Handsome Jack of the Marines

Myers John Twiggs 001John Twiggs Myers (29 January 1871—17 April 1952) was the son of Colonel Abraham C. Myers, for whom Fort Myers, Florida is named, the grandson of Major General David E. Twiggs, 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.



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.
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.


In Every Clime and Place

Our Armed Forces do not make foreign policy; they implement it.  They do not advise the President of the United States; they carry out his orders, presumably with the consent of the Congress of the United States.  We cannot state equivocally, however, that the President, or his cabinet, and certainly not the Congress, have always demonstrate an astute awareness of the world’s realities.

It is impossible for me to consider events in China today without reflecting upon the history of our relationship with that massive country, and the role that the Marines have played in the implementation of US policy toward China.  We refer to them today as the old China hands, or the China Marines, and there continues to exist associations devoted to preserving the history of these Marines.

Marines 1860The first Marines detailed to China service were the leathernecks on board the US frigate USS Congress, dispatched to Lintin Island near Canton in 1818 for a trade protection mission.  The Marines served under detachment officer, First Lieutenant William Nichol. In February 1844, Marines provided security for the US minister to China based in Macao; in June of that year, Marines from the USS St. Louis open fire on a Chinese mob that were attacking the US Legation in Macao.  In 1854, sixty US Marines and sailors from the USS Plymouth fought alongside British Marines and sailors to drive off Chinese Imperial troops that had occupied a portion of the international settlement in Shanghai.

So it comes as no surprise to the student of history that the Marines would subsequently play an even more important role in US/Chinese relations—which along with those of other western nations, steadily worsened.  It is difficult for a thoughtful person to fault the Chinese; after all, China is their country, not ours and does appear that western powers lost sight of this reality [1]. Insofar as the United States is concerned, however, it does not appear these lessons were ever fully appreciated. Nevertheless, as a consequence of many legitimate grievances by the Chinese, a faction calling themselves the Righteous and Harmonious Fists began attacking foreign businesses, missionaries, and consulates.  We called it the Boxer Rebellion.

Boxer Insurgent 001Over several years, Boxers began to increase their strength within the provinces of North China. Concomitantly, by 1898, conservative (anti-foreign) forces gained control of the government and it was there decision to use the Boxers against western usurpers, as much as practicable.  If the western diplomats did not feel safe in China, perhaps they would go back to where they came from.  Provincial governors were encouraged to employ Boxers as local paramilitaries, and in the Chinese Language, the word fists was changed to militias. Among Chinese speakers, it was clear what was actually going on.  Within the Boxer organizations, poorly trained thugs came to believe that they had magical powers that made them impervious to foreign bullets.

The Boxer Rebellion turned very serious in May 1900 when suddenly, missionaries and their converts, foreign businesses, business owners, their families, and foreign diplomats became targets of opportunity for roving Boxer gangs.  Diplomats demanded protection, and initially, a hodge-podge of foreign military personnel was loosely organized to protect the foreign legation in Peking (now, Beijing). The number of military personnel gathered numbered just over 400, including 56 US Marines from two ships of war. British Minister Sir Claude MacDonald telegraphed for help, and no sooner had his message gone out, Boxers cut all telegraph wires.  And now these western devils were stranded in Peking, surrounded by very angry Boxers.

The next shoe to drop was the disruption of railway service from Tianjin (on the coast of China) to Peking and once this had been accomplished, the Boxers began to rampage in earnest. On 13 June, the Japanese Ambassador was slain.  In retribution, the German minister ordered his troops to execute a Chinese boy. That same afternoon, thousands of Boxers broke through city walls, torched Christian churches, and murdered large numbers of Chinese Christians and priests.  American and British missionaries took refuge in the Methodist mission, where American Marines repulsed several Chinese attacks.

Rong lu Jung 001The foreign legations took responsibility for their own defense, and some of these combined their forces. Austrians and Italians abandoned their isolated legations and joined the French and Japanese. A plan was laid out to defend the Fu —a large palace and park where an estimated 2,800 Chinese Christians were taking refuge.  American Marines and their German counterparts held positions on the Tartar Wall, behind their respective legations.  It was a weak plan of defense, overall: 400 troops had to defend an area extending more than 2,000 yards through urban terrain.  MacDonald was selected as overall commander, but he had no authority over foreign troops.  At best, he could only make suggestions.

The number of Chinese Boxers surrounding the legation remains uncertain—but a conservative estimate would number them in the thousands.  The western section included the Mohammedans of Dong Fuiang; on the east were units of the Peking Field Army.  The overall Chinese commander was Baron Rong Lu Jung, an anti-Boxer who disapproved of the siege, but whose loyalty to the Empress Dowager obligated him to command the Chinese efforts.  The Chinese appeared to vacillate between obstinacy and conciliation for most of the 55 days, and several attempts to achieve a cease-fire failed as a result of suspicions and misunderstanding on both sides.

The first Chinese strategy was to set fire to buildings around the British legation, including the Han Lin Academy, the national library of China.  Many irreplaceable books were destroyed.  The Chinese Army then turned its attention to the Fu, which was the domain of Lieutenant Colonel Goro Shiba, the most admired military officer in the siege. Shiba, with a small band of Japanese soldiers, mounted a skillful defense.  The most desperate fighting took place near the French Legation, where 78 French and Austrian troops faced constant assault in convoluted terrain.  But the Germans and American occupied the most crucial of all defensive positions: the Tartar Wall.

Myers John Twiggs 001The Tartar Wall stood 45 feet tall, and about 40 feet wide.  It was vital to the defense of the legation for, were it to fall into Chinese hands, they would have an unobstructed field of fire into the legation quarter. The German defenses faced eastward, while the American positions, 400 yards west of the German position, faced toward the west.  The Chinese strategy was to construct protective barricades facing each of these positions, and then inch them closer each day.  The Marine Commander was Captain John Twiggs. Myers [2], who later said that his Marines felt as though they were in a trap and were simply waiting for the hour of their execution.  At night, Chinese forces employed harassing fire to prevent the German and American contingent from getting any rest.

The most critical threat of the siege came in early July when the Chinese forced the Germans to abandon their position on the Tartar Wall, abandoning the Marines to face the Chinese alone. Then, at 2 a.m. on 3 July, the Marines, reinforced by 26 British, and 15 Russians, assaulted the Chinese barricade.  Twenty Chinese were killed and the rest were expelled from the Tartar Wall. The Chinese did not attempt to retake the wall for the remainder of the siege.  Humiliated by the American Marines, the Chinese threw themselves against the Japanese and Italians in the Fu —driving them back to their last line of defense.  The Chinese detonated a mine beneath the French legation, destroying it completely. MacDonald reported that 3 July was the most harassing day of the siege.

Boxer RebellionChinese aggression dissipated after 17 July when it was learned that a relief force of 20,000 troops had landed in China. An international force finally arrived in Peking on 14 August 1900, relieving the foreign legations besieged there for 55 days.  The Empress Dowager fled Peking, taking her court to Xi’an, leaving behind a few princelings to conduct negotiations.  After extensive discussions, a protocol was finally signed in September 1901, ending hostilities and obligating Chinese to pay reparations to the foreign powers.  The western nations learned no meaningful lessons in this entire episode.



[1] There are many downsides to western imperialism, not the least was the blatant racism exhibited toward the Chinese by the western nations.  The behavior was at the least ill-mannered, and at most deplorable.

[2] Severely wounded on 3 July 1900. Myers, known as “Handsome Jack” was also the Marine Captain commanding the detachment of Marines during the Perdicaris Incident (1904) and the son of Abraham Myers, for whom Fort Myers, Florida is named.  Myers passed away in 1952.


Sergeant Major Quick

John Henry Quick
John Henry Quick

Marine Corps chronicler John W. Thomason wrote of the “old breed” with considerable reverence, as well he should.  “And there were also a diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders, and bone-deep sunburn and an intolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth.  They were the leathernecks, the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home.  And they transmitted their temper and character and viewpoint to the high-hearted mass, which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.”

Now a point of clarification: in today’s parlance, the Old Breed refers to Marines of the 1st Marine Division who fought the island battle of Guadalcanal in World War II.  To John Thomason and other Marines of his time, the term old breed referred to the Marines prior to World War I.

Additionally, Thomason’s reference to “leatherneck” refers to American and British Marines who wore a leather stock [1] around their necks (1798-1840, 1899-1902).  One stock was issued to each Marine annually, and it is a tradition that continues today, represented by the standing collar of the Marine Corps dress blue uniform.  Marines reintroduced the leather stock for use during the American-Philippine War (1899-1902) to protect against decapitation from Filipino machetes; in Thomason’s day, these were the old salts of the Corps.

In Thomason’s view, Old Corps Marines stood head and shoulders above most of the soldiery of his day; he believed these old salts laid the foundation for what the Marine Corps would one day become.  By passing these long-time traditions down from one generation of Marine to the next, the old breed of Marine became the cement of our tradition and the genesis of much of our lore.  They served as models for such now-famous personages of World War II fame as John Basilone, Lou Diamond, and Bob McTureous.

One of these old regulars was a man named John Henry Quick, whose exploits over more than 26 years of service would inspire the imaginations of many Marines after 1898.  Quick was born in Charles Town, West Virginia in 1870.  He enlisted in the U. S. Marine Corps on August 10, 1892 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which made him a six year veteran by the time war broke out with Spain in 1898.

During the morning of 14 June 1898, two companies of Robert W. Huntington’s battalion and fifty additional Cubans moved through the hills to seize Cuzco Well, the main water supply for the Spanish garrison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The USS Dolphin (PG-24) moved east along the shore ready to furnish naval gunfire support upon call.  The Spanish detected the Marines’ movements and alerted their main body near Cuzco Well.  The Marines occupied the hill overlooking the enemy’s position, but were immediately exposed to long rifle fire directed upon them by the Spanish garrison.  Captain George F. Elliott [2] signaled the Dolphin to shell the Spanish position, but because the sender of the message was not clearly visible to the ship, the vessel began dropping fire on a detachment of Marines who were en route to join the battle.

Sergeant Quick quickly arose, announced to his captain that he was a signalman, and was able to produce from somewhere a blue polka-dot neckerchief as large as a quilt.  Security the scarf to a long crooked stick, he rushed to the top of the ridge and, turning his back to the Spanish long rifles, began to send his message to the Dolphin causing them to cease-fire.  At this time, a war correspondent named Stephen Crane was with the Marines.  He later reported, “I saw Quick betray only one sign of emotion during his heroic action.  As he swung his clumsy flag to and fro, an end of it once caught on a cactus pillar, and he looked sharply over his shoulder to see what had it.  He gave the flag an impatient jerk.  He looked annoyed.”

Navy Medal of Honor (1862)
Navy Medal of Honor (1862)

As soon as the Dolphin answered his signal, Quick retrieved his service rifle and rejoined the firing line.  Dolphin shifted her fire, and within a short time, the Spanish vacated their position.  For Quick’s gallant and selfless conduct, Quick was awarded the Medal of Honor.

During the Philippine-American War, Quick served as a Gunnery Sergeant under Major Littleton W. T. Waller and the campaign across Samar.  During the Battle of Sohoton Cliffs, Quick’s direction of concentrated fires dislodged well-entrenched Filipino insurrectos, which enabled the Marines to capture the leading Filipino general and several of his lieutenants.

During the military expedition to Vera Cruz (1914) Quick was again cited for valor during the assault of the city, for which he was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, as follows: “He was continually exposed to fire during the first two days of the operation and showed coolness, bravery, and judgment in the prompt manner in which he performed his duties.

Sergeant Major John Quick sailed to France as part of the 6th Marine Regiment in 1917.  During the Battle for Belleau Wood, Quick was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Navy Cross for delivery of much needed supplies over a fire-swept field.  Quick continued to distinguish himself through every battle fought by the Marines in France, including Verdun, Aisne-Marne (Soissons), the Marbache Sector near Pont-a-Mousoon, the St. Mihiel Offensive, the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Sergeant Major Quick was additionally awarded the 2nd Division Citation and the French fourragere of the Croix de Guerre.

Sergeant Major Quick retired from active serve in November 1918, but was briefly recalled to active duty from July to September 1920.  He passed away in St. Louis, Missouri on 9 September 1922.

He was 52 years old.


[1] The stock, usually black, was a stiff leather collar measuring from 3 to 3 ½ inches in width and containing two metal clasps, worn around the neck.  The device was designed with a two-fold purpose: its construction restricted movement and therefore improved the military bearing of Marines, and it protected the area of the neck and throat from blows of sword or thrust of dirk.

[2] Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1903-1910

Major Waller’s Court

OLD EGA 001Last week, I wrote about Major Littleton W. T. Waller’s march across Samar.  It was an event encompassing great courage, substantial challenges, and much suffering.  I suspect many lessons were learned from this tragedy—including the effect on morale when casualties are abandoned along the trail.  I also hope there were lessons learned about the importance of logistics, but I think history will show that this lesson was one of the more difficult over all.  It appears we are learning it still.

But Waller’s trials on the march across Samar were only the beginning of his unhappy experience in the Philippines.

After the Balangiga Massacre, Brigadier General Jacob H. Smith, U. S. Army requested assistance from the Navy-Marine Corps in the Philippines to subdue insurrectionists on the island of Samar.  As part of his order to Waller, Smith said, “I want no prisoners.  I wish you to kill and burn; the more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.  I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States.”

Waller requested clarification about the age limit to General Smith’s order, and Smith replied “Ten years.”

Waller persisted, “Persons of ten years and older are those designated as being capable of bearing arms?”

“Yes,” said Smith.

Major Waller largely ignored these illegal orders, but it did become necessary for Major Waller to order the summary execution of eleven native carriers when they mutinied against the Marines in the field, stole their rations, and attacked them at their weakest moments.  After the execution, Major Waller duly reported the incident to his superior, Brigadier General Smith.

General Smith passed Waller’s report of the executions to his superior, General Adna R. Chaffee, U. S. Army.  Chaffee decided to investigate these executions, despite General J. Franklin Bell, U. S. Army having purportedly carried out similar executions on a much larger scale only a few months before —albeit with no subsequent investigations.  As a result, Major Waller was brought up on charges of murder in ordering the execution of the Filipino porters.

A court-martial was convened on 17 March 1902, consisting of 7 Army officers, 6 Marine Corps officers, and the presiding officer in the person of General William H. Bisbee, USA.  The prosecutor assigned to the case was Major Henry P. Kingsbury, U. S. Army, who read the formal charges:

CHARGE: murder, in violation of the 58th Article of War.

Specification: In that Major Littleton W. T. Waller, United States Marine Corps, being then and there detached for service with the United States Army, by authority of the President of the United States, did, in time of war, willfully and feloniously and with malice aforethought, murder and kill eleven men, names unknown, natives of the Philippine Islands, by ordering and causing his subordinate officer under his command, John Horace Arthur Day, First Lieutenant, U. S. Marine Corps, and a firing detail of enlisted men under his said command, to take out said eleven men and shoot them to death, which said order was then and there carried into execution and said eleven natives, and each of them, were shot with rifles from the effects of which they then and there died.  This at Basey, Island of Samar, Philippine Islands, on or about the 20th of January 1902.

Major Waller’s attorney was Commander Adolf Marix, U. S. Navy.  He first argued unsuccessfully that the Army had no jurisdiction over Waller, as he was again under Marine Corps command, no longer attached to an Army command.  Marix argued that since the Army did not charge Waller while he was still attached to the army for service, their authority over him had expired.

Colonel Bisbee noted the plea as follows: “The plea is that the defendant is not subject to the jurisdiction of this court.  Therefore, we want to know whether there is any possible written, or other evidence from the President of the United States, placing him on detached duty with the Army, and thereby placing him within the province of this court.”

The next morning, Major Kingsbury provided a series of telegrams between Admiral Rogers and General Chafee in which the offer of 300 Marines was made, and accepted.  “The Marines were serving in Samar by order of the President, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy—and they were there,” he said.

Commander Marix argued further, “Legal proceedings are defined clearly … the accused has a right to be present, the witnesses sworn, and be represented by counsel.  Nothing of the kind happened in this case.  An inspector of allegations is not a judicial officer.”

General Bisbee ruled that the court was without jurisdiction in the case, but he left open the possibility of reversing himself if instructions were received from the office of the Adjutant General of the Army.

On 21 March, the instructions arrived.  The Assistant Adjutant General noted that the Commanding General of the Philippine Department (General Arthur MacArthur, Jr.[1]) had ordered a preliminary examination of the case, with a view to legal action, before Waller was relieved of duty with the Army.  Waller assisted in Major Getty’s investigation, and was questioned by him, so he had to know that he was a party to the proceedings.  Besides, a “brief lapse of jurisdiction” cannot mitigate a murder charge.

General Bisbee was then obligated to decide that his court did have jurisdiction over Major Waller, and ordered the trial to proceed.

Waller 001Major Waller thereafter entered his plea: “To the specification, guilty —except to the words ‘willfully and feloniously and with malice aforethought, murder, and …’ to those words, not guilty.  To the charge, not guilty.  At no time did Major Waller use General Smith’s orders, “I want all persons killed” to justify the execution of the Filipinos.  He instead relied exclusively on the rules of war and provisions of a Civil War General Order Number 100 that authorized “exceeding force,” much as J. Franklin Bell had successfully done in the preceding months.  Waller’s defense thus rested.

The prosecution then called General Smith as a rebuttal witness.  On 7 April 1902, in sworn testimony, Smith denied that he had given any special verbal orders to Waller.  This testimony obliged Waller to produce three officers who corroborated Waller’s version of the Smith-Waller conversation, and he submitted copies of every written order he had received from Smith.  Waller informed the court that he had been directed to take no prisoners, and to kill every male Filipino over the age of ten.

The court martial board voted 11-2 for acquittal of Waller.  Later, the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General dismissed the entire case, agreeing that a Marine Corps officer was not subject to an Army court.  Back home, the press labeled Waller as “The Butcher of Samar,” and even though Waller was eventually promoted to Major General, the court martial kept him from an appointment as Commandant of the Marine Corps.

As the result of evidence introduced at the Waller trail, General Smith was himself court-martialed, convicted, admonished, and forced into retirement.

Post script: Many of us like to think that the military services rely heavily upon honor, personal and professional integrity, but the fact is that there are some who disgrace themselves and the uniforms they wear.  Smith was such a person, who lied in court about the orders he issued, but continued to benefit from his status as a former brigadier general in the United States Army.  We have situations even today where there is a question of the veracity of senior officers, from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to others who seem unable to control their libido.  Our troops deserve much better than this.

What should Waller have done?  He would have been prudent to make his report to the senior Army commander, and turned his prisoners over to that officer, for his adjudication.


[1] Father of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur