Jewish World Review August 8, 2013/ 2 Elul, 5773
Tell it to the Marines
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Ex-Marine,
It was wholly a pleasure to be told again that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine or former Marine -- because once a Marine, always a Marine. The same principle applies to judges, physicians and military officers.
But what about those Marines who aren't always faithful? How else refer to, say,
The phrase you object to appeared in an obituary tribute I paid to Punch Sulzberger, the late great publisher of the
But it's always good to hear an ex-Marine claim there's no such thing as one. It shows a certain esprit de corps. Lord knows the country needs as much of that spirit as we can still summon.
I grew up hearing the phrase, "Tell it to the Marines." Translation: "I don't believe you." Or maybe: "Quit your griping. It's not going to do you any good."
The phrase is said to have originated with the English -- so many English phrases do. (Which figures.) It was a reference to the Royal Marines. The full expression, complete and unabridged, is supposed to have been, "Tell it to the Marines because the sailors won't believe you."
Many a sailor today may not take the Marines' talk all that seriously, either. But talk isn't what gives the Marines their credibility. It's their actions. They don't need this business about there being no such thing as an ex-Marine to enhance their reputation. It's been well established since the Halls of Montezuma and, before that, the Shores of Tripoli.
The Marines also led the Chosin Few in Korea who broke through Chinese encirclement in the 17-day saga known as the battle of the
That doesn't mean inter-service rivalry is dead. An ex-soldier named
Ooo-wee. Talk about a political firestorm. That was one fight HST lost. After the fierce reaction to his remark, the commander-in-chief decided that retreat was the better part of valor when dealing with the
Mr. Truman wasn't the first
I heard my cousin Sammy, who's now in his 90s and senior cousin of the whole clan, talk about his wartime service as a GI just once. It was at his granddaughter's wedding. Weddings aren't just for celebrating but for exchanging confidences. That's when I learned he'd been on Guadalcanal. I'd never known that before.
He'd arrived with the reinforcements, and all he ever said about it, his voice sorrowful, reflecting both compassion and admiration for those who'd been through the worst of it, was: "Those boys went through hell."
Nobody had to sell him on the Marines. Sammy was never much of one for protocol, but courage and sacrifice he knew -- and respected.
In another war, after the North Koreans invaded the South in 1950 and threatened to overwhelm the whole peninsula, Gen. MacArthur pulled his broken ranks back to a small perimeter around the port of
Just where the
"Ma," he explained., "they're shock troops."
"Shock troops?" She was still mystified.
"Yeah, you know, shock troops. The advance guard. They go in, destroy everything in sight, and then the regular troops can follow."
"Ah!" my mother said. Now she understood. "Cossacks!"
Realization had dawned. Her pale eyes lit up with recognition. Her voice took on a respectful tone. Not unlike Mr. Truman's once he'd seen the light.
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