Portrait of MARINE!
Anthony F. Milavic
Major, United States Marine Corps (Retired)
During June 1998, after much prodding, I agreed to give a friend, Colonel John E. Rothrock, USAF (Ret.), a tour of The Basic School (TBS), Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia. Instead, his tour turned into my day of nostalgia. On entering the foyer of O'Bannon Hall--the Student Bachelor Officers Quarters, I was surprised by the absence of the pictures which welcomed my class. The walls of the Reception Room had also been stripped of portraits of distinguished Marine officers with the exception of three: Major Samuel Nichols, Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon, and Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller. The full-length oil-on-canvas portrait of General Puller dominated the room. Affixed to the bottom-center of its frame was a small brass plaque inscribed, in part, “WARRANT OFFICER CLASS OF 1966.” This portrait released a stream of memories.
I first laid eyes on General Puller 1 July 1954 while standing his change of command parade. In fact, the entire 2nd Marine Division--some 14,000 strong--was assembled on the parade field at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to witness Major General Puller assume command of the Division. A fellow sergeant, Charles A. “Tony” Owens, and I had volunteered for two weeks of temporary active duty with “King” Battery, 4th Battalion, 10th Marines from our organized reserve unit, the 2nd 155mm Gun Battalion, Miami, Florida. With slightly more than a year of reserve duty under our belts, we were vaguely familiar with this general that everyone called, “Chesty.” Moreover, we were surprised at the paucity of complaints voiced over standing this parade which took hours and was held on a scorchingly hot day which saw men drop like flies only to be whisked away by ambulances positioned to the rear of the formation. After returning to the barracks, the troops, who were mostly Korean War veterans, drowned complaints of the parade with glowing “Chesty stories.” Those Marines knew something we two reservists had yet to learn.
Within days, things started to change in the Division. There had been a “problem” in the Division with enlisted men illegally leaving the base during the noon hour to get a beer. General Puller authorized the sale of beer in the “slop chutes” for lunch and the “problem” went away. He also removed the uniform requirement of cotton khakis with “field scarf” to the evening movies in the open-air theaters and attendance soared. The barracks echoed with, “SEE! Chesty takes care of the troops!”
In February of the next year, after stints at Boot Camp and Infantry Training Regiment, Owens and I returned to Camp Lejeune and joined Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines. General Puller had had a stroke the year before and moved to the position of deputy base commander. The years that followed served to build on those earlier impressions. In the barracks, aboard ship, in the field, in slop chutes, on liberty . . . wherever Marines congregated, they told “Chesty stories.” These centered on a warrior ethic exemplified by his five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross: In order to lead Marines, the leader must be SEEN sharing with them the rigors and dangers of the battlefield. Throughout his career, Marines saw Chesty and followed him. Upon retirement on 30 October 1955, he broke tradition and had Sergeant Major Robert L. Norrish pin on his third star rather than the senior Marine officer present. At the time, Marines saw this as his way of thanking all non-commissioned officers. It was fitting that when his biography by Burke Davis was published in 1962, it was entitled, not A MARINE! not THE MARINE! but MARINE!--The genuine article needed no more.
The 7th Warrant Officer Candidates Screening Course consisted of non-commissioned officers with over six years service and a shared impassioned admiration for Chesty Puller. After completing the Screening Course, we were appointed warrant officers, moved to The Basic School at Camp Barrett and became the Warrant Officer Class of 1966 in February of that year. On entering O'Bannon Hall, the sight of picture after picture of be-medaled officers lining the foyer walls and those of the Reception Room was striking. We observed that they were dressed for the parade field and not the battlefield; and, Chesty was not among them.
Weeks into the course of instruction, it was announced that a Mess Night was part of the syllabus. Unfortunately, when the name of our Guest of Honor was revealed there was a rumbling of disappointment from this group of newly minted warrant officers--we wanted General Puller. In any case, nominations were taken from the Class for a President and Vice President to officiate at the event: I was nominated to represent my platoon. The nominees then appeared before a panel consisting of our company commander and platoon commanders to explain why they wanted to serve as President of the Mess Night. Instead, I argued that the Guest of Honor should be General Puller to permit our Class of new Mustangs to demonstrate their gratitude to the Corps' most distinguished Mustang for his inspiration. As fate would have it, I was selected as President and Don E. "Mose" Mosley was selected as Vice President. In explaining their decision, the Company Commander, Major Charles H. Knowles, said that since I was the tallest of the nominees and it was important that the President be of similar height as the Guest of Honor, they chose me. Also, we could not have Chesty. Later in the day, I met with the Class to announce that there would be no change in the Guest of Honor--there was an immediate audible expression of disappointment from the assembly. I then explained that it was the custom for a graduating class to give a gift to the School and suggested that ours be a full-length portrait of Chesty in a battlefield setting. Of course, it would only be appropriate to have the subject of the painting attend its unveiling: The Class loved the idea.
Days later, I told my Platoon Commander of our plans and he responded by saying, “He has never come here! What makes you think General Puller will accept YOUR invitation?” he bellowed back at me.
I began to answer, “Well, Sir . . .”
Cutting me off, he said, “Come back when he agrees to come here!”
(On posting this article, I learned from Col Hal Gosnell, USMCR (Ret) that General Puller had appeared as the Mess Night Guest of Honor for the Warrant Officer Class of 1960 .)
In throwing down the gauntlet, the Captain had raised my competitive spirit: this was going to take serious planning. The invitation had to be served in person, so three members of the Class were assembled: Wolfgang H. “Dutch” Fleck had the car to drive us to the General's home; Robert J. Dalton, who had served with Puller in the 1st Marines from Inchon to the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, would grease the skids when we got there; and, I would serve the invitation. A telephone call resulted in General Puller warmly agreeing to see us.
That Saturday morning, we drove to Saluda, Virginia, found the house, knocked on the door, and the three of us were welcomed into the living room by Chesty Puller himself--our gnawing trepidation disappeared. The General was a gracious host and in minutes we were engaged in a free flowing conversation on everything Marine. As time passed, however, I worried that the real purpose of our visit continued to be unmasked. Seemingly from nowhere, a stunningly statuesque lady walked into the room prompting all to stand in recognition. The General introduced her as his wife, Virginia.
As suddenly as she appeared, she turned to me and said, “Come, I want to show you the
“What? Show me the house?” I thought to myself. “Why me? I have to stay here and ask the big question.” I could not help but think she had picked me over the other two because I was the tallest. Never the less, I obediently followed her into the dining room.
Without warning, she turned to face me and asked, “Why did they do that to him?”
“Ma'am?” I answered groping to understand the question.
“All he's done for the Marine Corps and, in return, all they've done is name a dog at '8th &
I' after him!” She continued to lament the lack of recognition the General had received
from the Corps as I stared back not knowing how to respond.
Then, it hit me! “Mrs. Puller, THAT is why we are here!”
“What do you mean?” she said in reacting with surprise.
“Mrs. Puller, we are members of a Class at Quantico made-up entirely of former non-
commissioned officers who hold the General in the highest esteem. We intend to have a full- length portrait of him painted to hang in The Basic School. A portrait of him dressed for the battlefield rather than the parade field. There amongst pictures of officers in dress uniforms, it will constitute a beacon illuminating the model for new Marine officers to emulate as they seek to be leaders of Marines. We are here today to invite the General to the unveiling of that portrait. We . . .”
“Have you asked him yet?” she interjected.
“Why . . . no Ma'am. I . . .”
She again cut me off saying, “Can I ask him for you?”
“YES MA'AM! OF COURSE!” I exclaimed with gratitude.
Mrs. Puller immediately brushed past me and returned to the living room. As all stood up, she said, “Lewis, do you know why these boys are really here?”
General Puller grumbled, “They're not boys, they're Marines.”
Undeterred, she continued, “They are here to invite you to the unveiling of your portrait and I think you should go!” As she continued, Dalton and Fleck looked at me with the question, “How the hell did you do that?” in their stares. I just stood there mightily controlling my glee in spite of thinking, “This wasn't part of the plan.”
After Chesty accepted our invitation, the conversation turned to the composition of the portrait. He approved the idea of showing him in battle dress and loaned us a number of photographs as references. Also, he wanted to be shown with the modified pistol holster he wore in every war since Haiti and his pipe. Unfortunately, the finished portrait failed to reflect the unique details of the holster but his pipe was easily discernable.
Monday morning, I dutifully reported to my platoon commander with the news that General Puller was coming to the unveiling. The conversation went something like this:
“What do you mean, General Puller is coming to the unveiling?” he demanded.
“I mean that he said, he would come, Sir!”
“How sure are you that he will come?” he further demanded.
“Well, Sir, three of us visited him Saturday at his home in Saluda and we all heard him say that he would come after his wife encouraged him to do so. So, I guess that means he's coming,” I answered.
“OK! OK!” he said. “Where do you plan on having this event?”
“Since, it doesn't seem that The Basic School likes him, we are thinking about having it at the “O” Club main-side.”
“WE LIKE GENERAL PULLER! So, you'll have it here,” he corrected me.
“We also wanted to have food and drinks at the event as appropriate to a reception,” I added.
“The Basic School can handle that,” he said.
“We were planning on having a member of the Class pick him up in his personal car and . . . “
“We will have a Marine Corps Staff Car pick up the General,” the Captain corrected me again.
“Sir,” I paused to think for a moment, then said, “I believe that about covers it. May I be
“Yes! Yes! Get to class,” he instructed.
Minutes into my first morning class, the public address system blared, “Mister Milavic report to your Company Commander immediately!” There were chuckles from the Class as I left the room.
On reporting to Major Knowles, he said, “Mister Milavic. You will immediately write a letter to the Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, Quantico requesting permission to invite a general officer aboard his base.”
“Major, General Puller has ALREADY been invited and . . . “
“MISTER MILAVIC! You will immediately write a letter to the Commanding General, Marine
Corps Base, Quantico requesting permission to invite a general officer aboard his base!” he
“Aye! Aye! Sir!” I said and left his office to write the letter. I could not, however, hold back
thinking to myself, “Somebody didn't pass the word!”
The days leading up to the unveiling were busy but uneventful with one exception. The day before the unveiling, the artist, a Brazilian by the name of J. Arroyo Cabada, informed me that his car was not large enough to transport the portrait to Camp Barrett. Fortuitously, Edward M. “Nick” Russell had a Station Wagon and, with Theodore B. Warren riding shotgun, volunteered to drive to Georgetown to pick up the painting. Somehow, everything came together on Friday, 6 May 1966: the Reception Room was decked out in pictures of Chesty's career; a buffet was set up; the portrait arrived early enough to have it hung and veiled with a camouflaged poncho; and, the Class assembled before General Puller arrived by Marine Corps Staff Car. The senior officer present, Colonel Edwin B. Wheeler, Commanding Officer, TBS, explained that the Commanding General, Marine Corps Base (MCB), Quantico, Lieutenant General Frederick L. Wieseman, was absent due to another commitment. The unveiling went off without a hitch and Colonel Wheeler had Chesty and I pose together under the portrait for a photograph; two years later, the General autographed it for me. After the formalities, we all sat down in the adjacent lounge--The Hawkins Room--to listen to General Puller reminisce and to ask him questions on the conduct expected of an officer. Of the counsel he gave us, two pearls of wisdom immediately come to mind:
(1) Chesty's guidance for a successful Marine career: Work at it! Also, he didn't know a
commander who would not accept a mistake every now and then from an officer who worked diligently.
(2) On the use of raw language, he said: “I don't have any trouble with an officer using profanity on occasion. But, I don't think an officer should use obscenities.”
Along about midnight, we all accompanied the General to the foyer where, on behalf of the Class, I shook his hand and thanked him for being there. As he walked toward the front door and the waiting Staff Car, we all applauded. Just before arriving at the door, he stopped, turned around, walked back a few steps, and said, “I live south of here at a place called Saluda. It gets pretty lonely down there. So, if any of you Marines are in the area, stop in and say, 'Hello'.” He then turned and walked out the door as we stood in silence--The epitome of a Marine was unabashedly human.
The next morning, Jerry D. Floe and Dalton, the classmates who accompanied General Puller from and to home, told me that the corporal who drove the Staff Car to pick him up, sent his relief driver home so that he could also do the return trip. On learning that the driver had recently returned from duty in Vietnam, Chesty wanted to know every detail of how the troops were being taken care of--food, shelter, mail, R & R, etc. While waiting for the second leg of the trip, the corporal bought a copy of MARINE! and, lit by the car's headlights in his driveway, Chesty autographed the book. It was almost 11 years since he had retired and this young Marine was drawn to him--Marines know a leader when they SEE one!
Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)
In the 43 years following its presentation to The Basic School (TBS), the portrait traveled a circuitous route punctuated by two bizarre incidents; all prompting the recall of Mrs. Puller's question, “Why did they do that to him?” And, as before, I have no answer:
(1) Days after we graduated, the CG, MCB, Quantico, Lieutenant General Wieseman saw the portrait in the Reception Room and ordered it removed. It was then hung in the closet-sized office of the Mess Treasurer, Captain Chuck Daugherty. Later that month, Captain Carter P. Swenson and Major Bob Glancy were in the passageway of the headquarters building when, out of the blue, General Puller and his wife walked in: “I understand that there’s a picture of me over in the BOQ and I’d like my wife to see it,” said Chesty. Glancy sent Swenson to re-hang the portrait in the Reception Room as he took the General to see the commanding officer. Just as Swenson and Daugherty finished hanging the portrait, in walked Chesty and his wife: He exclaimed to Mrs. Puller, "There it is!” as the artwork swayed agonizingly from side-to-side.
(2) Subsequently, the portrait journeyed to places as far away as the main-side Officers Club in Harry Lee Hall as well as to out-of-the-way nooks, passageways, and the top-side library of O'Bannon Hall where, reportedly, a crazed lieutenant stabbed it with a bayonet resulting in the painting being sent back to its original artist for repairs.
Apparently, it was much later before the portrait found its way back into the Reception Room where the 269 graduates of the Warrant Officer Class of 1966 intended it to hang in full view of the men and women studying to be leaders of Marines. It was there, when, on 5 June 2009, Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Dalton, USMC (Ret.) and I revisited O'Bannon Hall to see that the portrait had been joined by two other dedications to the memory of Lieutenant General Puller: hanging to the right of the portrait, there was a pencil rubbing of the horizontal marker on his grave at Christ Church Cemetery, Saluda, Virginia donated by Bravo Company, Basic Officers Course 2 of 2001; and below it, on a table, was a bronze bust of him presented by Brigadier General James B. Laster, USMC in 2008. Our pleasure in seeing this growing display was only eclipsed by the responses of new lieutenants we encountered at TBS to the question, “Do you know General Puller?” Uniformly, they answered, “ALL Marines know Chesty Puller!” So, I say: “Rest peacefully MARINE! You are not a lonely piece of history gathering dust on a library shelf, but a continuing inspiration to the Marines of your beloved Corps.”
Great history. I am always fascinated by the story behind the story. The richness of Marine Corps history has been passed again from one generation to the next. Thanks and Semper Fi.
One word say's it all...."OUTSTANDING".
Great story, thank you for sharing this.
Great story, Anthony. Thank you for posting it ....
Semper Fi, Dutch
Semper Fi, Dutch
United States Marine Corps (Ret)
Thank You —
I needed a reminder.
Chesty Puller was a great Marine along with many other favorites of Mine —
General Zinny, Scott Ritter, and the smashing Senator from Virginia and former Sec Nav: James Webb
Godfather of the LIghtweight Fighter Mafia that created the F-16 and forced it on the USAF
King of the Fighter Pilots
Lord of the Bomber Pilots
and lately Scourge of the Tilt-Rotor-Advocates.
Nice article . . real nice!
Col T.V. "Cubie" Shindelar USMC
A beautiful story, Anthony and who is that handsome dude in Summer Svc A? I cannot read about Chesty without reflecting on the tragic story of his son, God be good to them both.
Wonderful story, Anthony -- well told. What a legacy! Thanks for sharing this.
God Bless Chesty Puller and Anthony F Milavic, a fantastic, heart warming all Marine story.
That is a great story and photo!!!
Great story, Anthony. I never knew the story behind the portrait, although it
was one of the first things I saw when I reported in to TBS as a 2dLt.
I never had the honor of meeting him.
Great story, Tony!
And, a great picture, too. Well Done!
This was an Awesome story Sir .
it' must have been an Honor to Meet Chesty Puller in person ..
One Hell of a Marine .You as well
Thank You Sir
Great story, well told!
Semper Fidelis, DAR
About midway between your first contact with Chesty and the portrait's dedication, a young Corporal of Marines just a few months shy of his first "hashmark" had his own copy of Burke Davis' Marine. There was a comment at the end of the book that the icon of the Corps would welcome Marines who choose to drop by. So I did.
I refer to my spouse as my Domestic Chief-of-Staff, but believe me when Virginia Evans Puller met me at the door, there was no question that she was completely in charge, and Domestic or not, she was the Chief-of-Staff at this house in Saluda. After a couple of minutes of polite exchanges, she allowed that the General had walked up the road to get a haircut and that he might appreciate a ride back home. I replied that I could do that, and she pointed me to the Barber Shop.
When he came out of the Silverstream converted to a Barber Shop, I went up and nervously introduced myself, quickly including Mrs Puller's suggestion that he might appreciate a ride back. He look at me, paused a moment, smiled, and accepted. I was on top of the world.
We chatted at I drove to the house, and then I was invited inside for a visit. We passed a brief time with pleasant conversation, and he signed the flyleaf of the book, which I had brought in. Mrs Puller came in a couple of minutes later and let me know, in a very polite and genteel manner, that the visit was over.
Later, in Fortunate Son and other sources, I found out how delicate his health was, and she was a genuine but gracious gatekeeper.
I hadn't thought of this experience for awhile, at least consciously, but after reading your article it all came flooding back.
Glen Barry Evans
Master Sergeant of Marines
Retired from Active Duty
I want a copy for my office wall. No arguments, I want a copy and since I have known you since you were a one hashmark S/Sgt, I figure that I have the right. Send soonest
We still make Marines in our Corps, but seldom do we get one like Chsety. Jerry Turley is cut out of that leadership mold-nice to see your comments, Sir!
I arrived at Camp Barrett early in June, 1960 and reported into Basic Class 2-60. Two or three weeks after I arrived, TBS Class 1-60 had their Mess Night. The Guest of Honor was Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller. I was in one of the remote wings of the BOQ, but as the evening went on the noise from the dining area got louder and louder. We (as "boots") were not allowed into the area, but Chesty got the Lieutenants and their instructors pumped and fired up. I'm not sure how it happened, but at least two of the Instructional Staff (read Captains) jumped off the flying bridge over the bar area and were taken to the hospital with broken legs or ankles. We were unofficially informed "that it would be the last time that Chesty Puller ever came to Basic School".
Obviously, you, as a good Marine, found a way to do what is right and necessary. Thanks!
Later, after the General's death and as a Reserve Officer in Richmond, VA, I had the honor of inviting Mrs. Puller to the Birthday Ball every year in Richmond. She always replied with a gracious note and thanking the Marines for thinking of her. She was a wonderful woman who cared deeply for her husband and the Marines who served her Country.
I am happy to correct the story about Gen Puller coming aboard MCB Quantico.
He came aboard in 1960 to visit with the First Marine Warrant Officer class ofd which I am happy to say I was a member. Nice to remember those things. It was said that his visit to our class was his first return to a Marine Base since his retirement. Just for the record.
Another complimentary commentary on the migration of the oil painting of LtGen Chesty Puller at The Basic School indicates that the gift of the painting and its display was not always a smooth path. There are some aspects of this story that I am not personally knowledgeable of but I do know that the painting mysteriously disappeared from display and was ‘unavailable’ for a prolonged period. At the time I was serving as the Chairman of the National Marine Corps Council, an amalgamation of about three dozen national Marine Corps organizations. Representatives of those organizations met twice a year at either HQMC or Quantico to “pass the word”. At the same time, I was the local area representative of the Marine Corps Mustang Association closely linked to The Basic School, attending every graduation of Warrant Officers and Lieutenants to present an award to an honor graduate.
In doing so, I noted the absence of the painting (this was about the mid-90s to 2005). I recall bringing this to the attention of the C.O. of TBS and asked his assistance and support in finding and displaying the painting in an honored location. Over time, I saw the painting move from a dark passageway near the mess to a more visible and appropriate display on the bulkhead near the Hawkins Room in the O’Bannon Hall student BOQ. Apparently bad judgment calls by some unknown person or persons can be rectified by an astute commander that recognizes the value of leadership motivation for new officers. Certainly, the aura of Chesty Puller persona is of significantly more interest and value to former enlisted Marines who come to the officer ranks with extensive real-world experience than other sources of commission. Still, the legends affect all Marines and it was a remarkable initiative to select that “gift” for TBS from the 7th WOBC, some 43 plus years ago.
Joseph F. Featherston
Major, USMCR, Retired
The only thing I can add is this -
My first helicopter ride was at night to a base known as LZ Stud. Upon arriving a tall Marine Officer got me off the chopper and into a bunker; I did what I came out there to do ... can't even remember where I slept. The next day, not wanting to wait for a helicopter, I rode back to Dong Ha in a jeep ... caught "livin' hell" for being stupid going through Indian Country. I would make one more trip out to that base (going and coming by helicopter with Gunner Conley).
28 years later I would be at a so-called Marine Corps Function with Retired and current Marines (I believe I was the only one that was no more than "prior enlisted"). We all stood up and introduced ourselves. (I kept looking at one of the Marines [and it seemed he was looking at me].) As we walked to lunch, this Marine actually started the conversation first and question exactly where I had been while I was in Vietnam.
That Marine is Anthony Milavic - the same Marine that got me off that first helicopter ride. A member in this Country's biggest Fraternity; he has been an encouragement for my comments to MILNET. I believe - a true, trusted friend!
By the way - there was positively no "hero" stuff that took place that night (more than 40 years ago) nor any other time during by Never, Never Land Tour.
Chesty Puller......some years back when I was down at MCRD we sent off two pictures for Chesty to sign....they would be treasures. Some time later we recieved them back with Chesty's signature. The enclosed letter was from Mrs. Puller saying that the General could no longer sign his name but they had a stamp made from his last legible signature. The very day we received the letter was the day that Chesty died.
In October of '68, as a fairly new major, I was stationed at HQMC as OIC of Marine Motion Picture Production. Part of my responsibilities were the Marine Film Archives at Quantico which, at the time, were housed in a WWII vintage building not too much larger than your average squad bay. I received word that I was to escort famed director, John Ford and Gen. Puller through a selection of Puller-eraa footage that Mr. Ford might use in a planned movie on Gen. Puller.
The visitation day arrived and a formidable entourage of Ford, Puller, wife Victoria, daughter Martha and various strap hangers arrived to see what we had on hand. Puller and Ford had their customary pipes and wife and daughter had uncustomary frowns. Puller looked tired and the ladies were obviously not in favor of this jaunt as the General had already been through some background sessions with Ford. Visits to Saluda were OK, but they didn't approve of all this fuss. The screening itself is sort of a blur, but it came to some sort of a conclusion with promises of footage being made available. [AFM NOTE: Mrs. Puller's Christian name is Virginia not Victoria.]
Before the visit I had purchased a copy of Burke Davis' book which General Puller kindly inscribed to me, and the entourage trooped off with nary a following word about any Chesty Puller production. John Ford did hang around for a while and at the DC Birthday Ball the following month, Ford showed up in the most mazing set of dress blues. They looked hand made by a Hollywood costume department and consisted of a light blue pattern not seen before or since.
LtCol, USMCR (Ret.)
Were you aware that the folks at Saluda named a local highway after Gen. Puller? As i recollect, it is named the "General Puller Highway."
Sacred memories of a true Warrior Hero. Thanks Major!
It occurs to me that it has been 66 years and 6 months since I drove my Comm Jeep off an LST onto Chu Lai Beach. I guess the Gypsy on Hotel Street in Honolulu got it wrong when she told me and my buddy we would not see our 21st birthdays. It wasn't that the VC and NVA didn't try.
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress. -- John Adams
Regards, Mike. McKeever, MSgt USMC
Does anyone ever recall General Puller's supposed Sergeant Major who also retired in Saluda? Earl Barr was his name.
I met him and befriended him in the early 1990s when he was calling himself Captain Earl Barr -- close to the late Strom Thurmond, and involved in international maritime and fishing joint ventures. On more than one occasion he claimed to have been Puller's Sergeant Major, but I was never able to verify.
In late 1951/52 I was assigned to the 3rd Mar Brigade, Camp Pendleton. General Puller was the commanding officer of the brigade. During an inspection he asked a friend of mine, we were both 2nd Lts at the time, if he was ready for combat. My friend answered that he only needed ammunition. Puller was very complimentary about the remark. A second story from about the same time, the 3rd Mar Brigade would have exercises that involved landings on the beaches near Camp Pendleton. Families and friends would come down to the beaches to watch the doings. Puller took exception to this and stopped it; "These exercises are not picnics." he said for which he took a lot of local ill-deserved criticism. He was also quoted as saying that a Marine should come back from war either a hero or on his shield.
Later, about 1955, General Puller became commanding general, 2nd Mar Div. A friend of mine (Captain Mark Anthony Moore) who had a degree in english - a requirement directed by General Puller, was appointed aide to General Puller. Lots of stories came from Captain Moore for example:
- General and Mrs. Puller arrived at Camp Lejuene late one evening. He did so in a standard Chevy sedan. For some reason the guard on the gate did not stop General Puller. General Puller did not know Camp Lejuene. He drove from the front gate to the first large building he saw. Thinking it was the adm building of the 2nd Mar Div, he went to the front door and knocked. Actually the building was the adm buildling of the Camp Lejeune base, a separate command. A sleepy officer peered through the window. General Puller asked him if this was headquarters of the 2nd Mar Div. The officer shouted through the closed door that it was not, that the 2nd Mar Div headquarters was further down the road and went back to bed. General and Mrs. Puller continued on down the road to the 2nd Mar Div headquarters building. There he once again knocked on the door which was answered by a sleepy sergeant, whose first response was "Who the hell is it? followed by "Oh my God, it's General Puller." That was General Puller's welcome to Camp Lejeune and the 2nd Mar Div.
- Some stories of General Puller while Commanding General, 2nd Mar Div :
- He threw a letter at Capt Moore and told him to answer the SOB. It was from
the Chief of Staff of the Chinese Army.
- He told Captain Moore to call up Colonel and tell him to kiss his (Puller's)
ass. Captain Moore attempted to modify this somewhat which Puller overheard at
which time Puller directed Moore a second time to tell Colonel to kiss his ass and
stood next to Moore until he did exactly that. "Sir, General Puller wishes you to kiss his
- General Puller was later replaced as Commanding General 2nd Mar Div and given the created job of deputy base commander, Camp Lejeune. General Puller's office was quite small and Captain Moore did not have an office rather had a desk in the hall of the Camp Lejuene adm building.
- General Puller was subsequently discharged from the Marine Corps for medical reasons but was not given a medical discharge.
David I. Carter
LtColonel, USMC Retired (1969)
Joe F. forwarded this website to me; he was the WOC that the hill-trail signed warned about "Beware of falling Wocs'" as I began to club him with my rifle butt as he was hanging on to the entrenching tool strapped to my haversack while we were negotiating that unhappy terrain where we had to grab hold of tree roots and other vegetative matter to climb up that mother.
I have something to add to this. Puller came back to TBS in  as well. I was living in O'Bannon hall at the time, with the future Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, as my roomate. And Chesty Puller was also a guest at our mess night that year. There was a good reason why. His son, Lewis B. Puller Jr. was one of the officer students at that function. He was in another student company and wouldn't grauate for another month or so. But these were elaborate, complicated functions, and they pressed a couple of companies together for them. We were all awestruck of course by his presence.
Lew Jr. was quiet, almost withdrawn, and did his best to conceal his identity. I wouldn't have wanted to be in his position. I assume you know his story. My gunny at MCAS Kaneohe Bay had been at the Marine Barracks at Philadelphia when he was in hospital there, and told me some stories about his predicament, and the family's visits. His doctor said he was the worst wounded person to actually survive he had ever seen, and that he often asked himself if they had done him a favour by saving his life.
I will always feel much sadness about him. I liked his memoir, Fortunate Son. I thought it was honest, and hard to write, totally devoid of all the sefl-serving chest pounding common to so many war memoirs. Far be it from me to condemn him for the choices he made. But I wish he had hung on and was still around. He still had a lot to offer.
Great story.I also agree that Jerry Turley is cut from the same cloth. I was his radio operator '66-'67 With 3/7 Officers like that are few and far between.
I joined the Corps in 1955, I never met the General, but, like all Marines I feel like I know him.
We need more leaders like Chesty.I was an 0311, 0351, 0353, 0369
Best "job" I ever had was Co Gunny of Suicide Charley, 1/7, 1968-69
I retired in 1975 as a 1st Sgt.
Thank you for the link, great reading and it reinforces several thoughts I have had over the years.
Dad was a “Puller Marine” in Korea.
GySgt D.A. “Red” Millis II USMC (Ret.)
I attended his (Lew, Jr.'s) funeral at Arlington...it was a beautiful day...lots of people, politicians (Chuck Robb) etc. Very, very sad nonetheless. It seemed especially quiet that day.
MAY I ADD ONE MORE THING TO YOUR ARTICLE ABOUT LT. PULLER, JR. HE WAS MY SON'S LT. IN NAM WHEN MY SON WAS INJURED.THEY MET UP AG.AIN IN THE PHILA. NAVAL HOSPITAL LT. PULLER WAS QUITE SURPRISED TO SEE MY SON WAS STILL ALIVE. ALL THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD WHEN HE WAS MEDI-VACED OUT OF THE FIELD. MY SON'S NAME WAS JOHN H. WHITNEY AND HAS SINCE DIED OF HIS WOUNDS BUT I AM STILL A VERY PROUD MARINE MOM.
The woman [ELLIE WHITNEY] who wrote this is a dear friend of mine..she lives in
Florida....is in her 80's and is a very special Marine mom...we met via
the internet when I was on a bulletin board and someone dissed the
Marines Corps...I got mad and blamed a few people...she was one of
them...wrote me back furious that I would accuse her of every saying
anything negative about our Corps...from that point on we became dear
friends....I love Ellie....but we had not discussed that her son served
under Chesty....Semper, Susan
Portrait of a Marine was passed to me by a Marine that I served in Vietnam with,in sister Huey Gunship Sqns.
In the posted comments, I saw a number of old friends.
I only served a little over 4 years in the Marine Corps, but they were well lived.
I never strayed from the fold even after my discharge from active duty.
Reading about Chesty reminded me of some friends whose lives were touched by him.
I have a few stories of my own about the book MARINE !
During one of my civilian life adventures, working a contract for a Saudi Prince, I had the opportunity to share the book with my Saudi counterpart.
Sincere best regards,
Portrait of "MARINE!"---absolutely "outstanding."
J. C. Lilly, Jr.
Colonel U. S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
[AFM NOTE: Col. Lilly was the #1 graduate of 7TH WOCSC, the precursor to the WARRANT OFFICER CLASS OF 1966]
The U/I Marine to Dalton's right wearing glasses is Jon Robertson.
It was good hearing from you...some ways it seems like a long time ago and others not so long...however; 50 yrs ago this month I arrived at Parris Island.....that is a long time ago!!!
Thanks for the info. Good stories.
Gen Puller was once asked why he had chosen to be buried in the Christ Church graveyard rather than at Arlington. He replied that the senior man buried in the graveyard was a Confederate brigadier, which meant that he'd be be in command at the final muster.
Best and S/F. Bill Dabney
About the time of the first anniversary of the Beirut bombing, I was working contract for a Saudi Prince.
This involved working with the Saudi manager of the Kings Royal Terminal at King Khalid Int Airport in Riyadh, KSA.
I met this Saudi manager through an American manager, a US Army Veteran of Vietnam, who was on a different contract at the airport.
The Saudi had worked his way through college in the US as a body guard for a Saudi Prince.
He was befriended by a former Army Green Beret RVN Vet, who took him to Las Vegas and turned him on to Western decadency.
When he found out that I was a Marine Vietnam Vet, he immediately befriended me.
I was taken to, and shown things in the Arab world that few Westerners are privey to.
There were "Palestinians" working at the Airport that had been run out of Beirut.
( Oh, and a KGB Colonel that had wangled his way in as well.)
Majid looked after me. I was allowed access to highly secret "areas".
He loved to hear "War stories", and what made Marines "special people".
I decided to give him his very own copy of Mr Burke's book, MARINE, and started his "education".
It was hardly required reading for the Royal Family's Royal Terminal and Mosque Manager.
I have attached a picture that I think most Marines would get a rise out of!
How was I to know then, what 25 years would bring?!
Best regards, and Semper Fi!
Thanks alot, good reading!
JUST READ YOUR PIECE ABOUT OUR OIL PAINTING OF GENERAL PULLER...GREAT JOB MARINE.
FRANK MC CARTHY HERE...I WAS A MEMBER OF YOUR WOCS CLASS IN 66 AND THE WARRANT OFFICER BASIC CLASS IN 66. ALSO A GOOD FRIEND OF J.C. LILLY, BOB DALTON AND MIKE DUGGAN. WAS WITH GERRY FLICK WHEN HE GOT HIT (REAL BAD) DURING OPERATIONS IN COBI THAN TANH VALLEY, VIETNAM...OPERATION CHINOOK. WE WERE BOTH PLATOON COMMANDERS WITH 3RD BATTALION 26TH MARINES AT THE TIME.. HAVEN''T SEEN HIM SINCE THE EVACUATION CHOPPER THAT TOOK HIM TO DANANG. HEARD HE MADE IT BUT WOULD HAVE A ROUGH TIME OF IT. IF YOU KNOW ANY MORE THAN I DO ABOUT GERRY WOULD APPRECIATE YOU PASS IT ON.
FRANK MC CARTHY
MAJOR USMC RET.
Regarding Gen Puler. I had the privilege of being cursed at and sent away by the general.
At a Marine Corps ball in 1970 at Quantico my date and I and a buddy and his wife were attending together. His wife wanted to meet the general – he nor my date wanted to. So I escorted her up to meet the general on the second deck. I politely introduced myself and the lady – the general then told me to be get the hell out of there –he wanted to talk to the lady an not some hard dick Marine.
My claim to fame I guess.
John "Doc" Holladay
former Captain of Marines
Contrary to what Mrs. Puller may have thought about naming a dog after Chesty, Chesty himself was a bulldog so-to-speak. The bulldog is famous for meeting the bull head on lunging at the bull , sinking his teeth into his foe and hanging on until the bull is taken down....Thus a ferocious but majestic warrior.
Mrs. Puller was a fine lady indeed but I disagree with her.........naming the Marine mascot after the General honored "Chesty" more than one might think. The bulldog will forever be the Marine mascot....Therefore, the General will live forever........That's why I named my bulldog "Little General Chesty Puller"
Maj---Needless to say your phone call sort of caught me off guard. I am blessed that you phoned me & after reading the e-mail seeing the work of the presentation this brought back many memories of the class.
I commend you for the efforts during this presentation.
I often wonder how many of the class made it thru the Namn erra. I was blessed via the 66 class. I was one of the few who was awarded the MARINE GUNNER. Then too I accepted the temp. assignment of temp rank as 2nd LT. Made the rank to Captain.
Served the tour in Namn as captain with a fullfillment of as lot of stress & desire mostly. The tour was a great learning point for me as the 1st assignment was CO H&S Company, Then the Div. ordnance officer was killed, being a 2002 I was assigned as the Div. Ord Officer.-- Next came to me as having a marksmanship background, The General seemed to be stressed as why the Marksmanship of the Marines was not sufficient.
I truly remember CHESTY PULLER when I was at Camp LeJ. 1955 1956 or there abouts. Just too long ago to be exact. I do remember the changes he bestowed on all Marines. A HELL-OF-A-MARINE.
I WANT TO THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART FOR SENDING ME THIS INFO. This info I will pass on to my children-- 2 daughts & 2 sons. One son served 7 years as a MARINE.. Regrets ever getting out. Both sons shoot competition with me yet today.
Capt, USMC, Ret'd
Anthony, I’m not certain but I think I was the only Class member of the 7th WOC that also attended the 6th WOC. I had the misfortune of tripping on tree roots and tearing the Tendons in my Right Ankle while running the Confidence Course, two weeks prior to graduation. Since I was unable to pass the Course, I was terminated due to Physical disabilities and granted the option of returning to the 7th WOC. Obviously, I was more than ready physically and mentally in knowing what to anticipate, and can say that I was totally prepared for the rigorous training.
Bobby J. Parrish
Captain USMC (Ret’d)-------------------------------------------------
I was stationed at MCDEC PhotoServices when picked up for WOCSC-7. I was sent to the west coast then RVN before returning to Quantico. Several other trips across the pond always returning to Quantico, from which I finally retired in May '77 as Photographic Officer.
Another note on the wonderful Mrs Puller. In 1969 I was stationed at the Marine Photographic Headquarters in D.C. when the Commandant General Chapman gave me a letter he had received from Mrs. Puller, requesting some assistance if possible.
It seems that Chesty was receiving requests from just about the entire Marine Corps, requesting a photo of him. For quite a time he had been having these 8x10 photographs done at his own expense at a local photo store near his home. I researched our archives and found the photo of Chesty that was shot in Korea that later was on the cover of "CHESTY."
I had 1000 of these made up and personally delivered them to the Pullers in Saluda. Mrs. Puller was very thankful and gracious.
I left after a short but memorable visit really feeling good.
Semper Fi, John Olsen
Sorry to take so long to get you an answer on Chesty's picture at our [VFW] Branch Home in Havelock. It is a 2' X 3' copy of the portrait [The 7th WOCSC portrait] , that was donated to the Branch Home a number of year ago by a Col J. C. Richardson. I hope that answers your question, it is not the copy from Br 208 FRA.
Jerry Butler 1stSgt USMC Ret.
May I post a link to this on our website and on our Facebook page?
Col Walt Ford, USMC (Ret)
Publisher/Editor, Leatherneck Magazine
My first Birthday Ball was 1967 at Parris Island. I was a PFC working at Receiving Bks as a Clerk. We worked 12 hr shifts....That week I was working nights....after completing my shift I returned to my Bks and put on for the 1st time my Winter Service "A" uniform. I attended the cake cutting ceremony at the football field. I sat next to a well decorated 1stSgt who had his shooting badges on and they were laddered with at least 9 different expert awards each....
Gen Puller was escorted by the CG MajGen McTomkins. Gen Puller's first word was "Marines" and it was a sratchy cracked voice....the 1stSgt next to me had tears in his eyes....
It was a very moving experience for a young PFC! I was not fotunate enough to be able to attend the Ball as I had to work...Happy Birthday Chesty!
In 1962, I was working in the Marine Air Reserve Training Detachment at Glenview (Lance Corporal). Our office was on the second floor above the operations shack.
One of our guys glanced out the window and remarked, "That looks like Chesty Puller down there!"
Everyone told him to "Go to hell." but someone else looked and exclaimed, "My God! That IS Chesty!"
Seems that the General had been in town for a 1st Division reunion and was waiting for a "hop" home.
Colonel Conley immediately ran down stairs and brought the General up to wait in his office with everyone "sounding off" when he walked in.
Always incensed me that, after standing several Honor Guards for various Reserve Navy Captains, those damned squids let a Marine Lieutenant General walk on that base and never told anyone.
I don't normally use the term "squid" but make an exception in this case.
H. W. (Bill) Buss
Sir, thanks for sharing events of Chesty, he was my Reg. CO in Korea. He was
a Leader that stood with his Marines, and would back them on the Battlefield or
in a courtroom. That seems to be missing in today's Marine Corps.
USMC- 1948- 53 S/Sgt
Wow Anthony great story!!! Thanks for sharing.
Douglas E. Power
Community Planning and Liaison Officer
Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center
Bridgeport, CA 93517
Thank you sir for including me on this email. That was/is the best review of someone we all respect and admire, and who to many of us was as close to being a real Warrior God as is possible in this life.
For Marines and their friends. When I first read the Major's article, I was surprised that the Hierarchy of the Corps had not shown more regard for Chesty when/after he retired. I was NOT surprised that young Mustang (prior enlisted) officer candidates took it upon themselves to honor one of American History's greatest combat leaders.
If I have anything to be proud of in this life, it is that I wore the same uniform as Chesty and all the young Marine heroes who (with their families) have been sacrificing for us in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last 11 years.
At Lights Out in Boot Camp in MCRD, San Diego, in 1964, we laid at Attention in our racks and shouted "Good Night Chesty!" every night.
Marines remember stuff like that.
MSgt USMC (Ret)
Thank you Major. An outstanding tribute to a man and time I am afraid we may never see again.
Once again, "Men follow courage, not titles." Braveheart
Read your story of Gen. Puller's portrait. Well done and well deserved. Also noted a few Chesty stories and have a couple to add. I can say that I had the honor to serve under General Puller when he commanded the 1st Marine Division. Chestey was promoted to brigadier general I think it was in early February, 1951, and became the assistant division commander. At that time we were attached to the U.S. Army IX Corps. The corps commander was a general named Moore. He had a heart attack and died one night. General Smith was the senior officer in IX Corps so he took command of the corps and Chesty became division commander. It was a day of quiet celebration all across the division. But it didn't last long. The army was not going to let some Marine run IX Corps, or any other corps. So they shipped another general out in a big hurry.
The best Chesty story I ever heard I got from Major Bob Lorigan who was Chesty's S-3. The 1st Marines were getting ready to cross the Han River into Seoul. MacArthur has chosen to come ashore and have a look around and came to the 1st Marines CP. He wanted to give Chesty a Silver Star. Chesty was on an OP on a hill overlooking the river. The XO called him up and told him MacArthur was there and wanted to give him a medal. Chesty's response was "Tell the general I am on my OP." To his credit MacArthur knew who Chesty was and how well he was regarded by all Marines, and knowing the word would get around about what he was going to do, climbed up the hill to the OP, followed by a squad of other generals and gofers, and pinned another silver star on Chesty. The story did get around.
All concerned breathed a sigh of relief”
Days after your class graduated from TBS, the CG, MCB, Quantico, Lieutenant General Frederick Weisman happened to see the portrait in the Hawkins Room. He, because of some unknown past problem or conflict with Chesty, ordered the portrait taken down and replaced with the portrait of the 1800’s vintage Marine Officer which originally occupied the space. Chesty was then taken to the small, almost closet sized office of the Mess Treasurer, Captain Chuck Daugherty, where it languished behind his desk. In late May, Captain Carter Swenson, XO of “G” company and Major Bob Glancy the CO were out in the passageway in the TBS CP. The front door opened and in came General Puller and his wife. “I understand that there’s a picture of me over in the BOQ and I’d like my wife to see it” said Chesty. A look corresponding to the contemporary OMG! or worse, passed between them. Glancy said “I’ll stall him and take him to see the CO, you get the portrait back up on the bulkhead”. Swenson double timed over to Daugherty’s cubbyhole. They then took down the portrait and with a chair to stand on, took down the existing picture, hid it, and replaced it with Chesty’s just in the nick of time, for just then in came Chesty and Mrs. P. Chesty said “There it is”, not noticing the barely perceptible swaying of the artwork.
Col. Carter Swenson, USMC (Ret.)
My Grandfather was Chesty Puller's bunkmate at Quantico! They
remained best of friends throughout their lives. I believe they served together
in Haiti and I know that my Uncles called Chesty Puller Uncle Chesty!I have some
photos from the barracks during that time and it appears as if Chesty held/took
the pictures for my Grandfather. Probably the only guy my Grandfather trusted
with his camera!The story in my family history has it that my Grandfather helped
Puller with his math problems at Quantico so he could graduate the Officers
Candidate Course. My Grandfather was 2nd Lt. Leslie B. Dyer from WWI and was a
Capt. for the coastal watch during WWII. He served on board the Battleship Texas
during WWI as the Captains Aide. It is so sad that WWI records of our Marines
have been lost to fire. I always hold Marines in high regard for their
service,spirit, and lifelong devotion to the Corp. Semper Fidelis.
Civilian,novice military historian, professional model maker,art
ist, and many "hats", Ted A. Dyer.