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Shouts and Numbers – True Story of a Korean War Veteran

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korean war veteran

* MCRD & ITR – 1958

On March 10, 1958, a civilian went down to the Marine Corps recruiting office and enlisted. The recruiter seemed like a comely and personable fellow.

He was a Staff Sergeant, and wore modified dress blues: Blue trousers with red NCO stripes down each leg, a tropical shirt, a field scarf (necktie) and a chest full of ribbons. He wore spit-shined shoes and polished brass.

He was a real “poster-boy” for the Marine Corps.

At that time you could enlist for two, three, or four years. This Civilian signed up for four. This Civilian figured that in four years, he could learn to be like John Wayne and all the other war movie heroes he had been raised-up on. The recruiter beamed. He assured this civilian that he was bound for Sea School, after successfully completing recruit training.

This civilian departed home for boot camp on February 2, 1958. Away this Civilian went, aboard a Greyhound Bus, bound for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), located in San Diego, California.




Never Call a Drill Sergeant a D.I.

There were six of us, and this Civilian was designated to be in charge. This Civilian was given a bundle of paper, which contained everyone’s Service Record Book (SRB). This Civilian was directed to give the SRB’s to the USMC Drill Instructor, when we arrived at the Greyhound Station, in San Diego, California.

This Civilian doesn’t remember our time of arrival, at the Greyhound Station, but it was well after dark. As we got off the bus, we saw another bus (a green one) parked nearby, that had “USMC” and a serial number stenciled in yellow paint on its side.

Inside the green bus, three of the meanest, toughest looking thugs this civilian had ever seen, appeared to be awaiting us. One of them was in the entryway of this green bus and was conversing with the driver. Well, since this Civilian was in charge of these aforementioned six guys, he went right ahead and stepped up into the bus, to hand over the parcel of SRB records.

Little did this sextet of civilians know, but they had just crossed-over into Mother Green’s event horizon. The “thug,” at the front of the green bus, turned around and looked at me as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His face got red, and this Civilian watched the veins in his neck stand out.

I thought, “Uh, oh”, just as he kicked me in the chest, screaming: “Who the [expletive deleted] told you to get on my bus?”

As this Recruit landed on the pavement at the bottom of the stairs, with all the civilian bystanders edging away, this Recruit realized, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that this was the dumbest thing he had ever done. This Recruit picked himself up off the greasy bus-ramp and limped into formation with the rest of the other twenty or so terrified victims that were already waiting there – waiting to be turned into United States Marines.

The monster-thug that had kicked me off the bus, paced back and forth in front of us, bellowing the only way a Marine Corps Drill Instructor can, explaining how useless and despicable we were.

“How in the name of God could the Marine Corps expect me to turn useless [expletive deleted] maggots like you into Marines worthy of serving in my beloved Corps? How?” He wondered, out loud.

I didn’t know! This Recruit wanted to tell him that it looked impossible to him, too. Maybe the best thing to do would be to just let us get back on our Greyhound bus and go back home. I didn’t say anything, though. This Recruit just stood at attention and kept his eyes straight ahead like he was told to do. This Recruit didn’t think the Drill Instructor would have gone for his recommendation, anyway.

korean war veteran

Chinese Fire Drill

All at once, the D.I. (1) gave us ten seconds to “Get on the [expletive deleted] Mother’s green bus, find a seat, put ourselves in a sitting position and assume the position of attention”: That is, both feet on the floor, hands on your knees, back straight, eyes straight ahead.

We were a little slow, in his expert opinion, so off the bus we went and standing at attention again. Then, it was back on the bus. Still not fast enough. Again and again, we were ordered off the bus and then back aboard the bus: This soon became known as a “Chinese Fire Drill.”

Eventually, when our performance improved enough, in the Drill Instructor’s estimate, we were off to MCRD.

The only thing this Recruit saw of San Diego was the back of the head of the guy sitting in front of him. The less-than-gentle transition from civilian life to Marine Corps life had begun.

On the way, the Drill Instructor told us that the first and last word out of our pie holes, would henceforth be the word: “Sir.”

For instance, if we wished to speak with him, the way to do it was: “Sir! Private Gray, 1815360, requests permission to speak to the Drill Instructor, sir!”

This Recruit made a Mental Note: Don’t ever forget this. Don’t ever forget it.

Arriving at MCRD

The bus passed through MCRD’s front gate; which should have borne the warning: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!” We pulled to a stop in front of a Spanish Colonial Style two-story building and scrambled out of Mother Green’s bus.

korean war veteran

In front of the building, there were maybe a hundred sets of yellow footprints painted on the asphalt road’s surface. We were ordered to stand on those footprints, at the position of attention. One of the Drill Instructors hollered at us, stating that if we had any moles, warts, or other growths on our heads to put a finger on it.

Then, five at a time we were run into a small, wooden building: The barbershop. It took a barber about twenty-five minutes to turn 45 of us into skinheads.

Next, we were herded off to the next building of horrors. Many of us had nightmare visions of being inducted into Konzntrationslager Auschwiz, and started searching out the “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) sign, during “eyeball liberty.”

Our next full stop was labeled “Receiving.” To tell the truth, much of that first night of Boot Camp remains a little fuzzy. Everything was so alien and was happening so fast. The Drill Instructors were yelling at us and we were running everywhere.

Most of what transpired remains just a blur of memory. This Recruit remembers some of it, but it is like a long ago nightmare that you want to forget, but never will. Little did we understand; we were being given a lesson in the importance of controlling the tempo on the battlefield.

**Editor’s Note**

As you’ve probably noticed, with this release we have launched into a brand new series featuring the military experiences of Corporal Thomas Gray. Corporal Gray enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1958 and served in the Marines for the next four years. He would eventually find himself on the battlefield of Korea.

But that is a story for another day. First, this recruit has a few other stories in store for us, long before we find ourselves alongside him on that battlefield.

Stay tuned – each week will feature another update from Retired Corporal Thomas O. Gray.


References & Image Credits:
(1) Never, never and never again call a Drill Instructor a D. I. The very first Recruit that does make this mistake will be made an example for all. After which the Drill Instructor will launch into an extensive diatribe. He will inform everyone, within 500 yards of earshot that: “D. I.” stands for “damned idiot.” He will explain that this term is an insult to both Him and his beloved Corps. Then, the Drill Instructor will graphically explain the grave punishments that await any Recruit that repeats this unspeakable insult.
(2) Platoon 349

Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
 
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Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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