Been thinking about this story.
Seems to me there were not than many officers and SNCOs carrying swagger sticks when I reported to Camp Pendleton in 1952. Matter of fact, I can recall specifically only two cases of this; I'm sure there were more, just can't recall any other specific cases.
One was a tall corporal w/three hashmarks, pisscutter, battle jacket w/several rows of ribbons, and a swagger stick, a little David Niven moustache, etc.--there was something very sinister about him.
A bunch of us boots had just reported aboard the base, and we were eventually assigned a transit area--a smaller-size tent city--somewhere behind the present MCX area, and down the street a couple blocks from the old Division Headquarters building (dunno if it's still there--big 2-story, white building)
This corporal stood menacingly on the front porch of the barracks across from the tents and bellowed for us all to fall in, as he glared down at us from several feet higher than where we stood.
He proceeded to tell us what he thought of us in no uncertain terms, and we all felt that old twinge of fear of DIs returning that we thought was now over. We had all just graduated PISC the previous month. He assigned my group to head detail and stated that he wanted to "see those ****bowls "shining like a diamond in a goat's ass." All the while standing at a kind of parade rest, thumping his stick against his free hand and glaring at each and all of us.. I had never heard that expression before, and, for some reason, never forgotten it. He made quite an impression on us.
The second swagger stick-carrying Marine I remember (maybe it was a riding crop) was Col Robert H. Williams, a few months later, the CO of 3rd Marines. The colonel wore riding breeches, riding boots, campaign (service) hat, and a battle jacket. I seem to recall the battle jacket also had a fur collar; but several others I have corresponded with over the years didn't remember my point about the collar.
Anyway, in the two cases above, the swagger sticks were not of the .50 cal variety spoken of in the story in question. They very well may have been tipped at either end w/some sort of brass decoration, though.
The swagger stick did not actually come back into vogue in the Corps until later when General Randolph McCall Pate became CMC and made swagger sticks mandatory for all officers and SNCOs.
I do not recall seeing the swagger sticks w/the .50 cal round decor till later than that. So, therefore, the story about the possible origin of the .50 cal swagger stick may well be an actual account of history-in-the-making.
Just sending this around to see if anyone else can confirm/deny, comment on my recollections on this bit of trivia.
My dad was a corporal in 1954 at middle camp At Mt. Fuji, Japan when a fella brought in a broken tent pole. Dad replaced the pole, but then filed off the broken metal pieces. He then had an idea to saw a .50 caliber shell in half and cap the ends of the pole. He sanded and stained and varnished the pole into a fine piece.
He gave this to his commanding officer, Lt. Jesse Altman. Battalion Commander Colonel Frye saw it and wanted one for himself. Lt. Sharp - the Battalion mess officer wanted one, so Dad made on for him and subsequently received permission to straggle to chow. Long story short, every officer at Middle Camp wanted one in 1954 and Dad has long believed that this was the birth of this style of Swagger Stick which is proudly displayed in replica by Marines from that era.
He is now 72, and doesn't do his own email, but would gladly share his stories by phone with any Marines. He was a corporal in headquarters and service company, 3rd battalion, 3rd regiment, 3rd Marine division 1954 Camp Fuji Japan. His number is 502-845-6110.
P.S. Dad says to tell you he lives about 6 miles from the home place and cemetary of Lt. Presley Obannon of the Battle of Tripoli. The home could be saved and memorialized if Marines were motivated to do so. If you don't know who he is, shame on youâ€¦ Call him to learn more. Or email me at
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