Sometimes there are no words. Let us not forget those who gave all they had to give.
Semper Fidelis, my brothers.
Sometimes there are no words. Let us not forget those who gave all they had to give.
Semper Fidelis, my brothers.
Sometimes, the things we do as Americans make no sense at all. Take, for example naming bridges after loathsome people. Why would we want to name a bridge after Rachel Carson, the biologist responsible for the early death of millions of people, because she (successfully) fought against the use of D.D.T. in controlling malaria? We’ve named bridges after crooked politicians, too — such as Huey Long in Louisiana and Oklahoma, after three ne’re-do-wells who were tossed out of office.
Every once in a while, we get it right — as if anyone remembers. George E. Day has a very short bridge named after him in Western Florida. Actually, it’s more of a by-pass bridge that takes traffic over the top of the main entrance of Hurlburt Air Force Base along U.S. 98 in Okaloosa County. It was a nice thought because Mr. Day deserves our remembrance.
George Everett Day, whom everyone called Bud, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on 24 February 1925. After his seventeenth birthday in 1942, Bud dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. By then, the war in the Pacific was raging. Mr. Day spent thirty months in the Pacific, assigned to the Third Defense Battalion on Johnson Island. After his discharge in November 1945, he returned home and joined the U.S. Army Reserve. By the time his four-year enlistment expired in 1949, Mr. Day had completed his high school and college education, graduating from Morningside College with a Bachelor of Science degree.
He afterward enrolled in the South Dakota School of Law, receiving his Juris Doctor degree and passing the Bar examination, and began a law practice in South Dakota while applying for and receiving an officer’s commission in the Air National Guard. Later, Bud would also receive a master’s degree from Saint Louis University, a doctorate in humane letters from Morningside University, and a Doctor of Laws from Troy State University.
Like many reservists in 1951, Bud Day was called to active duty during the Korean War. Sent to pilot training school in March 1951, he received his wings at Webb Air Force Base, Texas, and in 1952 attended all-weather interceptor aircraft. Bud Day flew the F-84 Thunder Jet during two combat tours in Korea while assigned to the 55th Fighter/Bomber Squadron. He transitioned to the F-100 Super Sabre in 1957. Two years later, an incident forced his ejection from the F-100, and he became the first person to live after his parachute failed to open. See also: Jarhead Adventures. Between 1959-and 1963, Day served as an assistant professor of aerospace science at the Air Force ROTC detachment at Saint Louis University.
Day anticipated retiring from military service in 1968, but he requested a combat tour in South Vietnam before he did that. The Air Force assigned him to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, in 1967. By this time, Day had acquired 5,000 hours as a pilot, 4,500 of those as a fighter stick. On 25 June 1967, Major Day assumed command of Detachment One, 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phu Cat Air Base. Major Day and his pilots flew missions under the program titled Commando Sabre. This program employed twin-seat F-100F aircraft while performing Fast Forward Air Controller (Fast FAC) missions. Detachment One’s flights over Laos and North Vietnam were code-named Misty.
On 26 August, Major Day was flying as call sign Misty One, his 26th Fast FAC mission, directing a flight of F-105’s against a North Vietnamese SAM installation north of Thon Cam Son, twenty or so air miles above the DMZ. Enemy 37-mm antiaircraft fire crippled Day’s aircraft forcing him and Captain Corwin Kippenhan to eject. Day received a broken arm in three places during ejection, foreign object damage to his eye, and significant back injuries (which were common among those forced to eject from high-performance aircraft. Kippenhan was able to contact USAF SAR for extraction, but Day, with his injuries, could not utilize his survival radio and was soon captured by NVA militia.
Major Day escaped from his North Vietnamese captors during the night of his fifth day of captivity. Despite his injuries, he evaded the enemy for fifteen days and finally made it across the DMZ toward friendly units. He was within two miles of the Marine FSB at Con Thiên when a Viet Cong patrol shot him in the leg and hand and recaptured him. Returned to the unit which had initially captured him, Day suffered inhumane torture as they directed beatings against his broken arm to punish him for escaping. Major Day became the cell-mate of Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain and USAF Major Norris Overly. Throughout his incarceration as a POW, Day was regularly beaten, starved, and tortured. After five years and seven months as a POW, the North Vietnamese released Bud Day, and he returned to the United States, his wife, and four children. On 4 March 1976, President Gerald Ford awarded Bud Day the Medal of Honor.
While incarcerated in North Vietnam, the Air Force promoted Day to lieutenant colonel and then colonel. Initially, Day was physically too weak to return to operational flying. After his release from captivity, he underwent physical therapy and began conversion training to the F-4 Phantom II with waivers to standard protocols. Once qualified, the Air Force assigned him as Vice Commander, 33rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Eglin USAF Base, Florida. Colonel Day retired from active service when the Air Force passed him over for promotion to Brigadier General. His aircraft qualifications included single and dual engine jet aircraft: F-80, F-84, F-100, F-101, F-104, F-105, F-106, FB-111, F-4, A-4, A-7, CF-5, F-15, and F-16.
Following retirement, Day was admitted to the Florida Bar. Besides a law practice, Day wrote of his experiences as a POW in two books: Return with Honor and Duty, Honor, Country. In 1996, Bud Day filed a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government alleging breach of contract on behalf of military retirees who were stripped of their medical care benefits at age 65 and told to apply to Medicare. Day won the case in federal district court in 2001, but the judgment was overturned on appeal. Congress redressed this situation by establishing the TRICARE for Life (TFL) program, which restored military medical benefits for career military retirees over the age of 65, making military retirees eligible for both programs.
In retirement, Bud Day was an active member of the Florida Republican Party and became involved in the so-called Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth (against John Kerry). He actively campaigned for John McCain in both 2000 and 2008.
General Day is the only individual to receive both the Medal of Honor and Air Force Cross. His other awards included the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, and POW Medal. Upon his death on 27 July 2013, the Air Force advanced Colonel Day to the rank of Brigadier General.
MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION
On 26 August 1967, Colonel Day was forced to eject from his aircraft over North Vietnam when it was hit by ground fire. His right arm was broken in 3 places, and his left knee was badly sprained. He was immediately captured by hostile forces and taken to a prison camp, where he was interrogated and severely tortured. After causing the guards to relax their vigilance, Col. Day escaped into the jungle and began the trek toward South Vietnam. Despite injuries inflicted by fragments of a bomb or rocket, he continued southward, surviving only on a few berries and uncooked frogs. He successfully evaded enemy patrols and reached the Bến Hải River, where he encountered U.S. artillery barrages. With the aid of a bamboo log float, Col. Day swam across the river and entered the demilitarized zone. Due to delirium, he lost his sense of direction and wandered aimlessly for several days. After several unsuccessful attempts to signal U.S. aircraft, he was ambushed and recaptured by the Viet Cong, sustaining gunshot wounds to his left hand and thigh. He was returned to the prison from which he had escaped and later was moved to Hanoi after giving his captors false information to questions put before him. Physically, Col. Day was totally debilitated and unable to perform even the simplest task for himself. Despite his many injuries, he continued to offer maximum resistance. His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy. Col. Day’s conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.
Actually, a short by-pass bridge commemorating the life, service, and devotion of General George E. “Bud” Day may not be sufficient. I often wonder how many people driving across this bridge know that Bud Day was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Post-Korea and Beyond
For U.S. Marines, the Korean Peninsula wasn’t the only dance hall. No sooner had HQMC directed the transfer of three battalions of the 10th Marines to the 11th Marines, than the rebuilding of the 10th Marines with new recruitments and artillery training began. In the mid-1950s, the 10th Marines played a pivotal role in the Lebanon Emergency, fleet training exercises, and deployments supporting NATO exercises in Norway, Greece, Crete, Gibraltar, the Caribbean, and West Indies. The Cold War was in full swing.
Between 1955 and 1965, Marine Corps artillery battalions trained with new weapons and maintained their readiness for combat. No one in the Marine Corps wanted to return to the bad old days of the Truman administration. Should the plague of war revisit the United States, the Marine Corps intended to meet every challenge by maintaining a high state of combat readiness. Artillery Battalions trained to support infantry regiments and, as part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, firing batteries frequently deploy with battalion landing teams (BLTs). In 1957, new tables of organization increased the size of artillery battalions by adding a 4.2-inch mortar battery. A new mortar was introduced in 1960, called the “howtar.” The new M30 4.2-inch mortar was a rifled, muzzle-loading, high-angle weapon used for long-range indirect fire support. In addition to other “innovations,” cannon-cockers participated in (helicopter-borne) vertical assault training, which given the weight of artillery pieces, was not as simple as it sounds. The howtar, while still in service, is (to my knowledge) no longer part of the USMC weapons inventory.
Back to East Asia
In the early 1960s, the Cold War showed signs of easing. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963) seemed to foreshadow a period of détente after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The hope for world peace fell apart with incidents in Asia, Africa, and Latin America — of which the war in Vietnam was an extraordinary event. From 1954 to 1975, nearly half a million Marines fought in the jungles of Vietnam (See also: Viet Nam: The Beginning).
In 1962, all Marine ground units began counterinsurgency training, which was mostly exercises designed to improve small unit combat patrols and area security operations. In June, the 11th Marines went through another re-organization. The 1st and 4th 155-mm Howitzer Batteries, Force Troops, FMF became the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines. Marine Corps Base, Twenty-nine Palms became the permanent home of the 4th Battalion because its weapons demanded more area for live-firing exercises.
In late July 1964, the US Seventh Fleet assigned the destroyer, USS Maddox, to perform a signals intelligence mission off the coast of North Vietnam. On Sunday, 2 August, the ship was allegedly approached by three North Vietnamese Navy (NVN) motor patrol boats. The official story of this incident is that after giving the NVN a warning to remain clear of the ship, the patrol boats launched an assault on Maddox. Nothing like that actually happened, but it was enough to give President Lyndon Baines Johnson a war in Indochina.
Following this incident, Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, Commander, US Pacific Fleet, activated the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (9thMEB). Brigadier General Raymond G. Davis, who was at the time serving as Assistant Division Commander, 3rd Marine Division, was named to command the Brigade.
9thMEB formed around the 9th Marine Regiment (9thMar), including the regimental headquarters (HQ) element and three battalion landing teams (BLTs) —in total, around 6,000 combat-ready Marines. When the Maddox incident faded away, the US Pacific Fleet ordered the 9thMEB to establish its command post at Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, with its BLTs strategically distributed to Subic Bay, Okinawa, and “afloat” at sea as part of the Special Landing Force (SLF), Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), US Seventh Fleet.
Between 28 December 1964 — 2 January 1965, North Vietnamese Army (NVA)/Viet Cong (VC) forces overwhelmingly defeated a South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) battalion and its US military advisors at Binh Gia. It was a clear demonstration to the Americans that the ARVN could not defend the Republic of Vietnam (RVN).
Brigadier General Frederick J. Karch assumed command of 9thMEB on 22 January 1965. At that point, President Johnson ordered the Marines into Da Nang — their specific mission was to secure the airfield against enemy Viet Cong (VC) intrusions. In late February, VC forces assaulted the US base at Pleiku, killing 9 Americans, wounding 128 others, and damaging or destroying 25 military aircraft. Karch led the 9thMAB ashore on 7 March 1965. In addition to BLTs 2/9 and 3/9, 9thMEB also absorbed Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16), which was already conducting “non-combat” ARVN support missions at Da Nang (See also: Vietnam, the Marines Head North).
Fox Battery, 2/12, attached to BLT 3/9, was the first Marine Corps artillery unit to serve in the Vietnam War. The arrival of additional artillery units prompted the formation of a Brigade Artillery Group, which included Alpha Battery, 1/12, Bravo Battery, 1/12, and Fox Battery, 2/12. These firing batteries employed 105-mm howitzers and 4.2-inch mortars. The arrival of Lima Battery, 4/12, added a 155-mm howitzer battery and an 8-inch howitzer platoon. As the number of Marine infantry units increased in Vietnam, so did the number of artillery units. The I Corps Tactical Zone (I CTZ) was further divided into Tactical Areas of Responsibilities (TAORs) and assigned to the 3rd Marine Division (from Okinawa) and 1st Marine Division (from Camp Pendleton, California).
In the summer of 1965, most of the 11thMar departed Camp Pendleton and moved to Camp Hansen, Okinawa. Within mere days of their arrival, 3/11 and Mike Battery, 4/11 proceeded to RVN. Assigned to Chu Lai to support the 7th Marines, elements of both regiments went immediately into Operation Starlight. During August, 1/11 moved to Okinawa. Alpha Battery went ashore in Vietnam with the Special Landing Force (SLF) in December. HQ 11th Marines arrived in Chu Lai in February 1966, joined by 2/11 from Camp Pendleton. The battalions of the 11thMar supported infantry regiments, as follows: 1/11 supported the 1stMar; 2/11 supported the 5thMar, and 3/11 supported the 7thMar. 4/11 served in general support of the 1st Marine Division.
The I CTZ was the northernmost section of South Vietnam. It consisted of five political provinces situated within approximately 18,500 square miles of dense jungle foliage. The area of I CTZ was by far larger than any two infantry divisions could defend or control, so the Marine Corps developed a tactical plan that assigned its six available infantry regiments to smaller-sized TAORs. These TAORs were still too large, but it was all the Marines could do under the rules of engagement dictated to them by the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (USMACV). The relative isolation of combat units created a dangerous situation. Marine artillerists were no exception
Although two artillery regiments operated in Vietnam, they were not equal in size or mission. By 1967, the 12th Marine Regiment was the largest artillery regiment in Marine Corps history — task organized to support a larger number of infantry units within a much larger TAOR. All artillery units were assigned to support infantry units throughout the I CTZ; tactical commanders placed these artillery units where they were most effective — fire support bases (FSBs) at strategic locations.
Although originally conceived as a temporary tactical arrangement, several FSBs became long-term (semi-permanent) operating bases. They were quite literally blasted into existence from heavily forested hilltops. For as much as possible, the FSB system provided mutually supporting fires, but this was not always possible. The size of FSBs varied according to the size of the units assigned. Typically, an FSB hosted a single firing battery (six 105mm or 155mm howitzers), a platoon of engineers, field medical and communications detachments, helicopter landing pads, a tactical operations center, and an infantry unit for area security. Larger FSBs might include two firing batteries and a BLT.
Beyond their traditional tasks, Marine artillerists were often required to provide for their own defense against enemy probes and outright assaults. FSBs were also the target of enemy mortar and artillery fires. When infantry units were unavailable, which was frequently the case in Vietnam, artillerists defended themselves by manning the perimeter, establishing outposts, and conducting combat/security patrols. VC units foolish enough to assault an FSB may very well have spent their last moments on earth contemplating that extremely poor decision. The only thing the NVA/VC ever accomplished by shooting at an American Marine was piss him off. Every Marine is a rifleman.
In 1968, the VC launched a major assault on all US installations in Vietnam. It was called the Tet Offensive because it took place during the Vietnamese new year (Tet). The tactical goal was to kill or injure as many US military and RVN personnel as possible — playing to the sentiments of the anti-war audience back in the United States and discrediting the US and ARVN forces in the eyes of the Vietnamese population. Marine artillery played a crucial role in defeating attackers from multiple regions within I CTZ, but the offensive also changed the part of Marine artillery after 1968. Before Tet-68, supporting fires were routine, on-call, and a somewhat minor factor during USMC ground operations. After Tet-68, artillery took on a more significant fire support role. 1968 was also a year of innovation as Marine artillery units incorporated the Army’s Field Artillery Digital Computer Center (FADAC) (which had been around since 1961) and the new Army/Navy Portable Radio Communications (25).
In addition to providing tactical fire direction and support to Marine Corps infantry units, USMC artillerists also provided fire support to US Army and ARVN units operating in the I CTZ. Following the communist’s failed Tet-68 offensive, the Commanding General, 3rd Marine Division (Major General Raymond G. Davis) initiated an offensive campaign to diminish or destroy NVA/VC units operating within I CTZ and demilitarized zones (DMZ). Marine artillery units joined with Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force attack aircraft, B-52 bombers, and naval gunfire from the U.S. Seventh Fleet to destroy enemy sanctuaries and artillery positions within the DMZ and Laos. These overwhelming bombardments allowed infantry units to exploit the enemy’s weaknesses, reduce the size of their forces, destroy enemy defensive fortifications, and disrupt their logistics efforts. What transpired within I CTZ was an impressive demonstration of inter-service cooperation that gave US forces the upper hand in RVN’s northern provinces.
Marines continue to learn essential lessons from their many past battles and conflicts. For example, the Small Wars Manual, 1941, is still used by Marines as a resource for certain types of operations. The expression Every Marine is a Rifleman is as true today as it was in 1775 — Marine artillerists are no exception. During Operation Enduring Freedom, Golf Battery, BLT 1/6 performed several essential combat functions, which in addition to fire support missions, included humanitarian assistance, convoy security, area security for Forward Operating Base (FOB) Ripley, UN Team security, prisoner security, and its transition into a provisional rifle company. Given the diverse range of military occupational specialties involved, making that transition was a challenge for Battery officers and NCOs.
Marines representing a wide range of occupational specialties within a firing battery, from cannon-cockers and lanyard snappers to FDC operations specialists, motor transport drivers and mechanics, cooks, and communicators molded themselves into cohesive fire teams, rifle squads, platoons, and ultimately, a responsive and highly lethal infantry company. The effort and result were the embodiment of task force organization. Golf Battery formed three fully functional infantry platoons (two rifle and one weapons platoon), each containing the requisite number of radio operators and a medical corpsman. The effort was fruitful because the individual Marine, adequately led and motivated, is innovative, adaptable, and resourceful in overcoming any challenge.
 On 7 July 1964, the US Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President Johnson to take any measures he believed were necessary to retaliate against North Vietnam’s aggression and promote peace and security in Southeast Asia.
 The 9thMEB was later deactivated and its units absorbed into the III Marine Amphibious Force (III MAF). In March 1966, the brigade was re-activated as the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (9thMAB) reflecting its primary special landing force mission under the US Seventh Fleet.
 General Davis (1915-2003) served on active duty in the US Marine Corps from 1938 to 1972 with combat service in World War II, Korea, and the Vietnam War. Davis was awarded the Medal of Honor while serving as CO 1/7 during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. He was also awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart Medal. General Davis’ last assignment was Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
 RVN had been in political turmoil since November 1963 when President John Kennedy authorized the CIA to orchestrate the removal of Ngo Dinh Diem as President of South Vietnam. Diem and his brother were assassinated on 2 November; Kennedy himself was assassinated on 22 November 1963.
 The 8-inch howitzer is a 203-mm gun with a range of 20.2 miles; the 155-mm howitzer has a range of 15.3 miles.
 Fire Support Base Cunningham at one time hosted five artillery batteries (2 105-mm, 2 155-mm, 1 4.2-inch mortar).
 Also, AN/PRC-25 (Prick 25) was a lightweight, synthesized VHF solid-state radio offering 2 watts of power, 920 channels in two bands with a battery life of about 60 hours. The term “lightweight” was relative. The radio added 25-pounds to the radioman’s usual combat load. The PRC-25 was a significant improvement over the PRC-10. It has since been replaced by the PRC-77.
 The official US designation for the War on Terror (7 Oct 2001-28 Dec 2014).
Post-World War II and Korea
Artillery equipment and technology may be an art form, but its application is pure science. Training Marine Corps cannon-cockers for service in World War II included lessons learned from every engagement in which the Marine Corps participated from the beginning of the First World War. Colonel Georg Bruchmüller of the Imperial Germany Army, an artillerist, pioneered what became known as accurately predicted fire. Predicted fire is a technique for employing “fire for effect” artillery without alerting the enemy with ranging fire. Catching the enemy off guard is an essential aspect of combat. To facilitate this, the U.S. Army Field Artillery School developed the concept of fire direction control during the 1930s, which the Marine Corps incorporated within all artillery regiments as they came online in the early 1940s. However, the proximity of artillery targets to friendly forces was of particular concern to the Marines, operating as they did on relatively small islands. There is nothing simple about providing accurate and on-time artillery support to front-line forces; the performance of Marine artillery units during World War II was exceptional.
In early May 1945, following the defeat of Nazi Germany (but before the collapse of Imperial Japan), President Truman ordered a general demobilization of the armed forces. It would take time to demobilize twelve-million men and women. Military leaders always anticipated demobilization following the “second war to end all wars.” While men were still fighting and dying in the Pacific War, those who participated in the European theater and were not required for occupation duty prepared to return home to their loved ones. The plan for general demobilization was code-named Operation Magic Carpet. Demobilization fell under the authority of the War Shipping Administration and involved hundreds of ships.
Men and women of all the Armed Forces were, in time, released from their service obligation and sent on their way. Many of these people, aided by the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (1944) (also called the GI Bill), went back to academic and trade schools. Between 1945 and 1946, America’s war veterans returned home to restart their lives — they married, started families, built homes, and settled down.
But to suggest that life was a bowl of cherries in 1946 would be a gross over-simplification of that time because the transition to peacetime America was difficult. War costs were tremendous. President Truman believed he should transfer funds earmarked for the armed forces to social programs. He and others in his cabinet were concerned that if the government did not pursue frugal policies, the United States might once more enter into an economic depression.
Having been asked to suspend wage increases during the war, the ink was still wet on the surrender documents when labor unions began organizing walk-outs in the steel and coal industries. Labor strikes destabilized U.S. industries when manufacturing plants underwent a massive re-tooling for peacetime production. Americans experienced housing shortages, limited availability of consumer goods, an inflated economy, and farmers refused to sell their yield at “cost.”
Still, even in recognizing the administration’s challenges, President Truman’s response was inept and short-sighted. Our average citizens, the men, and women who the government imposed rationing upon for four years, deeply resented the high cost of consumer goods. This condition only grew worse when Truman accelerated the removal of mandatory depression-era restrictions on goods and services. Increased demand for goods drove prices beyond what most Americans could afford to pay. When national rail services threatened to strike, Truman seized the railroads and forced the hand of labor unions —which went on strike anyway.
But for Some, the War Continued
In the immediate aftermath of Japan’s unconditional surrender, the 1stMarDiv embarked by ship for service in China. The 11th Marines, assigned to Tientsin at the old French arsenal, performed occupation duty, which involved the disarmament and repatriation of Japanese forces. Officially, our Marines took no part in the power struggle between Chinese Nationalists and Communists. What did happen is that the Marines had to defend themselves against unwarranted attacks by Chinese Communist guerrillas. By the fall of 1945, China was, once more, in an all-out civil war.
The task assigned to Marines was more humanitarian than military. By preventing communists from seizing land routes and rail systems, and by guarding coal shipments and coal fields, Marines attempted to prevent millions of Chinese peasants from freezing to death during the upcoming winter months. But suffering peasants was precisely what the Chinese Communists wanted to achieve, and Marines standing in the way became “targets of opportunity.”
Truman’s rapid demobilization placed these China Marines in greater danger. As the Truman administration ordered units deactivated, manpower levels dropped, and unit staffing fell below acceptable “combat readiness” postures. Some replacements were sent to China, but they were primarily youngsters just out of boot camp with no clear idea of what was going on in China. Losses in personnel forced local commanders to consolidate their remaining assets. Eventually, the concern was that these forward-deployed Marines might not be able to defend themselves.
In September 1946, for example, the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines (3/11) vacated Tientsin and joined the 7th Marines at Pei Tai-Ho. Within 30 days, most Marine guards along railways and roadways withdrew, turning their duties over to the Nationalist Chinese Army. Some of us may recall how Truman’s China policy turned out.
In preparation for the 1948 elections, Truman made it clear that he identified himself as a “New Deal” Democrat; he wanted a national health insurance program, demanded that Congress hand him social services programs, sought repeal of the Taft-Harley Act, and lobbied for the creation of the United Nations — for which the United States would pay the largest share.
“It is customary in democratic countries to deplore expenditure on armaments as conflicting with the requirements of the social services. There is a tendency to forget that the most important social service that a government can do for its people is to keep them alive and free.”
—Sir John “Jack” Slessor, Air Marshal, Royal Air Force
Harry Truman ignored this and other good advice when he decided that the United States could no longer afford a combat-ready military force, given all his earmarks for social programs. Truman ordered a drastic reduction to all US military services through his Secretary of Defense.
By late 1949/early 1950, Truman and Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson gutted the military services despite multiple warning bells in Korea. Johnson gave the Chief of Naval Operations a warning that the days of the United States Navy were numbered. He told the CNO that the United States no longer needed a naval establishment — the United States had an air force. In early January 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, during a speech at the National Press Club, outlined America’s global defensive sphere —omitting South Korea and Formosa. The Soviet Union, Communist China, and Communist North Korea were very interested in what Mr. Acheson did not say.
In June 1950, budget cuts reduced the entire Marine Corps FMF from a wartime strength of 300,000 Marines to less than 28,000 men. Most artillery regiments were reduced to an understaffed regimental headquarters and a single battalion with less than 300 men. After digesting Acheson’s January speech for six months, North Korea (backed by the Soviet Union), invaded South Korea three hours before dawn on 25 June 1950.
In March 1949, President Truman ordered Johnson to decrease further DoD expenditures. Truman, Johnson, and Truman-crony Stuart Symington (newly appointed Secretary of the Air Force) believed that the United States’ monopoly on nuclear weapons would act as an effective deterrent to communist aggression. There was no better demonstration of Truman’s delusion than when North Korea invaded South Korea.
North Korea’s invasion threw the entire southern peninsula into chaos. U.S. Army advisors, American civilian officials, South Korean politicians, and nearly everyone who could walk, run, or ride, made a beeline toward the southern city of Pusan. President Truman authorized General MacArthur, serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) (whose headquarters was in Tokyo), to employ elements of the Eighth U.S. Army to Korea to stop the NKPA advance. The problem was that the U. S. Army’s occupation force in Japan was not ready for another war. Truman’s defense cuts had reduced military manpower levels, impaired training, and interrupted the maintenance of combat equipment (including radios, motorized vehicles, tracked vehicles, artillery pieces, and aircraft) to such an extent that not one of the U.S. Armed Forces was ready for the Korean emergency.
The military’s unpreparedness for war was only one of several consequences of Truman’s malfeasance. U.S. forces in Europe and Asia, whose primary interest was indulging the mysteries of Asian and German culture, were dangerously exposed to Soviet aggression. Had the Soviet Union decided to launch a major assault on Europe, they would have slaughtered U.S. military forces. Military personnel had become lazy and apathetic to their mission. Mid-level and senior NCOs enriched themselves in black market activities, senior officers played golf and attended sycophantic soirees, and junior officers —the wise ones— stayed out of the way. But when it came time for the Eighth U.S. Army to “mount out” for combat service in Korea, no one was ready for combat — a fact that contributed to the worst military defeat in American military history — all of it made possible by President Harry S. Truman.
In July 1950, General MacArthur requested a Marine Corps regimental combat team to assist in the defense of the Pusan Perimeter. What MacArthur received, instead, was a Marine Corps combat brigade. HQMC assigned this task to the Commanding General, 1stMarDiv, at Camp Pendleton, California.
The challenge was that to form a combat brigade, HQMC had to reduce manning within every other organization inside the United States and order them to proceed (without delay) to Camp Pendleton. It wasn’t simply an issue of fleshing out the division’s single infantry regiment, the 5th Marines. A combat brigade includes several combat/combat support arms: communications, motor transport, field medical, shore party, combat engineer, ordnance, tanks, artillery, supply, combat services, reconnaissance, amphibian tractors, amphibian trucks, and military police. The brigade would also include an aviation air group formed around Provisional Marine Air Group (MAG)-33, three air squadrons, an observation squadron, and a maintenance/ordnance squadron.
Marine supporting establishments cut their staff to about a third, releasing Marines for combat service from coast-to-coast. HQMC called reservists to active duty — some of these youngsters had yet to attend recruit training. All these things were necessary because, in addition to forming a combat brigade, the JCS ordered the Commandant to reconstitute a full infantry division before the end of August 1950.
Within a few weeks, the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade formed around Brigadier General Edward A. Craig and his assistant (and the air component commander), Brigadier General Thomas J. Cushman. Lieutenant Colonel (Colonel Select) Raymond L. Murray commanded the 5th Marines, including three understrength infantry battalions: 1/5, 2/5, and 3/5.
HQMC re-designated the three artillery battalions of the 10th Marines (at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions, 11th Marine Regiment, and immediately transported them to Camp Pendleton. The Korean situation was so dire that the newly appointed Commanding General, 1stMarDiv, Major General Oliver P. Smith, began loading combat units and equipment aboard ships even before the division fully formed. Again, owing to Truman’s budgetary cuts, the re-formation of the 1stMarDiv consumed the total financial resources of the entire Marine Corps for that fiscal year.
One of the more famous engagements of the 11th Marine Regiment during the Korean War came on 7 December 1950 during the breakout from the Chosin Reservoir. Machine-gun fire from a Chinese infantry battalion halted the progress of Marines along the main supply route. Gulf and Hotel Batteries of 2/11 moved forward. In broad daylight and at extremely close range, the cannon-cockers leveled their 105-mm howitzers and fired salvo after salvo into the Chinese communist positions. With no time to stabilize the guns by digging them in, Marines braced themselves against the howitzers to keep them from moving. When the shooting ended, there were 500 dead Chinese, and the enemy battalion had no further capacity to wage war. One Marine officer who witnessed the fight later mused, “Has field artillery ever had a grander hour?”
In a series of bloody operations throughout the war, the men of the 11th Marines supported the 1st Marines, 5th Marines, 7th Marines, and the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division. On more than one occasion, accurate artillery fire devastated Chinese communist forces, made more critical given that poor weather conditions frequently inhibited airstrikes in the battle area.
Despite North Korea’s agreement to open peace talks in June 1951, the brutality of the Korean War continued until 27 July 1953. North Korea frequently used temporary truces and negotiating sessions to regroup its forces for renewed attacks. At these dangerous times, the 11th Marines provided lethal artillery coverage over areas already wrested from communist control, provided on-call fire support to platoon and squad-size combat patrols, and fired propaganda leaflets into enemy-held territories. The regiment returned to Camp Pendleton in March and April 1955.
(Continued Next Week)
 The situation was much worse in Great Britain. Not only were their major cities destroyed by German bombing, but war rationing also lasted through 1954 — including the availability of coal for heating.
 This might be a good time to mention that all the U.S. arms and equipment FDR provided to Mao Ze-dong, to use against the Japanese, but wasn’t, was turned against U.S. Marines on occupation duty in China. Providing potential enemies with lethal weapons to use against American troops is ludicrous on its face, but this practice continues even now.
 Restricted the activities and power of labor unions, enacted in 1947 over the veto of President Truman.
 President Truman had no appreciation for the contributions of the US Marine Corps to the overall national defense; he did not think the nation needed a Corps of Marines, much less afford to retain the Corps, because the US already had a land army (of which he was a member during World War I). He never accepted the fact that the Marine Corps, as a combat force, provided unique strategic skills and in fact, Truman initiated several efforts to dissolve the Marines prior to the National Security Act of 1947, which ultimately protected the Marine Corps from political efforts to disband it.