Handsome Jack of the Marines

Myers John Twiggs 001John Twiggs Myers (29 January 1871—17 April 1952) was the son of Major General Abraham C. Myers, for whom Fort Myers, Florida is named, and the great grandson of General John Twiggs, a hero of the American Revolutionary War.  Born in Wiesbaden, Germany, Handsome Jack graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1892 and received an appointment as Assistant Engineer two years later. In March 1895, Myers was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U. S. Marine Corps.

In spite of the fact that few people know of John Twiggs Myers, he has been portrayed in two Hollywood films that incorporate his service as a U. S. Marine officer. The first film was titled 55 Days at Peking, starring Charlton Heston in the role of Myers, a chap named Major Matt Lewis commanding the Marines during the Boxer Rebellion. In the second film, titled The Wind and the Lion, Steve Kanaly plays the role of Captain Jerome, which in the actual event, was John Twiggs Myers.

Completing his studies at the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island, Myers was ordered to active duty at the outbreak of the Spanish American War. He led a Marine detachment that participated in the capture of Guam from its Spanish garrison, and then later sailed with the USS Charleston to the Philippine Islands, then being attached to the USS Baltimore.

During the Philippine-American War, Myers led several amphibious landings against Filipino insurgents in 1899, including the Battle of Olongapo and the Battle of Zapote River, gaining recognition for his heroic conduct. He was promoted to captain some time in 1899.

In May 1900, Myers was sent to China aboard the USS Newark and put ashore in command of a detachment of 48 Marines (including then Private Dan Daly) and 3 sailors to protect the American Legation in Peking. Myers and his Marines were assigned the most vulnerable section of the compounds defenses, the Tartar Wall. The Tartar Wall rose to a height of 45 feet, and was about 40 feet wide, forming a bulwark that over looked the foreign legation. Should this edifice fall into Chinese hands, the entire foreign legation would be exposed to the Boxer’s long rifle fires. Each day, the Chinese Boxers erected barricades, inching ever closer to the German position (on the eastern wall), and the American position (on the western approach).

Inexplicably, the Germans abandoned their position, and their American counterparts, leaving the Marines to defend the entire section. At 2 a.m. on the night of 3 July 1900, Captain Myers, while supported by 26 British Marines and 15 Russians, led an assault against the Chinese barricade, killing 20 Chinese and expelling the rest of them from the Tartar Wall. Myers received a serious spear wound to his leg. As a result of his courage under extremely dire conditions, Myers was advanced to the rank of Major, later receiving the Brevet Medal (See notes), which was the equivalent of the Medal of Honor for officers who, at that time, were ineligible for receive the Medal of Honor.

Brevet Medal 001Upon recovering from his wounds, Myers served as Provost Marshal on American Samoa, and was thereafter assigned to command the Marine Barracks, Bremerton, Washington.

In 1904, Myers led the detachment of Marines that accompanied the USS Brooklyn to Tangier, Morocco during the Perdicaris Incident. After the incident was concluded, Myers completed the Naval War College, commanded the NCO School at Marine Barracks, Washington, D. C., and later commanded the Barracks for several months.  In August 1906, Major Meyers assumed command of the 1st Marine Regiment in the Philippines until, in 1907 he was assigned to the USS West Virginia as Fleet Marine Officer of the Asiatic Fleet.  In 1911, Meyers completed the U. S. Army Field Officer’s School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Army War College, graduating in 1912.  In that year, Meyers commanded a battalion with the Second Provisional Brigade at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and in the following year commanded the Marine Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 1916, then Lieutenant Colonel Meyers commanded the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines until assigned as Fleet Marine Officer, U. S. Atlantic Fleet where he served until August 1918.  He then assumed command of the Marine Barracks at Parris Island, South Carolina through November 1918.

In 1921, Myers was appointed Inspector General of the Department of the Pacific, serving in that position for three years, and from 1925-1928, he commanded the 1st Marine Brigade stationed in Haiti. After service as Commanding General, Department of the Pacific, Myers retired from active service in 1935 having achieved 46 years of service. In 1942, in recognition of his distinguished service, he was advanced to the grade of lieutenant general on the retired list.

John Twiggs Myers passed away at the age of 81 at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida on 17 April 1952. He was the last living recipient of the Brevet Medal.

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Notes

1. Myers was one of only 20 Marine Corps officers to receive this medal.

An Address to Charlie Company

Lowe 001Last week, I announced the passing of Colonel Mike Lowe, U. S. Marine Corps. While serving as Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, Colonel Lowe was invited to speak to newly commissioned second lieutenants at The Basic School, at a traditional dining in event we call “Mess Night.”  Colonel Lowe’s remarks reveal more about this fine officer than I could ever tell you in my own words.

“From that elegant introduction, you may or not have picked up on the fact that I have had 5 tours in Marine divisions, serving in all 4 divisions and 3d Marine Division twice. I have made 8 Marine expeditionary unit deployments, served with the special operations command and have been to every level of Professional Military Education (PME) possible in order to hone my warfighting skills.

Utilizing your great deductive abilities, intellect and experience as Lieutenants, you should have questioned the Corps’ collective judgment when they decided to make me a Base Commander! I sure as hell did and I still do! 

Look up “base” in the dictionary. 

According to Mr. Webster: “lowest part or bottom.  Having or showing little or no honor, courage or decency; mean; ignoble; contemptible; menial or degrading; inferior in quality; of comparative low worth.” 

So… after 28 years of focusing on locating, closing with and destroying, I’ve got that going for me! 

That’s okay! Go ahead and laugh! There is at least one future base commander sitting among you right now!

Seriously, I am honored to return to the Basic School as your guest, at this, one of our most time-honored traditions.  I have been asked to speak on my insights and experiences as a leader of Marines. Basically, I was told to talk about what I have learned over the last 28 years of leading Marines. Well, I have only learned eight things, and it will only take me about 60 seconds to share them with you.

Now that I think of it, if I had been invited to speak to you the day Charlie Company formed up, I could have probably saved you six months of TBS training, I thought I would get this structured portion out of the way up front so I could talk about anything I want to, so here goes.

  1. Seek brilliance in the basics, always do the right thing, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
  1. If you are riding at the head of the herd, look back every now and then and make sure it is still there.
  1. Never enter an hour-long firefight with 5 minutes of ammo.
  1. This one is really important for all of you born North of Washington, DC: never, never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
  1. 
If you’re not shooting, and I can see by your marksmanship badges that some of you are challenged in this area, you better be communicating or reloading for another Marine.
  1. There are three types of leaders.  Those who learn from reading, those who learn from observation, and those who still have to touch the electric fence to get the message.
  1. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice.  Ammo is cheap.
  1. And finally, you might want to write this one down: Never slap a grown man who has a mouth full of chewing tobacco

Now that I’ve put that check in “proper military instruction” block, are there any questions? Of course not! What a stupid question to ask a bunch of Lieutenants so close to graduation!  Now that I think of it, my TBS class stopped asking questions after the first two weeks.  

I have a few minutes left; so let’s talk about something I like: Marines.

Up front, let me tell you how much I admire you.  Why is that? Unlike the vast majority of your fellow citizens, you stepped forward and committed yourself to a greater cause without concern for your personal safety or comfort.  And you did it knowing that you would gain nothing in return —except the honor and cherished privilege of earning the title of “Marine Officer.” 

Individually, you are as different as apples and oranges, but you are linked for eternity by the title “Marine” and the fact that you are part of the finest fighting force that has ever existed in history. If you haven’t picked up on it, I like being a Marine, and I like being around Marines.  Like most of you are probably thinking, I came into the Corps to do four years and four years only.  But a strange happened.  I was having so much fun that I simply forgot to get out.  Hell, at this point, I am thinking seriously about making the Corps a career!

So what is it that I like about Marines?  This is the easy part!

I like the fact that you always know were you stand with a Marine!  With Marines, there is no middle ground or gray area. There are only missions, objectives, and facts.

I like the fact that if you are a self-declared enemy of America, that running into a Marine outfit in combat is your worst nightmare, and that your health record is about to get a lot thicker or be closed out entirely!

I like the fact that Marines are steadfast and consistent in everything they do. Regardless of whether you agree with them or not; that Marines hold the term “politically correct” with nothing but pure disdain; that Marines stand tall and rigid in their actions, thoughts and deeds when others bend with the direction of the wind and are as confused as a dog looking at a ceiling fan!

I like the fact that each and every Marine considers the honor and legacy of the Corps as his personal and sacred trust to protect and defend.

I like the fact that most civilians don’t have a clue what makes us tick!  And that’s not a bad thing.  Because if they did, it would scare the hell out of them! I like the fact that others say they want to be like us, but don’t have what it takes in the “pain-gain-pride” department to make it happen.

I like the fact that the Marines came into being in a bar, Tun Tavern, and that Marines still gather in pubs, bars and slop chutes to share sea stories and hot scoop.

I like our motto: Semper Fidelis, and the fact that we don’t shed it when the going gets tough, the battlefield gets deadly or when we hang up our uniform for the last time. I like the fact that Marines take care of each other: in combat and in time of peace.

I like the fact that Marines consider the term “Marines take care of their own” as meaning we will give up our very life for our fellow Marines, if necessary. 

I like the fact that Marines know the difference between “chicken salad” and “chicken shit” and aren’t afraid to call either for what it is!  I like the fact that Marines have never failed the people of America and that we don’t use the words “can’t,” “retreat,” or “lose.”

I like the fact that the people of America hold Marines in the highest esteem and that they know that they can count of us to locate close with and destroy those who would harm them!

I like Marines. And being around Marines.

I like the fact that a couple of years ago, when an elected member of congress felt compelled to publicly accuse the Marine Corps of being “radical and extreme,” our Commandant informed that member of congress that he was absolutely correct and passed on his thanks for the compliment.

I like the fact that Marine leaders —of every rank— know that issuing every man and woman a black beret … or even polka-dotted boxer shorts for that matter, does absolutely nothing to promote morale, fighting spirit or combat effectiveness.

I like the fact that Marines are Marines first.  Regardless of age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin or how long they served or what goals they achieve in life!

Let me give you one example: a young man enlists in the Navy in World War I.  When the war is over, he ships over and joins the Army. He next enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1920-1922.  There was no Air Force back then, so I guess he felt he had put all the checks in the block! When he served out his time in the Corps, he went after an education: receiving various degrees in engineering, history, and political science from UCLA and Montana State University. He entered politics and served for 11 years in the House of Representatives.  Next, he tackled the Senate where he served for 24 years, as both the Democratic whip and later as the Senate Majority Leader. He was then appointed as the ambassador to Japan where he served for 11 years.  This gentleman went from snuffy to national and international prominence. And when he passed away in 2001, he was rightly buried in Arlington.  If you want to visit his grave, don’t look for him near the Kennedy Eternal Flame where so many politicians are laid to rest.  Look for a small, common marker shared by the majority of our heroes. Look for the marker that says “Michael J. Mansfield, PFC, U.S. Marine Corps.

You see, Senator Mike Mansfield, like each of us gathered here tonight was prouder of being a Marine than anything else in his incredible life of national service. There is one thing I have learned for sure over the last 28 years.  The years fly by, names change, the weapons and the gear change, political leaders and agendas change, national priorities and budgets change, the threats to our nation change.  But through it all, there is one abiding constant —- the basic issue, do-or-die Marine. He or she will do damn near anything asked, under terrible conditions, with better results and fewer complaints than any civilized human being should have reason to expect. And we, who have the privilege of serving them and leading them, make our plans and execute crucial missions based primarily on one fact of life.  That the basic Marine will not fail his country, his Corps, and his fellow Marines —that they will overcome any threat, if allowed to do so.

Think about that and remember that for 228 years it has worked and it has kept the wolf away from America’s door.  I like Marines, because being a Marine is serious business.  We’re not a social club or a fraternal organization and we don’t pretend to be. We’re a brotherhood of “warriors” — nothing more, nothing less, pure and simple.  We are in the ass-kicking business, and unfortunately, these days business is good.  But don’t worry about that.  What you need to remember is that the mere association of the word “Marine” with a crisis is an automatic source of confidence to America, and encouragement to all nations who stand with us.  As Marines, our message to our foes has always been essentially the same. “We own this side of the street! Threaten my country or our allies and we will come over to your side of the street, burn your hut down, and whisper in your ear “can you hear me now?”  And then secure your heartbeat.

Now I must tell you that I had an opportunity to review your MOS assignments.  I remember that time in my life well as a real group tightener! Regardless of what MOS you now have, if you don’t already know it, being a leader of Marines is about as much fun as you can legally have with your clothes on!  And that’s true regardless if you are a grunt, data dink, spark chaser, stew burner, wire dog, butt plate, Remington raider, rotor head, legal beagle, fast stick, cannon cocker, track head, skivvie stacker, dual fool, or a box kicker. And if you don’t believe it you will! Trust me!

Why is that? Because each us fought to gain the coveted title “Marine,” it wasn’t given to us. We earned it. And on the day we finally became Marines, an eternal flame of devotion and fierce pride was ignited in our souls. Charlie Company, let’s not fool ourselves. You know it and I know it. You have some challenging times and emotional events ahead of you.  I am not talking about tomorrow morning’s headache.  I am talking about the fact that the world is a dangerous place and as leaders of Marines, you will be walking point on world events. 
 Make sure you keep that flame that I mentioned earlier burning brightly.  It will keep you warm when times are hard.  It will provide light in the darkest of nights. Use it and draw strength from it, as generations of leathernecks have done since our beginning.

Before PCS’ing to Quantico, I completed a 24-month tour with the 31st MEU aboard the USS Essex. Some of the Marines here tonight were with me.  The Essex is a great ship and one of six to bear that name in defense of our nation.

In 1813, a tough skipper named Capt. David Porter commanded the first Essex. By all accounts, Capt. Porter was the type man you did not want to see at Captain’s Mast. He was tough, but he was a true warrior. On one particular mission, the Essex was ordered to sail alone to the Pacific and attack Great Britain’s Pacific whaling fleet.  

Obviously, Captain Porter knew the fleet was well-guarded by British men-of-war and he knew his job would be a tough one and that he would be severely out gunned in his task. 

 Prior to sailing, Capt. Porter addressed the assembled crew of sailors and Marines on the deck and explained the task at hand.  He asked for volunteers only and told his men to “take seven steps forward” if they would willingly go in harms way with him.  He then turned his back and waited.  

After a few moments, he turned to face his crew and noticed no holes in the ranks. The ranks looked just as they had and not a single Marine or sailor stood to the front of the formation. It is reported that he went on a tirade and screamed, “What is this?  Not a single volunteer among you?”  With this, an aide leaned over and whispered in Porter’s ear, “Sir, the whole line has stepped forward 7 paces.”

I think of this story often. And when I do, I think of Marines like you. Charlie Company, on behalf of the generations of Marine lieutenants who have gone before you, thank you for taking the “7 steps forward”, thank you for your love of country, thank you for your life-long commitment as a United States Marine. For those of you who are wondering, “Am I up to it?” forget it.  You will be magnificent, just as Marine officers always have been. I realize that many of your young Marines are going to be “been there, done that” warriors and that they will wear the decorations to prove it.  But you need to know, that they respect you and admire you. You need to know that they want and need your leadership.  All you have to do is never fail them in this regard and everything will turn out great. Hold up your end of the bargain and they will not fail.

I am pretty sure I can speak for the entire group of distinguished guests here tonight when I say, “We admire you, and would trade places with you in a minute to do it all over again.”  Sooooo, if you’re interested in giving up a platoon in order to be a base commander, see me at the bar! One last thing. When you check into your first unit and start the fantastic voyage that only Marines will ever know, kick some serious ass. Because it is a full time job and there is a lot of that activity that must occur for America and her allies to survive.

“Long live the United States.  And success to the Marine Corps!”

James Michael Lowe

EGA FlagsColonel James “Mike” Lowe was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in May 1976.  An infantry officer, he served in all four Marine Corps divisions and made eight Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Deployments, including one that took him to Beirut, Lebanon as part of the Multi-national Peace Keeping Force.  Then Captain Lowe commanded Company E, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

There is nothing simple or easy about being a Marine —and this is doubly true about service as a Marine Corps officer. Colonel Lowe was a graduate of the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, the Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Marine Corps War College. After his graduation from the Marine Corps War College in 1996, he was assigned to the faculty of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College where he served as the Director of Warfighting.

Lowe 002Throughout his distinguished career, Colonel Lowe served as a Series Commander at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, a company commander in the 6th Marines, at the Officer Assignment Branch at Headquarters Marine Corps, on the staff of the Special Operations Command (Europe), as Inspector-Instructor, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, Commanding Officer, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), and as Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia.

Colonel Lowe completed his 30-year career at the place where his career began: Quantico, Virginia —the Crossroads of the Corps. Following his career, he joined the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies as a Research Fellow and subsequently, as Senior Research Fellow.  For the past eight years, Colonel Lowe led the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, an in-house think tank for the Marine Corps.  He was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and an active member of his community.

Colonel Lowe passed away on 21 March 2014 at the age of 59. I was not personally acquainted with Colonel Lowe, but I can say this with certainty: he passed away far too young, and this officer was a brother.

Semper Fidelis, Colonel Lowe. Rest in Peace.