For the first time in nearly a century the Marines and sailors of the Ready Battalion–2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment returned to their founding grounds, Base Quantico (MCBQ), Independence Day weekend on a Professional Military Education (PME) exercise.
More than 570 service members of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment traveled from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in celebration of their 100 year anniversary and to learn about their lineage at the University (MCU), Historical Division.
“There is something illustrious about the 2/6, something that shines bright that made Marines join the Corps and be a part of something special,” said Annette Amerman, branch head of Historical Division. “It is the lineage and history that the Marines walk in.”
Amerman believes Marines stood on the shoulders of their ancestors as every step they take took into the sandy shores, heated desserts and grassy fields and forests made Marine history.
“The Marines of today read about the Marines of yesterday, but sometime soon the Marines of tomorrow will read about the Marines of today,” Amerman said.
The Fightin’ Sixth–approximately 300 Marines–were initially activated July 11, 1917 at MCBQ, to serve as reinforcements during World War I. The unit was deactivated at Quantico in March of 1925. They are now 800 Marines strong and active at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
According to Lt. Col. Marcus Mainz, commanding officer of 2/6, the trip to MCBQ was an opportunity for the Marines of 2/6 to reflect deeply and come together as a tribe united, coming back to where they were born.
“This is the stuff Marines need to immerse themselves in, the rich history of their brothers past,” Mainz said. “These are their stories and should be held in deep reflection.”
With a mission to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or repel the enemy’s assault with fire and close combat, 2/6 is steeped in a history of valor and respect as they are always ready and never quit.
As the Marines sat attentively in the MCU Historical Division Auditorium listening to Amerman lecture on the beginnings of 2/6, she discussed the many battles fought during WWI:
- Jan. 19, 1918 – The battalion went to League Island, Philadelphia in order to head out to France as part of the 4th Brigade, American Expeditionary Force.
- June 6, 1918 – The 2nd Division attacked German positions. The 4th Marine Brigade liberated Bouresches that day. Its 5th and 6th Marine Regiments fought in Belleau Wood through most of June 1918.
- Oct. 3, 1918 – The 6th Regiment led the offensive to take Blanc Mont Ridge, pushing the Germans out of the Champagne Region of France.
- November 1918 – The 2/6 also took part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which was the last major offensive of the war.
Amerman spoke of the gallant actions of Marines such as Gunnery Sgt. Fred William Stockham, who earned the Medal of Honor (MoH) at the Battle of Belleau Wood after he exposed himself to mustard gas in order to give his own gas mask to a wounded comrade. Stockham scarified his life as a result.
In addition, the gallant actions of Pvt. Joseph Kelly and Cpl. John Pruitt, each receiving two Medals of Honor, one from the Army and one from the Navy, were addressed.
According to Kelly’s Medal of Honor citation, he received his MoH after running 100 yards in advance of the front line and attacking an enemy machine gun nest, killing the gunner with a grenade, shooting another member of the crew with his pistol and returning through the barrage with eight prisoners during the battle at Chateau Thierry, St. Mihiel, Blanc Mont Ridge. He also fought at Meuse-Argonne.
Pruitt was mortally wounded in action at Blanc Mont on Oct. 3, 1918 and died the following day. He was posthumously awarded the Army and Navy Medal of Honor for heroism during the battle that took his life. Pruitt was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre and the Italian Cross of Military Valor.
His citation reads, “Cpl. Pruitt single-handedly attacked two machine guns, capturing them and killing two of the enemy. He then captured 40 prisoners in a shell (a nearby dugout). He was killed soon afterward by shell fire while he was sniping at the enemy.”
“These men, their stories, their legacy that they left behind–these are the Marines that the 2/6 should emulate,” Mainz said. “We need the mentality of noncommissioned officers to win the battle–the Marine with the fingertip feel for the battlefield.”
Mainz believes that there will be situations that Marines will be sent into battle where the odds are stacked against them and the men will almost certainly stare down death, but this cannot detract from the mission at hand.
As these Marines enter a new frontier of battle and struggle to find the inspiration to go out and accomplish the mission, these are the shoulders that inspire them to push forward.
According to Amerman, history is recorded by those who win the war and Marines don’t have the luxury of losing.
“They are Marines because they run toward death–no–they have faith, faith in their fellow Marines in front and behind them and are pushing forward alongside them.,” Amerman said.
“Are you ready, have you prepared, have you done everything to make the mission a success?” Mainz asked. “These are the questions you should ask yourselves as these same questions are what I ask myself.”
Mainz added that when Marines question if they are at the point of exertion, they have to be the kind of Marines that say, “If it’s bad, it’s bad and they’ll go together.”
2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment Sgt. Maj. Christopher Cary asked the Marines to reflect on their careers and their service to the nation, asking, “Would those of yesterday be proud of those today?”
Jamie Deets, a 31-year career Marine, now a veteran, was in attendance to show his support for his fellow brothers in the Fightin’ Sixth. He answered the sergeant major’s question.
“Understand the world is filled with people who want to meet us, but they don’t want to meet us on the wrong terms,” Deets said. “Don’t just protect what you’ve earned, but the legacy of those who came before you.”
Apart from the historical PME the 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment also traveled to Camp Upshur July 8 to partake in their annual Spartan Games in honor of Cpl. Albert Gettings, a team leader for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. Gettings posthumously received a Bronze Star after sacrificing his life in Operation Iraqi Freedom returning fire against insurgents in protection of his company.
The History Division was created during World War I with the primary task to research and write the ‘ official history. It also provides reference and research assistance; preserves personal experiences and observations through oral history interviews; and deploys field historians to record history in the making.