Monday, Jun. 04, 1951
Off the Chest
In an outfit famed for its toughness, leathery, rock-jawed Brigadier General Lewis Burwell Puller, U.S.M.C., is as tough as they come. In the '20s, as a young marine, he led native troops against bandits in Haiti and Nicaragua, so awed his troops with his parade-ground voice and his gallantry in battle that they named him El Tigre.
By 1932, "Chesty" Puller had won two Navy Crosses and was well on his way to becoming a legend of the Corps. He served with the "Horse Marines" at Peking, with the famed 4th Marines at Shanghai in the days of the Japanese occupation of China's metropolis. In World War II, he commanded a battalion and then a regiment of the ist Marine Division, fought from Guadal canal* to Peleliu, won two more Navy Crosses, was wounded seven times.
Last week, after nine months in Korea, weather-beaten Chesty Puller, 52, assistant commander of the ist Division, veteran of the Inchon landing and the Marines' heroic retreat from the Changjin Reservoir, was back in the U.S. to take over a training command.
Facing the press, he announced that he was under strict orders not to criticize anyone. Then, in his best parade-ground voice, he got off a few observations:
"What the American people want to do is fight a war without getting hurt. You can't do that any more than you can go into a barroom fight without getting hurt."
Air power can't live up to some of the things claimed for it. The Air Force does not understand close air support, "does not believe in it," and "has never practiced it."
¶"The rifle and the bayonet are still the most important weapons the Army has ... I want [the Marines] to be able to march 20 miles, the last five at double time, and then be ready to fight . . ."
¶"Our officer corps have had far too much schooling and far too little service in the field of battle . . . Throw all these girls out of the camps. Get rid of the ice cream and candy. Give 'em beer and whiskythat'll help some. Get some pride in them. Tell them they're men . . ."
¶"Unless the American people are willing to send their sons out to fight an aggressor, there just isn't going to be any United States. A bunch of foreign soldiers will come over and take our women and breed not only another race of people, but a hardier race of people."
Then Chesty Puller caught a plane, flew to his home & family in Saluda, Va. His salty remarks had sent the Pentagon into a close-mouthed swivet, had moved the W.C.T.U. to complain that liquor could leave troops "fuddleduddied." By the time he reached home, Chesty had pulled his chest in, had no more to say.
*His message, in a lull in a fierce battle for Guadalcanal's Henderson Field: "Dead Japanese present a disposal problem."
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Copyright � 2007 Time Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
RESTORE THE REPUBLIC!
R.W. "D1ck" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952- (Plt #437PISC)-'72
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