Copyright 2003. R. E. Sullivan, Ph.D. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be copied, faxed, electronically transmitted, or in any other manner duplicated without express written permission of the author. email@example.com
In 1956 I was commanding a Rifle Company, Bravo, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, then located in South (pronounced "Souse") Camp Fuji. Company Commanders pretty much ran their companies in that time and place with no interference from anyone. We submitted our own training schedules and arranged for our own live fire ranges and training areas. Some of the latter were huge, and I can recall, in particular, that the "Juliet" area encompassed most of the north side of Fuji. The latter, of course, is the large and imposing mountain that at times seems to loom over Tokyo itself although it is many kilometers to the south in actuality.
One of our problems was that liberty was too good, and there was more of it than a young Marine could afford if he tried to go ashore every night. In that respect it was a good deal like North China had been. And, like North China, there was too much booze, and too many women, and too many ways to get in trouble. As a consequence I held a lot more Office Hours (Article 15, UCMJ) than I wanted to. One way of cutting down on these was to keep the lads in the field. Besides that, we were, after all, being paid to keep our a__ in the grass. So most every Monday morning at first light if you were looking for B/1/3 we'd be for clearing the gate headed for the Juliet area, with field packs and a day's worth of Charlies. We'd reach our assigned areas and play soldier for the next several days.
Brigadier General "Brute" Krulak, the Assistant Division Commander, had proclaimed that every troop in the field over 24 hours would have hot chow, and we led the galleys a merry chase keeping up with us. If possible we'd arrange for a live fire exercise on Thursday morning, then march back to South Camp. Friday morning it was callihoopies, and at 1300 "Junk On The Bunk" or something else akin to it to keep the lads busy. We worked very infrequently on Saturday morning, maybe once a month, and only when the Battalion Commander felt it incumbent upon himself to earn his pay and peek down the barrel of an M-1, BAR, M1917A6, M1918A1 or a 60mm mortar tube. These distractions were kept to a minimum, thank the Lord.
You may recall the "Brute" mentioned above. He and old "Howlin' Mad" Smith had invented the Fleet Marine Force back in the late '30s, and Brute had written the "Small Wars Manual." During WW II he'd been a Raider, and had many adventures. He'd been my Regimental Commander in the 5th Marines at Pendleton when the Korean War broke out in June of '50 and I knew him well. I'd been a Platoon Commander in D/2/5, and he never forgot those of us who had been in that outfit and gone to Korea with the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade in July of '50.
Brute had a brilliant career and when we committed troops to the Nam on March 7, 1965, he was a Lieutenant General Commanding the Fleet Marine Force Pacific. With any luck he'd have grasped the brass ring itself and become the Number One Marine when General Greene retired, but maybe he was too far from the flagpole when the job became vacant. Whatever, the "Brute" richly deserved to be CMC, but so did a lot of other people I've known. So if the "Brute" was disappointed for himself, he must have been elated when his son Chuck became CMC a few years back.)
that was not kept to a minimum was the town of Fujioka which abutted our front
gate. Fujioka was good for one thing only,
in my opinion, and that was to get young Marines in
trouble. One of
my children could
go almost anywhere else in Japan and not get in trouble, but chances were that a
night in Fujioka would lead inevitably to me looking across my desk at him come
the next scheduled Office Hours. To have the town of Fujioka declared "Off
Limits" was obviously the thing to get done, but impossible of accomplishment.
Any such attempt to do so would have caused a diplomatic incident. And of
course cries of attempting to starve to death "Honest Japanese Tradesmen" trying
to make a living. There were times when I wondered who the hell had won WW II
anyway. Surely, it couldn't have been us. All that aside, "OK Mr. Company
Commander, "suppose this was a 'Drill, Discipline and Leadership' problem that
was presented to you at Marine Corps
Schools, Quantico, just what would you do?"
The Company Commanders at South Camp Fuji were a clannish lot who generally ate together and drank together when we were in camp. At one of these soirees we agreed that if the U. S. Government wouldn't put Fujioka out of bounds, then, by God, we would. So we agreed that we would make it clear to any of our lads who got in trouble in the town that they were never to enter the confines of that lovely city forevermore. Had we been able to train a raven to sit above our office doors and "Quoth Nevermore" we surely would have done it.
The first several times the foregoing occurred, and a man was told to stay out of Fujioka, there was definite muttering in the ranks about how unfair such a "punishment" was. The sea lawyers had a marvelous time "proving" Company Commanders were exceeding our authority, and that such an order was illegal. And of course, they were right, and we knew it.
Most Marines manage to hide it well, but they're a bright group. I've known some Marines who have managed to hide that fact for twenty years or more. But in the end, the brightness shows. After some initial complaints, and even word from the Company Gunny that some of the kids were cooking up a request mast with the Commandant of the Entire Marine Corps Himself, the situation began to take care of itself. Someone had figured out that the "punishment" of forever being barred from Fujioka was to keep people out of trouble.
A month or two passed, and, Hallelujah!, my Office Hours dropped to almost nothing. Then one morning my Top told me that Private _________ had an Offense Report come in on him from the local gendarmes, our Platoon from the Division MP Company who policed the villes of the 3d Marines. Seems as though one of our lads had been discovered stumbling out of a crib in Fujioka at 0900 one morning much the worse for wear and smelling as though he'd spent the night in a bottle of Suntori Whiskey. The latter surprised me because I always thought that much Suntori would kill a man, but this lad must have been heartier than others, and managed to survive. Whatever. I had to swing the axe, and report back to the Regimental Commander himself as to what pain I had subjected the miscreant to.
Five minutes before Office Hours were to start I could hear the Top in the hallway giving his usual briefing to the accused: "Now look son, when you get in there look the Man in the Eye and you'd better tell the old Son of a Bitch the truth. You know, he's a Mustang, and he's tried every story in the book himself, and your's ain't gonna be nothin' he ain't heard before, and if you try to bullshit him you're goin' to be in a world of hurt." A sage man, the Top, and he had me down cold. I've never been able to get really upset with a man who stood there and leveled with me. Hell, there were few things under creation which I hadn't done at one time or another myself, but I'd been lucky enough not to have been caught.
The accused was marched in and halted at the appropriate distance in front of my desk. I asked the First Sergeant to read the charges, which he did in a stentorian voice that could have been heard at 8th & I. I then turned to the accused and asked him what "His" story was, emphasizing "His." The accused was one of the new men in the Company, a Hispanic kid who I'd made note of because of his ability to keep a smile on his face and keep soldiering regardless of the situation. This was a fine young Marine, who would make a marvelous Corporal a year or so down the line. His story was predictable: You see, he had met this here girl, and they'd had some drinks, and when it came time to get some rest he'd tried every way he knew how to set the alarm clock which this chick had, but somehow it hadn't worked, and when he woke up and saw it was light out he attempted to get back to South Camp as quickly as he could only to be apprehended in mid-flight by the local Centurion Guard. He was trembling so badly during this rendition I almost felt sorry for him.
It was time for me to go into my act, one that the Top Soldier had witnessed many times. I began in a very low voice, and quickly mounted to one that shook the plywood partitions around my semi-private office accompanied by pounding the desk. I knew that the Platoon Commanders were snickering in their bull pen at one end of the hut; they'd heard it all before. Toward the end of my rampage, I sentenced the accused to be restricted to the base for ten days. At that point the First Sergeant gave the accused "About, Face" and began to march him off. However, when the accused hit the entrance to the office he halted smartly, about faced again, and asked: "Isn't the Company Commander going to make Fujioka out of bounds for me." I told him of course I was, thanked him for reminding me of the oversight, and said something like: "And if I ever catch you in Fujioka, or hear of you having so much as set your big toe in it, I'll castrate you with a dull spoon. And after this, carry your own damned alarm clock." The kid grinned, about faced smartly and departed. Just in time, as I could no longer suppress a grin. Now, that kid knew damned well that I lacked the authority to keep him or anyone else from entering Fujioka. But if that particular fine young Marine got in trouble there again it happened after I departed the Company.