Small Wars and Such

One of the most significant publications ever produced by the Marine Corps is the Small Wars Manual (1940).  What makes this such a remarkable document is that it was a compilation of lessons learned from operations conducted by expeditionary Marines serving in Central America and the Caribbean (1903 to 1933).  Today, we would refer to these engagements as counter-counterinsurgency operations.  It was an era in which combat Marines responded effectively and uniquely to threats posed by rebels and bandits who endangered the peace and stability of Latin America’s emerging nations.  These were operations that employed ground and air forces; ultimately these evolved into strategies and tactics that have become the hallmark of the U. S. Marine Corps, beginning in World War II through its present -day expeditionary role.

I want to tell you about the America’s small wars, but first we should look at the situation as it existed early in the 20th Century.

Latin American intervention

Diplomacy occurs when a nation’s leaders perceive that it best serves the interests of their country to engage with other nations —although, how nations engage with one another is a separate matter.  America’s naval forces have long been an instrument of national foreign policy, but for the record, United States Marines do not make US policy—they implement it.

Spain’s inability to control its new world colonies in the early 1800s led to rebellion and independence movements.  This became a concern to European powers, each with their own colonies in far-off lands, because rebellion threatened the economies and prestige of the motherland.

The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), which was composed of ambassadors of major European states (none of which had much use for independence movements, or republicanism), seemed poised to assist Spain in reclaiming its colonial empire.  Having already established a robust trade relationships with emerging Latin American republics, Great Britain and the United States signaled opposition to European intervention in the affairs of any emerging nation in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1823, British diplomat George Canning proposed an alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States to preclude European meddling in the Americas.  Ultimately a European intention to help reassert Spanish imperialism faltered.  What did emerge, however, was the so-called Monroe Doctrine[1], which in the United States, became a defining moment.  For everyone else, it was no more than a gaping yawn; America had no way of enforcing such policies.  In fact, if early-American diplomats ever anticipated preventing European interference in the Western Hemisphere, they would require the assistance of the British Navy.

Ultimately, several former Spanish colonies took a wrong turn.  Latin American strongmen[2], seeking only to enrich themselves —often at the expense of their countrymen— accepted loans from European nations without any intention of repaying these notes.  Under such circumstances, European nations believed that they had the right to seize the property of errant nations as a means of securing payment of defaulted loans.

In 1902, Foreign Minister Luis Maria Drago of Argentina reacted to the actions of Britain, Germany, and Italy during the Venezuela Crisis (1902-1903), in which they had blockaded and shelled Venezuelan ports as a means of collecting debts accrued under regimes led by caudillos.  Drago asserted that no European power should be permitted to use force against an American nation to collect any debt.  President Theodore Roosevelt rejected the Drago Policy out of hand, stating that the United States would not protect any Latin American nation from punishment if it is delinquent in matters of foreign relations[3].

In 1904, Roosevelt issued his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, asserting the right of the United States to intervene in Latin American affairs in cases of flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American caudillo —to preempt intervention by European creditors.  The corollary was a useful tool for extracting economic benefits by force whenever Latin American leaders failed to pay their debts to European and US banks and other business interests.  American interventionism was often referred to as the “Big Stick” policy —some today enjoy referring to this as American Imperialism[4].  Roosevelt’s corollary provoked outrage throughout Latin America as it assumed that the Latinos were incapable of managing their own affairs.

Nevertheless, the truth is that in many cases, men running countries in the Caribbean and in Central and South America were petty thieves and murderous thugs; men who cared about one thing: increasing personal wealth and power.  One has only to observe the recent presidencies of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro to see that nothing has substantially changed in Venezuela since 1902.

Excepting Haiti, there is no place in all Latin America more politically chaotic than Nicaragua; civil war in was a frequent occurrence between so-called liberal and conservative factions[5].

In 1912, the United States responded to an invitation from Nicaragua’s conservative president Adolfo Díaz[6] to help him put his house in order.  One-hundred US Marines were sent to protect the lives and property of American citizens living and working in Nicaragua.  This rebellion was relatively short-lived, mostly because it did not take our Marines long to defeat rebel forces.

Seeking to provide a little insurance against any future violence, the US State Department assigned a somewhat robust Marine guard to the US Embassy.  Ultimately, however, an increased presence of Marines became a two-edged sword. The size of the legation guard guaranteed some amount of calm, particularly near the capital city Managua, but the Nicaraguan government became complacent —relying on American Marines rather than improving their own internal security.

Nicaraguan elections of 1924 brought to power a coalition engineered in the United States.  The Americans meddled in this election with every hope and expectation of achieving political stability.  Anticipating success, the Marines were sent home.  Unhappily, however, coalition governments last only so long as everyone can agree.  Nicaragua’s coalition broke down rather quickly.  The new president was a conservative by the name of Carlos Solórzano; his vice president was a liberal by the name of Juan Bautista Sacasa.

The coalition deteriorated when soldiers answering to Solórzano’s brother-in-law applied the indiscriminate application of firearms at a Liberal Party Reception, and then prematurely ended the gala by arresting several guests.  The result of this was yet another civil war and the rise of General Emiliano Chamorro to power.  The United States responded to these events by maintaining its policy of refusing to recognize the legitimacy of any government achieving power through coup-d’état.  Yet, in refusing to recognize Chamorro, the United States only made matters worse.

Meanwhile, former vice president Sacasa remained leader of liberal forces.  He gained support from Mexico’s president Plutarco Calles, who first recognized Sacasa as the legitimate ruler of Nicaragua, and then compounded this problem by providing Sacasa with military supplies.  When discovered, Calles’ activities complicated diplomacy with the United States, and moreover, propelled the United States into backing its old friend Adolfo Díaz —who was one of the most hated men in Nicaragua.  In backing Díaz, President Calvin Coolidge offered him financial loans and US Marines, whose mission it was to establish and maintain military-free zones.

In recognizing the tumbledown state of the Nicaraguan military, American diplomats and military officials sought to bolster Nicaragua’s internal security by creating, training, and employing a new Guardia Nacional.  The establishment of national guards had long been favored by American diplomats in Latin America because:

  • National armies became the principal source of corruption and disorder. They consumed most of the government’s revenue, and beyond popular oppression, gave nothing in return to the government or the people.
  • The creation of a non-partisan constabulary would provide much-needed stability in Nicaragua. A disciplined force, trained by Marines, offset the tendency among Latino officials to abuse their power.
  • US Marine Corps officers and NCOs were offered commissioned officer status in the Guardia Nacional and positioned as key leaders and instructors. Doing so gave the US government some direct control over the future direction of Nicaragua.  Under American tutelage, the all-volunteer national guard would receive better arms, uniforms, and discipline.  Most importantly, however, the Guardia Nacional would be a nonpartisan force made up men loyal to their country more than political party.

Conservatives in Argentina expressed opposition to US intervention in Nicaragua; protests took place from Buenos Aires to Paris, and from Southern Chile to the lower Rio Grande in Texas.  Costa Rica even threatened to hold up agricultural contracts with the United Fruit Company.  Among Latinos, Nicaragua was often referred to as the “Little Belgium in our hemisphere[7].”

Meanwhile, after ten days of bloody fighting, liberal forces seized control of the Nicaraguan town of Chinandega.  They were driven off by a sustained bombardment from Marine aircraft.  What followed were dozens of reports of maimed civilians laying unattended in the city’s streets.  President Coolidge upped the ante by sending in more Marines —American naval forces were eventually joined by a British battle cruiser.

Fighting ended in May 1927 when the US brokered an agreement of forced disarmament and mediation of upcoming elections.  These elections gave an overwhelming victory to the Liberals; former general José Moncada, became president.  While true that the US-backed Conservatives had lost the election, the US, with every assurance that the elections had been honestly conducted, abided by its results.  The civil war now ended, the plan now was for the National Guard to replace American Marines.

Concurrently, however, the Liberal Party (and self-proclaimed) General Augusto Sandino, commanding significant liberal forces in Nicaragua’s dense jungle, and who was unhappy with Moncada’s election, refused to lay down his arms.  He wanted an end to Nicaraguan conservatives and their Yanqui backers.

(Continued Next Week)


[1] Only referred to as such after 1850.

[2] In Spanish, Caudillos

[3] While serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1898, Theodore Roosevelt rationalized America’s intervention in Cuba as a legitimate application of the Monroe Doctrine.  The Venezuela Crisis (1902-1903) demonstrated America’s new-found willingness to use naval power to enforce US policy.

[4] The notion that United States (directly or indirectly) asserted economic and/or military control over other countries or their policies.  Such influence is often closely associated with an expansion into foreign territories in furtherance of Manifest Destiny, or as an obligation undertaken as part of the “White Man’s Burden.”  To the extent that the United States dabbled with foreign imperialism, it was only flirtatious and done badly.

[5] Such terms as liberal and conservative can be misleading, however; in 1920, they bear little resemblance to their modern definitions.  At the beginning of the 20th Century, a Latin-American liberal was more prone to nationalism, held greater popular support among the Nicaraguan people, and adopted a more anti-American tone.  Conservatives maintained a strong relationship with military and business sectors.  They too could take the anti-American tone, but overall, conservatives appeared willing to work with the US so long as they could gain business and political advantages.

[6] No doubt Diaz believed that it was in his best interests to issue the invitation to the United States.

[7] The term “Poor Little Belgium” was often used to explain the cause of British entry into World War I (1914).



In 1950, President Harry S. Truman authorized the establishment of the United States Advisory Group, Vietnam and dispatched the Army to Vietnam, ostensibly to advise the French Foreign Legion in their campaign to restore Indochina to the French Empire.  The moral implications of this should be obvious.  Apparently unbeknownst to Washington, however, the French have never willingly accepted anyone’s advice –about anything.  So, the crafty Truman added some cash into the mix: The United States would funnel to the French some $10 million in revenues extorted from the American people, if, in return, the French would heed the advice of their American advisors.

By 1953, at a time when 99% of the American people had never heard of Vietnam, the amount of US military aid to the French had climbed to $350 million.  In 1954, thousands of North Vietnamese began streaming into what became the Republic of (South) Vietnam.  Many of these were refugees who simply did not want to live under an oppressive communist regime, but a large number were Northern agents disguised as refugees.  Their mission was to cause as much disruption in South Vietnam as possible —and this they proceeded to do.

The onslaught was so overwhelming that Ngo Dinh Diem’s Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) couldn’t keep up.  Senior ARVN officers complained that their troops couldn’t find these insurgents.  This wasn’t so much a problem with the ARVN ground troops as it was with cowardly senior officers –men who  were corrupt beyond belief.

Of course, the war never went according to the way the eggheads in Washington DC wanted it to go.  It was all a terrible misunderstanding, of course.  By 1956, the United States was firmly convinced that Ho Chi Minh wanted to seize South Vietnam, which of course he did, and that South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem wanted to defend the South, which of course he didn’t.  Ho and Ngo had the same goal of reunifying Vietnam, albeit under their own presidency.  After 1960, Diem’s true motivations were part of the US government’s greatest lies by omission to those who served in the Vietnam War after 1965.

Vietnamese officials looking for an excuse to do nothing continued to complain about northern insurgents being able to remain cleverly concealed within the lush tropical vegetation.  Stepping to the plate to solve this problem was (then) Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt (later to serve as Chief of Naval Operations), who served in a dual-hatted role as Commander, Naval Forces, Vietnam and Chief, Naval Advisory Group, Vietnam[1].  It was Zumwalt who ordered the use of carcinogens (Agent Orange) to defoliate Vietnam —an act that has had dire consequences to thousands of Vietnam veterans, as well as to his own family[2].

Agent Orange was a powerful mixture of toxic chemicals used by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War to eliminate forest cover for North Vietnamese and Viet Cong insurgents, as well as crops that might be used to feed them. The U.S. program of defoliation, codenamed Operation Ranch Hand, sprayed more than 19 million gallons of herbicides over nearly five million acres of land in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972. Agent Orange, which contained the chemical dioxin, was the most commonly used of the herbicide mixtures (and the most effective).  The results of this use have been the growth of tumors, severe birth defects, rashes, psychological symptoms, and a wide variety of cancers among hapless civilian populations in Vietnam and returning American servicemen and their children.

Exposure to Agent Orange no longer receives as much press attention as it used to, but it has had profound lingering effects as a significant international health issue.  Hundreds of thousands of American servicemen have died, or are still suffering, because of Zumwalt’s chemical bomb.  More than three million Vietnamese are also affected, including more than 150,000 children who were born with serious defects.  When the Vietnamese attempted to sue the US for having used these chemicals, for having caused so much suffering among innocent people, American judges dismissed the case out of hand.

Recently, we’ve lost another fine American.  I’ll call him Jack.  He answered the call to duty and served with distinction in Vietnam during the late-1960s within the US Army’s II Corps tactical zone.  Jack passed away on 10 June 2017; he suffered the effects of Agent Orange for over six years.  He’s at peace now, and no doubt his family much relieved that his suffering has come to an end … but here is a man who literally began dying during the time he served in the deep jungles of Vietnam —and whose name will never appear on the Vietnam Wall Memorial.

If this doesn’t seem right, it’s because it isn’t.


[1] In the former position, Zumwalt commanded all “brown water” naval forces serving in Viet Nam, and in the second position he served as the overall commander’s naval advisor.

[2] Zumwalt’s son served in Vietnam as a riverine boat commander; after much suffering, he later died from exposure to Agent Orange and his son (Zumwalt’s grandson) was born with severe physical handicaps.

American Marines


EGA BlackA European tradition of naval infantry extends back to Spain’s Infanteria de Marina (formed in 1537).  A British formation of naval infantry was formed as the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot, also called the Admiral’s Regiment, on 28 October 1664.  The regiment consisted of six 200-man companies, initially commanded by Colonel Sir William Killigrew, with Sir Charles Lyttleton serving as lieutenant colonel.

As we revel in the history of our American Marines, let us begin with an understanding of world events between 1720 and 1750.  Suffice to say that diplomatically, nothing is ever simple in Europe, not then or now.  The Treaty of Seville[1], for example, may have settled the Anglo-Spanish War between Great Britain, France, and Spain, but it also led its participants down the road of renewed conflict within a few short years.  One aspect of this treaty was that it acknowledged British control over Port Mahon and Gibraltar, but in a typically tit-for-tat arrangement, demanded that the British support Queen of Spain’s claim to the Duchy of Parma.

There was more to this treaty, however.  Spain agreed to open its South American colonies to trade with Great Britain, insofar as trading ships were limited each year, while granting to the British a monopoly in providing 5,000 slaves annually to the Spanish colonies[2].  The contract for providing slaves went to the South Sea Company, which history can only describe as an economic disaster lasting through the First World War.

As British bankers and merchants demanded expanded access to markets within Spain’s colonies, the Spanish colonists themselves increased their demands for British made goods, and what ultimately evolved from this was an ever-burgeoning black market of smuggled goods.

To address the problem of smuggling, Spain established a system of coastal guards and customs officials.  One of these officials boarded a British vessel in 1731 and, after some disagreement with Captain Robert Jenkins, the ship’s master, the Spanish official drew his sword and sliced off Captain Jenkins’ ear[3].  Except for the testimony before Parliament of Captain Jenkins some years later, we cannot say with any certainty that this incident occurred; what we do know is that managing directors of the South Sea Company actively sought to incite British sentiments against Spain, believing that a victorious war would improve British trading opportunities in the Caribbean.  Given the corrupt history of the South Seas Company, it is entirely possible that Captain Jenkins was paid for his testimony.

Following Captain Jenkins’ testimony in 1738, Parliament sent an address to the King asking for a redress against Spain.  Another year passed without any diplomatic successes so King George II authorized the British Admiralty to implement maritime reprisals against Spain.  Vice Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757) was given command of the British fleet.  Vernon realized that to properly chastise the Spanish, he would require military as well as naval assets —and then someone within the Admiralty thought it might be a good idea to augment a standing British Army contingent with an American maritime regiment.

Admiral Vernon began to plan an assault upon the Spanish colony of Cartagena, New Granada (now Colombia) and then turning to the American colonies, Vernon urged governors to raise a regiment of Marines for his undertaking.  Vernon supposed that the number of Marines required should be around 3,000.

Of the responding colonies, only Virginia pressed its citizens into service.  Eight companies were raised from Pennsylvania; five from Massachusetts and New York; four companies from Virginia and North Carolina, three companies from Maryland and New Jersey, and two companies each from Rhode Island and Connecticut.  These 36 companies would be organized into four battalions.

William GoochLieutenant Colonel Alexander Spotswood (a former lieutenant governor of Virginia) was appointed colonel of the regiment, but before he could assume command, Spotswood, aged 64 years, suddenly passed away.  Command of the regiment passed to Sir William Gooch (shown right).  Officially, Gooch served as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, but since the appointed governor never once set foot in Virginia, Gooch was the de facto Governor of Virginia.

Beneath Gooch, field officers came from the British Army; company officers originated from the so-called colonial elite.  Marine Captain Lawrence Washington commanded one of these companies; he was the older half-brother of George Washington[4].  Organizationally, the regiment consisted of one colonel, four lieutenant colonels, four majors, 36 captains, 72 lieutenants, four adjutants, four quartermasters, one surgeon, and four surgeon’s mates.  There were also 144 sergeants, 144 corporals, 72 drummers, and 3,240 privates.

After a delay of four months, the British contingent of the expedition sailed from England in early November 1740.  They eventually joined Admiral Vernon at Jamaica in January 1741, but by then sickness and scurvy were rampant among the troops.  The army commander, Lord Cathcart, himself lay dead of disease, and the American regiment was already ashore —but none of these men were adequately trained for sea service.  Moreover, there was no effort from the British government to feed or care for any of the Americans, so the colonials became what was later described as an undisciplined mob[5].

Ashore at Jamaica, sickness among the Americans was even more rampant than it was aboard ship.  Despite these unhappy circumstances, Vernon’s fleet sailed for Cartagena around mid-March.  To reach its destination, the fleet had to force entry through Boca Chica, a small passage defended by three forts.  British troops were landed to demolish the forts, but only 300 of the American regiment were considered sufficiently trustworthy to leave the ship and participate alongside the British contingent.  Then, having opened the passage, Vernon’s fleet continued to Cartagena.

Goochs Marines 1741On 20 April, a new British commander arrived to take charge of the landing forces; Lieutenant General Thomas Wentworth directed the attack against the outworks of Cartagena but by this time, the fighting force had been rendered ineffective due to an epidemic of yellow fever.  General Wentworth could muster no more than half of his entire landing force, so when the general realized that the Spanish were about to cut off and surround his enfeebled force, he ordered a withdrawal.  Returning to Jamaica, the scene was pathetic as literally hundreds of men lay dying in their hammocks without anyone to care for them.  By this time, the entire landing force had been reduced to 2,700 British Army and American Marines.

In August, Admiral Vernon decided to invade Cuba.  His fleet anchored at Cumberland Bay, some 90 nautical miles from Santiago de Cuba, and he immediately began to land his men and supplies.  The troops remained encamped through the end of November, however, with no attempt to engage Spanish forces.  Vernon re-embarked the troops and returned to Jamaica in early December; the sickness continued.  In February 1742, three-thousand fresh troops arrived from England, but they too began to fall sick and die.

According to Fortescue, the officers and men of the American regiment were untrustworthy.  I presume by this he refers to the fact that the Americans, unaccustomed as they were to the British bended knee tradition, did not hesitate to register their complaints to British leaders —and there were plenty of reasons for complaints.  Beyond the issue of rampant disease, which attached itself to men regardless of their service or their rank, the Americans felt betrayed by the fact that the British lacked adequate surgeons and medical stores and effectively left the sick men to die unattended in their hammocks.  Moreover, the lack of nourishment at Jamaica forced the regiment’s officers to take out personal loans (at exorbitant rates of interest) to feed their men.  Last, but not least among these complaints, the American Marines strenuously objected to being assigned to labor gangs alongside African slaves, a disrespectful gesture reflecting British disdain for the value of their American Marines, as well as the harassment they received from navy crewmen.

In October 1742, all that remained of the American regiment were discharged; of the 4,163 officers and men formed, 1,463 survived.  Surviving officers received half-pay for the rest of their lives, but only after they pled their case before a Board of Generals in London.  Surviving enlisted men received no more than their memories of a horrifying deployment.

Thus, the first American Marines were not the Continental Marines of 1775; they were Gooch’s Marines, formed in 1739.


The War of Jenkins’ Ear metamorphosed into the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) … because at that time, the British simply could not resist their urge to control the world around them.


[1] The Treaty of Seville (1729) opened the door in 1731 to the Treaty of Vienna, which dissolved the Anglo-French Alliance and replaced it with the Anglo-Austrian Alliance.

[2] Under the Treaty of Tordesillas, Spain was prohibited from engaging in the slave trade: this was left to every other European maritime country, who profited by transporting slaves from Africa into the Spanish colonies.

[3] There is no hard evidence of this incident because the severed ear was never heard from again.

[4] Lawrence Washington was the original title holder of a Virginia plantation he named in Admiral Vernon’s honor: Mount Vernon.

[5] Noted British historian Sir John William Fortescue.

The Marines and Their Bulldog

EGA BlackIn 1917, Major General George Barnett, then serving as Commandant of the Marine Corps, established a committee to consider various locations for a new Marine Corps training base.  The area selected was Quantico, initially titled Marine Barracks, Quantico.  The initial complement consisted of four officers and 91 enlisted Marines.  Quantico became the training ground for Marines being ordered to Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces.  One of the early commanders at Quantico was Smedley D. Butler, the only Marine Officer to receive two awards of the Medal of Honor.  After World War I, Quantico became the site for Marine Corps Schools.

While at Quantico in 1922, then Brigadier General Smedley Butler presided over a ceremony where the first English Bulldog was enlisted as a mascot into the Marine Corps.  Well, okay … mascots appear in all the services in the US Armed Forces, but why did the Marines settle on an English Bulldog?  In order to answer this question, we must first return to the time of World War I, which was the first major test in battle for the United States Marine Corps.

The test occurred at a place called Belleau Wood.  The Germans had advanced within fifty miles of Paris, France and Belleau Wood was part of an allied campaign designed to push back against the German Spring Offensive.  The battle raged for three excruciating weeks before the Marines defeated their German enemies.  After the battle, General Pershing said that he thought Belleau Wood may have been the most important American battle since the Civil War.

Devil Dog Poster 001Belleau Wood is where the fighting Esprit of the Marines and the tenacity of the English Bulldog became as one.  What German prisoners told us was that the American Marines fought liked devil dogs —and so the Germans began calling the Marines Teufel Hunden.  In Bavarian mythology, devil dogs were wild animals that lived in the mountains; it was a myth that caused as much fear among local people as did stories of werewolves.  The ferocity of the U. S. Marine in combat at Belleau Wood produced the same effect upon their German opponents.  Soon afterwards, Charles Falls produced a recruiting poster (shown right).  From this point on, the English Bulldog and U. S. Marines were on the same team.

In 1922, the owner of the prized English Bulldog registered as Rob Roy presented one of his offspring, born on 22 May 1922, to the Marine Corps as their mascot.   The pup was initially registered and named King Bulwark, but after presenting the puppy at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Brigadier General Butler changed his name to Jiggs.  Private Jiggs was enlisted into the U. S. Marine Corps on 14 October 1922.

SgtMaj JiggsAs everyone knows, a dog lives seven years for each human year —and so it was that Private Jiggs had a rather spectacular rise in the rank structure.  Three weeks after his initial enlistment, he was already serving as a corporal.  By 1924, Jiggs was a full-fledged sergeant major —which was quite an accomplishment given his several (although minor) disciplinary infractions.  Sergeant Major Jiggs (shown left) appeared with Lon Chaney[1] in the film Tell It to The Marines (1926).

Sergeant Major Jiggs passed away in 1927, the result of excessive drinking and not being able to push himself away from his food bowl; he was given an appropriate funeral, of course.  Soon afterwards, boxing champion James “Gene” Tunney[2] donated another Bulldog to the Marine Corps.  Known as Jiggs II, this second mascot was by comparison an undisciplined malcontent.  Among many complaints, he chased after cars, bit people, and barked at all hours of the night.  Jiggs II was called home in 1928, a victim of heat exhaustion.  His funeral wasn’t quite as nice as that of his predecessor.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, all official Bulldog mascots were named in honor of Major General Smedley D. Butler, but this was changed in 1957; all new mascots were named in honor of Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, USMC[3].   Puller is the most decorated Marine in its entire history, earning five Navy Cross medals throughout his distinguished career.

The first Chesty appeared at the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks, Washington, on 5 July 1957.  Looking smart in his modified dress blue uniform, he instantly won the hearts of the (then friendly) media.  As it turns out, following the loathsome path of Jiggs II, Chesty II was not a very good Marine.  He went AWOL for two days and was only returned to the base in a local paddy wagon.  He did sire a litter of pups, however, and one of these became Chesty III —a model Marine who earned the Good Conduct Medal and the love and affection of neighborhood children.

Chesty 002Chesty XIV began his military career in 2013.  The duties of the official mascot include marching in the Evening Parade events at the Iwo Jima Memorial, greeting dignitaries, helping with tours at the home of the Commandant, and attending various events in the greater Washington DC area.  The English Bulldog is a loyal, tenacious, resolute, and faithful animal; it best reflects the official motto of the United States Marine Corps: Always Faithful.  Its “never quit” attitude is what makes this animal the perfect mascot for Marines.


[1] Lon Chaney, known as the man with a thousand faces, was appointed an honorary Marine for his performance in the film Tell It to The Marines.

[2] Tunney served in the Marine Corps during World War I, with service in France.

[3] Chesty is the official Marine Corps mascot; while other Marine units also have adopted the English Bulldog as their mascot, they are named after other personages: As an example, the Bulldog mascot at MCRD San Diego is named after Smedley Butler, while the mascot at MCRD Parris Island is named Legend.