Home Veterans Bootcamp in the Vietnam Era: Part One

Bootcamp in the Vietnam Era: Part One


We’re doing a little something different here.  We received a compelling submission that was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.  It was an amazing story of a Marine who went through boot camp during Vietnam.  Semper Fi.


Boot Camp in the Vietnam Era stories of vietnam marine corps usmcAugust, 1971. I was off to another adventure. It had seemed like the bus was going to stop at every small town through Indiana. It took a few hours to get to Indy. I spent a little while waiting at the AFES station for a few others to show up. Then a Sergeant drove us to the airport. We boarded to big jet for San Diego.

The trip was going to take five hours. I had never been on a jet before. I had been on a plane though. Once when I was younger, my father took us all to a small airport in Ft. Wayne, called Smith Field. That day we got to fly for a penny for every pound we weighed. This flight was just like on the commercials on T.V. coffee, tea, or me. At least that was what I was thinking. The stewardesses were very pretty. I leaned the seat back a little and lit up a smoke. I tried to act cool, and tried to talk to the stewardesses.

I was day dreaming for a while. Remembering back to when I went to Mississippi. I had seen the convoys and had told myself that I too was going to be a soldier. I must have fallen off to sleep after a while. I dreamed of Darlene. I dreamed of taking her on a date and then going parking. Suddenly I heard the captain of the plane make an announcement that we would be landing soon; so much for the dream.

We all filed off the plane and were met by a couple of men in uniform. We grabbed our gear and were led to a plain gray bus. We were on our way to MCRD, which means Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. A lot of the fellows were joking around and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. We turned off the freeway and came to a gate with a Marine in dress blues pants and khaki shirt very neatly pressed, he had on white gloves came to attention and waved the bus through the gates. It was about three in the morning when the bus came to a stop on the base.

Suddenly there was a uniformed man running up on the bus and he was yelling at the top of his lungs. “Every one of you maggots off the bus!” Then another two uniforms joined him and started yelling at us to line up on the yellow foot prints. There were these yellow foot prints painted on the pavement and when you stood on them, your feet were angled so as you were at attention. The yelling did not stop. Actually it did not stop for ten weeks. That’s how long this hell that I volunteered for was to last.

They were coming up to each of us yelling to keep our eyes forward and not to look around, and to stand at attention without moving. Not to speak unless one of them was speaking to you. You would answer by yelling back, “Sir Yes Sir!” “Sir No Sir!” and it seemed that they could only hear you if you yelled at the loudest that you could. To tell you the truth I was scared to death. What had I done?

We stood there for a long time. We were waiting to get our haircuts. All the while we were waiting other buses were showing up with more recruits. We stood there so long that at least two men fainted. They were splashed with water and brought back around. All the while they were being yelled at that they were about to become the drill sergeants favorites.

When it became my turn to get my hair cut, and there were several of us getting it done at a time. The barbers made quick in shaving all of our hair off. Some of the other men looked like hippies and had been drafted, they were harassed the most. I was glad that I had shorter hair when I had arrived.

Some of the recruits were heavy set. That was an issue that would haunt them the whole time they would be in boot camp. I only weighed 122 pounds. I needed to put on some weight.

After we all had our haircuts we were taken to another large building. There we had been told to strip down and put all of our belongings into a box. If you had any weapons, like guns, knives, blades or any kind of drugs, those items you should throw into the trash can provided. If you had any of these things and you threw them away you would be off the hook. If you proceeded to put them in the box with your personal belongings then you would be under arrest. The trash can was filled with a lot of stuff.

We were given some socks, and sweat clothes. Then we were marched to where we were going to live during our time at MCRD. We marched past some buildings that looked like living quarters. I thought to myself, not bad. We however kept marching a ways until we came to some buildings called Quonset huts. This was going to be our homes for the next ten weeks.

We were assigned a hut and a bunk. We were told to get to sleep because in a little while we were going to be very busy with another full day. I had just fallen to sleep when all kinds of yelling started. It was one of the drill sergeants. He came in and kicked over a trash can, shaking all of the bunks and screaming to get dressed and get outside in formation.

In formation? What the hell was that? Well it didn’t take long to learn what they meant. Make four rows of equal lengths. Then you would stick out your right arm and touch the next man’s shoulder for spacing.

It must be to be a Marine was to be able to yell at the top of your lungs. That’s all we heard and the way we answered back. Yes sir! No sir!

The day was filled with a lot of running to one location to another. We got a duffel bag and then we received our dungarees, olive green, socks, olive green, blouses (little rubber bands to hold our trousers up over our boots), olive green, covers (hats) olive green, skivvies (under wear) white.

Then we would get medical shots. In both sides of the butt, in the arm both sides, and after each shot we had to do pushups. We received shots with needles, and with something new a gun at one point we got the gun shot into each arm at the same time. That was scary. We were assured that we would be immune to just about everything.

Then it was picture time. We all lined up and when it was our turn we had a Blues uniform placed on us. I said placed because it was just the front and top half of a uniform. This picture would be our graduation picture, if we lived that long.

Sergeant Hernandez, was a short but very muscular, mean bastard. He was the lead Drill Instructor. He would stand in front of you and then get to his tip toes to look in your eyes and to yell in your ear. He could bark out orders with the best of them. Surely he was what they made movies of drill sergeants from.

Sergeant Tagalari was another short framed man. His deal was that he liked to get you to smile and then you would get caught by Hernandez and he would come over to you and grab your throat and choke the hell out of you all the while yelling, what are you smiling at? Of course you couldn’t answer because you were passing out. Then he would let go just before you did.

We were marched to the mess hall for breakfast, lunch and dinner if that is what you would call it. The best meal of the day was definitely breakfast. However you sure were hungry at the other meals, so you ate what you could. If they put it on your plate then you had better eat it all or face trouble.

The third day was more marching and running and yelling. Some of the fat fellows had some bad problems keeping up when we were running and some had problems just marching. They were picked on hard. They were told that if they couldn’t cut it then they would be sent off to the “Fat Farm”. If they couldn’t make it there then they would either be kicked out or worse, stay for another ten weeks. It seemed like every day for the next few days that one at a time they would be sent off to the “Fat Farm”.

I was lucky that I had run track in Jr. High school. I ran the mile and I was pretty good at it. I won several first places, once came in third in an all-city meet with a time of 5 minutes and 18 seconds. I loved it when we ran, there was less harassment. Except for those who would fall out, they would go through a lot of pain.

After about a week of intense training in marching and exercising it must have become my turn to be messed with. Tagalari would screw with me and the next thing would know Hernandez was on my case. I got choked a lot. I did a lot of pushups. Then one day I had the pleasure to learn what bend and mother’s were. This exercise was a squat thrust with a push up. They were very hard, but I caught on quickly.

In making up our platoon there had to be a leader that lead the way. He was called a guide on. This position was usually assigned to the largest man, usually the toughest. He would lead the way. He also excelled at drill that’s why he would be at the front. That position would lead to the first stripe that you would receive meritoriously upon graduation from boot camp.

I was one of the thinnest men in my platoon, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to be the guide so I tried everything I could. This meant matching up with him in hand to hand combat training when we fought with pugil sticks. Once in the pugil circle he got the stick and I got the rubber hose. The hose represented a bayonet. I got my butt kicked. The drill instructors loved seeing me try. Always as a result of me losing I would get extra bends and mother’s to do.

One day Hernandez asked me why I kept trying and I said that I wanted to lead men. I wanted to be promoted when I graduated. He then told me of a job that I could have and that I would have a team of two other men to lead throughout boot camp. This position had a lot of responsibility. The name of the assignment was “House Mouse”; I was “King Rat”. This job was a job that made me and the other house mice look like kiss asses. I would have to run to the mess hall and get coffee, we would have to spit shine the drill instructor shoes and boots. We got real good at that.

A few weeks into training Hernandez came to me and said that he needed to send someone to the special infiltration course and I was it. He told me this training would be good for me, and that I would need it if I made it to Vietnam. This could save my life. So off I went to the other side of the base. When I arrived there were quite a few others. This new drill team seemed meaner and looked meaner. They yelled louder if that was possible. I was given a helmet and a dummy rifle made of heavy wood. This training consisted of a course with barbed wire and ditches filled with water and saw dust. We had to climb under the wire without hitting it.

Sometimes we were on our stomachs, and sometimes on our backs. The drill team walked along the course with us cussing and yelling and on several occasions put their boot on my head and pushed me under the water and all the while yelling “move faster”. After the course we were sent to this room we lined in a circle and were closed in there by ourselves. Suddenly, gas! It was tear gas. I remembered the smell from a protest that I was at back home at the park. We were all panicking and screaming to be let out. We were crying and choking. It seemed like we were left in there for a long time, it wasn’t but it felt like it. When the door opened we ran.

Outside the drill team was waiting for us, yelling for us to make a formation. We did. The next thing we did was a lot of P.T., that’s physical training, and a lot of it. We got a water break, enough to just wet the inside of your mouth. Then before I knew it we were filling two buckets with sand and lifting them out to our sides parallel to the ground. Crap they weighed a ton. More harassment followed as our arms started to give way. We were at this for quite a while. One man passed out, and I wanted to.

Read the next article in the series.


Ed Heinkel Author and US MarineAbout the Author: Ed Heinkel signed up for the Marines in 1971 because his father hated Marines, as he was a sailor. He went to Boot Camp in San Diego (Hollywood Marine) and spent most of his time at Camp Lejeune. Ed trained at Norfolk, VA for Atomic Demolitions Munitions and caught a float in Okinawa, Japan. He rotated back a year later and was stationed with Forest Troops and traveled to Vieques, PR for the last 6 months. Ed was discharged honorably after four years, married his sweetheart, and has been together with her for over 38 years. He’s a salesman by trade, but writes whenever he gets a chance. His first booked was published in December, Climbing To The Top!

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  1. i went to M.C.R.D., and the Marines in the 60s did not have draftees…you had to join voluntary …too bad you missed Viet Nam… you really would have something to keep you awake at night…Simpre Fi…U.S.M.C. forever…R.O.206

    • I was DRAFTED~~

      May 23,1968, A Marine Sgt.came into the room at the Oakland Induction Center. Said because of low enlistment the Corp was drafting.. He started out asking for volunteers.. He started saying the person in the first row your in the Marine Corp second row 3rd chair your in the Marine Corp etc. They sent 10 of us to San Diego MCRD PLATOON 3004 aye aye, sir.

      I was given everyone’s Selective Service records and was placed in charge of the other 9 draftees. When we got to San Diego I was suppose to call out my name and my Service Number 248xxxx Selective Service. Hand over all the records

      That flight all I did was keep repeating what I was suppose to yell while the others guys were enjoying the flight While we waited at attention a cattle truck with cattle trailer showed up and the screaming started.

      I was never treated any different being drafted. We were all getting beat up yelled at and no one never ever eyeballed any DI.. The Platoon Commander made me the Platoon Guide and that lasted about 2 days when the guy behind me didn’t halt and pushed me, ending up with me stepping on GySgt. Bowmans shoes. The next thing I remember was the claw of death on my throat.. And demoted . No problem did not want to be the guide anyway, heck I couldn’t even guide myself let alone the whole PLATOON..

      After boot camp, ITR, and 2511 MOS training. I was sent to Nam in November 4,1968 12th Marines 3rd Mar Div. Dong Ha /Gio Linh RVN.. To this day I feel the training I got in the Marine Corp saved my life. And our dress blues is the best looking uniform of any military branch.

      Semper FI
      lcp Zee

  2. I went to Parris Island November 1974 and was sent to the Motivation Ditch…..I heard they did away with the ditch in 1975…any one else have to go through that hell hole…..lol

    • I was there from 9/75 – 12/75…. “Motivation” was still being used. I remember seeing those guys standing out by the bus stop in the morning and then saw them covered in mud coming back in the afternoon. I was lucky that I never had to go.

    • I was at PI in 1975 at this time and went through onee day motivation camp. It turned out to be the best day of Boot camp, which doesn’t say very much for anyone that knows that time frame.

  3. I went into the Marine Corps at MCRD in June 1970 Platoon 3077. Like you said in the beginning after arriving at MCRD it was a dream and the next day I said what the hell did I get myself into? GySgt Echols Platoon Commander was though but more of a father figure. SSGT Valentine was one of greatest Drill Instructor in the Marine history, he taught you well. Sgt Morse Drill Instructor. I just loved this MF. I was chocked out more times than I can remember by him but in the end he made a Marine out of me. No need to say anymore on that. I came back to MCRD after ITR to Communication school 2533 Radio Telegraph operator Communicator (mores code). Upon graduation from Comm. School I went into Alpha Co. 3rd Recon Bat. Third Marines in Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. After attending scuba, jump and demolition school we shipped off overseas. I ended up doing 10 years active duty after the recall in 1991 for Desert Storm. The Marine Corps help made me for who I am today as I still stand proud with all our Marines. Semper Fidelis brother. SSGT Shutts

    • Hey brother,
      What day in June did you go in? I went in June 4th, and was in my first platoon for three weeks before being injured in pugil stick training, then spent the weeks in the hospital. I can’t remember my first platoon but 3077 sounds familiar. If you have a yearbook could you check if my picture is in there? I have the yearbook from my platoon I finished in but the dress blue pictures were taken earlier. Appreciate it. My email address is jabber328@hotmail.com. Thanks. SEMPER FI!

  4. Arrived MCRD Parris Island Feb 15, 1968. Plt.219. 2nd B. Stevenson, I don’t know what year you were there in the 60s but we had a plt of draftees next door to us. The DI’s gave them hell.

  5. The reason that I said Drill Sgt was that this article was taken from my book, Climbing To The Top! The book was going out to a larger audience that just Marines, also my DI’s were sgts. Nothing fishy here. Ed Heinkel

  6. MCRD San diego 1964, the only drill instructors I remember were Cpl Wedamire a cruel sob and GySgt Praiswatter a really cool guy, really laid back but I guess he could be since he was the series Gy. As I remember it we went through boot training with range qualifications at Camp Matthews. What I really remembered about Matthews was it was a really long rout march ( I think it was about 6 miles but seemed like 40) to get to the camp, we went from MCRD to Matthews by cattle car then it was a rout step march with all the gear and uniforms ect we owned at that point. Camp Matthews had a great mess hall the food was great but I guess anything would be great after eating at MCRD SD. Matthews was endless snapping in I shoot in competition (IDPA International Defensive Pistol Association) and believe me snapping in is key to success, I can’t believe that they got it right so long ago.
    We finished training at Capm pendleton Ca for ITR and it was actually fun if you can believe fun is sleeping out in the rain for 4 weeks and humping every hill with all the gear. We had an instructor GySgt I don’t remember his name but he was huge about 6’8″ or so and heavy (looked fat to me at the time) and he lead several night raids up monumental hills, guess what not a single person could keep up with this mad man.
    I stuck around for 30 years made MGYSgt at 18 and would still be in if they would let me but they had service limits in 1994 and asked me to leave after 30 years and two months.

  7. Came from a small town in Texas and hit the beach at MCRD in September 1960, Platoon 189. Experienced much the same greetings and boot training as the author, but I was no skinny guy and had trouble doing pull ups. I lived in dread fear of getting sent to Special Training Unit (STU) where they sent the fat boys. Idropped a lot of weight in boot camp and went out the door at 175 lbs. This was before Viet Nam and the big thing was the Cuban Crisis. One of my DI’s hated Texas and reminded me daily that the only thing from there were “Steers” and “Queers” If anyone asked where I was from, I was instructed to tell them Alaska. I managed to pretty much stay under the radar except for one incident with a bully recruit who knocked me off my bucket while doing rifle cleaning. I responded with a verticle butt stroke and ended up in the DI’s hut. Never had a problem with the bully again though. Looking back on those days, I count them as “good times” and credit the Corps for turning me from a snot nose kid into a Marine. Semper Fidelis.

  8. MCRD, San Diego, December 1968–what the hell am I doing here? No shame in the tears I shed that night asking myself that question. Gunny Henderson (one cocky Marine’s Marine with short people syndrome), Staff Sergeant Ferris and Staff Sergeant Knudsen (toughest on of the bunch) were some of the best. I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. Got an early out as a Corporal less than two years later and wish I had stayed in as a lifer. Semper Fi, bros. JW

  9. 0ne of the first draftees to the Corps. Nov.65. 129 pounds. Instructors were a cpl.Ermy and srgt Payne. I enjoyed boot camp more than they liked and made it harder. What they instilled in me got me thru 21 months in nam. On graduation day, I was told they were hard on me because they liked me and didn’t think I could cut it when I got there. Made me realize how much the instructor do think about their charges. I have tried to live by Marine principles. Have done me well!

  10. I went 11 days after graduating High School. June 16th 1961. pre vietnam, 11 days out of the Corps June 15th1965, I went to work as an electrician. 37 years later I retired. Anyone remember the song . “Born in 44”?. but for he grace of god .there go I. What a difference a year made.

  11. I don’t know if you’re interested in other boot camp stories, but if you are, I’d like to submit mine for you to take a look at. I entered training at MCRDSD on 27 Oct 1969 (graduated 31 Dec 1969), and have written (so far about 16 chapters) a good deal about it. If you happen to read it and find it interesting, please contact me at the above email address. Love to hear your feedback. Here’s the URL for the story:


    Thanks, and Semper Fi

  12. does that ever bring back the memories of parris island june of 67 dam was it ever HOT there, what did I do two myself, I enlisted myself what a rude wake up call in all honestly I would like two shake his hand & thank him I finally grew up. got in Vietnam dec. 23rd 1967 1st Marine Air Wing in danang, I made it home & “RIP” two all that didn’t

    • im an ol salts wife and looking for some memories for another ol salt, he was a di in 60,s to 70, he doesnt have anything of that time so my ol salt and i are trying to help him he was at parris island at that time were you

  13. MCRD SanDiego, CA August 1978,

    Hot!!!, anyway…the Corps has only drafted 1 year, so wow, what timing for those hippies huh? And drill sergeant is soooo…ARrmmmmyyy. Marine Corps, a Few Good Men all of them Volunteers trained by Drill Instructors.

    Ooh rah!

  14. Boot camp for me was at the end of 67, PLT.1134@ MCRD SAN DIEGO I went on to NAM AFTER THAT and made it home to get marred , now its been 44 years .

  15. USMC 1961-1965 Platoon 158 Senior D.I. Ssgt .Talmadge ( a Native American Indian) We did twelve weeks MCRD 4 weeks ITR Camp Pendelton . I returned to Chicago to become a Chgo. Police Officer from 1968 til 1996.

    • Mr. Carter,
      I know this might be a reach but my uncle Tommy was at MCRD San Diego and in the Corps 61-65. DI Talmadge sounds familiar. along with swaggard sticks and wall locker hanging by the elbows. I believe after ITR he went to 3rd AMR DIV 5th. Marines.

      I served later 86-88 all of his stories came to life while there. He came home from Viet Nam, but he really never left. We lost him a few years ago to throat cancer. Budweiser and Camels.

      Cpl Thomas E. McKenzie 61-65

    • Do you know the month and date you went to BC. I am trying for find my dads platoon number so I can get him a photo. I have is service record and it dose not list platoon number just 1st BN

  16. Louis, I would pity any recruit that referred to a DI as a Drill Sergeant. I never went to motivation platoon as they called it back in early 68 at P.I., but those guys that did looked really rough and dirty when they rejoined the platoon.

  17. I never went to motivation platoon at P.I. in early 68. Those guys looked when they rejoined the platoon with their all metal rifles Louis, we didn’t have drill sergeants, we had Drill Instructors and I mean they did some instructing!

    • Hello Phillip, for some time I have tried to find out information of Platoon 382, to my surprise a few weeks ago, saw a photo of different platoons and there was a 382 but not the one we joined. I saw your photo in the graduation book. Man it was hard. DI C.M. Southern took me under his wings, as he was always assisting me. He promised me a hamburger and a coke if I qualified at the range. was a non qualifier until qualification day when I fired 220, expert. Got my hamburger and coke that night after lights out. I can hardly read what I have typed, it’s not dark letters. Hope you can read this message and tell me about your experiences in boot camp. I am sure we have a lot of memories. Take care Jose G. Aguilar.

  18. I went to MCRD San Diego in June ’68. I agree I have never heard a Marine say Drill Sgt., duffle bag or dungarees . They were drill instructors, sea bags,and utilities. Yep something sounds fishy!

  19. I went to MCRD San Diego in June '68. I agree I have never heard a Marine say Drill Sgt., duffle bag or dungarees . They were drill instructors, sea bags,and utilities. Yep something sounds fishy!.

  20. I was at the Island in 1965 and Lejeune in 1966. I was yelled at so damned much that I have tinitis in both ears. Then, onto Vietnam and I was assigned to Force Recon. I was not part of any amphibious or special forces group. We hunted for Charlie on the ground. We were not to engage the enemy, but we ran into a full platoon of gooks down in the Mekong Delta. We had no artillery, so we dug bunkers to lay in and called for an airstrike from the U.S.S. Enterprise. In just a few minutes, two F-4’s were dropping their goodies on Charlie. An hour later, we were doing body counts or pieces of bodies counts.

  21. Went to MCRD San Diego, ( Hollywood Marine) January 1968. Had my yellow sweatshirt until 2000, finally wore it out! They started drafting in the Corps while I was in boot camp. We were in quansit huts they started setting up tents for the draftees, thank goodness they quit that, the quality of the corps went downhill when that started! We were getting some degenerates in there!

  22. I entered MCRD San Diego on Feb 3, 1969….most of what Ed describes in his article fits completely. The exceptions are that when are bus arrived at MCRD on the evening of Feb 3rd…other Marines walking on the base would stop and point at our bus and laugh at us…the other exception was that we did not get to sleep that night…we were kept up and active until 2200 on the next day Feb 4, 1969….sleep deprivation seems to be a tactic/method the Corp used regularly. As to draftees…early on the morning of FEb 3, 1969 while at the AFEEs office in Omaha….waiting for transportation to airport….we were lined up in a hall way….Marine recruits on one side and Army draftees and recruits on other side….a Marine Sergeant comes out and counts the very short Marine line and announces to a Army Sergeant that he is 22 men short. The Army Sergeant goes to the end of his line and counts backwards (toward the front of line) 22 men….he then commands those 22 men to cross the hall and stand in the Marine line as they have just joined the Marine Corp. MCRD, 9 years in the Corp have forever changed my life in good and not so good ways. i still have trouble reading or learning of young Marines dying (and for that matter any service man) in the numerous lost causes are govt. seems to plunder into. Semper Fi

  23. Got off the bus Sept 28th 1970.A mind erasing experience to say the least.What stands out the most is all that brass polishing ! President Kennedy stood with the troops and there was a brass set of prints that had to shine where he stood ! I still think all in all the most memorable times of my life.

  24. Platoon 2032 MCRD San Diego Feb ’69. The very first tie that we went to the mess hall Drill Instructor Sgt. Smith told us we were having “duck” for breakfast and then went on to say “Duck the F— in and Duck the F— out”. Once we got our “duck” and got to our table we had to remain standing holding our trays until he said “Sit”. I don’t think he had finished saying Sit” until he hopped up on the table and started kicking trays and hollering “Get the F— Out”. Looking back 46 years it was funny, but be assured it wasn’t funny then, I tell people all the time that “Boot camp was real and it was fun, but it wasn’t real fun”.

  25. MCRD-San Diego, Platoon. 2013 Graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison on January 25, 1969 (the anti-war protests were going full force). I stepped of the bus and into the yellow footprints sometime late during the night of Jan. 27, 1969. The :welcoming committee” enhanced our experience by body punching the hell out of a few us, myself included. I think they wanted ;us to know that life, as we had known it, was forever changed. .

    We entered the mess hall in alphabetical order. With my last name starting with “W” I was one of the last to enter. The rule for the first 3 days was that when the first recruit to enter the mess hall was done eating, everybody was done. I don’t think that I had a bite of food for those first 3 days. I was getting a bit hungry by that time.

    Other than that I doubt that my boot camp experience was much different than anyone else’s. Nine weeks of hell, then things lightened up a bit during graduation week.

    I signed up for the 2 year enlistment during the short time that it was offered so I started my “short-timers calendar” on the night that I got off the bus. The 3,4 and 6 year enlistees were kicking themselves..

  26. I went to MCRD three days after Christmas 1958, sixteen years old on a four-year enlistment.. My step-mother obtained a fake birth certificate from her alderman in Chicago. Platoon 303. I grew up as an alley fighter and played football, didn’t smoke or drink, so the physical part of boot camp was hard but being in good shape helped a lot.
    Boot camp was tough but it was the first time in my life that I was treated fairly.

    I want to mention that I grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood and unfortunately today it seems racial tensions in the USA are worse than anytime in my life, but when I was in the Marine Corps it was a none issue. I would like to share this story: When we went to the rifle range at Camp Matthews (now closed) we slept in big tents. One black Marine recruit in my tent had a terrible cold, it rained most every night, the tent leaked water onto our bunks and it was cold and miserable. I awoke one night to this Marine recruits loud coughing and I took my blanket and placed it over him as he slept. The point is that we were all in this shit-hole together and we looked out for one another.

    After boot camp, I went to Camp Pendleton twenty- four area as a combat engineer MOS 1371. Then to Okinawa where I extended from 1960-1962.

    I made rank quickly and was an Cpl E-4 by the time I was eighteen years old, the guys jokingly referred to me as the ‘Teenage Top’, after all the ‘teenage’ movies of the day.

    1966 I joined the USAF and served another four years until 1970. Never left the States, being stationed in Mississippi and Maine on SAC bases.

  27. I went to MCRD San Diego in 1965 I was 3 day 17 years old my experience there to this day I can’t believe what happened there the cruelty the beatings and unnecessary harassment 24 hours a day. I really only like one drill instructorI couldn’t believe how they would make people drink soap. eat a five pound box of cookies drink salt water throw up all over the place sick all night it was just one unnecessary thing they would still have gotten the same thing out of me whether they hate me or not of course I will say they scared me. but now since I worked at MCRD 22 years. I retired with 30 as a civil service employee. when I started working there in 1974 I was a tree trimmer at first I saw a lot of weird stuff the private for still carrying sledge hammers in correctional custody they were still in the mess hall with their sledge hammers in their hands and they had to break up concrete on some of the Quonset huts over being torn down and I also had a lot of friends that were destructors and sergeant majors and all ranks. but in my mind I could not figure out why they were still doing this. but then came the McClure incident. where they had be the person to death so as an employee there they made us fill in all the correctional custody trenches filled with mud for the privates had to crawl through where they probably couldn’t breathe and they got rid of the fat farm they got rid of motion motivation platoon they hadn’t yet got rid of the Brig it still made me kind of pissed off. but I might go to another part that I haven’t talked about was my time in the army after realizing the army at that particular time I went in 1970 I went back to Vietnam and I never saw bunch of s***drug addicts everyday they had to pick up files of you use heroin Wow every morning 4 police car 50% of our company was on heroin Nixon came out with drug amnesty because there wouldn’t have been anybody left hardly in Vietnam I was in 1st Cav 525 signal company there was no discipline there was anarchy there are people threatening to kill people frag people specially if you are a sergeant and above my staff sergeant had a 2:03 in his room for the shotgun shell in it because he was busting those foolish a****** drug addicts possession of heroin at that time with a $50 article 15 I got tired of hearing Simon and Garfunkel bridge over troubled waters. and Frank Zappa on the radio telling us to get off drugs..so we could go home without having to get on a hospital plane and before that get dried out I resent it taking a piss test 4 heroin our first sergeant would come out and tell him to quit using drugs heroin. for three days before the drug test so we could pass what kind of b******* was that since I was only an e5 sergeant I couldn’t keep my 203 in my room so I got my own weapons about 5 different types handguns tommy guns actually grease guns and shotguns. so now getting back to the Marine Corps when I was in Vietnam with them none of that crap happens there are some very brave men there.there was no drug problem there that I know of I was scared the whole time I was there hardly slept I was in 3rd battalion 4th Marines India Company and H&S company this was 1967 1968 those guys we’re pretty good and I trusted everyone . yeah there was some I didn’t like officers and enlisted above the rank E 5 so a guy going through bootcamp in 1971 he really didn’t have to worry about Vietnam but I will admit he did have to worry about the Marine Corps boot camp. but since I was in both of them for 4 years each and in Vietnam 2xI will take the Marine Corps any day over the army that I was in I still don’t believe in the beatings and the harassment and all that other stuff but it did turn out to be the better place to be and we were in a lot of combat.when I started working there in 74 I did meet the man I cut my hair for the first time and we joked about it but he turned out to be a pretty nice guy.but I’m probably one of the few except for retired Marines that worked at MCRD and retired from there as a civilian so I knew how it worked pretty well. I had a lot of marine friends officers and and high enlisted. I’m kind of pissed off so I hope I got everything correct so I’m signing off bye.

  28. Joined the Marines in 1967. Went to the Island for boot. Volunteered for Vietnam. Was sent to Northern
    I Corps to a little place called Ca Lu. It was north of Khe Sanh, by the DMZ.
    The only reason I came home was by the grace of God and my Marine Corps training !

  29. I went thru PI in 1969 and all I can say is I wouldn’t want to do it again. Some things have changed since then, I don’t think the DI’s put hands on the recruits, a little different from when I went thru OOHRAH and Semper Fi

  30. I was DRAFTED into the Marine corps and arrived at MCRD February 03, 1969. We had 3 very capable DRILL INSTRUCTORS named GySgt. Hill, Sgt. Johnson, (from Malta), and Sgt. Styth. GySgt. Hill was the body builder type and IT SHOWED. The draftees weren’t the ones that caught hell in our platoon (2022), it was the weekend warriors because they were going home after boot camp. After ITR I left California for 2nd Recon battalion 2nd Mar Div., where I didn’t wait to be ordered over, I volunteered for Viet Nam. I left the Marine Corps after two years a corporal with months in grade and never looked back. Now I do all I can to help other Vets. Life is Good.

  31. I arrived at MCRD San Diego on July 20, 1970, seven full days after my 17th birthday, Platoon 3095 Staff Sergeant Starr, Staff Sergeant Haran and Sergeant Houston. I graduated and went on to ITR Camp Pendleton. Alot of space in bewtween these lines and after..

  32. I reported mcrdsd in may 1958. my DI’s were Sgt Dialbo and Lee (later getting busted to CPL). do not recall my platoon number. Have been trying to find out and search for other members, but with no luck up to now.. Didn’t grow up with Computers. Went on to Camp P for ITR, back to san Diego for communication school, back to camp P before getting assigned to Hawaii at usmca base before finally ending up at Camp smith. I am looking for people from my platoon or other platoon’s during that time that had the same problems we had. The biggest was standing at attention, on the grinder in the blazing sun with out or covers(Caps). we would all come in at night with blistered heads that we could not touch for days. we are trying to find out how many other marines encountered the same problems. We feel that many of those marines or people who had family members that were marines now suffer from a wide range form of skin cancer. so anyone who knows of any such people would email me we could finish our survey. Thanks to everyone.

  33. Just a quick comment to the disparaging of draftees in the Corps.

    1. I WAS DRAFTED IN 1969


    3. I WENT TO Vietnam as an 0311. I spent my whole tour in the bush with a Marine rifle company in exotic places like Hills 55 and 65. ARIZONA TERRITORY, CHARLIE RIDGE, DODGE CITY. LIBERTY BRIDGE, QUESTION DON MOUNTAINS

    4. I EARNED MY CAR in the day when you actually had to be in a verified fire fight.

    5. How many of the Marine fraternity, enlisted, in this thread disparageing their fellow, drafted, Matones can say the same



    • I agree totally John! you went to boot camp and did a tour! “Once a Marine Always a Marine” is not just word’s for me….. I am a Marine forever no matter what I do in life, No one can ever take that from me, NEVER.

      SEMPER FI!

  34. I enlisted at 17 in 1972. Hollywood Marine, Plt 1119. Assaulted numerous times by Drill Instructors. Knocked out during pugil stick training. Fought a guy that outweighs me by 20 Lbs. The Marine Corps turned me into one bad motherfucker. I wrote a book about all that stuff. In 72 they trained us with idea we’d be going to Vietnam.

    Most of the guys from back on the block that went in the beloved Corps back then are pretty fucked up because of it. Angry all the time. Nobody back then gave a shit about the military. Today, all a guy has to do is throw on a uniform and he’s an instant hero. Not bitchin just saying.

    At Camp Lejuene where I was there were bucu race riots and the blacks were jumping the whites. E clubs there were fights every night. Courthouse Bay, French Creek. I liked the idea of being a Marine but the fucking bordome about killed us all. If it weren’t for fuck books and cigarettes the whole damned division would have been AWOL.

    Semper Fi all you jar head motherfuckers.

  35. I went to Boot Camp Nov 30, 1972 Plt 3029 Parris Island. I am looking for those Marines and Drill Instructors from the platoon.

    Semper Fi

  36. I went to boot camp in San Diego in march of 1968 my plt # was 257 boot camp was tough but I have never regretted it I’m proud to have earned the title I stayed 4 years .wish I had stayed longer

  37. Wow very nice comments and of course jogged the memory of this old Marine. Esp. funny to read the comments by Ed. Heinkel as I was his Drill Instructor. Sgt Hernandez. Ha. Great to Have been a Marine for over 22 years. Ed if you read this check out the Book Marine Mystique it is about Boot Camp in the 70’s friend me on Facebook. Semper Fi House Mouse

  38. I joined voluntarily 1973 MCRD SAN DIEGO, wife was named Darline … Pregnant, left her living with her folks so I could make a living. They said I should have finished school but I didn’t I needed to step up her dad said join the service and I had Marine ROTC in high school. Nothing like the real deal back then but had s few things under my belt like drill and running. However I was what you call a FATBODY, spent 6 weeks PCP(physical conditioning platoon) right next door to MRP(Motivational Rehabilitation Platoon). They worked us out a lot together so we got to see the pit quite a bit during those wonderful extra 6 weeks with Chesty. May I say here God Bless you Chesty wherever you are SIR. I did graduate with a different platoon but stay with the Mighty First Marines. Plt. 1113. We may have been Hollywood Marines and spent our tour in boot in what they called the Hotels. But we are still the first in and the last out. Honorable Discharged and still kicking ass Reaper One.
    Semper Fidelis

  39. dave austin—entered usmcrd sept 16 1969 platoon 1174 no big deal here–was working out in gym before–good thing–boot camp is all that it’s cut out t6o be–got hit–got choked–got dysentery–got bruised feet—flat footed—wouldn’t have changed any of it–it changed the way i think and live my life

  40. Went to Parris Island in March 1967. An exciting time. As I recall boot camp was only 8 weeks and ITR for non grunts was just 2 weeks. Both boot camp and ITR were longer before and after Vietnam.

    Two years later I was in OCS and Quantico so I got to go to Boot Camp twice. Very depressing. My plan was to stay unoticed and just get through. I got to Quantico ten hours early and was sent to Casual Company. The 1st Sgt put me on duty so I was 16 hours late checking into OCS. So I did not get the OCS bald haircut. So I was the only candidate with a full head of hair. So every Sgt Instructor had to discuss my prima donna ways. And they all learned my name since I was different. I was marching the candidates around who did not know what I was.

    I was very glad to get the bald headed haircut and blend back into the background

    Semper Fi

  41. Graduated PI on11March 1970. MOS 0341. Went to Camp Geiger for ITR (3weeks) and on th AIT for additional traing. Does anyone remember how long AIT was in 1970?

  42. I am trying to find my dads platoon photo, he doesn’t remember his platoon number. He arrived at MCRDSD 4/12/1961 and graduated July 12 1961. I have his service record and it only list that he was in 1st BN. What I do know is that he number should in the 120’s to early 30’s. He thinks is 126. I have looked at yellow footprints and grunt and eBay. the Marine Corps museum does not have a list of graduation date for 1961.

  43. Plt 1014 Paris island nov1971 graduated 6 Feb 1972 senior drill instructor gunnary Sgt flick he got promoted to gunny while I was in boot camp spent 2 years edson range camp pendelton got out 1974 was a cook at edson range


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