[The Early Years]
FORTY YEARS of military service climaxed by the greatest war the world has ever known covers a generous slice of history. Before I proceed to the events of that war as seen through the eyes of the Commanding General of the Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, I think I should tell something about myself, because those forty years were the crucial period of Marine Corps development.
How I got the name "Howlin' Mad" I don't know, but it was pinned on me while I was stationed on Luzon, the main island in the Philippines. After being commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1906, I was assigned to Olongapo, our naval base on Subic Bay, which indents the northwestern extremity of Bataan Peninsula, later immortalized in American history. Olongapo wasn't much of a base at that time, but it had a garrison, and here Marines were introduced to the Philippines.
For my first command, I inherited "A" Company, 2nd Regiment, from Captain "Hiking Hiram" Bearss. This was a great honor for a young officer just out of training school. Command of a company usually was assigned to a Captain, not a Second Lieutenant, and, besides, "A" Company and its commanding officer were famous in Marine circles. Hiking Hiram was one of the greatest travelers on foot in the Corps. He spent all his leisure time tramping, and on his own two feet had been everywhere a man could go, except perhaps to the top of Mount Everest.
Samar, in the eastern Philippines, was his favorite proving ground, and he had hiked all over the island, taking mountains, carabao trails and swamp paths in his stride. He always hiked
with his shirt tail flapping outside his pants and the Samar natives must have derived their first amused impressions of the made Americano as they watched him swinging along the trails.
Hiking Hiram infected his company with his own enthusiasm and it held the record for the toughest training march in the Philippines--Olongapo to Dinalupihan, 65 miles of the worst foot-blistering, back-breaking terrain to be found anywhere. Insect life and the damp heat of Northern Luzon helped take every ounce of stamina out of a man tramping under competitive conditions, which were heavy marching order, consisting of rifle, ammunition, five day's rations and extra clothing weighing forty-five pounds.
Naturally, "A" Company's performance was a challenging reputation to pass on to me straight from the States, but I wasn't abashed. At school I was a sprinter and I knew what training meant. I started hiking and worked up an enthusiasm that soon led me on long treks all over the island. While my buddies spent their weekends absorbing night life in Manila, I was hiking along mountain trails and hacking through the jungles. When the right moment arrived, I paraded my company of 98 men and told them I was going to attack and beat Captain Bearss' record. probably the men thought I was presumptuous, but we started out. It was a day and a night tip, with a camp in the jungle, and I beat Hiram's record by three hours.
I suppose I did use tempestuous language to keep the men moving because I was determined to break the record. Somewhere along the line, or perhaps in the telling of the story afterwards, the name "Howlin' Mad" was coined. Despite the reputation it has given me, I protest that I am not given to sudden, uncontrollable outbursts of temper or to bawling out without cause. I would rather reason with a man than try to browbeat him. However, I do speak frankly, freely and emphatically when injustices occur, when official stupidity obstructs plans, or when the brass, big or small, tries to take liberties with my Marines. My vehemence has been magnified into habitual irreverence, which is incorrect.
"Howlin' Mad" stuck to me through my career, but when I was born on April 20, 1882, at Hatchechubbee in Russell County, Alabama, a village twenty-seven miles form the Georgia border, I was named Holland McTyeire Smith after my great-uncle, Holland Nimmons McTyeire, who was a Bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. My great-uncle not only was a distinguished divine but a notable scholar and writer on religious subjects. Chinese Methodists in Shanghai named a girls' school after him, which Madame Sun Yat-sen and Madame Chiang Kai-shek attended. He was the first president of Vanderbilt University, which he helped to establish by talking Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt into financing the project.
My father and mother hoped that by naming me after this ancestor I would follow in his footsteps. It was a great disappointment to them when their son showed no inclination to enter the Methodist ministry. Both my father, John Wesley Smith, Jr., and my mother, who was born Cornelia Caroline McTyeire, were very religious and my early years were strictly disciplined along Methodist lines. but my career must have been preordained by the character of other forebears.
My paternal grandfather, John Wesley Smith, was a Home Guard captain in the Confederacy. My grandmother on the paternal side was Martha Patrick, a direct descendant of Patrick Henry. My maternal grandfather, William C. McTyeire, was a sharpshooter in the Confederate Army. His proud possession was one of the new rifles obtained from England. This weapon was greatly superior to the old smooth bore gun, but as the Confederates had only a few, they were distributed only to the best shots and averaged about one rifle to a thousand men, which made my grandfather an outstanding soldier, indeed.
I don't know whether it was juvenile skepticism or just bloodthirsty curiosity that prompted me to ask him one day, "Grandpa, are you sure you ever killed a man in the war?"
He looked at me with an earnestness I had seldom seen in his face and said, "Holland, I'll tell you a story."
Settling back in his chair he began, "One evening in December we were in the Shenandoah Valley and from my position
on the south bank of the river I heard a Yankee soldier call out, 'Johnny Reb! Got any tobacco?."
"I yelled back, 'Yes! You got any coffee?' He called back to say he had.
"We both agreed to leave our weapons behind and come down to the stream to exchange tobacco for coffee and return to our posts without shooting at each other. We made the exchange all right but the Yankee got back to his post before I reached mine and whizz! a bullet almost clipped my ear. I ducked behind a rock and grabbed my new English rifle and shot the Yankee before he could take cover."
Then Grandfather added, "One of his comrades ran out to drag him in and I was so damn mad I shot him, too. Son, I've always been ashamed of that second shot."
My father was born in Harris County, Georgia. His family had been greatly influenced by the visit to the United States of John Wesley, the great English preacher, and the event was perpetuated by the family use of the two names, John Wesley. This custom caused some confusion in my father's life because my grandfather frequently received my father's letters. To avoid further blurring of his identity my father changed his name to John V. Smith.
The War of Secession impoverished the Smiths like many other Southern families. My father was able to attend the Alabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn for only one year. His ambition was to become a lawyer. Diligence and perseverance overcame the handicaps the war created and in 1881 he was admitted to the Alabama Bar. In 1890 he was elected to the office of Court Solicitor from the State of Alabama and later was appointed President of the Railroad Commission, where he served four years. He practiced law in Montgomery County and was a member of the State Legislature. My father died in 1913.
My mother was a remarkable woman. Alabama born, she died in Montgomery on August 7, 1946, at the age of 83. My father left her a meager estate but she possessed a keen business sense and by careful management developed the property to such proportions that her two children were comfortably off. My
younger sister, Corrie Caroline, shortened by the family to Corrie C, married Robert Platt Boyd, an engineer employed by the State of Alabama, and died in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1920.
My mother took an active part in the Methodist Church. She was a woman of strong character. When I was three, the family moved from Hatchechubbee to Seale, in the same county. Seale is the Russell County seat, twenty miles from Columbus, Georgia, and therefore a place of considerable local importance.
The Central Georgia Railroad runs through Seale where the town marshal was notorious for his toughness in dealing with tramps who rode the freights. Generally, the tramps gave the town a wide berth, jumping off the trains outside the town and picking them up on the other side. During the interval they harassed the villagers with petty thefts.
One tramp tried to force his way into our hose. My mother picked up the revolver that my father had taught her to use and fired at the tramp, who disappeared down the dusty road as fast as he could in his broken shoes. I don't think my mother hit him but the word got around and we had no more visits from unwelcome vagrants.
My childhood was brightened by a Negro servant who came into our life under unusual circumstances. ,One day when I was six an old Negro, driving a wagon pulled by a jack and a jenny, passed our house in Seale. The house was a square white building standing on a hill overlooking the town, surrounded by five acres of land on which was raised everything we ate. There was a parlor, living room, dining room, kitchen, four bedrooms and a large room with a tin bath.
The Negro's name was Uncle John Milby. He was a former slave and had been a jockey in his youth. As he drove his wagon down the road, my mother noticed blood streaming from wound in his forehead. She hailed him and asked what had happened. Uncle John answered rather shamefacedly that his wife had hit him with a flat iron.
My mother invited him to the back door and, bringing a basin of warm water, in which she threw a handful of salt, she bathed the old man's wound and bandaged his head. While she
was busy, Uncle John noticed the servant house in the back yard.
"Missy," he began shyly, "who lives in dat house?"
"Why, nobody now, John," my mother replied.
"Yesm', they does," the old man said, "cos I'se movin' in."
Uncle John did move right in and he lived with us twelve years. He taught me how to ride, to hunt, to fish, to make bows and arrows, to set traps--and how to chew tobacco at the age of twelve. A little stream called Silver Run meandered near the house and here we caught catfish and perch. We shot quail and doves in the nearby woods.
My father always prided himself on possessing a fast horse and during Uncle John's stay with us he purchased a beautiful Hambletonian which, strange to say, was named Henry Ward Beecher. Uncle John, being a former jockey, made that horse the fastest in the county and together we travelled the roads, challenging any horse we met. Henry Ward Beecher invariably left every other animal far behind.
In all my life, I have never loved anyone more than I loved Uncle John. The formative years of my boyhood were in his capable, tireless and cheerful care and he taught me things about humanity that I never found in books. Our house was built in an "L" and my room was on the ground floor. On cold nights in winter--and it does get cold in Alabama--Uncle John used to climb through my bedroom window and curl up on the Brussels carpet in my room, which was much warmer than the servant house across the back yard. My mother and father never knew.
About the time Uncle John joined our household I started to school. Though Seale was the county seat, it boasted only one small school and one teacher, who taught all subjects to all ages from six to sixteen. He was expected to know Latin, geography, arithmetic, geometry, English literature, algebra--in fact, the complete curriculum of a well-staffed scholastic institution--and also to maintain discipline among unruly youngsters in a school averaging forty students.
The school, a dingy frame building the size of a good barn, was equipped with wooden benches and desks, with a few maps
and pictures on the walls. The six-year-olds sat on the front benches and worked their way up, as I did, to the rear benches by the time they reached the age of sixteen. Ten years in that school left an indelible impression on the minds of the pupils. The room was heated by an old iron stove, wood-burning, which meant that the older you got the farther you moved from the stove and the more inured to cold you had to become to survive.
With such a pedagogic repertoire, it was only natural that in a small town like Seale, the teacher entrusted with the responsibility of moulding the lives of its youth was greatly respected. He was always addressed as Professor. I remember Professor Conyers, Professor Bass and Professor Dill. In my last years at Seale, from 1896 to 1898,m the school board got expansive and added a lady teacher as assistant. Her name was Miss Annette Howard and she was an old maid, stern in expression but liked by all her pupils. She was free with the switch but she applied it with equal justice to all.
I was now sixteen and the old school at Seale had nothing more to offer, so in 1898 I entered Alabama Polytechnic Institute as a sophomore. The Institute is a military school at Auburn, in Lee COunty, net to Russell County, and that time the military commandant was Colonel B.S. Patrick. The rank was purely honorary but the school had a definite military flavor. We wore the Confederate gray uniform and followed a dull routine of parades,drills and rifle exercises which seemed puerile to me. I objected to every military detail. Everything military about the place offended me and the fact that I barely graduated is a pretty good indication of my interest in the preponderantly military side. But still I loved my Alma Mater.
However, two extra-curricular activities justified my three years at the Polytechnic. I became a good sprinter and a student of Napoleon,.
It was purely by accident that I discovered I could sprint. As a military school, Alabama Polytechnic was ruled by the seniors, to whom was delegated considerable disciplinary authority. One night while on unauthorized liberty, I was detected by the seniors and I made a dash back to college to escape them.
One of the upperclassmen was the 100-yard champion and he chased me. I beat him back to the campus and when I told my upperclass fraternity brothers at the Alpha Tau Omega house about it, they ordered me to go out for track. Without any special training I did quite well and later at the University of Alabama I lost only one race in two years. At one meet I won the 100-, 220- and 440-yard dashes as well as the mile. Not a bad record for a single day.
While my grades were not very high at Auburn, I did well in history. Before I went to Auburn, I had fallen under the magic of Napoleon's genius and read everything about him I could get my hands on. In Seale, I had to buy books out of my allowance and consequently my reading was limited. Furthermore, my father strongly disapproved of this hero worship and promptly confiscated any book he found dealing with Napoleon. To counteract what I considered an unreasonable prejudice, I took to hiding my books under the house, which stood off the ground.
At Auburn things were different. The college had an excellent library and I read everything it offered on Napoleon, to the detriment of other studies. The Corsican's character fascinated me, his prowess awed me, and his rapid marches and countermarches across the map of Europe, defeating one adversary after another, implanted in my mind military principles that served me well later, although paradoxically the Auburn military atmosphere nauseated me.
The trait that counted most heavily in may youthful assessment of Napoleon was his offensive spirit. Inevitably, later in my life the halo I had visioned around his head began to tarnish when I appreciated the tyrant, the unscrupulous plotter, the enemy of freedom he became. It never occurred to me at that time that years later I would be wearing the Croix de Guerre awarded me by the French Government for fighting to save the land of Napoleon from her traditional enemy.
While I was at Auburn the most momentous decision of my life was made. Had the decision gone otherwise, this book never would have been written.
Shortly after I entered the Polytechnic I was offered a designation
to take the examinations for entrance to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Bored as I was by the pseudo-military air of Auburn, I still was an adventurous youngster, yearning to do and see things, and I was attracted by the Navy. Therefore, when Congressman Henry D.Clayton, representing our congressional district, offered me the designation I was delighted. Why it was offered I learned later. My father was a prominent man and there was some question of his entering the race for Congress against Clayton. The Congressman got wind of this and the designation to the Naval Academy, which he knew I wanted, was a discrete bribe to head off father's possible opposition.
I never accepted the designation or sat for examinations because my father and mother would not hear of it. They were both born during the Civil War period and they carried the mental scars of the conflict deep in their beings. They were still unreconstructed and would not permit me to accept an offer which, in their minds, would be a surrender to Yankee ideology.
Such an attitude would appear unreasonable today but when I was a boy in the South these ideas were live,glowing embers of a fire that had not been extinguished, remnants of a pride that could yield but not surrender. Unforgettable associations helped preserve this attitude. It was in Montgomery, where my parents spent many years of their lives, that the congress of delegates from the seceding States adopted the Confederate Constitution and inaugurated Jefferson Davis as President in 1861.
Destiny hangs by a slender thread, Instead of joining the Navy I became a Marine, following a brief and undistinguished flirtation with the law which convinced me I was not destined to become a John Marshall or an Oliver Wendell Holmes. In 1901, at my father's insistence, I entered the University of Alabama law school. My father had a comfortable practice and he figured his son would make a satisfactory partner but I never had the slightest interest in law.
Two years at the University, except for my sprinting which gained me campus popularity, were practically wasted and I barely graduated in 1903. After graduation I entered my father's office and the firm became Smith and Smith, with the junior
member disliking his job more intensely every day. I suffered a further impediment to any chance of a successful career. Acquaintances always introduced me as John Smith's son and this made me realize that as long as I practiced law I would be only John Smith's son. Like most young men, I had independent ambitions and they were far removed from the musty labyrinths of law.
My few appearances in court only emphasized my unfitness as a lawyer. The last time was in Montgomery, when I appeared as assistant to the County Solicitor in the prosecution of a Negro charged with attacking another Negro with a knife. I did what I considered a first class piece of work and made (I thought) a fine argument. The judge looked at me pityingly and the defense lawyer rested his case and sat down, almost unable to believe that anybody could present a case as badly as I did. The defendant was acquitted immediately and I walked out of the court room, vowing never to enter again.
That humiliating experience finally decided me: I would abandon law, which obviously was not my métier, and join the Army. This plan had been slowly forming in my restless mind ever since youthful aversion to uniformed drudgery at Auburn started to wear off. My inclinations were definitely toward a military career and I had already worked up to first sergeant in a cavalry troop of the Alabama National Guard.
I was now 21 and ready to make something out of life that the law couldn't offer. My father was reluctant to see me desert the family profession but he didn't stand in my way when I announced my plans. Instead, he gave me his paternal blessing and I went off to Washington to see our Congressman, Lieutenant Colonel Ariosto A. Wiley, who had served in the Army in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Colonel Wiley heartily approved of my intentions but it was not easy to realize them. At the War Department he introduced me to Secretary Mills, who was cordial and sympathetic but wrecked my plans for an Army career by saying that no examinations for Second Lieutenants would be held until November, 1905. That was more than a year away and I couldn't wait.
As we were leaving the War Department Colonel Wiley, fully appreciating my disappointment, suddenly had an idea. "How would you like to join the Marines?" he asked. I know it sounds odd today but I answered, "What are the Marines?" Honestly, I didn't know. Nobody ever mentioned that branch of the service to me and even in my reading I never encountered the Corps. No attractive recruiting posters showing Marine life overseas plastered the country in the early years of this century.
Colonel Wiley explained to me the organization of the United States Marine Corps, its history and its functions., His little lecture on the street outside the War Department was the most convincing I have ever heard. I am sorry I can'[t recall it exactly because it could be usefully incorporated in Marine archives as a gem of extemporaneous lucidity and conviction. His talk immediately won me over and we went to see Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody. Mr. Moody told me he was looking for some boys from the South to complete the proper geographical distribution of commissions in the Marine COrps and said he would give me a chance. I was overwhelmed and thanked him profusely.
In Washington a school run by a Mr. Swaverly prepared candidates for Army, Navy and Marine examinations. I enrolled in a class of about forty young men studying for service careers. Looking back I remember among my classmates, who became lifelong friends, were Major General Ralph S. Keyser, Lieutenant Colonel Edward W. Sturdivant, Colonel Andrew B. Drum, Colonel Victor I. Morrison, Colonel David M. Randall, and Brigadier General M.E. Shearer, all stalwarts of the Marine Corps.
Examinations for entrance to the Corps were held in February, 1905, at the Marine Barracks in Washington and I passed successfully. It was the proudest day of my life, even prouder than the day when, with Secretary of the Navy Forrestal standing at my side, I watched my men raise th Stars and Stripes on Suribachi, the climax of my years in the service of my country. At last I was starting a career I felt would satisfy all my longings and ambitions.
I received a commission as Second Lieutenant and was assigned to the School of Applications, known today as the Basic School, at the Marine Barracks, Annapolis, Maryland. Then came another proud day--the day I first wore my Marine uniform. At that time the Corps uniform consisted of a dark blue blouse with elaborate frogs across the chest and braid around the hem. The pants were sky blue,with a broad red stripe running down. A blue cap completed the outfit. Afterwards this uniform was discarded for one more practical but I was deeply thrilled when I first wore it. To me, it represented admission to an old, honored and distinguished company of men who had helped shape our country's history.
It was an intense,thrilling year at the School of Application. I began, as never before, to appreciate the qualities of my fellow men as we drilled on the parade ground, attended classes and studied or yarned far into the night.
In my class were fifty embryo Marine officers. The Commandant of the School was Colonel Lincoln Karmany, a magnificent man, the very embodiment of the ideal Marine officer. He had a long military record and was a strict disciplinarian but he was essentially kind and sympathetic. We all left school inspired to emulate him.
After graduation I had time only for a hasty leavetaking because I was assigned to my first station: the Philippines. Leaving Washington in April, 1906, with other officers of my class, I entrained for San Francisco where I boarded the USS Sheridan, an old transport employed to carry Marines to our most distant station. The Sheridan sailed on April 16, 1906, and as we passed through the Golden Gate and saw the buildings vanish in the fog around Telegraph Hill and the deep, blue Pacific heaving ahead I never dreamed what tragedy was in store for the unique California city I always loved.
Two days later an earthquake rocked San Francisco, followed by the terrible fire that killed so many people and nearly wiped out one of the most beautiful, glamorous cities in the world. We knew nothing about all this at sea. Radio telegraphy was in its infancy and few ships were equipped with this new
system of communications. We heard nothing of the disaster until the ship was within visual signalling distance of Honolulu. Once ashore, we bought up all the newspapers and read the tragic news. Sitting at a table in a local hotel reading the papers, the fatalistic implications of the San Francisco disaster set me thinking. As I have said, destiny hangs by a slender thread. Had our ship been delayed a few days my life might have taken a totally different course--had I escaped death in the flames.
The Sheridan eventually docked in Manila and we transshipped to a small freighter that carried us out of Manila Bay and around Bataan Peninsula to the naval base at Olongapo in Subic bay. Olongapo was only a small naval station on the east coast of the Bay and Olongapo itself a small native village of straw huts and wooden shacks. The base had repair facilities for small ships but later the drydock Dewey arrived and handled destroyers and light cruisers.
The Marine barracks was a group of old Spanish buildings of whitewashed brick and wood captured during the Spanish-American War. It had wide, airy rooms and accommodated about 1,100 men, who slept on cots and enjoyed a clean and sanitary existence. This is more than can be said of some of the officers, including myself. I shared a single room in the officers' mess, a separate building standing away from the barracks, and I've never been so pestered with bedbugs in my life. My iron cot was covered only with a light bamboo matting but despite this starvation diet the bedbugs thrived.Some of the other officers occupied mat sheds in the barracks area, no better than my quarters. Proper service buildings were not erected until later.
Living conditions didn't bother me too much. I was young, this was my first station and my new career was opening satisfactorily. Discipline was severe in those days of the Marine Corps. Senior Captains presided over the mess and a Captain in those days was only once removed from a king. In our mess were eleven Second Lieutenants and the only time we were allowed to open our mouths was to put food in. All our conversations were confined to whispered asides among ourselves. Direct communication with the mess president was unthinkable.
Still,looking back, I realize that such discipline was good for us. We were young and inexperienced and needed to be kept in line. I didn't object to the discipline though I am naturally gregarious and usually chafe under restriction. Also, I was fortunate in my command. "A" Company, 2nd Regiment, that came to me from Captain Bearss, had an old time noncommissioned officer in First Sergeant Joseph J. Jackson, who was later commissioned and promoted to Captain in World War I. Jackson was a godsend to a shavetail. His advice saved me from lots of trouble.
Olongapo eventually became so crowded that with my company I was sent to the old barracks on the rifle range at Santa Rita, two and a half miles away. Here we had plenty of room and excellent training facilities. At Santa Rita I learned a lesson that stayed with me all my life. One night I met two Marines who were in the last stages of a drinking bout. They had been drinking vino, not just ordinary wine but a fearful native drink that robbed men of their senses. It was a white liquor distilled from rice and nipa leaves. I tried to take the bottle of vino away from the two men but they lunged at me. As they converged on me from two sides I stepped back, grabbed them by their collars and banged their heads together.
The concussion, plus the drink, knocked both men out and I had them thrown into the brig and put in double irons. Vino is violent stuff and in those days both wrist and leg irons were used on violent prisoners.
I jumped on my horse--all Marines had horses--and rode into Olongapo to report the incident to Lieutenant Colonel Eli K. Cole, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Regiment. I shall never forget that interview. What he said to me about an officer laying hands on a Marine burned in my memory and I left his presence a subdued and wiser young man.
Yet it was not a completely unpleasant incident. Later, while hiking along the trail with my company, we ran into a heavy rainstorm. I ordered camp made and rolled up on the ground in my poncho and single blanket. When I woke up in the morning I found myself snugly covered with two extra blankets.
They belonged to the men whose heads I banged together. The two were never punished after they sobered up and became the best couple in my company. However, I am note relating this aftermath in an attempt to disprove Colonel Cole's well-deserved lecture. It just happened that way.
A welcome break in my life at Olongapo came when I left for Cavite Naval Base, in Manila Bay, to manage the Marine baseball team playing in the Manila League. The team did fairly well but after the season I got into trouble with the Commanding Officer at the Marine Barracks. For the first and only time in my career I received an unfavorable fitness report and for my sins I was transferred to McManny Point,on the east coast of Subic Bay off Grande Island. The report was quite justified although something was to be said in extenuation. I had too many jobs. I commanded a special duty detachment and also served as Post Quartermaster, Post Exchange Officer, Post Mess Officer and manager of the baseball team. It was too much for a young officer of my brief experience.
At McManny Point I had my first experience of violent death in service. We were emplacing guns for the defense of Subic Bay against possible Japanese action. The Treaty of Portsmouth ending the Russo-Japanese War only two years earlier left the Japanese indignant against the Americans who, they claimed, had robbed them of the fruits of victory. They were cocky after defeating Russia and thought they could take on the United States, or anybody.
The guns were not large, 4.7 inches. They had been removed from the USS Albany, an old cruiser that had been decommissioned and broken up. Marine gun crews were assigned to test the armament but when we fired the first gun it exploded, killing one man and seriously wounding several others.
Even at that time, Japanese intelligence was following our defense program. On a weekend hike around McManny Point, I discovered a series of wooden pegs leading from Lingayen Gulf, on the northwest coast of Luzon, to our batteries at McManny Point. The pegs were definitely identified as Japanese markers but we took no notice of them.
However, it wasn't the Japanese threat that took me away from McManny Point, It was malaria carried by the clouds of mosquitoes over this marshy spot. With 85 percent of my command, I contracted the disease and was invalided home in September, 1908.
Shortly after my recovery I embarked upon another enterprise. I got married and, like the couple in the fairy tale, we have lived happily ever after. My wife tells the story somewhat differently but I stick to my version. After graduation from the School of Application, I was invited to a dinner party at the Annapolis home of Mrs l.Karmany, wife of Colonel Karmany, and there met Miss Ada Wilkinson, of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
At a convenient opportunity, I seized her with both hands, backed her into a corner and said to her, "You've never seen me before in your life but you've met hour future husband." This Marine approach was a new experience for this lovely Yankee girl and she was more or less impressed. I saw her three more times before I sailed for the Philippines and our relationship improved steadily.
On my return three years later, we were married at her home in Phoenixville on April 12, 1909. A man's first duty to the woman he marries is to provide a home for her. I started married life by ignoring this principle. Instead, the Yankee girl I married, who had never been away from her own hearth except to attend boarding school, started a nomadic life with me and did not have a real home until thirty-eight years later when I retired from the Marine Corps, and we settled in La Jolla, California, in a house overlooking the sea.
In the first year of our marriage Ada moved fourteen times. At the dictates of duty and accompanying her husband around the world she has set up home with Japanese amahs, Chinese cooks, Filipino houseboys and Dominican and Haitian servants. I can assure those who think only the Marine's life is hard that actually it is the Marine wives who are the sturdy pioneers.
President Jose Santos Zelaya of Nicaragua opened the next chapter in my life. Two Americans were shot after being tortured
by the so-called Liberal head of Nicaragua and in December, 1909, I left with the Marine expeditionary force ordered to Nicaragua and Panama. Zelaya was ousted by the Conservatives and Adolfo Diaz was elected president in 1910, a choice satisfactory to our State Department. Thereupon the Marines returned to the United States in April, 1910, without firing a shot.
This was my first experience with the Marines as an instrument of international order but the expanding functions of the Marine Corps, so far as I was concerned, left far less an impression on my mind than the revelation of the status of the Corps in the eyes of the other two branches of the armed service. The initial trip to Corinto, Nicaragua, and the way the Marines were treated on board ship aroused in me a deep resentment against the attitude of the Navy and sired a determination that above all else I would devote my energies to obtaining recognition for the Marines as an integral part of our armed forces. The impression I got of our status was something like Kipling's:
While it's Tommy this an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy fall be'ind";
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir," when there's trouble in the wind.
On the Nicaraguan expedition and, in fact, on all other trips made by Marines abroad, except to the Philippines, no regular transports were provided. Men piled on board any ship assigned to them and slept anywhere they could find a place to spread their blankets. I have often bedded down on deck. This is all part of a Marine's life. He is trained not to expect luxuries and he takes things as they come. S foxhole in the jungle is as good as a cot in the barracks.
What burned me up on this expedition, and on others later,was now unwelcome we were on board ship. Instead of being treated like comrades going abroad to protect our country's interest, we were regarded by the Navy as interlopers, unnecessary passengers who caused trouble, disrupted routine because we happened to be aboard, and debarked with the ship's personnel thanking God they had got rid of us at last.
Not that all Navy personnel were glad to see us go. Marines were always fair game for bluejackets. At that time the Marine had no access to ships' service stations or canteens. He had to buy his little extras through the bluejackets. On the Nicaragua trip bluejackets cornered the market in tobacco and candy. Bull Durham selling in the canteen at five cents a package was resold to the Marines at fifty cents and one dollar. Candy was sky high.
With my regiment, I was on board the USS Buffalo and this discrimination extended to the officers. The junior mess charged us $45 a month when the actual cost to Navy officers was less than $25. This profiteering so outraged me that I swore a solemn oath to my Maker that if I ever reached a position where I could do it I would fight to the bitter end this injustice against the Marines, officers and men.
In 1939, when I took the First Marine Brigade to Culebra, the opportunity occurred to make good on this oath. Similar attempts to squeeze Marines were made but at this time I was a Brigadier General and the scheme failed. I threatened to prefer charges against any naval officer, regardless of rank, who attempted to charge my officers more than the mess bill paid by naval officers, plus a ten percent charge for laundry and general wear and tear. The result was Marine officers were no longer imposed upon and the fight was taken to Washington, which conceded the justice of this issue.
This was a great victory for the prestige of the Marine Corps, the first of many. THereafter my officers were placed in the same category and their mess bills were paid by the Government. A point like this might appear to be a minor one in the administration of a huge military organization but it helped make the Marine Corps an equal partner with the other two branches of the armed forces.
After Nicaragua and Panama I was ordered to Puget Sound and was soon off with another expeditionary force--potential rather than active. A Marine detachment was dispatched to North Island, Coronado, California, where we were ready for the revolution against Porfirio Diaz, dictator-president of Mexico. Fighting involved Tia Juana, the Mexican city just over the
California border, but the Marines sat out the revolution at North Island, about fifteen miles away. Diaz abdicated and fled to France on May 4, 1911. Francisco Madero succeeded him as president and our job was ended before it started.
Back in Seattle, Washington, a happy event occurred in my family life. My son, John Victor Smith, was born and I had time to see him through the toddling age before I was assigned once again to the Philippines, and later to sea duty on the USS Galveston with the rank of First Lieutenant. In the fifteen months with this cruiser I visited China and trained with the Marines at Chefoo, the American summer station on the Shantung Peninsula.
While I was in China waters in 1914, World War I broke out in Europe and the Japanese attacked Kiaochow, the German base on the south coast of Shantung. The base had been constructed over many years as one of the Kaiser's pet projects and its powerful 10-inch guns, rising from almost impenetrable concrete walls, had given Kiaochow the reputation of impregnability. The Japanese landed a few miles away up the coast in September, 1914, and took the fortress by flank attack just as they captured the great Singapore base from the British early in 1942.
Upon returned to the United States in 1916, I found trouble brewing in the Caribbean. A revolution had broken out in Santo Domingo, where a procession of presidents had brought no peace and Desiderio Arias, War Minister, was the latest contender for power, revolting against President Jiminez.
In the expeditionary force ordered to Santo Domingo to "maintain order"--and that meant suppressing the revolution--I commanded the 8th Company, 5th Marines. A force of Marines had already landed at Monte Cristo, a small port on the north coast, and, in modern parlance, had secured a beachhead with some opposition. We came along later with orders to march--or fight our way--south to Santiago de los Caballeros, a town sixty miles inland.
This was my first amphibious landing. Sandy beaches, sheltered by thick woods, stretched along the coast but we never used them. Instead, we landed in ordinary ships' boats at a small
jetty outside the town. Only a poor dirt road ran inland to Santiago, passing through heavily wooded country, and it took us several days to reach our destination.
The rebels had dug deep trenches in the road to impede our progress and when we passed these obstacles we had to remove trees cut down to block our march. The rebels kept up a sharp fire from the woods. At one point, fire was so heavy that I took a small party of Marines and headed for the source. What followed was the most dangerous incident in my life up to that moment, almost as dangerous as some experiences in the Pacific when the Japanese were throwing everything around. Our party was cut off and we found ourselves surrounded by about a hundred Dominicans, who outnumbered us at last ten to one. We had to fight our way out and only sound Marine training saved our lives.
Once we reached Santiago the revolution ended and Arias was defeated. American forces garrisoned the island and I was given command of the Marine garrison at Puerto Plata, in the southeastern corner of the island. Our action had assumed the status of formal intervention. Dr. Henriquez y Carvajal was elected president. Because he required American military strength to maintain him in position, the Military Government of the United States in Santo Domingo was established on November 26, 1916.
The next few months were spent in routine garrison duty but while I was at Puerto Plata the news came through that the United States had declared war on Germany. One day I received a code message I was unable to decipher. The message came from the USS Charleston, which was en route to Santo Domingo, and was relayed from the ship to me at Puerto Plata. My commanding officer also was unable to decode the message, so it was forwarded to the headquarters of General John H. Pendleton, commander of the Marine Expeditionary Force, at Santo Domingo, the capital city now known as Cuidad Trujillo.[*]
Although I had no way of knowing it,I had a pretty good idea that the message ordered me and my company back to the United States. While headquarters were decoding I ordered my
first sergeant to pack up 8th Company and be prepared to move at once. My guess was correct. It was war and we were ordered to get ready to go to France. Never in my career did things move so quickly as in the next twenty-four hours. My relief arrived so quickly as in the next twenty-four hours. My relief arrived from Santiago and when the Charleston, the ship that received and relayed the message, reached Puerto Plata, I was packed up and ready to move on board with my company.
The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Two months later was with the First Division en route to France, where we landed at St. Nazaire on June 26, 1917. My company was on board the USS Henderson on the transport's maiden voyage. As the Henderson sailed out of New York Harbor the ship bringing my wife home from Santo Domingo entered. She had been very ill when I left the island but I didn't know how desperate was her condition. She had been carried to the coast on a truck, strapped to a stretcher, then rowed out two miles to sea and slung aboard ship. Our baby was with her.
Not until the following August did I learn that she had undergone a serious operation and barely recovered. Throughout our married life, my wife has contrived to save me from the knowledge of possible disaster until afterwards. With her, the Marine Corps has come first, personal considerations second. My transport passed her ship in New York's lower bay as the largest convoy that had ever left an American port sailed for France.
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