National Geographic : 1950 Nov
"Give us two weeks on a fat boy," they say, "and we'll cut him down tofithispants. .. Skinny ones? We fatten them up!" Close order and ex tended, they drill, drill, drill, old "hay-foot, straw-foot" style. They wash clothes, scrub floors, make beds, polish rifles-and always on the double. Run, run, run, even to the "head" and back. By night they're so tired all they want is sleep. Once a week, maybe, they can see a post movie. Even then they march to and from it in formation. No dances, no women. Games, sure, and lots of swimming, to train them for any future use as frogmen in reconnaissance squads. They box, and practice with knives; they parry and thrust with bayo nets, and learn how to crack a man's jaw or skull with a rifle butt when necessary to sur vive. At judo they learn to hit an enemy in the back of the neck with the edge of a hand and knock him cold. "We pound it into 001 U. S. Marine Corps, Official "Outa the Sack, Men-Feet Flying!" In the gray dawn aboard the aircraft carrier Midway, these Marines hit the deck at a noncom's command. Every large Navy vessel carries a detach ment of seagoing Leathernecks. They serve in gun crews, act as orderlies to high-ranking officers, and stand guard at sea or in port. them, over and over," said General Noble, "till they come to believe, themselves, that a Marine is the toughest, most fearless, and in vincible fighting man on earth." At the rifle range I watched recruits practice firing. "Don't pull that trigger! Squeeze it like you would the teat of that milk goat back in the Ozarks," bawled the DI. "And you there, firing prone. Keep your rump down! Don't stick it up like a camel's hump, or some sniper will shoot it off . . . Keep flat-dig your belly into the sand! Make snake tracks with your nose!" Women Marines, there to look on, smoth ered a giggle. But to them, in that whole exhausting ten weeks, no "chicken"-as they call the recruits-dares even so much as speak. Men behind the earth butts pointed with sticks to where each marksman's bullet hit the target; then they'd pull down the target, paste white paper over the bullet holes, and raise it up for the next shooter. When one unhappy lad missed the whole target, they waved a red flag-the badge of shame! At sight of it the whole line yelled "Maggie's drawers!"-the accepted nickname for that humiliating signal. All through their Marine careers every enlisted man and officer must put in hours of target practice at regular intervals, to keep qualified. From Boot Camp to Stations When these ten weeks of purgatory are over, boot camp graduates are assigned to divisions, to ships, or other duty wherever needed.