Legend and lore of "Lou" Diamond
Today Diamond Hall is the venue of many command religious programs and activities as well as the base education office. It is also the former site of the base Public Affairs Office. However, it was originally built to serve as a club for Quantico's staff non-commissioned officers.
In determining which Marine would be most appropriate for the commemorative naming of the building, organizers selected one of the Corps' most, well, interesting SNCOs.
MGySgt. Leland "Lou" Diamond was not a Medal of Honor recipient. He was not famous for saving lives under fire or relentless pursuit of the enemy. However, his dedication to the Marine Corps through two world wars and his dedication in training young Marine recruits earned him Corpswide recognition. His name was even known to Commandant of the Marine Corps A.A. Vandegrift, who referred to Diamond as "The perfect Marine."
Diamond was born May 30, 1890, in Bedford, Ohio, as near as anyone could determine, as there were no official records. He enlisted in the Marine Corps July 25, 1917 at the age of 27, which was considerably older than most recruits. He had an easy-going personality, but tolerated no nonsense when there was a job to do. Early in his career he was dubbed "The Honker" due to his incredible, booming voice, which could be heard above all other noises - to include combat.
In one article written for The Globe at Camp Lejeune, N.C. in 1947, Marines who fought with Diamond in France called him "a human air-raid warning system" who would call out when rounds were incoming.
Diamond had a reputation as a cocky Marine who considered anybody with less than ten years in the Corps as "boots," regardless of their rank. At 5 feet, 11 inches and 200 pounds, Diamond enjoyed his intimidating stature, which caused more than one nervous youngster to salute him out of confusion.
Diamond saw action during World War I with the 6th Marines at Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse Argonne. By then a sergeant, he marched to the Rhine with the Army of Occupation. At war's end, he returned to the United States and received an honorable discharge from the Corps.
But the civilian life was no challenge for the Marine at heart. Diamond was back in the Corps Sept. 23, 1921, and became an assistant armorer at Parris Island, S. C. By 1925, he had regained his sergeant's stripes. He became a gunnery sergeant in 1933 and master gunnery sergeant in 1939, at which time he was assigned to the Depot of Supplies at Philadelphia to help design a new infantry pack for Marines.
Following the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Diamond shipped out to Guadalcanal with "H" Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He was 52 years old. During World War II, Diamond, an expert with both 60mm and 81mm mortars, led a team of Marines whose accurate fire was credited as the strength behind many engagements in the Pacific.
Among the many anecdotes concerning his service is the story of the day he lobbed a mortar shell down the smoke stack of an off-shore Japanese cruiser on a dare from a fellow Marine. Whether this is true or not, Diamond is credited with driving that cruiser from the bay. Although his guns were too small to create any extensive damage, their constant and accurate pounding made it impossible for any crewmembers to leave the vessel.
An indication of Diamond's reputation among Marines was made in a letter of commendation for "outstanding performance of duty on Tulagi and Guadalcanal," from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Vandegrift wrote: "To every man in your company you were a counselor, an arbiter of disputes, and an ideal Marine. Your matchless loyalty and love of the Marine Corps and all it stands for, are known to hundreds of officers and men of this Division, and will serve as an inspiration to them on all the battlefields on which this Division may in the future be engaged."
According to another story written about Diamond in 1945, when he was presented with this letter by the commandant in person, Diamond was on liberty in Australia and did not have his dress uniform. Unabashed, he reported to the ceremony in his dungarees, claiming, "this was good enough to land here with."
"You look good enough in dungarees to me," the general reportedly said, and continued with the ceremony.
Diamond began experiencing physical disabilities on Guadalcanal and was evacuated by air against his wishes. Somehow, he acquired orders to board a supply ship for New Caledonia, where a friend furnished him with orders back to Guadalcanal. Upon his arrival, however, Diamond discovered that the 1st Marine Division had shipped out to Australia, 1,500 miles away. He made the trip, without orders, by hitchhiking rides on planes, ships and trains.
During Diamond's final years in the Corps, he served as an instructor at the Recruit Depot, Parris Island. He then transferred to Camp Lejeune and joined the 5th Training Battalion with the same duties.
Diamond retired Nov. 23, 1945, and returned to his home in Toledo, Ohio. He died at the Great Lakes, Illinois, Naval Training Center Hospital in September, 1951 and is buried in Sylvania, Ohio.