USMC Leadership Basics

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is yet another true story about a veteran who is no longer with us. In this particular case, the veteran was my cousin.

Willard was a freshly minted second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He was burrowed in the sand behind a fallen palm tree on the beach at Iejima, a small island caught up in the Battle of Okinawa. He was awaiting the order to move inland.

It was Willard's first combat assignment. He felt like a fish out of water. He had been placed in charge of a squad of battle hardened grunts. He knew the men would be watching his every move. Willard realized that his leadership performance that day, provided he survived the day, would be vital to gaining the respect required to lead an effective fighting unit.

As luck would have it, Willard's team was opposite a gap in the enemy defenses. Resistance there was light. After a short firefight, the Marines had penetrated 200 yards and reached a clump of cycad bushes. The sergeant recommended they remain there until other squads moved up to cover the flanks. Willard decided otherwise.

He ordered the men to push on. He had a goal in mind. The company commander had offered a prize, a fifth of the finest Kentucky Bourbon whiskey, to the junior officer who led his men to the other side of the island first. Willard figured winning the prize would validate his leadership ability.

With minimal combat and without having taken a single casualty, the squad reached the far side of the island in the early afternoon. Proud of himself, Willard radioed headquarters to stake his claim on the whiskey. He was shocked to learn that the rest of the Marines were bogged down on the beach in heavy fighting and that he was isolated clean on the other side of of Japanese held island.

Willard ordered his men to dig in and to cover themselves with foliage. He thought it best to attempt escape under the cover of darkness. It was his most unpopular decision that day. They sat motionless for hours, in tropical heat, drenched in sweat and plagued by crawling, biting, stinging insects. It was not the way Marines prefer to fight a war.

The next day, Willard reported to the company commander. After he gave his synopsis of the action, Willard discretely inquired about the whiskey. He didn't get it. There was no whiskey. It didn't exist. It had never existed.

It proved to be Willard's most important lesson in Marine Corps leadership — success is mandatory; truth is optional.

Copyright © 2012 - 2015 W.C. Bell; All rights reserved.


Submitted: February 04, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Whiskey Charlie. All rights reserved.

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Comments

B Douglas Slack

How true, how true. ~Tom

Wed, February 4th, 2015 3:39pm

Author
Reply

Yeah, Tom. The Navy wasn't any different now that I think about it.

Wed, February 4th, 2015 7:42am

Serge Wlodarski

Proving once again that the truth, when properly told, is more interesting than fiction. At least, better than the stuff I can come up with. My father followed the people doing the fighting all the way across the Pacific. He commanded a maintenance unit that repaired vehicles and whatever else was broken or half blown up. He saw some stuff. He didn't like to talk about it much.

Thu, February 5th, 2015 2:26pm

Author
Reply

You can't make up stuff like this. At least, I can't. My imagination is nothing compared to the tales of the men who fought the wars. By the way, Willard saw some bad stuff when he was assigned to lead the burial detail after the invasion of some Pacific island. He said the carnage was so bad that his only option was to collect the bodies in the bucket attachment on the front of a bulldozer. Otherwise, he would have insufficient manpower to complete the job in any reasonable amount of time.

Thu, February 5th, 2015 7:11am

Adrian Hunt

Great stuff as ever Whiskey. I echo your assertion - life seems to be full of stuff ee couldn't make up!

Sun, February 8th, 2015 4:37pm

Author
Reply

I am glad you liked it. I needed no imagination for this one. I simply related the story the way Willard told it to me.

Sun, February 8th, 2015 9:25am

Mr Watson

Great piece Whiskey, We live and learn, if were lucky !

Sat, February 14th, 2015 8:23pm

Author
Reply

Thank you. It's a story my cousin told me one morning when were were sitting at his kitchen table having coffee before an early morning fishing trip.

Sat, February 14th, 2015 12:28pm

Chris Cross

Thrilling story! And very well narrated. Makes me think that during WWI soldiers were often given the booze before going to slaughter

Sun, February 15th, 2015 4:18pm

Author
Reply

Thank you for commenting. I'm glad you liked the story.

Sun, February 15th, 2015 8:25am

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