11 December 2012

An Open Appeal For The Chesty Puller Monument

Anthony F. Milavic
Major, United States Marine Corps (Retired)

On 12 November 2012, I attended the ceremonial unveiling of the Chesty Puller Monument at Triangle, Virginia. After the statue was revealed, I reflected back to 1966 when Mrs. Puller lamented to me how the only thing the United States Marine Corps had done to recognize the General's unequaled accomplishments as a Marine was to name a dog at Marine Barracks, 8th & I Streets, Washington, DC, "Chesty." Although, the sponsor for this memorial was The Marine Corps League rather than the Corps per se, I am sure she would have been pleased to see its establishment here on a hill overlooking the epicenter for Marine history and heritage, The National Museum of the Marine Corps.


However, my pleasure in seeing this Monument was muted. In describing the statue, one of the speakers lauded the sculptor for his painstaking representation of the General's pistol holster in order to make it faithful to the original: Unfortunately, it is not. That depiction reflects a government-issued pistol holster for a M1911 pistol with a flap covering the pistol grip. General Puller's holster did not have a flap. This left the pistol grip exposed to facilitate the rapid withdrawal of the weapon; and, it was attached to the belt with a belt-loop. Permit me to explain how I know this:

FIRST: It is illustrated in photos and text.

The three pictures below show: on the left, the statue's representation of its government-issued holster; in the middle, Puller, during the Korean War, wearing his no-flap, exposed pistol grip holster; and, on the right, another photo showing him wearing the holster with the exposed pistol grip. Also, this photo shows his holster is attached to his pistol belt with a belt-loop instead of the metal hooks characteristic of the government-issued holster featured on the Monument:



The above center picture of the no-flap holster appears in the books MARINE! by Burke Davis, and CHESTY, by LtCol Jon T. Hoffman, USMCR, and the photo on the right was provided by Col. Jon T. Hoffman, USMCR (Ret.). The cited books contain still other less illustrative photos of the General's unique personal holster.  

The utility of the quick-draw configuration of Chesty's holster is exemplified on page 58 of the book MARINE!

"The native boss was a fire-eating brigand who had been appointed as the local jefé politico. Puller invaded his office, accompanied by a sergeant . . .. As he talked, he saw a partially open drawer in the desk before the chief, and the butt of a revolver. The boss looked as if he wanted to snatch the pistol. 

" 'Go ahead,' Puller said, 'Use it if you can. We'll settle this once and for all. You'd better be fast'

"The Chief glanced at Puller's old hand-made holster, worn from so many months on the trails of Haiti, and hesitated. He closed the drawer slowly with his knee and placed his empty hands on the desk."

SECOND: Chesty loaned me his holster and directed that it be represented in his portrait.

During 1966, I was a member of the Warrant Officer Class of 1966, The Basic School (TBS), Quantico, Virginia. Our Class decided to give a parting gift of a portrait of Chesty to TBS. To that end, I, with classmates Robert J. Dalton and Wolfgang H. "Dutch" Fleck, traveled to General Puller's home in Saluda, Virginia to discuss the composition of the painting and invite him to its unveiling. During our conversations, he showed us a no-flap pistol holster given to him by a friend during his service in Haiti and he told us that he wore that holster in every war he participated in. He also said that he would like that holster illustrated on his portrait. To assure the accuracy of the portrayal, he loaned us the holster to pass on to the artist to copy. The holster was returned to the General the day after the portrait was unveiled; and, I would hope, currently resides with the custodian of his Marine effects--one of his daughters or daughter-in-law? In any case, the oil-on-canvas portrait we gave to TBS does not contain enough detail to discern that holster. Although the portrait lacks details it does not, as is the case with the Chesty Puller Monument, misrepresent General Puller. For the complete story of this portrait with photos of the General with his portrait, SEE: http://thebutter-cutter.com/Portrait_of__MARINE__.php 


As shown above, the Chesty Puller Monument includes a representation of a government-issued pistol holster rather than that of the unique pistol holster that its namesake wore in combat and wanted included with his image. In spite of the good intentions that drove the creation of the Monument, it currently presents a flawed picture to all who come here seeking to savor Marine history and heritage and therefor demands correction. Moreover, it is only fitting that a memorial to this Marine be faithful to him who was himself the personification of, "Semper Fidelis." 

Semper Fidelis,

Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)

PS: On 26 November, I communicated my observations and appeal to: The Executive Director, Marine Corps League, Mike Blum, (ExecDir@MCLeague.org); The Director, National Museum of the Marine Corps, Lin Ezell, (lin.ezell@usmc.mil); and the Monument's sculptor, Terry Jones, (rademart1999@sbcglobal.net). Of these, Lin Ezell responded to my communication by saying, "I know that sculptor Terry Jones takes great care with his work and will be interested in your observations."


24 December 2012

Vets want Chesty’s statue redone

Few Marines are as revered as Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller. He is as much a part of the ser­vice’s mythology as Tun Tav­ern or the Battle for Iwo Jima.

So when the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation unveiled the legend’s bronze statue on the grounds of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., on Nov. 12, retired Maj. Anthony Milavic wanted to be there.

But Milavic said he and other retired Marines in attendance were disap­pointed to see Puller depict­ed wearing a standard-issue holster, with a flap covering his M1911 .45-caliber pistol. In fact, Puller routinely wore a custom quick-draw holster that became part of his persona, he said.

Now Milavic is asking the foundation to alter the statue. But a spokesman there says the organization stands behind the work — and the holster.

“Sculptor Terry Jones, in coordination with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, took great care to ensure all details of Lt. Gen. Puller’s uniform were correct for the period por­trayed,” wrote Dan Gregory, in an email. “Jones reviewed many photographs of Lt. Gen. Puller and conducted extensive research on the equipment of the day. The most famous painting of Lt. Gen. Puller ... shows the hol­ster unmodified, as it is on the statue.”  While Milavic concedes that Puller may have worn a standard holster in garrison, he says Puller wore his cus­tom holster into combat as seen in historic photographs.

[MILAVIC NOTE: What is this "most famous painting"? This is the first and ONLY painting Chesty provided guidance for and approved that I know of and the holster is NOT distinct: http://thebutter-cutter.com/Portrait_of__MARINE__.php] 

Milavic would like to see the standard-issue holster removed and an accurate one welded on. The founda­tion isn’t budging.

Models of the statue were reviewed by those who served with Puller, his family was consulted and photos of the model were published, Gregory said.

“At no time were concerns mentioned and the Founda­tion is satisfied with its accuracy,” he wrote. 

— James K. Sanborn


A retired Marine major has mounted a campaign to alter the statue of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, which graces the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va.


Major, It appears that the artist got bum scoop on the issue otherwise he would have done the right thing in the first place. That said do we know what the options are at this point? I address that question to the artist as the question is where do we go from here?
Top R


Good catch, Major.    Excellent presentation....if I may say.   I agree, if it's meant to do real honor, him standing up there, of course with all the rest, should be him personally.  His sidearm and him were personal, I'd say ....and Thx to you.     So, what's your next step?
 S.F. Brasso


TO: ExecDir@MCLeague.Org, Lin.Ezell@USMC.Mil, and Rademart1999@SBCGlobal.Net


Thank you for your 
service to the USMC and the USA

I request that you review the request of Major Anthony Milavic, USMC (Ret) as to the modification to the fine statue/tribute of Gen Puller that was recently dedicated.

I suppose that the style of holster would not be a big deal ... except for the fact that the General thought it was!!  ..... See below:

I'm not a Marine but I do come from a long line of USN USMC Types and heard about the exploits of Gen Puller early on.
As the token Air Force Guy on Anthony's Blog Site, I have enjoyed interacting with Vets of all persuasions!
Thanks for your consideration and MERRY CHRISTMAS ;-)

D Shea, Maj USAF (Ret)
PS: Having a custom personal holster also strikes a chord with me as I, too, designed my own Colt 45 holster but, unlike the General, I had to hide mine in my flight suit leg pocket!

Maj. Milavic,
My editor forwarded your recent post on Chesty's statue at the museum and we would like to get something in the paper this week, if you have time to speak for a few minutes by phone. I also sent a message to you through the form on your web site.
If you could give me a call at 703-750-8613 or send me an e-mail reply with your best phone number and I'll give you a call as quickly as I can.
James K. Sanborn
Staff Writer
Marine Corps Times


What will it cost to make the statue correct?



Shades of oversight, how in the hell did I miss it. Yesterday [11 Dec 2012], I was contacted by 1stSgt. Jim Barnett, USMC (Ret.); he was  one of four Marines who initiated the statue project (the other three: MSgt Corby Gorman, USMC (Ret.), Sgt. Floyd Newkirk, USMC (MRet.), & Sgt. Don Maurer, USMC (HD)). He told me that the memorial was supposed to include his rank insignia---The statue contains the rank insignia of a colonel rather than a Marine lieutenant general. Oh, yes, he did speak to Col. Dabney--the General's son-in-law now deceased--early on, and Chesty's unique holster was proposed for the monument.

No, Mrs. Puller, I do NOT know why "they" keep doing this to him. On second thought, had he been a member of the US Army, the Army would have been faithful to him as they were to his cousin showing him with the TWO quick-draw holsters he wore in combat AND his insignia of rank:

Semper TRYING To Live Up To, "Semper Fidelis",

Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)


Desecrate the warriors, revise the history,elevate the "Yes" men, (and women) 
no loads, and put a politically correct military regime in place.
Loyal only to the party.

The "Marine Museum" is NOT a MUSEUM OF MARINES, BY Marines, and
FOR Marines.

It is just another money pit, propagandizing the image that the Marine Corps
wishes to project. Letter perfect to regulation.

Lin Ezell needs to be back at the Smithsonian, pandering to the liberal
intelligentsia, and defending the apology for the Enola Gay. 

Tom Bartlett, when ever he was caught in a editorial discrepancy, he would
simply say...."That will just be our little secret".

I guess that's better than just having smoke blown up your ass!

SEMPER FIDELIS    ( I guess it's only where you find it )

Norm "Frenchy" LaFountaine


In regard to absence of rank insignia, I believe Chesty would be happy with absence of rank at this appearance as an enlisted Marine indicates, , he was quite proud of his Good Conduct medals.  And I think the plaque at the base of the statue indicates his rank as a Lieutenant General.
Will Clifford


I was there with you in the WO Class when we funded for the painting of our General. [The statue] should be corrected.
John O'Hara
Capt USMC Ret


The rear photo [photo of Puller in Korea above] shows two types of canteens, the left WW2 with 
bakelite/plastic cap and the right WW1 with aluminum cap.  I suspect the WW1 
canteen may have had some significance to General Puller as well i.e. from his 
earlier service.  If you are taking the time to fix the holster and rank, might 
be worth fixing the canteen cap if that is what he carried.  Personally I'm 
surprised they showed him with a helmet instead of a field cap as thats all I've 
ever seen photos of him wearing.  Regards from the Army, 


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