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U.S. MARINE TERMS
The nickname Leatherneck has become a universal moniker for a U.S. Marine. The term originated from the wide and stiff leather neckpiece that was part of the Marine Corps uniform from 1798 until 1872. This leather collar, called "The Stock," was roughly four inches high and had two purposes. In combat, it protected the neck and jugular vein from cutlasses slashes. On parade, it kept a Marine's head erect. The term is now used so much that it has become the name of the Marine Corps Association monthly magazine, LEATHERNECK.
Around 1900, members of the U.S. Navy began using Gyrene as a jocular derogatory reference to U.S. Marines. Instead of being insulted, the Marines loved it. The term became common by World War I and has been extensively used since that time.
For roughly 50 years, sailors had little luck in their effort to insult Marines by calling them Gyrenes. So, during World War II sailors began referring to Marines as Jarheads. Presumably the high collar on the Marine Dress Blues uniform made a Marine's head look like it was sticking out of the top of a mason jar, in addition when a Marine had a "high and tight" hair cut, the view from the back made his hair look like the lid on top of jar. Marines were not insulted. Instead, they embraced the new moniker as a term of utmost respect.
The German Army coined this term of respect for U.S. Marines during World War I. In the summer of 1918 the German Army was driving toward Paris. In a desperate effort to save Paris, the newly arrived U.S. Marines were thrown into the breach. In June 1918, in bitter fighting lasting for weeks, Marines repeatedly repulsed the Germans in Belleau Wood. The German drive toward Paris sputtered, fizzled, and died. Then the Marines attacked and swept the Germans back out of Belleau Wood. Paris had been saved. The tide of war had turned. Five months later Germany would be forced to accept an armistice. The battle tenacity and fury of the U.S. Marines had stunned the Germans. In their official reports they called the Marines "teufel hunden," meaning Devil Dogs, the ferocious mountain dogs of German Bavarian folklore.
A Few Good Men:
On 20 March 1779 in Boston, Capt. William Jones, USMC, advertised for "a few good men" to enlist in the Corps for naval duty. The term seemed ideally suited for Marines, mainly because of the implication that "a few" good men would be enough. This term has survived for over 200 years and has been synonymous with U.S. Marines ever since.
Soldiers of the Sea:
A traditional and functional term for Marines, dating back to the British in the 1600's.
First to Fight:
The media in the United States began using this term to describe U.S. Marines during World War I. And, for once the media was right. Marines have served in the vanguard of every American war since the founding of the Corps in 1775. They have carried out over 300 assaults on foreign shores, from the arctic to the tropics. Historically, U.S. Marines are indeed the first to fight.
Once a Marine, Always a Marine:
This truism is now the official motto of the Marine Corps League. The origin of the statement is credited to a gung-ho Marine Corps master sergeant, Paul Woyshner. During a barroom argument he shouted, "Once a Marine, always a Marine!" MSgt. Woyshner was right. Once the title "U.S. Marine" has been earned, it is retained. There are no ex-Marines or former-Marines. There are (1) active duty Marines, (2) retired Marines, (3) reserve Marines, and (4) Marine veterans. Nonetheless, once one has earned the title, he remains a Marine for life.
The Chinese used this term to describe Marines in China around 1900. In the Chinese language, gung-ho means working together. That's what the "American Marines" were always doing, "working together," the Chinese explained. The term stuck to Marines like glue. Today it conveys willingness to tackle any task and total commitment to the Corps.
Good night, Chesty, wherever you are:
This is an often-used tribute of supreme respect to the late and legendary LtGen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, USMC. Chesty, without a doubt he was the most outspoken Marine, the most famous Marine, the Marine who really loved to fight, the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps. Chesty enlisted as a Private. Through incredible fortitude and tenacity he became a living legend. He shouted battle orders in a bellow and stalked battlefields as though impervious to enemy fire. Chesty rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. He displayed an abiding love for his "Magnificent Grunts," especially the junior enlisted men who did the majority of the sacrificing and dying, and utter contempt for all staff pogues of whatever rank. During his four wars, he became the only Marine to be awarded the Navy Cross five times. The Marines' Marine!