I passed through the gates of MCRD San Diego, at around 7:00pm in the evening, on May 28, 1968. I was on a bus with maybe 100 other young sad sacks of various backgrounds and character. The sun was setting and shadows were getting long as the bus pulled up to the receiving area. There I spied several obviously muscular men dressed in sharp, impeccable uniforms, topped off with smokey bear "hats". They were glaring intently at us as the bus came to a halt. I assumed correctly that these were our Drill Instructors.
Inside the bus you could have heard a pin drop. The driver opened the door and one of the DI's boarded the bus. Standing next to the driver, he stared down the length of the bus, and in the most authoritative voice I'd ever heard up untill then, he bellowed, "I am Gunnery Sergeant Olerking! ON YOUR FEET, LADIES!!" ... From the back of the bus comes, "who you calling, ladies?".
I'm thinking "did someone just say something?", but before I could really complete the thought, Gunnery Sergeant Olerking, had made it to the back of the bus, snatched the guy with the smart mouth out of his seat, and was literally bouncing him like a basketball down the aisle, while accompanied by the most vile cursing imaginable. Gunnery Sergeant Olerking, then threw this guy bodily off the bus and into the middle of the waiting group of Drill Instructors, who commence in unison to beat the living snot out of Mr. Big Mouth.
Now, when I first laid eyes on the Drill Instructors as our bus approached, I was starting to have my doubts about my decision to join the Marine Corps. After what I had just witnessed I was pretty sure that I had not only made a big mistake, but most likely had signed my own death warrant. The other hundred souls on the bus were experiencing similar thoughts.
After about 5 minutes, but what seemed much longer, of beating on Mr Mouth, Gunnery Sergeant Olerking comes back onto the bus and once again bellows "ANY OF YOU SLIMY PUKES LEFT ON THIS BUS AT THE END OF ONE MINUTE WILL HAVE YOUR BALLS RIPPED OFF AND FED BACK TO YOU!!" Man, you should have seen us scratching and clawing to get off that bus!
The rest of the night was filled with similar incidents. We finally hit the rack at around 4:30am ... Revelle was at 5:00am.Thus began my first day of boot camp in the Marine Corps ... and, that's another bunch of stories.
Yeah, physical brutality in boot camp can get out of hand. It's a fine line between motivation and cruelty.
The Ribbon Creek incident at Parris Island in 1956 was the first case of brutality in Marine Corps boot camp that gained national notoriety, and the Corps began to crack down on physical abuse. However, in '68, when I went through boot camp, it was still pretty rough. The movie Full Metal Jacket is a somewhat realistic depiction of how Marine Corps boot camp was in 1968. The language used by Gunny Hartman (played by R. Lee Ermey) was right on, and as in the movie, there was lots of physical group punishment with calisthenics, and copious individual physical contact which was usually just a punch in the gut or a knock upside the head. What was left out of the movie was the endless minutes spent in "Chinese thinking position", the entire platoon in a quonset performing manual of arms with foot lockers, hanging from wall lockers by our elbows, swimming in the sand, and the ceremonial eating of birthday cards, girly magazines, boxes of baked goods (the box not the goods), and other odds and ends at mail call.
There were also special events that occurred in my platoon. Like the guy who was caught smoking after lights out, for the third time. He was treated to a pack of unfiltered Camels being taped to his mouth, then lit up and a seabag was put over his head. He passed out in well under five minutes. Then, there were the two guys who claimed they were homosexuals, and "in love" with each other. (They were trying get out.) They were brought before the platoon and told to make love to one another. Both refused, and thus, were taken to the duty hut for beatings. Both went over the fence that night.
There was the black guy from Chicago. He tried to be a bully in the platoon, but it didn't work out too well for him. Said to have been a Blackstone Ranger (a mean Chicago street gang at that time) from the projects. This guy threw down on our meanest (and smallest) DI, and challenged him in front of the entire platoon. SSgt Sigman literally and figuratively took this kid apart. There were still marks on this guy's face, left by the fight, in our platoon graduation pictures taken about six weeks later. He stopped his bullying too, after a blanket party one night (BTW they did also have a blanket party in FMJ).
Anyway, as I sit here thinking and writing, memories start coming back. Don't want to be any more of bore. I'll write about other things later...
Wow--you guys had it good in 'Diego... Got to Parris Island WAY after 7:00pm in 1969...Other than that; everything sounds about the same. LOL
Yeah, they issued our shades and tanning oil the next day ... ahh, the life of a Hollywood Marine ...;o)