VAN STOCKUM: Part 1: Remarks recalled from a Marine Corps career

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In three decades in the Marine Corps, a person is exposed to many great lines at great times. In the first of a series, we recall some of those characters and their colorful expressions.

By Ron Van Stockum

I have listed below a few remarks that stand out in my memory of service in the regular U.S. Marine Corps from 1937 to 1967, in the ranks of second lieutenant through brigadier general.  They appear in chronological order:



“Give it to 'em boys; give 'em what General Cheatham says!”

Bishop-General Leonidas Polk at the Battle of Perryville (1862), conscious of his role as an Episcopal bishop, after Maj. Gen. Cheatham had shouted to his troops, “Give ‘em hell, boys.”


“Next time I send a G-D fool, I go myself.”

– Austrian-born Marine Louis Cukela, winner twice of the Medal of Honor in World War I, to a runner who failed to deliver a combat message.


“Retreat, hell, we just got here”

– Attributed to Capt. Lloyd W. Williams, USMC, when he was advised to withdraw at Belleau Wood in France in June 1918. He was killed in action later that month.


“You are going into the Marines. You have to carry yourself properly.”

– My Army ROTC instructor at the University of Washington in 1937, after I had been selected for the commission in the regular Marine Corps.


“The service, gentlemen, is a jealous mistress.”

First Lt. Norman Hussa, Basic School instructor, still a bachelor. In 1937 we Marine second lieutenants were required to be single and to remain so during our first two years of service.


“Show ‘em your profile, Mr. Van Stockum”

– Capt. “Chesty” Puller,holder of two, later five, Navy Crosses, at a Basic School parade in 1938. [Note from my Marine Journal: “A 7 1/8 sits on top of my head like Happy Hooligans’ hat. Imagine my surprise today when Capt. Puller called me out in front of the company as an example of an officer wearing a correct size hat correctly.”]


“Get up with the leading element of your patrol.  Your life is no more valuable to you than an enlisted man’s is to him.”


“In an ambush as soon as the first shot is fired hit the deck.  There will be a second or two interval before the rest open up on you and their shots will go overhead.”


“If you come under fire, don’t run away.  A bullet can travel faster than you can.”


– Instructions by ”Chesty” Puller in his course on “Small Wars”– 1938


“You would have received a satisfactory grade if you had tried harder.”

Capt. Howard Kenyon to 2nd Lt. Van Stockum. I had turned in my area sketch early and unfinished. Shocked to receive a grade of 30 percent, I contacted Capt. Kenyon (called “Donald Duck” by my classmates because of his staccato speech), who explained that had I continued my effort while daylight still allowed, the same sketch would have been satisfactory. In effect, my “Unsat” grade was not in sketching but in “effort.”  I learned more than mapping that day!”


“The sun is over the yardarm, let's go ashore.”

Capt. W. R. “Flip” Hughes, Marine Detachment commander of USS Tennessee in 1939. When in port, about four in the afternoon, Capt. Hughes would look overhead, announce “the sun is over the yardarm,” and prepare to go ashore. The rule against consumption of alcoholic beverages aboard ship in the Navy was rigorously enforced, and, especially after a long cruise, the crew could develop a prodigious thirst. Eventually for Flip Hughes, a charismatic and capable leader, the sun went over the yardarm too many times.


“The French!...the GD French.”

Brig. Gen. Barney Vogel in May 1940, following the defeat of France in the German blitzkrieg offensive. This retort was in response to remarks by the commander of my battalion, Lt. Col. O. P. Smith, about tactics the French had successfully employed in World War I.  Smith, a graduate of France’s prestigious École de Guerre, was a tall, lean, quiet-spoken officer, highly intellectual and deeply religious. [For mention of his brilliant leadership in the Korean War, see below]


“Send us more Japs.”

– Attributed to Maj. James Devereux during World War II but denied by him after his return from captivity in 1945. Devereux was commander of the Marines on Wake Island who put up a heroic resistance before being forced to surrender on Dec. 23, 1941. I recall watching him at parades in San Diego before the war. He marched with a lope, to the amusement of all. As an artilleryman, he was better adjusted to a horse!


Coming: More remembrances


Ron Van Stockum’s latest book, Remembrances of World Wars, as well as his others, Kentucky and the Bourbons: The Story of Allen Dale Farm and Squire Boone and Nicholas Meriwether: Kentucky Pioneers, may be purchased at Terhune Style Shop in Village Plaza Shopping Center or from Amazon.com.