Archive for the ‘Marine’ Category

National Security Pick: From a Marine to a Mediator

November 29, 2008

James L. Jones, a retired four-star general, was among a mostly Republican crowd watching a presidential debate in October when Barack Obama casually mentioned that he got a lot of his advice on foreign policy from General Jones.

By Helene Cooper
The New York Times


“Explain yourself!” some of the Republicans demanded, as General Jones later recalled it.

He did not. A 6-foot-5 Marine Corps commandant with the looks of John Wayne, General Jones is not given to talking about his political bent, be it Republican or Democrat. And yet, he is Mr. Obama’s choice for national security adviser, a job that will make him the main foreign policy sounding board and sage to a president with relatively little foreign policy experience.

The selection of General Jones will elevate another foreign policy moderate to a team that will include Robert M. Gates, a carry-over from the Bush administration, as defense secretary and Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. By bringing a military man to the White House, Mr. Obama may be trying to cement an early bond with military leaders who regard him with some uneasiness, particularly over his call for rapid troop reductions in Iraq.

But General Jones will also be expected to mediate between rivals, particularly in dealing with Mr. Gates, who has his own power base at the Pentagon, and with Mrs. Clinton, who has told friends that she does not expect the national security adviser to stand between her and the president.

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In this Sept. 6, 2007 file photo, retired Marine Corps Gen. ... 
In this Sept. 6, 2007 file photo, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, chairman of the Iraqi Security Forces Independent Assessment Commission, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Jones, 64, is expected to be announced by Obama next week as part of the president-elect’s national security team, along with Robert Gates as secretary of defense and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.(AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)


Murtha, No Stranger to Trouble, Faces Tough Re-election Bid Tuesday

November 3, 2008

U.S. Rep.  John Murtha, D- Pa., left, addresses  supporters ... 
U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D- Pa., left, addresses supporters with Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., right, during a campaign rally outside a steel workers union hall in Latrobe, Pa. Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008.(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Rep. John Murtha, scrambling to keep his seat after recently saying his western Pennsylvania home base “is a racist area,” told supporters Saturday he should have started campaigning sooner.

“I was blindsided this time. It was my own fault. I take full responsibility and I’m worried that I waited too long to get people activated,” Murtha, 76, a 17-term member told about 100 campaign volunteers at his campaign headquarters.

Associated Press

In addition to the Johnstown stop, Murtha toured a steel mill and held a smaller rally with steelworkers in Latrobe. He emphasized the jobs and billions of dollars he’s brought home.

“They kick the hell out of me all the time because I’m for earmarks, because I’m for taking care of the people I represent,” said Murtha, who chairs the House defense appropriations subcommittee.

At Murtha’s side at the Saturday stops was Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who said Murtha was a close ally to his father, the late Gov. Robert P. Casey. On Monday, former President Clinton was scheduled to campaign for Murtha in Johnstown, and for another longtime House Democrat, Paul Kanjorski, in Wilkes-Barre.

Murtha’s being challenged by Republican William Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who moved to Johnstown to run against him. Russell has said the earmarks have created an unhealthy dependence on federal money.

The district has heavy Democratic registration, and Murtha has a long history of handily winning his races by double-digit margins.

Murtha recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “There is no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area.” He later apologized….

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Murtha Called “Fat Little Bastard” By Iraq War Vet

By Alex Roarty, Reporter

NEW STANTON — Republican congressional candidate Bill Russell’s rally on Sunday featured several Iraq war veterans vehemently criticizing U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Johnstown), who they say betrayed them when he said troops in Iraq killed innocent civilians in Haditha “in cold blood.”

Those remarks sparked Russell to run against Murtha and have been a theme of his campaign ever since.

During the rally, Shawn Bryan, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps., said Murtha visited his unit in Iraq in 2005. At the time, Murtha told the soldiers “what a great job we did,” Bryan said, only to see him tell his district back home he no longer supported the effort.

Bryan said he didn’t put his life on the line for his country “just so some fat little bastard can come back and run his mouth.”

It was the second time during his speech that Bryan, who flew in from Albuquerque, New Mexico, had called Murtha a “fat little bastard” during his speech. His remarks were not publicly repudiated at the rally.

In an interview after the rally, Russell told Bryan’s comments didn’t reflect his own feelings, but he did the defend the fellow veteran.

The remarks are reflective of the anger many marines, who have lost dozens of fellow soldiers during combat, feel toward Murtha, he said.

“Am I going to throw him under the bus for it?” Russell asked. “No. I understand — he’s going to say what he believes.”

Murtha, who himself served 37 years in the Marine Corps and won a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, said about the 2005 shootings of Iraq civilians in Haditha: “Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.”

Charges have been dropped against…

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Vietnam War Hero, With His 600 Men, Stopped 20,000 Enemy and 200 Tanks

November 3, 2008

Retired Marine Col. John Ripley, who was credited with stopping a column of North Vietnamese tanks by blowing up a pair of bridges during the 1972 Easter Offensive of the Vietnam War, died at home at age 69, friends and relatives said Sunday.

Associated Press

Ripley’s son, Stephen Ripley, said his father was found at his Annapolis home Saturday after missing a speaking engagement on Friday. The son said the cause of death had not been determined but it appeared his father died in his sleep.

In a videotaped interview with the U.S. Naval Institute for its Americans at War program, Ripley said he and about 600 South Vietnamese were ordered to “hold and die” against 20,000 North Vietnamese soldiers with about 200 tanks.

“I’ll never forget that order, ‘hold and die’,” Ripley said. The only way to stop the enormous force with their tiny force was to destroy the bridge, he said.

“The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous,” Ripley said. “When you know you’re not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you’re going to save your butt.”

Ripley crawled under the bridge under heavy gunfire, rigging 500 pounds of explosives that brought the twins spans down, said John Miller, a former Marine adviser in Vietnam and the author of “The Bridge at Dong Ha,” which details the battle.

Miller said the North Vietnamese advance was slowed considerably by Ripley.

“A lot of people think South Vietnam would have gone under in ’72 had he not stopped them,” Miller said.

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Remains of Marine lost in Vietnam ID’d after 39 years

November 17, 2007

Honolulu Advertiser
November 17, 2007

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) in Honolulu announced Friday that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Gunnery Sgt. Richard W. Fischer, U.S. Marine Corps, of Madison, Wis. He will be buried on Monday in Madison.

On Jan. 8, 1968, Fischer was assigned to M Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on an ambush patrol south of Da Nang in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Fischer became separated from his unit and subsequent attempts by his team members to locate him were met with enemy fire.

In 1992 and 1993, joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted three investigations and interviewed several Vietnamese citizens. The citizens said that Fischer was killed by Viet Cong and his remains were buried in a nearby cultivated field.

In 1994, a joint team excavated the burial site and recovered human remains and other material evidence including uniform buttons.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA in the identification of Fischer’s remains.For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at or call (703) 509-1905.

American History: Diary of a Civil War Marine

September 15, 2007

By John E. Carey
First Published August 19, 2006
For The Washington Times

I have read and reported upon five or six Civil War journals and diaries over the course of the last ten years for The Washington Times and this is by far the best.

The newly released “note-book” or diary of Marine Henry O. Gusley (The Southern Journey of a Civil War Marine: The Illustrated Note-Book of Henry O. GusleyEdited and Annotated by Edward T. Cotham Jr., Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, March 2006, 223 pp. $24.95.ISBN: 0-292-71283-9) is a wonderment for several reasons. First, Gusley proves a remarkably colorful, humorous and articulate story teller and observer of naval operations in the Gulf of Mexico in 1862-3. There are no diaries or memoirs quite as good as this.
Second, the editor of this “note-book,” Edward T. Cotham, combines Gusley’s book with the drawings of another keen observer in the same U.S. Navy Mortar Squadron, Dr.Daniel D. T. Nestell, and Acting Assistant Surgeon in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

To paraphrase the editor, if Gusley supplies the sound track and very colorful narration of navy operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Dr. Nestell provides the video tape.

And then there is the wonderful contribution of the editor himself, Edward T. Cotham Jr., who gives us a terrific forward and overview with context, and then follows-up with detailed notes. If most readers are like me, they rarely read the end or footnotes. This time you will want to.

The United States Marine Corps is the forgotten service of the Civil War. More than overlooked, many Civil War historians and enthusiasts don’t even know that the Marines served.

Henry O. Gusley fully covers shipboard life; the armaments, capabilities and limitations of his vessels; the social aspects of the war including emancipation; the duties of a U.S. Marine at sea during the Civil War; and at-sea operations.

Gusley participated in so many sustained shore bombardments of Confederate forts and concentrations that he was already losing his hearing at the end of the war. Although he participated in numerous operations, including against New Orleans, Vicksburg, Mobile, and Galveston; his book gives one of the few Union Navy first-hand accounts of the terrible defeat at the hands of the Confederates at Sabine Pass, Texas, on September 8, 1863. Gusley was captured in this engagement.

Still, Gusley recorded just after the Sabine Pass engagement, “We have been in several battles since our enlistment, but never have we been in one where we saw displayed so much coolness and calm courage. From the captain to the powder boys, without exception, everyone stood by his quarters until we were compelled to strike our flag.

On July 5, 1863, just after Grant’s victory at Vicksburg and Lee’s loss at Gettysburg, while in the Gulf of Mexico and unaware of either outcome, Gusley wrote, “The ‘Glorious Fourth’ passed…We flew four flags instead of one in honor of the day: we fired a salute of twenty-one guns at noon, and all hands were dressed in white….”

After recording the Fourth of July gun salute, Gusley adds, “The rebels…did not, of course.” Later that day Gusly tells us the squadron got “the latest rebel news that ‘General Lee has taken Pennsylvania!’”

Only weeks later did the Union Navy in the gulf learn the true successes of Union forces in early July, 1863.

Among Gusley many eyewitness accounts and reflections on his duties this is included on April 1, 1863: “One of our steamers, the [USS] Diana, had been captured by the rebels….with the greater part of her crew killed….The bodies of her captain and executive officer had been recovered and were to be buried that afternoon. It being a military funeral, the marines and sailors of the [USS] Clifton …for the first time in our life we took part in a soldier’s burial. The marines acted as guard of honor. We buried them in a beautiful orange grove, close by the town. ‘May they rest in peace.’”

Gusley also tells us about the steady dwindling of diversions and distractions at sea, including the elimination of the rum ration and running out of tobacco.

“We…organized a band of minstrels, and that we have nightly serenades and impromptu dances. Such things serve to make things more pleasant,” wrote Gusley on February 26, 1863. “We love music, however rude, and although not much of a dancer we do sometimes ‘shake a leg.’”

“The Southern Journey of a Civil War Marine: The Illustrated Note-Book of Henry O. Gusley,” Edited and Annotated by Edward T. Cotham Jr., will enthrall most all Civil War enthusiasts. Its appeal transcends regions, North, South, Army and Navy.

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to the Civil War page.