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On a Mission

On A Mission

A Look at the Things They Carried from War to War - Inside the Museum of the Marine

Dave Brown ’61 is on a quest to build the Museum of the Marine. His goal is to honor the courage and commitment of the Carolina Marines and to educate visitors about the history of the Corps. The planned 40,000-square-foot museum will be located at Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, North Carolina. The museum will feature exhibits of many Marine “firsts” that took place at Camp Lejeune: the first women Marines, the first African-American Marines (also known as the Montford Point Marines), and the first Marine War Dogs. The museum will contain “memory zone” galleries, which will provide an opportunity for Marines to have their experiences recorded on film and archived for museum visitors and researchers.

The Marine Corps mission has evolved over the years with wide-ranging duties, including amphibious operations, signal intelligence gathering, embassy protection, air support, counterinsurgency, and humanitarian relief efforts. And Brown wants to be sure that the Marines who carry out these duties are never forgotten.

By Virginia Holman, Photographed by Matt Wright-Steel

On a Mission

WORLD WAR II 1941-1945

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINES WHO SERVED: 669,100

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE DEATHS: 24,511

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE BATTLE DEATHS: 19,733

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE WOUNDS NOT MORTAL: 67,207

At the start of WWII, most of the Marines deployed were in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Their principal strategy was called “island hopping”—an effort of systematically capturing strategic islands ranging from the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea to Okinawa in the South China Sea. The Marines’ training and capabilities in amphibious assault were an essential component of the strategy. The first major Allied offensive in the Pacific was a Marine-led invasion at Guadalcanal in August 1942. The fierce and bloody battle raged for six months before the Allies forced a Japanese retreat from the Solomons and marked a turning point in the battle for the Pacific. Marine amphibious assaults continued through the remainder of the war, including the infamous battles in the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

Oval dog tags were adopted by the Marines in 1939. Until 1942, each set of dog tags was etched on the back with the Marine’s thumbprint. The dog tags here list the Marine’s name, service number, date of last tetanus shot, blood type, and type of contract signed.

The green twill herringbone “P44 utilities” uniform shown here was first issued in 1944. The solid green often provided better concealment when troops moved through jungles. These utilities were designed with a special “gas flap” button placket to prevent chlorine or mustard gas from entering. They also contained two internal chest pockets commonly used to hold flotation bladders.

The rifle is an M1 Carbine, a .30 caliber semiautomatic. A detachable bayonet also is displayed. The gun is a Colt .45 1911A1. Guns were issued to officers, tank crews, and other Marines whose jobs required them to have at least one hand free.

The antipersonnel grenade pictured here is also known as a “pineapple” grenade. Though the uniform came with a pants pocket along the back capable of carrying several grenades, most Marines found it impractical to use and instead suspended grenades from their pistol belts or suspenders.

On a Mission

WORLD WAR II  THE WOMEN

TOTAL NUMBER WHO SERVED: 23,000

The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed in 1943. Their motto: “Free a Marine to Fight!” The women were trained to perform men’s noncombat jobs, including roles as clerks, mechanics, cooks, gunnery instructors, drivers, cryptographers, and parachute riggers.

When the Women’s Reserve was announced, General Thomas Holcomb’s office was overwhelmed with recommendations about what to call the women Marines. Glamarines, Sub-marines, Dainty Devil Dogs, and WAMS were a few of the suggestions. The general refused them all. “They are Marines,” he said in a LIFE magazine interview. “They don’t have a nickname, and they don’t need one.”

The red flag is the Headquarters and Service Battalion guidon flag for the Women Marines.

A seersucker summer service work uniform (left) would be worn in office settings. Women also were issued a basic green utility jacket (right).

This Marine ceremonial NCO (noncommissioned officer’s) sword was carried by corporals and higher ranks during parades. The badge displayed is for identification. It would be affixed to trunks and other personal objects that might require transport.

On a Mission

KOREAN WAR 1950-1953

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINES WHO SERVED: 424,000

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE DEATHS: 4,509

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE WOUNDS NOT MORTAL: 23,744

In 1950, one of the greatest tactical errors in modern warfare occurred. General Douglas MacArthur insisted on crossing the 38th parallel and ordered 15,000 soldiers from the Eighth Army and 15,000 Marines into North Korea. As the troops advanced, they reported numerous sightings of Chinese soldiers. MacArthur pressed on. The troops got as far as Chosin Reservoir. There, an estimated 120,000 Chinese troops surrounded the Allied troops, whose only option was to fight their way back to the coast. Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 13, 1950, in temperatures below minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, Allied forces battled the 78 miles back to the port in Hungnam, where nearly 200 ships amassed to evacuate them. In addition, the ships granted passage to 98,000 refugees.

For the period of the campaign, between Oct. 26 and Dec. 15, 1950, the Marine Corps Commandant reported 718 Marines dead, 3,508 wounded, and 192 missing in action. More than 7,000 were treated for frostbite. All the U.N. troops in the battle became known as the “Chosin Few.”

The rifle is an M1 Garand rifle. It has a longer range and fires a more powerful bullet than the M1 used during WWII. It also came with a 12-inch bayonet.

The overcoat is an M1951 fishtail parka. The parka fell to the knees and had a split in the back, which some thought resembled the tail of a fish. Fishtail parkas also came with detachable hoods and linings, and the military experimented with a variety of linings, including wolf, coyote, and wolverine fur.

Only officers were issued compasses. Many military compasses of the era had dials coated with luminous (and highly radioactive) radium-based paint to increase visibility in low-light settings.

The stainless-steel box-style mess kit was commonly known as a “meat can.” When not in use, the utensils were inside the closed kit, which could be carried by a small exterior handle. During the Korean War, units set up field kitchens to prepare B-rations, or bulk canned or preserved food rations.

On a Mission

VIETNAM WAR 1964–1973

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINES WHO SERVED: 794,000

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE DEATHS: 14,844

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE WOUNDS NOT MORTAL BUT REQUIRING HOSPITALIZATION: 51,392

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE WOUNDS NOT MORTAL AND TREATED OUT OF HOSPITAL: 37,202

The first Marines deployed to Vietnam wore utilities and gear designed in the 1940s and 1950s, when natural fibers like cotton and wool were standard issue. However, the tropical conditions prevented natural-fiber clothing from fully drying, and the troops’ uniforms rotted rapidly in the jungle. Wading through swamps and rice paddies, the Marines found that their leather boots retained water, so many men developed ulcerations and infections known as “jungle foot” or “trench foot,” a potentially grave condition if left untreated. The brutal heat often led Marines to risk an enemy bullet by forgoing their heavy flak jackets and steel-lined helmets. Yet fatal heat stroke was also a possibility. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had the Pentagon issue uniform modifications throughout the war.

The first jungle boot was made with cotton duck uppers and a thick rubber lug sole. But later, this design was deemed a liability since the cotton never fully dried in the humidity. It was then changed to a fast-drying nylon. The uppers also were modified to include small grommets with a screen to help water drain from the boot. In addition, stainless-steel plates were inserted into the vulcanized rubber soles of the boot. Before the installation of the plates, the boots frequently were penetrated by punji sticks, sharpened bamboo stakes placed in camouflaged shallow pits. Sometimes these stakes were smeared with animal feces in order to introduce infection.

Bush hats were not issued by the Marines until late in the war. Often made by Vietnamese tailors using old parachute fabric, the hats were excellent quick-drying sun hats.

The “pilot’s survival knife” has a serrated blade on top and a nonserrated edge on the bottom. These knives were not widely distributed and were coveted items.

An M72 LAAW or Light Anti-Tank Assault Weapon is similar to a small bazooka. Inside the tube is a small rocket. A Marine would use it once and throw it away. M72s were also known as “bunker busters” and “antitank weapons.

The small canvas bag is a jungle first aid kit. The kits included basic items such as insect repellent, water purification tablets, antiseptic, dressings, and aspirin.

On a Mission

PERSIAN GULF WAR 1990–1991

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINES WHO SERVED: 213,000

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINE DEATHS: 68

TOTAL NUMBER OF MARINES WOUNDED: 92

Much of the Marines’ modern outfitting was shaped by the jungle war in Vietnam. The Persian Gulf War required adaptations for Marines to operate effectively in urban settings, deserts, and rocky mountains.

The camouflage utility seen here is in a “chocolate chip” pattern meant to conceal troops in a rocky desert environment. The pattern was first developed by the Army and was used in Egypt in the biennial Bright Star exercise between U.S. and Egyptian troops.

Desert conditions required another overhaul of the Vietnam-era jungle boot. The steel plate was removed because it conducted the heat of hot sand.

Eyelets for bootlaces and grommets for drainage also were eliminated to prevent fine sand from filtering in through the openings.

On a Mission

OPERATIONS ENDURING FREEDOM AND IRAQI FREEDOM 2001-2014

MARINE DEATHS: 867

MARINES WOUNDED IN ACTION: 8,721

As the variety of global terror threats increased, the gear used by Marines also increased. A Marine combat infantryman carries more weight into the field than ever before. Body armor alone can weigh up to 30 pounds. Add in weapons, ammunition, radio, water, food, night-vision goggles, entrenching tools, etc., and the load often soars to over 100 pounds. The combat load in WWII is estimated to have been 45 pounds. In 2009, General James Conway said, “We are going to have to lighten our load.” The heavy pack weight was resulting in chronic injuries, including stress fractures of the foot and back.

Unlike earlier body armor, the IMTV or Improved Modular Tactical Vest, can be quickly modified from mission to mission to help lighten the load. It also has a removable collar and pockets to allow removal or insertion of SAPI or Small Arms Protective Inserts. It distributes weight to ease the load on the spine.

The utility jacket is in a digital camouflage pattern called MARPAT, short for Marine Pattern Camouflage. It comes in green and brown to conceal Marines in forested and desert environments. Considered a superior camouflage because the color is rendered in small pixels, MARPAT more readily blends in with the landscape, and is commonly referred to as “diggies,” a nickname for “digital camouflage.” The Marines patented the camouflage, and a Marine Corps emblem is embedded within the pattern. No other branch of the military may wear MARPAT camouflage. The rifle is an M4 Carbine.

The M4 rifle has a collapsible butt stock, which allows Marines to shortstock the weapon for use in urban environments.

Like their counterparts throughout the 240-year history of the Corps, modern- day Marines find that digging foxholes, using entrenching tools, is still an essential life-saving tactic in ground warfare.

These goggles, strapped to the helmet, are primarily designed to keep sand out of the eyes. The writing on the strap, GF1147, O, indicates the Marine’s company, the first letter of his last name, the last four digits of his Social Security number, and his blood type.

On a Mission

THE MAN BEHIND THE MISSION

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dave Brown ’61 looks every inch the Marine: knife-edge creased khakis, black polo shirt precision-tucked, polished oxfords. He’s straight backed and broad shouldered, with merry blue eyes, a rugged jawline, and a charming, relentlessly upbeat manner. He’s also a mile-a-minute storyteller. Most of his stories are punctuated with the good-natured exclamation: “I dare your magazine to print that!” Sadly, propriety must prevail.

Brown had served for 21 years in the Marines. His career highlights include a Silver Star for gallantry in action while serving in Vietnam, teaching economics at the U.S. Naval Academy, and heading the Marine Corps Procurement Budget. “Oh, and along the way,” he says offhandedly, “I earned an M.B.A. in research and development from George Washington University.” When he retired from the Marines, he worked for 10 years as a logistics consultant for the Corps and the U.S. Navy. He then worked an additional six years as the executive director of the Second Marine Division Association, a Marine alumni organization with more than 5,000 members. He is the immediate past chairman of the board for the Museum of the Marine, where he worked 50 to 60 hours a week as an unpaid volunteer. In his spare time, he published a memoir, Battlelines, an award-winning account of his rifle company in Vietnam, and he recently finished a novel about the Marines in Nicaragua circa 1926-1928.

Phase one of the Museum of the Marine campaign raised approximately $10 million from county, city, state, and private organizations and individuals. The Museum used the monies to acquire six acres of land for the future museum and to commission architectural building designs and interior gallery designs. Now Brown is on a quest to complete phase two: the bricks-and-mortar campaign. Before construction can begin, he needs to raise $23.5 million dollars. To most people that sounds like an impossible sum, but not to Brown. He says that his favorite musical is The Man of La Mancha, a retelling of Cervantes’ masterpiece, Don Quixote. “To dream the impossible dream … To right the unrightable wrong,” he muses.

For more information on the Museum of the Marine, visit: www.museumofthemarine.org.