National Geographic : 1950 Nov
672 1 . S. lMarine ( orps. Oticial Where Tough Training Pays Off: Marines Dash Across Tarawa's Deadly Beach Storming the airport, these World War II Leathernecks carry shovels to dig foxholes or throw up hasty barricades. A hurricane of Japanese crossfire sweeps the palms. Tarawa's 76-hour battle cost the lives of almost 1,000 Marines. More than 4,000 of Japan's crack Imperial Marines were wiped out. ship in reverse order. This is known as "combat loading." This means each commanding officer will have his unit landed in the sequence which will most easily let him carry out his orders. Ships are loaded by the same troops who will unload them. Each vehicle, crate, box, gun, and tank is marked with a sign or num ber in accordance with which it is placed on the ship. Every Man Knows His Job To keep in form, Marines practice at sea ports in the loading and unloading of ships. Even at boot camp school, in San Diego, they have a transparent plastic model of a Navy transport. Hence the greenest recruit learns early how a ship he may soon have to help load is laid out-with all its decks, holds, engine room, cold-storage plant, antiaircraft guns, etc. In this training for getting to sea, every single man in the outfit knows just what his job is to be, and how to do it. In these plans for quick embarkation the Marine Corps also keeps close track of the ships it is to use; it has plans and drawings of all of them, and if the Navy makes any change in any am phibious assault ship, no matter how minor, Marines are kept informed. This all means that orders for embarka tion can be issued, and the force started on its way to the docks, even though the ships themselves may still be en route to that port or getting fueled and provisioned. That's what the Marines' Commandant, Gen. Clifton B. Cates, means when he says the Corps is "ready, day or night"! General Cates insists that the men of his Corps be ready. In common with most of his officers, he feels very close to his men. Every one of them, from shavetail to general, knows that "Lucky" Cates understands his problems and backs him to the hilt. For this Commandant from Tennessee has a record of command that is unique among even the Corps' most senior officers. He has led troops under fire at every echelon from platoon to division. His commands include a platoon, then a company, in some of World War I's hottest battles; a battalion on the fringes of the Sino-Japanese fights around Shanghai's International Settlement in the 1930's; the First Marine Regiment at Guadal canal; and the Fourth Marine Division at Tinian and Iwo Jima. Under such leaders the men of the Marine Corps go forth again, ready to fight their country's battles.