F. Brooke Nihart, 87; Marine Wrote U.S. Military Code of Conduct
By Matt Schudel
October 2, 2006
WASHINGTON - F. Brooke Nihart, a highly decorated Marine colonel who
wrote the U.S. Military Code of Conduct recited by every member of the
armed forces, has died. He was 87.
Nihart died Aug. 30 of heart and kidney ailments at a hospital in
After the Korean War, military officials observed a disturbing trend
among U.S. prisoners who, after being subjected to brainwashing,
revealed military secrets to their captors. The Marine Corps sought to
prevent any future breaches of security by devising a formal code of
personal honor for everyone in uniform.
Nihart, who had performed heroically in combat in World War II and
Korea, was given the task of putting those principles into words.
Working at Marine Corps headquarters in the summer of 1955, he outlined
his ideas in longhand on a yellow legal pad.
In its original wording, Article I of the Code of Conduct stated: "I am
an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country
and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."
After a 1977 revision, it reads, "I am an American, fighting in the
armed forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared
to give my life in their defense."
Article III says: "If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all
means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to
Article V advises a captured service member to give his name, rank and
service number, nothing more: "I will evade answering further questions
to the utmost of my ability."
On Aug. 17, 1955, President Eisenhower signed an executive order making
the Code of Conduct the official credo for Americans in all branches of
the military. Recent wars have brought the code under fresh scrutiny,
but its six articles remain little changed from Nihart's handwritten
words of 51 years ago.
"I conceived of the code as a catechism in the first person," Nihart
wrote last year in an essay in "Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated
History of the U.S. Marines," by H. Avery Chenoweth.
Brooke Nihart was born March 16, 1919, in Los Angeles and joined the
California National Guard in high school. He entered the Marine Corps in
1940 after graduating from Occidental College in Los Angeles. Because
the Marines required him to have three names, he adopted Franklin as a
first name but seldom used it.
As a gunnery officer on the aircraft carrier Saratoga early in World War
II, he participated in the Battle of Wake Island. He later taught
amphibious landing tactics and fought in the Battle of Okinawa.
In September 1951, Nihart led Operation Blackbird, the first nighttime
helicopter operation in military history, landing 200 troops on a
hilltop at the Punch Bowl, near what is now the Demilitarized Zone.
After commanding a battalion that defeated North Korean forces in the
ensuing battle, he was awarded the Navy Cross - second only to the Medal
of Honor - for his battlefield exploits.
He was military attache to the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, Burma, in 1959
and commanded the 7th Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton before retiring
in 1966. In addition to the Navy Cross, he received two Bronze Stars,
the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Air
A champion pistol and rifle marksman, Nihart had the commanding manner
and build - 6 feet 1, 225 pounds - of a classic Marine. But he also had
a scholarly side that led to his second career as a historian and deputy
director of Marine Corps museums from 1972 to 1991.
Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Mary Helen Brosius Nihart of
Springfield, Va.; two daughters; a brother; and twin grandsons.
RESTORE THE REPUBLIC!
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952- (Plt #437PISC)-'72
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