Category Archives: Marines


By Lex

Posted on April 7, 2006


The local crab-wrapper gets it right:

Navy petty officer third class (Nathanial Leoncio) was on patrol with Marines in southern Ramadi on Oct. 4 when they were struck by a series of roadside bombs. The explosives killed one Marine and seriously injured three other men, including Leoncio.

At least two of the bombs detonated under the 6-ton Humvee that carried Leoncio, flipping it upside down and on top of him, severing his right leg just below the knee.

Although his right thighbone was shattered and he was bleeding internally, Leoncio refused to be evacuated. He ignored his wounds and cared for a severely injured Marine, likely saving the man’s life.

BZ, Corpsman.


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A Marine’s WW2 Story

It occurred to me today that along with all of these veterans of WW2 who have left us, there’s probably a million stories they had that went with them. Stories that only they – or their comrades – knew now gone. My father told me next to nothing about his WW2 and Korea service. Despite my asking many times. Sad to say, but we didn’t really have a close relationship. I never understood why he didn’t want to go camping with me, until my mother told me that he lived in a tent in Korea for 2 years.

I learned a bit from my mother about my father since he died.  As I had mentioned, if he hadn’t had his accident at Ft Benning – trying to help a scared friend and tumbling out the door head first (“you always look at the horizon when exiting!“) – with his unit later going to Sicily on a mission and suffering 80% causalities, I probably wouldn’t be here.

Similarly, I’d probably be at least 3 weeks younger had he not gotten orders to report to Ft Lewis when the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel. According to my mother, it upset her so much she went into labor early. The recall was so fast – and chaotic – that 1 guy was recalled to an infantry unit who had his trigger finger shot off in WW2. The invasion took the leaders completely by surprise.

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Last Man

By lex, on January 19th, 2012

Philip Johnston was a missionary’s son who grew up on a Navajo reservation, and fought in World War I. He was aware of the Chocktaw code talkers who served in Europe alongside the allies, and recommended to Major General Clayton B. Vogel, the commanding general of Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet, that Navajos be recruited to serve in the Marine Corps in an identical role. The Navajo language is a complex one, whose “syntax and tonal qualities, not to mention dialects, make it unintelligible to anyone without extensive exposure and training”. It was, at the outbreak of the Pacific War, unwritten, and therefore presumably unbreakable.

Around 400 Navajos served with the Marines at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima – and at all the Pacific assaults the Marines conducted between 1942-1945.  They served with all six Marine divisions. Their encryptions were fast, accurate and never broken. And valuable: Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division signal officer, declared, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

So highly was the Navajo code valued, that it remained a military secret for years after World War II. It wasn’t until 1992 that their efforts were publicly recognized.

The last of them has stepped into the clearing at the end of the path:

Keith Little did not know the full extent of his contribution as one of the Navajo Code Talkers to the American effort in World War II until much later in life.

Mr Little, one of the most recognizable of the four remaining Code Talkers, was 17 when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, becoming one of hundreds of Navajos trained as Code Talkers.

He spent much of his later life towards the creation of a museum that he never saw realized: Mr Little died of melanoma Tuesday night at a Fort Defiance hospital, said his wife, Nellie. He was 87.

Semper Fi, Marine.

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Taming Sangin

By lex, on July 12th, 2011

It wasn’t easy bringing security to Sangin, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines endured great hardships, took heavy casualties and had to improvise new tactics on the fly:

On Oct. 13, the day 3/5 took control of Sangin, the first Marine patrol to leave the wire came under fire 150 feet from the perimeter. One member of this patrol was shot dead. Within the next four days, another eight Marines died.

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By lex, on April 29th, 2011

More info is leaking out about the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) mission executed in Libya last month:

As that back door opened, I see a group of young Marine recon units jump out, and that was probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my entire life,’ Major Harney said on a USAF prepared video.

That’s a pretty good way to tell if you’re one of the good guys or not, by the way: If you’re happy to see a group of Force Recon Marines bundle out of a helicopter, you’re one of the good guys.

If you’re terrified and try to run away, you’re one of the bad guys. And you’ll just die tired.



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The Price of Hours

By lex, on November 13th, 2010

In August of 1942, Allied amphibious forces landed in strength upon Guadalcanal, sweeping aside a small Japanese defense and seizing the airfield under construction there. With the possession of the island and its airfield, the Allies could defend the supply lines between the US, Australia and New Zealand. From August to November, the Imperial Japanese Army made serial attempts to reinforce their scattered troops on the island and re-take the runway, but the presence of the so-called “Cactus Air Force” on the island prevented them from using expansive, but cumbersome troop ships. Such forces as could be landed from the Tokyo Express of cruisers and destroyers came ashore piecemeal, lacking logistical and heavy weapon support. The Japanese forces fought bravely under difficult conditions, but were repulsed again and again, often with shocking losses.

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Old fashioned

By lex, on November 24th, 2006

The mission of the infantry, the way I understand it, is to “close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to defeat or capture him, or to repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack.” Which can be hard when an enemy who hides in plain sight usually has no intention of allowing himself to be positively identified, far less closed upon. In Iraq instead, he often chooses to wage his war at an anonymous distance via improvised explosive devices, IEDs.

And among the many unsung heroes overseas are the EOD technicians that walk towards the bombs, once they’ve been identified – all the while knowing that a triggerman may be lurking on a rooftop, behind a window or even in an onlooking crowd, hands thrust into his pants pockets and fingering his initiator – a cell phone maybe or a wireless phone – even a garage door opener.

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