"Once the war was over, General Pershing commissioned a French sculptor to create a bronze statue to commemorate the U.S. Army Doughboy's service in WWI. General Pershing told his staff to furnish a model to pose for the French sculptor for his commemorative statue. Apparently not too much guidance was given, and the individual assigned to pose for the statue was a Marine Private. The Frenchman, having no intramural rivalries in his psyche, modeled the Marine Private in his entirety - complete with the Marine Corps Emblem on his helmet!
When General Pershing saw the finished statue, he refused to accept the finished project since it had a USMC emblem on the helmet! Pershing was, in a word, outraged! Help was in the wings however, as General Smedley Butler (two Medals of Honor) saw the statue and fell in love. He took up a collection from all the Marines in the AEF and bought the statue from the Frenchman. They shipped the Statue back to the United States and placed it in front of the old Headquarters of the Marine Base at Quantico.
The statue stands there today as a reminder to the Corps of its heritage and remains on guard over the old Headquarters Building of long ago. I often have stood in front of it and harked back to an earlier time. Although uncovered, I have given a slow and meaningful salute to those fine Marines who gave their lives so that later generations would be reminded of the glory and sacrifices of those who went before. When I was a youngster in the Corps, we still had Marines on active duty who had fought at Belleau Wood, and were combat veterans of "The Great War." Two of my first three Commandants had fought at Belleau Wood and received the Navy Cross for their actions (General Shepherd and General Cates). A third, General Pate, was also a veteran of WWI. One of my mentors of the time was a Marine Warrant Officer who had participated in WWI and been a part of the famous "Mail Guard" in the 1920sï¿½ General Cates had been my Dad's OIC of the Spokane, Washington Recruiting Station in 1925, and I have stood in awe while they talked stopped on the steps to Little Hall (the old PX) in Quantico when Cates was the Commanding General of Quantico. My point is simply that I felt much closer to the veterans of the Great War than those who now serve. My Dad had joined the Corps in 1918, and had a contemporary during WWII who had sailed around the World as a member of the Marine Detachment on a Cruiser with Roosevelt's Great White Fleet in 1905ï¿½ It is now a different century of course, and perhaps a bit more difficult to personally identify with those who made history before us, but not so very long ago, such was not the case!
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952 (Plt #437)--'72
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