.149

re mckeon korea

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October 27 2003, 2:25 PM 

will,i know of an ex navy guy who claimed he was in the navy aboard the same ship with mckeon.it was in the late forties.i thought it was a lot of bull,but im not so sure now.the man passed away last summer.if you find out let me know.

 
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65.41.225.19

Frank...

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October 27 2003, 2:34 PM 

...I know that McKeon had served in the Navy prior to joining the Corps. So your friend was likely correct.
Best
DickG

 
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frank fernandez
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129.44.237.149

re frank

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October 27 2003, 3:27 PM 

gunny,thanks for the info.i was next door to plt 71,and was a runner for sgt mckeon.he seemed to be a pretty descent guy.

 
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Thank you, Will...

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October 27 2003, 2:31 PM 

...you talked me into it--when I read your post here I just picked up the phone and called Mac--talked to his wife, Elizabeth, first, and then Mac. He remembered me from when we were both in MAG-24 at Cherry Pt (58-59) Exchanged Semper Fis, and talked for a bit. He was happy that you had called him the other day. When I mentioned Gene's name, he immediately responded that he remembered him too.

I'm glad you suggested I call him--I usually don't do things like that. Funny thing, I reenlisted and came back into the Corps in March 1956 (same time frame you were going to PI), after going out after my first cruise, (I was a buck sergeant) and they ran me through ITR as a trainee at Geiger. At that time I had a trainee in my platoon who used to say that his big brother was a naval officer, and he was going to be either CNO or governor of Georgia in the next few years. Always was trying to get me to swoop to Ga w/him on weekends.

Years later, his brother did become governor, and still later, president of the US. That Marine's name from ITR was Billy Carter.

When Billy was dying, I was prodded by my wife to call him, and I kept putting it off--until it was too late. It's not good to put things like this off. I'm hoping Gene gets the word on this soon, and that he will also call Matt--I'm sure it would make his day.

Best
Dick




 
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24.131.98.24

hey gunny

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October 28 2003, 6:53 PM 

gunny
i was glad you call sgt mckeon. i get the feeling hes going to need all the support he can muster. did you ask him about korea, don't know exactly where i read that . boy that was a strange story about billy carter. the strange thing is you never really know when to say good bye.so i try not to put it off. i e-mailed gene with sgt. mckeon's # but i have no way of knowing if he got it. You know there was a lot of strained relationships in the plt. after the march. several came to blows. i had one such deal myself. i don't remember what brought in on. pvt. mitchell and i had a few words that escalated very quickly. we also had a few problems at camp geiger going through itr. we seemed to be the black sheep for a while , i never could figure that on e out. about two days after the march they came to the barracks and picked out two or three of us and took us to mainside. i found myself standing on the steps leading into base headquarters with more brass than i knew existed. they were denying that we took the march for desciplinary reasons. i contradicted what the brass was saying and all eyes focused on me and scared the hell out of me. private acker had a lot of problems after the march with the rest of the plt. i still have no idea why. on the way back to the barracks after we left ribbon creek sgt. mckeon said to me. "we lost a couple of marines tonight private". i don't think he was cut out to be a drill instructer. he was really too nice of a guy.
every april the 8th. at about 8:00 at night i stop and think about my six friends that never made it through p.i.
enough of my rambling. thats more than i've said in the 47 years since the march. about the march.
thank you and good night gunny. semper fi
will poole

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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Will...

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October 28 2003, 9:25 PM 

Yeah, I hope Gene reads his e-mail soon--I'm sure he'd want to know about this.

No, I didn't ask Mac about Korea--Elizabeth had cautioned me that he was tired and couldn't talk long--so I briefed her on my part in attempting to contact him the last 2-3 years for you and Gene--and also that I had briefly known Mac at CPNC. I know she would fill him in on whatever I didn't tell him.

He did seem very tired and his voice was...maybe a little weak--but alert and seemed to genuinely remember those things that he said he did.

I feel better now myself after having talked to him. I'm sure there are many more Marines out there who never knew McKeon and/or the Marines of Plt #71, but what happened affected every Marine in the Corps at that time, and, to maybe a lesser extent, those who followed later. Glad to see you talking about it--I have found that talking always helps when I'm ready to talk about things.

Semper Fidelis,
Dick

 
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24.131.98.24

old marines - new marines

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October 29 2003, 7:36 PM 

gunny, just want to run a few thoughts pass you. it always fascinates me when people compare old corps to the new. its like comparing oranges to apples. back in the 50's you didn't need a high school diploma. it seemed like all you needed was a clean police record. i still work out at the gym everyday and have had the pleasure of talking to several men getting ready to leave for parris island. their all in great shape physically and most have some college. i think its a new corp. but i feel very confident our nation is in very good hands. not sure if i could hang with them today . but i'd sure as hell like to try. lol. i called one of the members of plt 71 , richard drown and gave him sgt. mckeon's # .i'm hoping he'll call. maybe i'll give him another call this week.
thanks for listening to my rambling. good night gunny and semper fi will

 
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128.114.166.72

Hey Bill

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November 1 2003, 1:56 AM 

Hey Bill... this is Gene Ervin, the ole Right Guide. I remember Drown. I also just spent a while writing to Aker's kid giving him a story of what I knew about his father, Richard, as he did not know him that well.
Write back when you have some time.
Semper Fi
Gene

 
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Hey, Will.......................................

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October 30 2003, 7:47 AM 


 
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128.114.166.72

Hey, Gunny

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November 1 2003, 1:36 AM 

Hi Gunny....it's me, Gene again I just wrote to you and said that I was gonna visit the forum again. Well, here I am.
Have a good 'n, Old Salt.
Gene

 
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69.34.80.179

Gene.....

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November 1 2003, 2:07 AM 

I never did read Stevens's book--did Stevens interview McK for the book? And...is Stevens aware of his present condition?

I gotta pick up a copy.

Dick

 
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128.114.166.72

Mac

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November 1 2003, 5:21 AM 

Oh yeah!!! Stevens interviewed Mac for the book and he also got in touch with about 17 or 20 of the guys. He looked for me for a few years but I was living in the mountains out here in Santa Cruz county CA. I finally got in touch with him after the book was published. He mentioned me in it several times, so someone must have told him about me and a couple of the other swimmers who handled some of the guys who were not able to get out.
The book focuses mostly on the trial, Stevens being a lawyer and all. The first 3 chapters are concerned with us. I know you'll enjoy it.
Semper Fidelis
Gene

 
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151.199.24.166

photo

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December 5 2003, 5:29 PM 

Hi,
This is a request to obtian a photo of ssgt mckeon during the time of the Ribbon Creek Incident. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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65.41.134.59

The photo is alrredy posted here...

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December 5 2003, 7:12 PM 

see under the article, The Day The corps Changed (or similar)...

and then the link to the original article...
<a http://www.lowcountrynow.com/stories/112103/LOCmarinedeath.shtml

Dick Gaines

 
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216.198.97.30

McKeon and the Corps

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August 25 2004, 6:27 PM 

I am SerNo. 1528799 and I served from Jan '55 to Feb '59.

I had the misfortune to be stationed at MCRD PISC from May '55 to about June '56. I was a Remington Raider in the Depot newspaper office-- The Boot.

PI had to be the sorriest duty station in the Corps at that time. To my great relief I got transferred to the 2ndMarDiv at Lejeune just after the McKeon incident.

I interviewed a boot in Plt. 71, a kid from near Lenoir, NC, and sent the story with a USMC photo to the Hickory (NC) Daily Record. It made Page One. None of it was authorized; I snuck it out in disregard for the PIO's objections. I coulda got court-martialed over that stunt.

I found this site just today surfing for info about a non-related matter. Interesting place!

Semper Fidelis, C.F.D.

 
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24.131.98.24

plt71 feb-may 1956

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November 27 2004, 3:44 PM 

Hey
Gunny, Just thought i'd touch base with you. Have you been in touch with anyone else other than gene or myself from the platoon. The main reason i contacted you was that my e-mail address has been change. Not by choice but my cable co. changed hands. If you happen to run into someone from the plt. feel free to give my e-mail address out. thanks gunny, semper-fi
will poole

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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69.34.72.33

Hi Will!

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November 27 2004, 7:45 PM 

Nope--haven't heard a word lately--will pass it on if I hear anything.
Best
Dick



~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
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~SITES/FORUMS FOR THE THINKING MARINE!~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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209.130.219.105

Info: Members, Plt #71, Parris Island 1956, Ribbon Creek, SSgt McKeon

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September 30 2002, 5:56 AM 

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

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GyG1345@yahoo.com

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General Puller at the Ribbon Creek Court-martial, 1956...

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October 12 2002, 6:37 PM 


 
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24.99.13.138

Overview and Comments--Steven' Court-Martial At Parris Island

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March 10 2003, 4:25 PM 

This is the html version of the file http://www.bobrohrer.com/pdf_files/ribbon_creek_overview.pdf.
G o o g l e automatically generates html versions of documents as we crawl the web.
To link to or bookmark this page, use the following url: http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:QcMtPIIv_jcC:www.bobrohrer.com/pdf_files/ribbon_creek_overview.pdf+puller+mckeon+court+martial&hl=en&ie=UTF-8

Google is not affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its content.
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
Page 139
2
Page 16
3
page 16
4
Page 17
5
Page 155
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
Page 99
8
Page 98
9
Page 117
10
Page 14
Page 4
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
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19
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20
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Page 5
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
21
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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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35
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37
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40
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44
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Page 7
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
Page 5
47
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48
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49
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Page 8
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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54
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55
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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
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58
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59
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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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Mar14, 2003 Re MC Times exchange of e-mail...

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March 15 2003, 9:28 AM 

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

 
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Dick G
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24.99.13.138

General Greene: Marine-To-Marine!

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March 30 2003, 12:00 PM 

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!

 
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12.215.186.103

Richard Acker of Platoon 71

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July 30 2003, 10:41 AM 

My father, Richard, was a member of Platoon 71 in 1956. He passed away just a couple weeks ago on July 10, 2003. Since his death I have read John Stevens book "Court-Martial at Parris Island: Incident at Ribbon Creek" and realize I know very little of my father as a person before I was born. I was hoping perhaps some members of his platoon may have some memories of him from that time they would be willing to share with me to perhaps have a better understanding of who he was. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much.

 
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24.131.98.24

richard acker

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September 13 2003, 2:45 PM 

keith,

Iwas with your father on the march to ribbon creek, april 8th. 1956, first of all i'm very sorry to hear of your fathers passing, its sorta strange but of all 78 of my fellow recruits i remember just a very few by name,i've listened through the years to different people talk about how un-disciplined we were as a platoon. take my word we weren't any different than any other platoon of raw 17 year old kids. our drill instructor was a drunk and 6 kids[future marines] paid the altimate price,if you have a recruit graduation picture i'm the 6th person in the front row, from left to right. The evening of the march we were playing chicken in back of the barracks,you know the game you get on each others back and try to knock the other guys off, Mckeon got upset over this, but if he had been doing his job instead of drinking non of the events would have taken place.hoping to hear from you. will poole

 
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24.88.14.80

We were there.

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July 31 2003, 10:49 PM 

I don't know how it was or how the Platoon numbering system worked at the time, but we of Platoon #113 were on the Rifle Range at the same time as with Platoon #71. Perhaps they were at the end of their qualifying and we were just beginning? We were located on the same floor of the same wooden barracks. I remember the commotion the evening of April 8, 1956.

 
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24.128.162.106

Ribbon Creek

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November 4 2003, 9:10 PM 

Hello Gunny,

Gene Ervin tipped me off to your web site. I found the exchange of comments very fascinating and was pleased to learn more about the experiences Will Poole as well as the other comments.

I am the author of COURT-MARTIAL AT PARRIS ISLAND,an account of the events of April 8,1956 and the McKeon court-martial. Matt McKeon was very forthcoming when I interviewed him, as were most of the surviving members of Platoon 71 ( I found about 25 of them and all but one was very cooperative.)

Matt McKeon is still alive but suffering from terminal cancer. One of the qualities that I most admire about him is his willingness to accept responsibility for his own behavior.

Semper Fi'

John Stevens

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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65.41.151.75

Thank you...

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November 5 2003, 3:37 AM 

...for your post--appreciated!

I spoke to Matt McKeon, briefly, last week--I had been attempting to find him for several years for Marines of Plt #71; however, I had been advised that he passed away, and I had accepted that as factual and abandoned my search, until learning recently that he was still about.

 

Semper Fidelis

Dick Gaines

 


 
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65.41.13.53

Attn: Matthew C. McKeon, 79, dead....

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November 15 2003, 7:46 PM 


 
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24.131.98.24

sgt. mckeon

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November 16 2003, 1:45 PM 

hey gunny,
i seen your message that sgt. mckeon had pass away.
i talked to his daughter and son-in-law a few days before. it was a very emotional conversation. they are a very close knit family it seems.
I was very happy i was able to retrieve sgts. phone number and was able to have the conversation with him. i hope other members of the plt. were able to talk to him.
i seen the author of incident at ribbon e-mailed you . i wrote several e-mails to him. and erased them with out sending. just thought i leave sleeping dogs lay.
i've always thought the sgt. was really a good guy. very soft spoken. he just got put in a bad situation.
enough said. good night sgt. mckeon.
will poole

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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65.41.13.53

Hey Will...

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November 16 2003, 3:10 PM 

...might be a good idea if you do write to Stevens--remember, he's not just the author of that book, he's a Marine too!
You're the one who prompted me to call Matt McKeon on the Friday before his death, you know--and I feel better for it, and I was certainly not anywhere near as close to him as you and the other Plt #71 Marines. And, too, S/Sgt McKeon and 1956 has become a part of all of us who were in the Corps back then, and, maybe to a lesser extent, all Marines since.

I want you guys to keep in touch.
Best, and Semper fidleis!
Dick

 
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24.128.162.106

Tribute to a fallen Marine

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November 17 2003, 7:33 PM 

Gunny,

I thought you and the other Marines who knew or knew of Matt McKeon might be interested in the obituary I wrote after attending his funeral last Saturday:
November 15, 2003




On a hardscrabble hill overlooking the rural neighborhood where he was born, Matthew McKeon was buried today. More than a hundred of his friends and family huddled together in the face of the late autumn winds as an admixture of Catholic blessings and Marine Corps salutes paid final tribute to the flawed but noble spirit whose lifeless embodiment was laid to its final rest.

Forty-seven years ago, this same man was reviled by all too many people as a heartless butcher, a sadist whose momentous error of judgment caused six Marine recruits to drown in the black waters of Ribbon Creek. His life thereafter was in many ways an effort to seek redemption for the act that he could never undo. At his court-martial he testified that had he been asked to walk to the gallows he would have done so. A devout man, he prayed every day of his life thereafter for the souls of his lost recruits and for forgiveness.

But there was so much more to this man than was revealed by the publicity surrounding the events from which he derived such notoriety. Until that time he had an unblemished military record, serving in World War II aboard the carrier “Essex” and as a machine gunner on the frigid battlefields at the Chosin Reservoir. He was a battle-tested Marine who had faithfully and honorably served his country in the face of peril.

Matt McKeon was a gregarious man without hint of guile or pretense. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he recounted to me the events of Ribbon Creek forty years earlier. He was faithful to his wife, Betty, loyal to his friends, and loving to his extended family. He never sought to escape responsibility or to cast the burden on others for the deaths at Parris Island. Say what one will, he was a man of character.

Matt McKeon died at his home, quite appropriately on Veterans Day, his family at his side. May he rest in peace enjoying now the redemption never attainable in his lifetime. If there is a place beyond, may he forever be joined in serenity with the six young men who preceded him there.

 
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65.41.13.53

Thank you, John...

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November 17 2003, 8:59 PM 

Your words are needed, and appreciated, at this time for the many Marines who will read this.

Again, thank you, Marine.

Semper Fidelis
Dick

 
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68.164.92.169

God Bless and Semper Fi

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November 19 2003, 10:22 PM 

May Almighty God richly bless John Stevens, Dick Gaines, Matt McKeon, his family, the families of the deceased recruits, and all Marines, especially the ones in uniform today going in harm's way.

Semper Fi!
Kevin Coughlin
USMC 2327700
CAP Marine South of Phu Bai
Village of Loc Bon
July '67-April '68

 
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12.9.207.199

Matt McKeon

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March 18 2005, 7:06 PM 

Gunny,
While doing some research on family history, I found a link to your site mentioning Sgt McKeon and Ribbon Creek. I had never heard about this and did a little checking into it. What I got from all that I read was that it was an error in judgment on Sgt McKeon part and as a man and what I believe a good Marine he took responsibility for his actions. Thank you for the history lesson and well done on Sgt Matt McKeon's Obit.

 
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65.41.13.53

Milinet: Response...

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November 17 2003, 7:36 AM 

17 November

MILINET: Resp "Taps for Mathew C. McKeon"

===============================

Surely there are other 63-year-olds out there who have the same thing to say that I have to say on the passing of SSgt. McKeon.

In 1956 when he disciplined his recruits on Ribbon Creek, I was 16. It hit the news - recruits at P.I. died. With my 17th birthday coming up the next February I was bound and determined to tell my girl friends that I was going to go where people died. And so I did, 35 years later to retire. If I made any contributuion in those 35 years to Country and Corps, Mathew McKeon deserves the credit.

God rest his soul.

Semper Fi,

Mike Wyly
Col., USMC (ret)

 
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65.41.13.53

Response...

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November 18 2003, 8:07 AM 

18 November

MILINET: 2nd Resps (3) "Taps for Mathew C. McKeon"

============================================

History and perspective change many things, while time has a tendency to forgive and even forget.

I entered the Marine Corps a few months after April 1956 and arrived at Parris Island when the incident at Ribbon Creek was still fresh in the headlines. I had just turned 17.

I remember seeing McKeon being escorted, in handcuffs, by two MP's and our DI bringing it to our attention by saying he had "...violated the code of Marines...." I did not understand what he meant by that. I wrote a letter to my brother, a USMC captain at the time, teaching the 60mm Mortar at The Basic School in Quantico. I asked him what he knew and what it meant. He replied that he knew McKeon from Korea, and knew him to be a fine Marine with an outstanding combat record. He went on to say that the unfortunate incident at Ribbon Creek will not tarnish the reputation of the Corps, and that he supported the statements made at McKeon's court-martial by LtGen Lewis B. Puller in mitigation of the incident.

Two different perspectives of a Marine and a tragedy that had great impact on our Marine Corps.

I remember for the remainder of my time and training at Parris Island, it seemed that everywhere we looked there was an officer, usually a Field Grade officer, watching and noting every aspect of our training and process to becoming Marines. Everyone was under close scrutiny. I was not sure why, but things were changing even as our Parris Island "adventure" was ongoing.

I don't know what Parris Island was like before "my time" or before Ribbon Creek. I know, however, that we were not "abused" during my training, but did "enjoy" some of the more unorthodox methods of instilling discipline. None of us were the worst for it but took pride in the fact that we graduated from what we considered a "rigorous" experience that tested us, and our reward for passing the test was most worthy-- we were Marines!

In hindsight, I do believe that Ribbon Creek marked a line of demarcation from training practices that may have become a bit arcane, to a more rigorous, structured and evolving program that has proven to be critical in preserving the ethos of Marines that we espouse today. Marines since then, in Vietnam, Beirut, Desert Storm and today in Iraq, have all acquitted themselves with distinction in the finest of Marine Corps traditions and continue to earn the respect of other military forces and the world as an elite, courageous, and disciplined fighting force.

Those of us who hold the title "Marine" and do so with pride, still speak of "Old Corps" versus "New Breed."Â We poke at each other in bravado gesticulation, pontificating on which era was the most arduous-- like bantering for position of who is the "Best of the Best."Â Beneath it all I do believe that we love and respect each other as Marines; and that will always hold true because we share the common bond of having endured a great personal trial and earned the respect and title of Marine.

Mathew C. McKeon has passed away. He was a principal character in a vital chapter in the annals of our history. He served well, at least as well as he knew how. In spite of the tragic training accident that had a life-long impact on McKeon and the Marine Corps, I believe our Corps is better and stronger for it. I salute him and bid him farewell. Semper Fi, Marine!Â

And let us not forget those six recruits from Platoon 71 who perished that fateful day, 8 April 1956. They, too, have served and are worthy of the title, Marine.

Mitchell P. Paradis
MGySgt USMC (Ret)

----------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE---------

Anthony, In April 1956 when I heard the news of the drowning of six recruits at Parris Island I was a Corporal on an APA somewhere in the Pacific Ocean heading for Japan. We heard the news over the loud-speakers. Later we heard that Drill Instructor Staff Sergeant McKeon was being court-martialed. When the book came out later called "Ribbon Creek: The Marine Corps on Trial" I bought the book. There were many at the time that believe McKeon was a good Marine who made a horrible mistake when he took his platoon on a night disciplinary march in the tidal swamps near the rifle range at PI. There was an unusually high tide that night. Major General Chesty Puller testified for the defense stating that Marines did not get enough night-training. None-the-less, McKeon was found guilty and busted to Private. I believe that he made it back to Sergeant before being discharged for a medical problem. I also understand he was remorseful and felt guilty for the rest of his life.

There were a lot of reforms that resulted from the Ribbon Creek incident that prevail to this day. After that Drill Instructors had to be NCO's. Before that a DI could be a PFC and I had two of them. There was closer supervision of recruits by Officers. I didn't see an Officer until my third week. Also, it was about that time that DI's started wearing Campaign Hats.

Semper Fi.
Major Bob Farmer USMC (retired)Â

--------------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE---------

November 15, 2003

Tribute to a fallen Marine

by John Stevens

On a hardscrabble hill overlooking the rural
neighborhood where he was born, Matthew McKeon
was buried today. More than a hundred of his
friends and family huddled together in the face
of the late autumn winds as an admixture of
Catholic blessings and Marine Corps salutes paid
final tribute to the flawed but noble spirit
whose lifeless embodiment was laid to its final
rest.

Forty-seven years ago, this same man was reviled
by all too many people as a heartless butcher, a
sadist whose momentous error of judgment caused
six Marine recruits to drown in the black waters
of Ribbon Creek. His life thereafter was in many
ways an effort to seek redemption for the act
that he could never undo. At his court-martial he
testified that had he been asked to walk to the
gallows he would have done so. A devout man, he
prayed every day of his life thereafter for the
souls of his lost recruits and for forgiveness.

But there was so much more to this man than was
revealed by the publicity surrounding the events
from which he derived such notoriety. Until that
time he had an unblemished military record,
serving in World War II aboard the carrier
“Essex” and as a machine gunner on the frigid
battlefields at the Chosin Reservoir. He was a
battle-tested Marine who had faithfully and
honorably served his country in the face of
peril.

Matt McKeon was a gregarious man without hint of
guile or pretense. Tears flowed down his cheeks
as he recounted to me the events of Ribbon Creek
forty years earlier. He was faithful to his wife,
Betty, loyal to his friends, and loving to his
extended family. He never sought to escape
responsibility or to cast the burden on others
for the deaths at Parris Island. Say what one
will, he was a man of character.

Matt McKeon died at his home, quite appropriately
on Veterans Day, his family at his side. May he
rest in peace enjoying now the redemption never
attainable in his lifetime. If there is a place
beyond, may he forever be joined in serenity with
the six young men who preceded him there.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/message?forumid=220604&messageid=1069115614

Note:
Former Marine John Stevens is the author of,
"Court-martial At Parris island: The Ribbon Creek Incident"

---------------------------------------END RESPONSES----------



 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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65.41.236.185

Responses...

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November 19 2003, 7:14 AM 

19 November

MILINET: 3rd Resps (2) "Taps for Mathew C. McKeon"

=================================

Thanks, Anthony. I think your email dispatch is a nice tribute to a Marine who was very misunderstood, but stood accountable for his actions in true Marine fashion. I especially like the tribute by John Stevens. It shows that MeKeon was a man of some character after all.

Well done.

Mitch Paradis

-----------------------------------ANOTHER RESPONSE---------

I was a Sergeant, stationed at Headquarters, 12th Marine Corps Reserve & Recruitment District, 100 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA when we heard the news of "Ribbon Creek," and the tragic loss of some Marine Recruit's lives, involving Drill Instructor S/Sgt McKeon.

Of course we were shocked that this could happen, but realized that accidents can, and do happen during the course of training. We were proud to hear that my former regimental commanding officer at the Chosin Reservoir, LtGen Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller would be testifying on behalf of S/Sgt McKeon. May S/Sgt McKeon be remembered for the remorse that he felt, and for the good Marine that he was. God Bless him, and may he rest in eternal peace.


Clyde H. Queen, Sr.
Former S/Sgt USMC

-----------------------------------END RESPONSES--------


 
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65.41.134.214

The Day The Corps Changed

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November 20 2003, 9:45 PM 

The day the corps changed

RIDGELAND: On April 8, 1956, six Marine Corps recruits drowned in a disciplinary march into Ribbon Creek. The aftermath caused an overhaul of basic training.

By William H. Whitten
Special to the Carolina Morning News

Matthew C. McKeon, the Parris Island drill instructor who received national attention when he was court-martialed after six of his recruits drowned during a disciplinary march into Ribbon Creek on April 8, 1956, has died at the age of 79.

Ironically, he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

For days, news of the death of the man whose actions caused an overhaul of Marine Corps basic training - some say the demise of the "Old Corps" - has circulated by word of mouth and e-mail throughout the Marine Corps community.

McKeon's obituary appeared in the Worchester (Mass.) Telegram & Gazette but without reference to the Ribbon Creek tragedy.

After the most publicized court martial in Marine Corps history - even Life magazine sent a sketch artist to the trial - McKeon was acquitted on Aug. 4, 1956, of charges of manslaughter and oppression of troops. He was found guilty of negligent homicide and drinking on duty.

The sentence was a $270 fine, nine months of confinement at hard labor, rank reduced to private and a bad conduct discharge.

The secretary of the Navy later reduced the sentence to three months in the brig, reduction to private with no discharge and no fine.

McKeon went back on active duty, regained his sergeant's stripes in about a year and served another 16 years, retiring in 1972 with time credited for his Navy service during World War II.

But in a real sense it was the Marine Corps which had been on trial. For Gen. Randolph Pate, the only Marine Corps commandant to have been born in the local area (Port Royal, Feb. 11, 1898), the failure of the training system was a larger issue than McKeon.

Pate ordered a separate recruit training command to be established at Parris Island, and in San Diego, Calif., to be commanded by a brigadier general selected by the commandant and answering directly to him.

Each of the recruit training commands was to be staffed with specially trained officers "to supervise and monitor but not to supplant the drill instructors" in the training of recruits.

An inspector general was established at Marine headquarters in Washington, D.C.

What has been described as an "uninterrupted flood of publicity by the press, radio and television" divided the nation into opposing camps - those who condemned McKeon and the perception of cruel, sometimes injurious, recruit training, and those who sympathized with him, not wanting to see the nation's premier military service "go soft."

The story began some minutes after 10 p.m. on Sunday, Apr. 8, 1956, when McKeon - a staff sergeant and drill instructor - marched the 74 men of Platoon 71, "A" Company, 3d Recruit Training Battalion from their barracks to Ribbon Creek.

After the recruits, with their individual equipment, entered the tidal stream under darkness some stepped or slid into water over their heads and panicked.

Later testimony indicated that McKeon knew the area and if the recruits had strictly followed his directions, they might not have drowned.

But because he had been drinking earlier, and he decided the platoon needed an unannounced disciplinary night march and was the DI in charge when the drownings took place, the court placed the blame squarely on McKeon.

"In conducting an unauthorized and unnecessary march by night into an area of hazard ... which resulted in the deaths of six brother Marines, (he) 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," said the Corps, in ordering a general court martial.

But, with national attention centered on the already historic courtroom building and DI facility at Parris Island (since destroyed by fire), a celebrated New York civilian lawyer, Emile Zola Berman - who later defended Robert Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan - volunteered to defend McKeon without pay.

He mounted a massive public relations campaign on behalf of McKeon.

For three weeks there was testimony, including defense testimony by one of the Corps' most renowned heroes, Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller, and the Marine Corps commandant himself.

There was also testimony that McKeon was graduated from the base's DI school just three months earlier, ranking 14th in a class which began with 90 men and ended up with 55.

Documentary evidence showed that McKeon had also undergone a routine psychiatric screening three months before and had been given the highest possible rating on "motivation," "emotional stability" and "hostility factors," and a better than average rating on "achievement."

The psychiatric unit's conclusion was that McKeon was a "mature, stable appearing Marine."

On Oct. 18, 1956, McKeon - having already served part of his time prior to sentencing - was released from custody and restored to active duty, but with reduced rank.

Over the years at least two books have been written about the Ribbon Creek tragedy and infrequent interviews were done with McKeon, who lived out his life in the Worchester suburb of West Boylston.

John Stevens III, a former Marine and now a Massachusetts judge, authored the most recent book, "Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident," and was at Parris Island in October signing copies.

McKeon is survived by his wife, five children and eight grandchildren. He remained a member of the Marine Corps League. Burial on Nov. 15 was in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Leicester, Mass.

Reporter Mark Kreuzwieser contributed to this report.

http://www.lowcountrynow.com/stories/112103/LOCmarinedeath.shtml
http://www.lowcountrynow.com/stories/112103/LOCmarinedeath.shtml

Copyright 2002 Carolina Morning News. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy.
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69.34.39.166

Court-martial At Parris Island!

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December 20 2003, 8:53 AM 

Authors return to Parris Island for book signing
Published "Tuesday
By MICHAEL KERR
Gazette staff writer
Eugene Alvarez and John C. Stevens III try to make it back to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island at least once a year.

The former Devil Dogs come to see how the legendary base where they became Marines -- and in Alvarez's case made Marines -- has changed.

They come to see old friends and recount stories of the good ol' days aboard the depot.

Last week, however, they came to mix a little business with the pleasure of visiting a place that helped form the men they are now.

Thursday afternoon, Alvarez and Stevens set up shop at the depot's Marine Corps Exchange for a dual book signing of Alvarez's latest work "Images of America: Parris Island," and Stevens' first book, "Court-Martial at Parris Island: The Ribbon Creek Incident."

"I always love to come back and visit Parris Island," said Alvarez, who went through boot camp aboard the depot in 1950 and served as a drill instructor there from 1953 to 1954 and again from 1956 to 1959. "It just changes all the time."

Sitting behind a desk adorned with a flower vase, American flag and stacks of their books, Alvarez and Stevens signed copies of their latest works for anyone who wanted one.

Some of the folks getting signatures were already fans. Others had never heard of the books before they wandered into the store Thursday afternoon.

"I was just always interested in (Parris Island)," said Alvarez, who received a research grant from the Marine Corps to get started with his first book.

"Images of America: Parris Island," his fifth book, is now in its third printing and is going strong, he said.

"It's going over very well," said Alvarez, who lives in Georgia.

The book, filled with photographs chronicling the history and legacy of Parris Island, is a visual trip through time as the depot, and the Corps, expanded and changed.

While Alvarez is a veteran in military nonfiction, Stevens is a newcomer.

"Court-Martial at Parris Island" is his first book and consumed three years of his life, two to research the Ribbon Creek incident and one to write the manuscript.

"When I went through Parris Island, Ribbon Creek had just occurred," said Stevens, now a judge in Massachusetts. "The drill instructors were very sensitive about it. They thought one of their (drill instructors) was railroaded at the time."

Years after he had left the Corps and become a lawyer, Stevens decided to give a doctoral dissertation on the April 8, 1956, incident in which drill instructor Staff Sgt. Matthew McKeon led his platoon on a forced night march through Ribbon Creek to restore sagging discipline.

A strong tidal current in the creek swept through and six men drowned, sparking a national news story and a court-martial for McKeon.

Stevens never gave the dissertation, but the story -- which affected his and every recruit's training from then on and changed Parris Island forever -- stayed with him, eventually becoming a critically acclaimed debut book.

"Marines from all over the country have found me and have written me," Stevens said. "It's gotten an outstanding reception."

The most rewarding aspect of the undertaking was the opportunity to meet and discuss the incident with McKeon himself, Stevens said.

"He has lived with that burden and he always will," Stevens said, adding that he hopes the interview helped McKeon in some small way.

"It enabled him to purge himself of some of the shame," he said. "I found it very rewarding."

Gunnery Sergeants Robert Bergmann and John Spencer both stumbled upon the book signing Thursday afternoon and picked up copies of "Court-Martial at Parris Island."

Bergmann said he had no idea anyone had written a book about Ribbon Creek, but was looking forward to delving into it.

Spencer knew the book was out there, but hadn't had the chance to read it yet.

"I knew about the incident," he said. "I just want to find out more about it."

For Alvarez and Stevens, the trip to Parris Island was both a vacation and a chance to meet some young Marines and see how things are done today.

Like many former Marines who return to the depot, Alvarez said there is a litany of physical changes aboard Parris Island, but that the men and women in uniform are the same as they always have been.

"They're still quality people," Alvarez said. "Older guys like us like to talk about back then, but they do a good job today."

Stevens said he couldn't agree more.

"I'm so impressed with these young Marines," he said. "The greatest thing about this book for me is that it reconnected me with the Marine Corps. That's a priceless heritage."
Copyright 2003 The Beaufort Gazette • May not be republished in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.

http://www.beaufortgazette.com/local_news/military/story/2927032p-2688933c.html



 
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141.154.181.44

Ribbon Creek

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February 15 2004, 9:37 AM 

Hi Dick, I will miss church this morning because I can't tare myself away from your website, especially the forum on Matthew McKeon & Ribbon Creek!! I acquired a book a few years back (which I havn't read yet) concerning "The Incident". It is simply titled "RIBBON CREEK", written by William B. McKean, Brig. Gen. USMC (Ret), published in 1958. I have read most of the emails and comments posted, however no one makes reference to this book. Have you read this book, and if so how does it compare to Stevens book, which I will acquire soon now that you have renewed my intrest in this facinating piece of our history. I live in Westfield MA., a few miles from the gravesite. My wife and I will pay our respects soom.

Semper Fi

Bill Kana
Gysgt. USMC (Ret) 64-85

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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65.41.151.210

Hi, Bill...

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February 18 2004, 10:40 AM 

thanx for posting--good to hear from ya.

No, I have not read general McKean's book--in fact, I had not read the Stevens book until after matt McKeon's death and Stevens having posted to this forum. Even so, I would say that Stevens' book would be hard to beat, judging from my reading of it. It was one of those books that I had intended to buy and read for years, but something I put off until...

Best wishes, and...
Semper Fidelis
Dick Gaines

 
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24.131.98.24

ribbon creek

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February 18 2004, 11:44 AM 

hey gy
you probaly seen my name on some e-mails to the gy concerning sgt. M. Mckeon.i read the book by stevens and one other by the legal officer at parris island at the time of the parris island march.If i'm not mistaken his name was Major Faw.Stevens book seemed to center mostly on the aftermath and the court-martiel. The Majors book had a little more leading up to the march its self.At least it seemed that way to me. I never seen the book your referring to. but i did call my library and they did have a copy in their store room. i'll get it in a few days. I turn 65 on the 20th of this month and went to parris island on my 17th birthday.i have no idea how many members of plt. 71 are still living but i was the youngest. So they have to be thinning out some what. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have about the march and i'll answer to the best of my ability. But do remember that was 48 years ago.
Will Poole

 
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128.114.166.94

Hey Poole

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March 27 2004, 12:28 AM 

Hey Poole...this is Gene Ervin. I remember you in the platoon. I think we may have exchanged emails a few years ago also. I was the Right Guide.
Jay Stevens came through my town of Santa Cruz California a couple of weeks ago. I met with him and we talked about the incident. I was just surfing through the 'Net and saw your name.
Hope all is well.
Semper Fidelis
Gene

 
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68.3.92.225

Charles Riley's Daughter

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March 3 2005, 9:39 PM 

As the daughter of one of Ribbon Creeks casualties...I am searching for anyone who knew my father since I never had the opportunity to know him. I was born May 11, 1956 and only have had a newspaper article to go on as I was adopted at the age of 6. I have read the book by John Stevens and have copies of every bit of info I have been able to find. I have even spoken to John Martinez who claims to have pulled my father to chest high water that fateful night. Not knowing my father couldn't swim he felt he would be safe at that point...I would welcome any correspondence from any remaining platoon members as I am preparing a legacy to pass on to his 5 grandchildren. Thank you and God bless!!

 
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24.131.98.24

Charles Riley

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March 9 2005, 3:21 PM 

Hi Roseanne,
I seen your message on the gunny's web page. I thought i'd answer with what ever information i could. I do remember vaguly your dad. Its been such a very long time since the night we went into Ribbon Creek. The platoon was formed into squads according to height and we were about the same height so we were in the same squad. I did talk to Sgt. Mckeon a month before he passed away. I'll let you ask me any thing you want and I'll do my best to answer. Feel free to E-Mail Me.
Will Poole

 
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USMC Boot Camp - 1956 Before and After...

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August 1 2005, 3:02 PM 


 
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69.34.142.100

A Deadly Walk In The Swamp, by Gene Ervin

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August 16 2005, 11:16 AM 

http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/gunnyg/swamp.html
http://www.angelfire.com/ca4/gunnyg/swamp.html



~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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MARINE DI TOLD OTHERS HIS FEARS...NOW DEAD!

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February 3 2006, 12:06 PM 

http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=6834406
http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=6834406



~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/sites.html
GyG's Old Salt Marines Tavern ~Interactive~
http://network54.com/Forum/135069
Gunny G's Globe and Anchor Weblog
http://gunnyg.blogspot.com
~SITES/FORUMS FOR THE THINKING MARINE!~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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Ribbon Creek Marines Return After 50 YEARS....

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April 6 2006, 9:08 PM 

http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=7916163>
http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=7916163>


Platoon 71 survivors return to Ribbon Creek to find peace
Published Saturday April 8 2006
By LORI YOUNT
The Beaufort Gazette
Though John Martinez was able to escape the powerful currents and paralyzing mud of Ribbon Creek on April 8, 1956, when six of his fellow recruits drowned, he was unable to escape the feeling that the survivors from Platoon 71 had a "bad rap" in the Marine Corps.

"Nobody ever said how many guys would've died if it weren't for the guys swimming" back into the creek to save others, Martinez reiterated throughout his return Friday to Parris Island. "We did a pretty good job. When it hit the fan, we did our job."

But a trip back to the base and the creek with six other survivors provided Martinez some relief.

"This I didn't expect," he said of a warm reception by Parris Island officials. "I'm very glad I came to this. At least we feel the upper echelon understands."

Fifty years ago today, Staff Sgt. Matthew McKeon, Platoon 71's inexperienced drill instructor, marched his platoon, including men he knew couldn't swim, into the swampy waters of Ribbon Creek at night to instill discipline. Unbeknownst to McKeon, the water was deeper and the tides stronger than usual, causing chaos that resulted in the loss of six lives.

McKeon was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and drinking in an enlisted barracks because he admitted to drinking vodka the afternoon before the march. He received a short prison sentence and stayed in the Corps with the reduced rank of private.

More than wanting to put themselves at peace, the returning members of Platoon 71 wanted to honor the six who died.

"The reason we didn't do it before was because McKeon was still alive," said Gene Ervin, who said he wrote his former drill instructor a letter shortly before his death a few years ago and didn't want to open old wounds for him. "It's time to say hello and goodbye and finalize it -- to remember six young guys didn't make it to 20 years old."

Friday morning, the men marveled at the pomp and circumstance surrounding a modern Marine Corps graduation -- an elaborate colors ceremony followed by a crowd of family and friends cheering graduating recruits as they march on the parade deck. The open graduations were an indirect result of the drownings and the scrutiny they brought.

"I just hope what has transpired has made their life a little more bearable," Gerald Langone, the platoon's section leader, said of watching the recruits march across the parade deck.

The Platoon 71 recruits couldn't agree on whether they had any formal graduation ceremony.

"They just shipped us out," said Ervin, adding though the platoon continued a training schedule after the drownings, they were sequestered and isolated from the rest of the recruits.

Bob Dombo remembers a dramatic farewell from Parris Island's new commanding officer, Gen. Wallace Greene. Speaking privately to the platoon, the general took off his stars to demonstrate he was talking to the new Marines as equals, warning them of possible questions they may face from friends and media, he said.

"He told us to tell the truth and don't make up any stories because" we were coming back for assignments, said Dombo, a retired New York firefighter who drove up from Orlando, Fla., with best friend and fellow Platoon 71 member Tom Vaughn.

Dramatic and systematic changes to improve training also impressed the men who had endured Parris Island in an era where drill instructors weren't questioned and thumping, or hazing, ran rampant.

"If they had this when we were in, this never would've happened," Martinez said in the middle of an explanation of the week of combat water survival training at the pool. In 1956, recruits weren't required to pass any water survival qualifications before moving on in training.

Ervin said he remembers April 8, 1956, well. During the day, the platoon was doing laundry and was goofing off outside the building, Ervin said, and the next thing he knew they were scrubbing down decks and later went for a "walk."

"I was frightened because I couldn't see," said Ervin, who knew how to swim. "I was concerned about what was going on in the back of platoon."

If they knew the cries for "help" were panic and not horseplay, more may have been saved, he said.

"Everyone here helped pull someone out," Ervin said.

Vaughn said he quickly found his shorter best friend, Dombo, who was farther back in the formation and more susceptible to the high waters and pulled him out. Tony Moran said he and Martinez, both strong swimmers, kept diving back in until there was no one visible to save.

"What broke my heart was leaving those guys behind," Martinez said.

Making peace

On Friday afternoon, they made their way back to behind the rifle range on Parris Island and to Ribbon Creek for the first time in 50 years, where they last left six fellow recruits: Thomas Hardeman, Donald Francis O'Shea, Charles Francis Reilly, Jerry Lamonte Thomas, Leroy Thompson and Norman Alfred Wood.

In the daylight and at a lower tide, the creek didn't seem nearly as large or formidable. Without hesitation, the men climbed down the bank and jumped into the mud and marsh grass that had haunted their memories for half a century.

Moran brought two packages of tobacco to scatter in the water, which he said is a American Indian tradition. Each grabbed a pinch, and some ventured close to the water.

"You will live forever," Moran said as he released his tobacco leaves.

Walking around base, nobody could distinguish the seven men from the swarm of parents and former Marines touring during the weekly graduation. However, Chief of Staff Col. John Valentin did visit them at the creek, thanking them for continuing to support the Corps "irrespective of things we didn't do right."

"We're not proud of it," he said. "But we better talk about every stinkin' mistake. We are proud of you. We got it wrong and have to talk about it because it lacked professionalism."

Langone said he thinks forgiveness for the incident lies with the families of the drowned recruits, especially after feeling the pain of losing his own child.

"But nobody here says, 'I'm not a Marine anymore,'" he said. No one could think of any platoon members who went on to have a military career, though.

Platoon 71 seemed particularly touched by their tour guide for the day, Staff Sgt. Lance Oufnac, a senior drill instructor who told them the history of the horrific night is studied in the 13-week drill instructor school.

"For me, you're legends -- the history of Parris Island and the Marine Corps," he said. "It's because of you that I'm standing right here."

As a final stop, the men visited the depot chapel for a moment of reflection, and for a few minutes, everything was still except the fans whirring above them.

"We've come full circle," Ervin said as he boarded the bus to leave, shoes and trousers crusted with plough mud from Ribbon Creek. "The boys are going to rest in peace now."
Copyright 2006 The Beaufort Gazette � May not be republished in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.




~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/sites.html>
GyG's Old Salt Marines Tavern ~Interactive~
http://network54.com/Forum/135069>
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http://gunnyg.blogspot.com>
~SITES/FORUMS FOR THE THINKING MARINE!~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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67.76.6.143

Platoon #71....Comments?....

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April 7 2006, 12:37 PM 


 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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67.76.6.143

From Gene Ervin to GyG...Plt #71 Marines....

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April 17 2006, 7:23 PM 

~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
E-Mail....

From: "gene ervin" <hushan7@hotmail.com> Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
To: gyg1345@yahoo.com
Subject: FW: DSC01398.JPG
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2006 16:08:48 -0700

Gunny...............here are a couple of the survivors of 71. I'm standing next to the General.

Gene




Softer...gentler...deeper...quieter...calmer...more spacious...free from the hectic day...traveling inward to be at pe ace with self and world......I practice.

Sifu Greg Brodsky

From: Pamela Stevens <chester4@comcast.net>
To: Ervin Ervin <hushan7@hotmail.com>
Subject: DSC01398.JPG
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2006 08:45:33 -0400
MIME-Version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v623)
Received: from sccrmhc11.comcast.net ([204.127.200.81]) by bay0-mc9-f17.bay0.hotmail.com with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.1830); Mon, 17 Apr 2006 05:45:50 -0700
Received: from [24.34.126.89] (c-24-34-126-89.hsd1.ma.comcast.net[24.34.126.89]) by comcast.net (sccrmhc11) with SMTP id <2006041712453401100f8cl2e>; Mon, 17 Apr 2006 12:45:34 +0000
>Gene,
>You still look like a marine-very distinguished. You look like you
>are at parade rest. I was honored to finally meet you and you are
>much like I thought you would be. You are a fine handsome man with
>a touch of humor to your personality. I felt like I was an observer
>of history and being a historian I had very much the same feelings I
>had when I visited Ground Zero three weeks after the disaster with
>the head of the New York Fire Academy-Captain Edward Flynn. Your
>emotions reminded me much of what he was going through. His were
>very raw because he had trained so many of the firemen that lost
>their lives. I think time does not soften those emotions but just
>folds them away like laundry that has been hung in the fresh air.
>You can take that laundry out and still smell that freshness at a
>much later time. I visited my Dad's grave with my three brothers at
>Arlington National Cemetery 10 years ago on the 25 anniversary of
>his death. My Dad died when we were all too young to really
>understand our loss. It was as painful if not more so 25 years
>later when we realized we would never be able to have an adult
>relationship with our dad. He had not witnessed any of our
>accomplishments. He would not know our children. He barely knew
>us. He was away so much. He fought in three wars and that has
>made me a very proud and patriotic person. I can not view the
>color ceremony without tears in my eyes. Anyway I do not believe
>that time heals all wounds-it just scabs them over and they can open
>with a smell, a long forgotten tune or sight and even sound. Well
>so much for my philosophy of life. I just wanted to let you know as
>an observer it was such a moving event. I think it is going to take
>a while for you to recover. Platoon 71 is in my thoughts as you all
>resume your normal lives. You have touched Jay's and my lives
>forever. You know you always have a place to visit in Beaufort.
>Love to you and your family-Pamela
>
>

>
>DSC01398.JPG
>
>
>

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~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/sites.html>
GyG's Old Salt Marines Tavern ~Interactive~
http://network54.com/Forum/135069>
Gunny G's Globe and Anchor Weblog
http://gunnyg.blogspot.com>
~SITES/FORUMS FOR THE THINKING MARINE!~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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To GyG from Gene Ervin....

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April 18 2006, 7:35 PM 

Hey Folks
Looking out over the spot at low tide where my comrades drowned that night.
Gene


Softer...gentler...deeper...quieter...calmer...more spacious...free from the hectic day...traveling inward to be at pe ace with self and world......I practice.

Sifu Greg Brodsky

From: Pamela Stevens <chester4@comcast.net>
To: Ervin Ervin <hushan7@hotmail.com>
Subject: DSC01404.JPG
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2006 08:50:23 -0400
MIME-Version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v623)
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>
>
>

>
>DSC01404.JPG
>
>
>


DSC01404.jpg
214K View Download

Reply Reply to all Forward Invite gene to Gmail



Richard Gaines
Ref Gene Ervin April 2006, Ribbon Creek, PISC.... -GyG/From gen Ervin... -- R...
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Richard Gaines" <gunnyg@gmail.com>
To: GunnyG@hotmail.com
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 20:31:42 -0300
Subject: Fwd: FW: DSC01404.JPG
Ref Gene Ervin April 2006, Ribbon Creek, PISC....
-GyG/From gen Ervin...

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: gene ervin <hushan7@hotmail.com>
Date: Apr 18, 2006 7:14 PM
Subject: FW: DSC01404.JPG
To: kmaja@ucsc.edu, super_fly76@hotmail.com
Cc: bosatsue8080@sbcglobal.net, sylvia.blazo@unlv.edu


Hey Folks


Looking out over the spot at low tide where my comrades drowned that night.

Gene

Softer...gentler...deeper...quieter...calmer...more spacious...free from the hectic day...traveling inward to be at pe ace with self and world...... I practice.

Sifu Greg Brodsky

From: Pamela Stevens <chester4@comcast.net >
To: Ervin Ervin <hushan7@hotmail.com>
Subject: DSC01404.JPG
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2006 08:50:23 -0400
MIME-Version: 1.0 (Apple Message framework v623)
Received: from sccrmhc14.comcast.net ([63.240.77.84]) by bay0-mc5-f15.bay0.hotmail.com with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.1830); Mon, 17 Apr 2006 05:50:32 -0700
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>
>
>

>
>DSC01404.JPG
>
>



~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/sites.html>
GyG's Old Salt Marines Tavern ~Interactive~
http://network54.com/Forum/135069>
Gunny G's Globe and Anchor Weblog
http://gunnyg.blogspot.com>
~SITES/FORUMS FOR THE THINKING MARINE!~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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(Login Dick Gaines)
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Beaufort Gazette: Plt #71 Survivors....

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April 8 2006, 3:25 PM 

http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=7938612
http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=7938612



~~~~~~~~~~



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

GyG's Globe and Anchor! --Sites & Forums
http://www.angelfire.com/ca/dickg/sites.html
GyG's Old Salt Marines Tavern ~Interactive~
http://network54.com/Forum/135069
Gunny G's Globe and Anchor Weblog
http://gunnyg.blogspot.com
~SITES/FORUMS FOR THE THINKING MARINE!~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 
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Beaufort Gazette Article.............................

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April 11 2006, 2:36 PM 


Escaping Parris Island a risky feat
Eighty years ago, man lost his head
Published Sunday March 12 2006
By LORI YOUNT
The Beaufort Gazette
Originally home to a Naval prison and later grounds to one of the world's most rigorous basic military training, many unwilling residents of Parris Island have concocted escape plans during its history.

But most aren't heard of because the Marines try to keep it quiet if possible, said Eugene Alvarez, a published historian on Parris Island who was a recruit there in 1950 and served two tours of duty there as a drill instructor.

He said he's heard stories of recruits hiding in cars, in trucks and being found more than 100 miles away. As a drill instructor, Alvarez said he tried to scare any thoughts of escape out of recruits' heads.

"We would tell stories like there were sharks in the water," he said.

But sharks may be the least of the worries of recruits looking to brave the marshes off the island.

Alvarez said the most infamous escape attempt -- and murder -- came less than 10 years into Parris Island's training mission under the Marine Corps. On June 26, 1924, three recently graduated recruits deserted by wading across a shallow creek onto Horse Island, and the next day, two of them surfaced alive on the shores of Port Royal Island.

The third showed up a couple of days later in a marsh by Horse Island -- without a head.

After a systematic search, the head of Pvt. Aaron Fredericksen was found hidden in bushes. It had been "severed from the body by a knife or razor," the like of which was found on one of the surviving Marines, according to articles in The Beaufort Gazette at the time.

Originally, Fredericksen's death was ruled a drowning, and according to The Gazette, it was originally thought "a shark might have mangled the body, as an arm was mangled in addition to the loss of the head."

About the same time the body was found, the Beaufort County sheriff found the other two deserters, in civilian clothes, some bought at Lipsitz's department store in Burton, and Army boots, and arrested them because Parris Island officials led the sheriff to believe the two men were thieves.

Once returned to the recruit depot, Marine Corps officials refused to give them up, even after indicted by a civilian coroner's court with Fredericksen's murder with the theory that Fredericksen had second thoughts about deserting, "and in order to forever stop his mouth the other two killed and mangled him."

According to The Gazette, Parris Island officials kept the news of the death secret for days -- the first mention of the murder came almost two weeks after the three deserted. The two Marines were never punished for deserting, and though their ultimate punishment is unclear, the writer of a Gazette article thought "no culprits ever deserved death more or ever committed a more atrocious crime."

Today, recruit depot officials try to nip the idea of escape in the bud.

Fresh off the bus and standing on the yellow footprints, the first mention of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which the greeting drill instructor tells them in a booming voice that they are now under, is Article 86, or the charge of absence without leave. The three-page article is quite detailed, but maximum punishment ranges from three days to 18 months and dishonorable discharge.

Unauthorized absences are far from unusual at Parris Island, but most recruits return or are relocated before reports of them missing make the military police blotter in the morning, depot spokesman Maj. Guillermo Canedo said.

And in the event the prospect of a court-martial didn't have enough teeth, an "environmental video" routinely shown to recruits during their first night on the island warns of the "dangers of plough mud" and the perilous species that inhabit the area, such as oyster beds, poisonous spiders, vipers, water moccasins and sharks, zooming in on a menacing photo of a great white shark.

The 15-minute film also emphasizes that the only "safe" way off the island is through the Parris Island Causeway, which is always guarded by two sentries -- and sometimes one by the traffic circle just inside.

Apparently four recruits in August 2004 weren't deterred by the video or the threat of punishment under military law. During their 17 hours missing from the depot, they managed to swim across Battery Creek and were found by an off-duty drill instructor near The Sands in Port Royal. He picked them up in his boat after he saw one flagging for help.

"The recruits said they had left their barracks around midnight and had been crawling around in the marsh, stopping twice when they thought they saw sharks," according to a Gazette article.

Two had passed combat water survival training and taught the other two how to blow up their blouses as flotation devices. Alas, more cooperation in their attempt didn't mean any more success in escaping than their predecessors 80 years ago.

However, after being treated at Naval Hospital Beaufort, all four recruits returned to training and ended up graduating without the Uniform Military Code of Justice bearing down upon them, Canedo said.

After all, as the recruit video states, "The safest journey off Parris Island is to graduate."
Copyright 2006 The Beaufort Gazette • May not be republished in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.




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

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