The Marine's Marine once said, "Old breed, new breed, there's not a damn bit of difference so long as it's the Marine Breed." (paraphrased)
At the time that General Puller spoke that now oft-quoted remark it was altogether true.
But is it still true?
To attempt to answer this objectively, we need to look at some facts.
The young men who became the Marines of the Corps, say from the World Wars on, came from a far different American society than the Marines of today's Corps. And, at various points up to now there have been many changes that have occurred resulting in noticable differences between Old Breed and New Breed, Old Corps and New Corps, and these have always been commented on, both privately and publically. For the most part, however, each of these changes and differences were seeming relatively minor in effect, though not all.
But, at some point these differences were not so minor; in fact, collectively , they constitute a major change. Attempting to determine just when this big collective change came about cannot be determined precisely, as these changes have evolved only gradually.
Changes were minor up to and through WW II and Korea. Then numerous events began to occur which changed American society significantly in ways which younger people (now the clear majority) think and behave. Probably, these events, as they have affected the Corps, can be reduced to just a few for purposes of my little spiel here.
1. The Ribbon Creek Incident at Parris Island in 1956, which changed drastically Marine recruit training from what it had been and what it would never be again. The effects of this has long been a heated source of discussion among Marines.
2. And there were the beginnings of the beatnik, and the hippy movements--later succeeded by the yuppies. The effects of which have also long been a souce of discussion for everyone.
3. And the big one--Vietnam, and the constant fear of more Vietnams!
4. There have been a series of assassinations of public figures and others.
5. Then scandals, in public office and elsewhere, one after another, eventually, all the way to the presidency itself.
6. And, of course, Richard Nixon had made good on his campaign promise to end the draft.
7. And now 9/11.
There were other things involved, but the above are the chief factors involved as I see it.
And all the while these events were unfolding, government, Hollywood, the media, schools, etc. were encouraging, modeling, shaping, and reinforcing their agenda for the youth of America. All of this has resulted in profound changes in American society; and not just differences that naturally occur in time with the introduction of new technology and progress.
Obviously, as a result of these changes, American society, and its youth, from which the Marine Corps draws its potential Marines, is vastly different today than that from which came the Marines of WWII, Korea, and even the early '60s. Who can deny, or continue to deny this? But the real question is--to what extent has it affected the Corps? It must be said that the America that older Americans and older Marines once knew, is now gone. So too our Corps of old is also gone--these are facts.
And, this has not just happened overnight, it has been going on now for decades, so the leaders (officers/SNCOs) of even our present Marine Corps have also come from this new society. No, I do not claim that the average Marine of today is altogether representative of today's American society in general. Nor, are all Americans in general entirely representaive of this "Me-too" generation. Not at all. Indeed, many young people today come from families still adhering to American values, principles and integrity. I believe it is from these that the Marine Corps seeks to recruit its new Marines.
Assuming that this is so, it must be because the Marine Corps is aware of the problem, and has made the conscious decision to selectively recruit the best young people available, and it doesn't stop there; they then selectively screen from those applicants/recruits the cream of the crop--then begins the Marine Corps process of molding them into bearers of the title, United States Marine! But has this been successful altogether or only in part, that is the question most people, especially Marines, prefer to dance around, answer in politically correct terms, or avoid entirely.
So, I ask you now--is Puller's remark on Old Breed/New Breed still valid or is it not?
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
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