"Suicide Charley" - 1st Battalion, 7th Marines

black flag

 

Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion 7th Marines is the only Marine unit authorized to carry and display two guidons in all official formations.


On the night of Oct 24-25, 1942, they were deployed south of Henderson Field close in to the Lunga River. The 7th Marines were under the command of Lt Col Chesty Puller. In the ensuing battle, which came to be known as the Battle for Henderson Field, Charlie Company received the brunt of the Japanese attack on the Marine positions east of the river. Wave after wave of Banzai charges were met and repelled with rifle fire, hand grenades, bayonets, and the machine gun section led by Staff Sergeant John Basilone. As the sun rose on the morning of October 25th the battered veterans of Charlie Company were triumphant, defiant, and had held their position against overwhelming odds. Early that morning a crude flag was raised from a fighting hole on the perimeter which led to rousing cheers from the tired men. It had been made from a scrap of parachute cloth with the skull and crossbones and the inscription “Suicide Charley, 1st battalion 7th Marines”. Although someone had misspelled Charlie the nickname stuck. It was informally adopted by Charlie Company and appeared for the rest of the Guadalcanal campaign. The flag also appeared briefly on Peleliu before the end of WWII.


During the Korean conflict a couple of Marines on R&R in Japan had a proper guidon embroidered with the misspelled company name “Suicide Charley” and from then on it became a permanent fixture, proudly displayed by Charlie Company along with its regulation guidon.


Even though it was non-regulation, the company continued to carry it in defiance of direct orders. Tradition dies hard in the Corps and Charlie Company was determined to display their proud history and honor their comrades-in arms.


In 1961 the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, MG James Masters, finally gave in and authorized Charlie Company to carry and display the “Suicide Charley” guidon alongside its regulation unit guidon at all official ceremonies and functions.

 

1st battlion 7th marines mitchell cup july 30 2017

Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo. The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.


 

Brett Dingerson has been a docent at the MCRD Command Museum for 11 years and a volunteer on the USS Midway Museum for 4 years. He is a Kansas native and attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served as an active duty Marine from 1971-1975 as an 0311. After graduating from Sea School, he served with the Marine Detachment at Commander in Chief Pacific, Camp Smith Hawaii, under Admiral John S. McCain, Jr.

 

Write comment (0 Comments)

Gunny Broughton's Toilet Seat

usmc rifle marksman badge  

 

   In 1990, I was the commanding officer of the 14th Counter Intelligence Team, (at that time the largest team in the Marine Corps, regular or reserve).   In August of that year, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and that put the Marine Corps on a war footing.  Early on, I was informed that my unit could expect to be deployed to the Middle East and I took the appropriate actions to ensure the Team was prepared.

 

  I had in the training schedule a weapons qualification and so, in due course, we were on the rifle range with M16s.   Now the 14th was a unit heavy with officers and staff NCOs and among the staff NCOs was Gunny Broughton.  Broughton had served in Viet Nam as a sniper, a fact that he took every opportunity to impress upon his fellow staff NCOs, to a certain extent, to their irritation as well.    On qualification day, Broughton was assigned to the first relay and apparently had again pointed out to his fellow NCOs what a crack shot he was.   Just as the first relay was preparing to approach the 200-yard firing line several persons (whose identity I should conceal) engaged Broughton in a heated discussion on a point of rifle marksmanship.  As Broughton was distracted, several other NCOs (who, likewise should remain anonymous) completely fouled up the windage and elevation knobs on Broughton's weapon.  Without realizing the sabotage that had been committed, Broughton took up his rifle and prepared for the 200-yard rapid fire.  The line was ready, the tower gave the command "ready on the right! ready on the left! all ready on the firing line!"   Two hundred yards away the dog target rose from the butts and the crackle of rifle fire erupted from the line.   A few moments later, the dog targets dropped into the butts for scoring and Broughton rose from his firing position confident that he was on his way once again to an expert qual.  The targets rose from the butts, and disking the scores commenced.  Broughton had a beautiful tight pattern… almost off the target and the red disk waved back and forth (Maggie’s drawers) indicating ten misses.  Broughton almost went into apoplectic shock, and behind the line a group of my staff NCOs were gagging trying to suppress their laughter.  Broughton took immediate action to correct his dope and tried to retrieve his qualifying score.

 

  Shortly thereafter, I conducted a class A's inspection.  The unit turned out, opened ranks and followed by my Team Chief taking notes I proceeded down the first rank.  I faced in front of Gunny Broughton and looked him up and down, sharp, squared away in every respect, and then I saw the shooting badge he had qualified for.  Marksman, the dreaded toilet seat.  I was unaware of the aforementioned sabotage, and so I was baffled, I started to ask a question and before I said anything Broughton softly growled, "I don't want to talk about it Sir."  I closed my mouth, took one more look at the badge and faced to my right and proceeded to the next Marine.

 

  I took the 14th to the Gulf War where all hands performed in the highest traditions of the Corps.  Upon return, I went on to serve in the 2 shop of 1 MEF for 3 years then on to a teaching billet with the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, for my sunset tour.  After retirement I joined the Docents of the MCRD Command Museum where I found an old comrade, from the 14th, Gunny Ayers.   In time, Gunny Ayers would tell me all the shenanigans that the troops would pull behind my back…. including the sabotage of Gunny Broughton's weapon on qualification day.  I remember politely laughing at the story but thinking in the back of my mind, what a stinker.  

 

   One particular Wednesday, at the museum I was pleased to find Gunny Broughton touring the facility.  He, I and Ayers began reminiscing on the old 14th, the men, and the war.    It was at this point that I asked Broughton if he ever forgave his fellow Gunnys for sabotaging his weapon on qual day.  I failed to heed Ayer's frantic silent mouthing of the word "NO."   Broughton's face turned red, he turned around on Ayers and all I heard was "You son of a B------."  Ayers took off running and Broughton was chasing him.  I was left speechless…. it was a moment that justified the saying, "loose lips sink ships."  In this case I had sunk Ayers.   Broughton finally returned to me, somewhat breathless.   He said "Colonel, if you know that my score was sabotaged, can I wear the Expert badge?"  I looked him square in the eye and said "Hell no! You're a Marksman and that’s it!"   Yes, I can be a stinker too.   


NOTE: This piece reflects the experiences of a single individual and is not endorsed by any official Marine Corps source.
Lt Col L. M. Howard, USMC (Ret.)

MCRD Command Museum docent 15 years+

Write comment (0 Comments)

The Navajo Code Talkers

“We have different languages, different skills, different talents, and different religion. But
when our way of life is threatened, like the freedom and liberty that we all cherish, we
come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible. We cannot be defeated.”

–Peter MacDonald, Navajo Code Talker, 2017

 

Many students of military history can name the generals and presidents who led America to victory in its past wars and some can name the above-and-beyond soldiers who gave the last full measure of devotion to defend our Liberty. However, there are patriots who fought for this nation on whom so much of the nation’s fate rested, and yet far too many Americans have not heard of them and don’t know their names. They are the Native American Code Talkers: first pioneered in World War I by Choctaw, Cherokee, and Lakota soldiers. Their success inspired the U.S. Military to seek out even more Native Americans for this special service in World War II. 

 

boot camp

Philip Johnson, one of the few white Americans to fluently speak Navajo, presented the idea to the U.S. Marines for a Navajo telephone squad, recalling the successes of earlier code talkers in WWI. When the Marine Corps directed Johnson to present his idea, he called on four Navajo friends from the Los Angeles shipyards to demonstrate the capability to transmit military messages in their native language. Convinced, the Marine Corps selected 29 brave men (out of the 3,600 Navajo serving on active duty—accounting for 6% of the Navajo population) to become the first Navajo Code Talkers. The program would eventually grow to more than 400 Code Talkers before the end of the war, with 200 alone participating in the Battle of Iwo Jima. The original 29 developed a working code for their language to include new military terms and phrases nonexistent in American Indian languages and in which more Navajos could be trained. The warriors were then shipped out from San Diego to join Marine battalions and regiments across the Pacific.

 

code talker 1

American military leadership was mesmerized by the success of the Code Talkers, as they could translate three lines of English to Navajo in 20 seconds (as compared to the code-breaking computers which took 30 minutes). They would then immediately relay the message to their counterparts in another regiment in the field or a man onboard a ship to direct naval bombardment of the Japanese positions. The Navajos were at every major Marine Corps offensive throughout the Pacific, giving the Marines a powerful edge over the Japanese; these included the bloody campaigns at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Roi Namur, Kwajalien, Tarawa, Tinian, Saipan, Bougainville, New Georgia, Okinawa, and Guam. During the month-long Battle of Iwo Jima, six Navajo Code Talkers transmitted, without error, more than 800 vital messages. In an account given by Peter MacDonald (Code Talker, 1 st Marine Brigade, 6 th Marine Division) on the importance of the Code Talkers during this historic battle, he said, “Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima. That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the War in the Pacific.” 

code talker 2

The very existence of the Navajo Code Talkers remained a military secret from the end of the war in 1945 until 1968; President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 to be “Navajo Code Talkers Day” in 1982 and presented the surviving Code Talkers with a certificate of recognition. In 2000, the U.S. Government enacted federal legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to the Navajo Code Talkers for their bravery and service in contributing to America’s triumph over Japan in WWII. The remaining tribes received recognition and medals in 2008 for their contributions to the military victories of WWI and WWII. These men felt a pride and love for this country that so many Americans know and can identify with. Their contributions and sacrifices for the freedoms that we treasure, but far too often take for granted, are yet just another reason for us all to say ahéhee (thank you) today to all these brave men.

code talker 3

 

peter macdonald begaye sr. begay

President Donald Trump with Navajo Code Talkers Fleming Begaye Sr., Thomas Begay (5th Marine Division) and Peter MacDonald (6th Marine Division), November 27, 2017.

 

manuelito

Navajo Code Talker Sgt Johnny Manuelito. His Congressional Gold Medal is on display in the MCRD Museum. 

 

medal

 


Christopher D. Wilson has interned at the MCRD Command Museum since 2019. He is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and is currently a graduate student in United States History at the University of Oklahoma.

Note from the author: Many Native American soldiers followed the warrior traditions of our peoples and enlisted on their own accord, and still do to this day. As the great-grandson of a Choctaw WWII Army veteran, I can attest to the love and honor shown to the Stars and Stripes all across Indian Country. Thirty-two Native American tribes, including mine, contributed Code Talkers to the U.S. Military throughout the duration of the two world wars. No Native American Code was ever broken. We are proud to be a part of this country. We are Americans.

Write comment (0 Comments)

The Gentle Warrior

smith op optimized

General O.P. Smith

 

General “O.P.” Smith was commissioned a 2nd Lt in 1917. He served in a variety of posts including Instructor at Quantico, Ops officer 7th Marines, Executive Officer of Division of Plans and Policies HQMC, Commanding Officer of the 1st Marine Division in Korea and later as the Assistant Commandant under General Cates. He retired as a four-star general in 1955.

 

General Oliver Prince Smith was an intelligent, methodical man. He displayed no flair, no drama. His most endearing trait, it has been said, was the calm demeanor in most everything he did. He was known to display great care toward his troops, especially the wounded. During the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, he made daily helicopter visits to his three regimental outposts. Only a few times was that not possible due to the sub-zero temperatures freezing the gearbox oil for the rotors.

 

Gen Smith paid close attention to logistics and supplies along the MSR (main supply route). At one point, the 10th Corps commander demanded that the 1st Marines pick up the pace and move faster. General Smith was demonstrating a sound, even method of moving his Marines north along the MSR. The perceived “sluggishness” was due to Smith’s insistence that at every stage, reserves of ammunition and supplies be staged forward and stockpiled. A decision that made the difference when they were ordered to withdraw later.

 

During the advance it became apparent that Chinese Communist forces numbering at least 100,000, (approximately 10 divisions), were closing in on 10th Corps including the 1st Marine Division. The prudent decision was to withdraw to the coast. Thereafter began a fighting tactical withdrawal the likes of which has not been seen since. Roughly 78 miles were traversed beginning Dec. 1st 1950 in sub-zero weather and fending off constant attacks. General Smith’s dogged leadership not only saved the honor of the Division but also the reputation of American arms in Korea.

 

One reason that General Smith is an unsung hero is reflected in a meeting he was in with 10th Corps commander Gen Almond and an Air Force general. They stated they would fly all of their personnel out, and were authorized to destroy all of the weapons, vehicles and supplies. Gen Smith paused, looked at each of his visitors, and stated, “We are going out as a division, with all of our equipment, and will fight our way as an organized division. We are attacking in another direction...as an organized division.” The meeting came to an abrupt halt.

 

op

"Major General O.P. Smith says farewell in Korea to 1st Marine Division. Smith turned command over to Major General Gerald C. Thomas, center. Brigadier General Puller, assistant division commander is at far right, 1951." From the Lewis B. Puller Collection (COLL/794) at the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections. OFFICIAL USMC PHOTOGRAPH.


 Tom Rhodes has been a docent at the Command Museum for 2 ½ years. He served as an active duty Marine from 1971-1975, serving as an 1141(electrician) and 8511(Drill Instructor).

Write comment (0 Comments)

© MCRD Museum. All rights reserved

This not an official USMC website. THIS IS A NON-FEDERAL ENTITY. IT IS NOT PART OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, OR ANY OF ITS COMPONENTS, AND IT HAS NO GOVERNMENTAL STATUS.

MCRD Museum Foundation
Building 26 Post Office Box 400085
San Diego, CA 92140-0085

Federal Tax ID: 33-0290006 

 

MCRD Museum Foundation 990

Museum Hours of Operation:
Monday-Saturday, 8:30AM to 4:00PM

Foundation Hours of Operation:

Monday-Thursday, 8:00AM-4:00PM

Friday, 8:00AM-3:00PM

Telephone: 1-619-524-4426

Gift Shop: 1-619-524-0663

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

8b4424dd 76d1 4f28 8041 96d0e5d867fd  SiteLock

CFC Logo