Today is the birthday of the greatest, most decorated Marine in American history: Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller. He was born June 26, 1898.
General Puller’s heroism, esprit de corps, and leadership are legendary and saying that he is an inspiration is an understatement.
Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller (June 26, 1898 – October 11, 1971) was an officer in the United States Marine Corps and is the most decorated Marine in history. Puller is the only United States Marine to receive five Navy Crosses, the United States Navy’s second highest decoration after the Medal of Honor. During his career, he fought guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua, and participated in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II and the Korean War. Puller retired from the Marine Corps in 1955, spending the rest of his life in Virginia.
Born in the peaceful village of West Point, Virginia, where his father had a wholesale grocery business, Puller was reared on tales of Confederate glory. His grandfather, Maj. John Puller, a heroic cavalryman, was killed in 1863.
Determined on a military career, Puller completed one year at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) before enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in August 1918. VMI may have given him the exaggerated military bearing for which he was nicknamed, but it was during more than four years as a Marine NCO and concurrent lieutenant of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti (1919–23) that Puller developed his distinctive leadership techniques: perfectionism; mission overachievement; and fearless, inspirational conduct under fire. Varied assignments followed his commissioning in 1924, including two tours in Nicaragua, in each of which he was awarded the Navy Cross. His third and fourth Navy Crosses came during World War II at the Battle of Guadalcanal and at Cape Gloucester on New Britain Island; and the fifth in Korea where Puller commanded the 1st Marine Regiment in the assault landing at Inchon, the seizure of Seoul, and the fighting at the Chosin Reservoir.
Among Puller’s most famous quips:
“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time.”
“Great. Now we can shoot at those bastards from every direction.”
“We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them.”
“Remember, you are the 1st Marines! Not all the Communists in Hell can overrun you!”
“Take me to the Brig. I want to see the real Marines.”
“Alright you bastards, try and shoot me!” (to Korean forces)
“Where do you put the bayonet?” (upon seeing a flamethrower for the first time)
“You don’t hurt ‘em if you don’t hit ‘em.”
“Hit hard, hit fast, hit often.”
While exact counts of Puller’s total number of decorations vary from source to source, an accepted number of 52 separate, subsequent, and foreign awards is commonplace. The reason for difficulty in assigning an exact total comes from the variety of foreign decorations that each carry different protocols in regard to wear and display.
You can read so much more about Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller at his entry on wikipedia. What an amazing man he was.
Happy Birthday Chesty and Semper Fi!
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