Wednesday, February 22, 2012

World War I

When a state of war was declared to exist on April 6, 1917, the United States Marine Corps was composed of 462 commissioned officers, 49 warrant officers, and 13,214 enlisted men on active duty, a total of 13,725 and, while the corps was expanded to an actual strength, including reserves, of 75,101 officers and enlisted men, its high standard was never lowered. When these figures are compared with the approximate strength of 3,100 at the end of the Civil War, and of 4,800 at the end of the Spanish War, the growth of the Marine Corps is illustrated.

Despite the fact that on the outbreak of war, 187 officers and 4,546 enlisted men were on duty beyond the continental limits of the United States, and 49 officers, and 2,187 enlisted men were serving on board the cruising vessels of the Navy, only five weeks later, on June 14,1917, the Fifth Regiment of Marines, consisting of 70 officers and 2,689 enlisted men,
approximately one-sixth of the enlisted strength of the Marine Corps, competently organized and ready for active service, sailed on the HENDERSON, DE KALB, and HANCOCK from the United States, forming one-fifth of the first expedition of American troops for service in France.

This regiment was soon joined by the Sixth Regiment and the Sixth Machine Gun Battalion of Marines, and the Fourth Brigade of Marines was organized, and as one of the two Infantry brigades of the Second Division of Regulars engaged in actual battle in no less than eight distinct operations in France, of which four were major operations.

The French Army recognized the splendid work of the Fifth and Sixth Regiments of Marines by citing them no less than three times in Army orders for achievements in the Chateau-Thierry sector, in the Aisne-Marne (Soissons) offensive, and in the Meuse-Argonne (Champagne). The Sixth Machine Gun Battalion was similarly cited for its work in the Chateau-Thierry sector and
Aisne-Marne (Soissons) offensive. The Fourth Brigade received a similar citation for its work in the Chateau-Thierry sector. Since two French Army citations are sufficient to make an organization eligible for the award of the French fourragere, the high standard of the Marine units is evident.

Information was received in January, 1920, that the War Department had accepted the award of the French fourragere in the colors of the ribbon of the Croix de Guerre for several Army organizations and the three units of the Fourth Brigade.

Within one year after the outbreak of war the Marine Corps placed about as many enlisted men in France as there were in the Marine Corps when war was declared.

During the month of June, 1918, when the battle deaths around Hill 142, Bouresches, Belleau Wood, and Vaux, of Americans attached to the Second Division amounted to 1,811 (of which at least 1,062 were Marines) and the nonfatal casualties to 7,252 more (of which 3,615 were Marines), the legislative strength of the Marine Corps was but 1,323 officers and 30,000 enlisted men; the actual strength on June 30, 1918, including reserves, was 1,424 officers and 57,298 enlisted men, and of this total about 300 officers and 14,000 enlisted men were in France. These latter figures include those
Marines who suffered casualties in the battles of June, 1918.

Approximately 30,000 Marines were sent overseas to join the American Expeditionary Forces, and 1,600 for naval duty ashore. During the war a great manydditional Marine detachments were detailed to guard the radio stations, naval magazines, ammunition depots, warehouses, cable stations and for other naval activities, and the detachments already
established were largely augmented. No call was made for additional Marines for naval purposes that was not fully met, and this is of especial interest as the Marine Corps is essentially a part of the Naval Establishment, and its first duty is to fill all naval needs and requirements. It was believed to be essential that the Marine Corps should do its full part in this war, and for that reason it was absolutely necessary that the Marines should join the Army on the western front, taking care, however, that this should not at any time interfere in the slightest degree with the filling of all naval requirements.

The Marine Corps, while maintaining the Fourth Brigade of Marines, a total of 258 officers and 8,211 enlisted men, that fought in eight battle operations suffering approximately 12,000 casualties, placed and maintained the Fifth Brigade of Marines of the same strength in France; supplied the commanding general of the Second Division, and many officers on his staff;
furnished a considerable number of officers to command Army units of the Second and other divisions, and for staff and detached duty throughout the American Expeditionary Forces; participated in the naval aviation activities in France and in the Azores; and during the period of the war succeeded in performing in a highly satisfactory manner the naval duties required of it, including the maintenance of two brigades of prewar strength standing by to protect the Mexican oil fields, and as an advanced base force in Philadelphia; one in Cuba; one in Santo Domingo, and one in Haiti; administered and officered the Haitian Gendarmerie and Guardia Nacional Dominicana; as well as providing efficient Marine detachments for numerous naval vessels, and maintaining garrisons at the numerous navy yards and naval stations in the
United States; and in the Virgin Islands; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Pearl Harbor, Hawaiian Islands; Guam; Cavito and Olongapo, P. I.; Managua, Nicaragua; Peking, China; San Juan, P. R.; London, England; Cardiff, Wales; Paris,
France; and the Azores; and supplied many officers and enlisted men for special and detached duty at home and abroad.


The act of Congress of August 29, 1916, increased the authorized strength of the Marine Corps from 344 officers and 9,921 enlisted men to 597 officers and 14,981 enlisted men, and the President was authorized in an emergency to
further increase the corps to 693 officers and 17,400 enlisted men, which he did by Executive order on March 26, 1917.

On April 6, 1917, Congress declared "that a state of war exists between the United States and the Imperial German Government" and one and one-half months later, on May 22, 1917, temporarily increased the authorized strength to 1,197 commissioned officers, 126 warrant officers, and 30,000 enlisted men.

Finally, the act of July 1, 1918, temporarily increased the Marine Corps to 3,017 commissioned officers, 324 warrant officers, and 75,500 enlisted men, which is the maximum strength ever authorized for the Marine Corps. Of this number 17,400 were permanent and 57,650 temporary. In addition to the above, the act of August 29, 1916, which established the Marine Corps Reserve, permits the enrollment of reserves without limit as to number, and on April 6, 1917, there were enrolled, subject to call to active duty, three Reserve commissioned officers, 24 National Naval Volunteer officers, 36 Reserve enlisted men, and 928 enlisted National Naval Volunteers. There were also available for recall to active duty 65 regular retired commissioned officers, one regular retired warrant officer, and 210 regular retired enlisted men.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Henry Gurke, PFC
United States Marine Corps
Posthumously received the
Medal of Honor - World War II

Private First Class Henry Gurke (November 6, 1922 - November 9, 1943) was a United States Marine who was killed in action in 1943 in the Solomon Islands Campaign of World War II. For his heroic actions, he was posthumously received the Medal of Honor - the highest military honor bestowed by the United States.


Henry Gurke was born in Neche, North Dakota on November 6, 1922. Baptized in the Lutheran Church, he attended the local schools. After graduation from high school in 1940, he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in July and was stationed in Larimore, North Dakota. He stayed in the CCC until October 1941 and rose to the position of Assistant Leader, then returned to Neche where he drove a two–ton truck until his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps on April 15, 1942.

Private Gurke went through recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, then went into the 2d Separate Pack Howitzer Battalion of the 22nd Marines and was in C Battery only one month before shipping overseas on the SS Lurline on July 30, 1942 - three and a half months after his enlistment in the Marines. He landed at Apia, Upolu, British Samoa, one month later. Within two weeks the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Marines, with Pvt Gurke's battery attached, went to Uvea Island of the Wallis Islands to relieve the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which left to rejoin the 1st Marine Division then engaged in the grueling fight for Guadalcanal. In September 1942, Pvt Gurke was transferred to Company D, 3rd Raider Battalion. After four months at Wallis, the Raiders left for Pago Pago, American Samoa, stayed there about three weeks, then moved south to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, landing there in January 1943.

The following month the Raiders went over to Guadalcanl for a few days en route to the Russell Islands. This was not to be the hoped "for and long prepared" for combat though. Pavuvu Island in the Russells was occupied without opposition by Pvt Gurke's battalion from February 21, to March 18, 1943. The battalion returned to Espiritu Santo in March. On August 1, 1943, Gurke was promoted to private first class.

Transferred to Company M, 3rd Raider Battalion, 2nd Raider Regiment of the I Marine Amphibious Corps in June, PFC Gurke was at Nouméa, New Caledonia, in October and finally met the enemy at Bougainville in November. He "celebrated" his 21st birthday on November 6, 1943 and three days later gave his life for a fellow Marine and for the country he had served well for the past nineteen months.

Private First Class Gurke was in a shallow two-man foxhole with a fellow Marine, a Browning Automatic Rifle-man (BAR-man), around dawn of November 9, 1943, delivering a fierce stream of fire against the advancing Japanese in defense of a vital road block in the area near Empress Augusta Bay. Judging from the increased ferocity of the enemy grenade attack, that the enemy was determined to annihilate him and his buddy because of the fierce effective fire they were rendering, PFC Gurke roughly thrust his companion aside when a Japanese grenade landed in their foxhole and threw himself on the deadly missile. For his unswerving devotion to duty and uncommon valor in the face of the enemy, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to PFC Gurke.

The medal was presented to his parents at ceremonies in the Navy Department on May 31, 1944. The Assistant Secretary of the Navy made the presentation in the name of the President.

In 1945, the destroyer USS Gurke (DD-783) was named in PFC Gurke's honor.

The body of PFC Gurke was originally buried at Bougainville, later moved to Munda, New Georgia, and then to Finschhafen, New Guinea, and was finally returned for burial in Neche Union Cemetery in Neche, North Dakota.

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Marine Raider Battalion during action against the enemy Japanese Forces in the Solomon Islands area on November 9, 1943. While his platoon was engaged in the defense of a vital road block near Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville Island, Private First Class Gurke, in company with another Marine, was delivering a fierce stream of fire against the main vanguard of the Japanese. Concluding from the increasing ferocity of grenade barrages that the enemy was determined to annihilate their shallow, two-man foxhole, he resorted to a bold and desperate measure for holding out despite the torrential hail of shells. When a Japanese grenade dropped squarely into the foxhole, Private First Class Gurke, mindful that his companion manned an automatic weapon of superior fire power and therefore could provide more effective resistance, thrust him roughly aside and flushing his own body over the missile to smother the explosion. With unswerving devotion to duty and superb valor, Private First Class Gurke sacrificed himself in order that his comrade might live to carry on the fight. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

John Philip Sousa
United States Marine
The March King
Performing Arts, 1854-1932

John Philip Sousa was an American composer and conductor, famous for his patriotic military marches. He was given the nickname "The March King."

Early years

John Philip Sousa was born on November 6, 1854, in Washington, D.C. He was the third of 10 children. His parents were John Antonio Sousa and Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus. His father played the trombone in a military band, so John grew up around military band music. When John was six, he began to study voice and numerous instruments, including violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, and trombone. When John was 13 years old, he attempted to run away and join a circus band, so his father enlisted him in the U.S. Marines as an apprentice.

In 1872, John published his first composition, "Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes." In 1875, he was discharged from the marines. He began to perform on the violin, which led to him touring. John eventually began to conduct theater orchestras, including Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.

In February 1879, he met Jane van Middlesworth Bellis during Pinafore rehearsals. They were married on December 30, 1879. The couple had three children.

In 1880, John returned to Washington D.C., to assume leadership of the U.S. Marine Band. He led the band from 1880 to 1892. During that time, he conducted "The President's Own" any time the president needed music for an event - a Marine Band prerogative. While conducting that band, Sousa served under presidents Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison.

The first Sousa band

In 1892, promoter David Blakely approached Sousa, and persuaded him to resign and organize a civilian concert band. The first "Sousa's Band" concert was performed on September 26, 1892, at the Stillman Music Hall in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Sousa's first operetta, El Capitan, made its debut in 1895. It was his most famous operetta and has been in production somewhere ever since it was written. He wrote 10 operettas.

In 1896, while Sousa and his wife were in Europe on a vacation, they received word that his promoter had died. On the voyage home, John was inspired to write "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

Sousa's band continued to tour widely, and in 1900, they represented the United States at the Paris Exposition before touring Europe. They toured Europe successfuly three times, the first in 1900, the second in 1901, and the last in 1905. In 1910, Sousa organized a successful world tour.

Sousa joined the U.S. Naval Reserve at age 62 in 1917, during World War I, and was given the rank of lieutenant. Following the war, he continued to tour with his band. He fought for the causes of music education and composers' rights, even testifying before Congress in 1927 and 1928. Over the band's 40-year lifetime, they gave 15,200 concerts.

Conducting to the last

After conducting a rehearsal of the Ringgold Band in Reading, Pennsylvania, on March 6, 1932, John Philip Sousa died at the age of 77. The last piece he conducted was "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

He remains the best-known composer of band marches. He composed 135, the most famous being Stars and Stripes, the nation's official march.

Sousa was inducted into the Washington (D.C.) Area Music Hall of Fame, in 2002.

Off-site search results for "John Philip Sousa"...

John Philip Sousa
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We Shall Overcome -- John Philip Sousa, Jr. High School
... John Philip Sousa Junior High School National Historic Landmarks photograph The John Philip Sousa Junior High School, a National Historic Landmark, is associated with the struggle to desegregate schools in the nation's capitoJohn Philip Sousa Junior High School National Historic Landmarks photograph The John Philip Sousa Junior High School, a National Historic Landmark, is associated with the struggle to desegregate schools in the nation's capitoJohn Philip Sousa Junior High School, a National Historic Landmark, is associated with the struggle to desegregate schools in the nation's capitol.

John Philip Sousa
... Philip Sousa, America's "March King" Born: November 6, 1854 Died: March 6, 1932 John Philip Sousa was an American entertainer and composer. He is best remembered for his marches, his band, and his patriotism. Known as the "MaJohn Philip Sousa was an American entertainer and composer. He is best remembered for his marches, his band, and his patriotism. Known as the "March King,"

Saturday, February 4, 2012

United States Marine Corps
History of Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States. In judging men for receipt of the medal, each service has established its own regulations. The deed must be proved by incontestable evidence of at least two eyewitnesses; it must be so outstanding that it clearly distinguishes the recipient's gallantry beyond the call of duty from lesser forms of bravery; it must involve the risk of his life; and it must be the type of deed which, if he had not done it, would not subject him to any justified criticism.

The idea for the Medal of Honor was born during the Civil War as men fought gallantly and oftentimes displayed great heroism. George Washington originated the Purple Heart in 1782 to honor brave soldiers, sailors and Marines. From that time until the Civil War, Certificates of Merit and a "brevet" system of promotions were used as military awards. The first military decoration formally authorized by the American Government as a badge of valor was the Medal of Honor for enlisted men of the Navy and Marine Corps. It was authorized by Congress, and approved by President Abraham Lincoln on 21 December 1861. The medal for the Army and Voluntary Forces was authorized on 12 July 1862.

The medal is awarded "in the name of the Congress of the United States" and for this reason, it is often called the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is only on rare occasions, however, that Congress awards special Medals of Honor. An Executive Order, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt on 20 September 1905, directed that ceremonies of award "will always be made with formal and impressive ceremonial" and that the recipient "will, when practicable, be ordered to Washington, D.C., and the presentation will be made by the President, as Commander in Chief, or by such representative as the President may designate."

Since 1862, 296 Marines have been awarded the Medal of Honor. The first recipient was Corporal John F. Mackie, who during the attack on Fort Darling at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia, "fearlessly maintained his musket fire against the rifle pits on shore, and when ordered to fill vacancies at guns caused by men wounded and killed in action, manned the weapon with skill and courage." Sixteen other enlisted Marines were awarded the medal during the Civil War. Another 63 Marines would receive the Medal of Honor in the 1871 Korean Campaign, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection and the Boxer Rebellion. Marine and Navy officers were first declared eligible for the award in 1913, and in the next year nine medals were awarded to officers for the landing at Vera Cruz, Mexico. The "Banana Wars" saw a total of another 13 medals conferred on enlisted Marines and officers. Only two Marines, Major General Smedley D. Butler and Sergeant Major Daniel Daly were awarded Medals of Honor for two separate actions: Vera Cruz (1914) and Haiti (1915) for Butler, and Peking (1900) and Haiti (1915) for Daly. Although only 7 Marines received the medal for actions during World War I, 82 medals were given to Marines during World War II, 42 were awarded for the Korean War, and another 57 for the Vietnam War. The most recent Medal of Honor awarded to a Marine was for gallantry in action during Operation Enduring Freedom.

There have been four major variations in the Navy Medal of Honor since its inception, the most distinctive change being the "Tiffany Cross" which was instituted in early 1919 and used until the current medal was re-established in 1942. The Navy Medal of Honor is made of bronze, suspended by an anchor from a bright blue ribbon, and is worn about the neck. The ribbon is spangled with a cluster of 13 white stars representing the original States. Each ray of the five pointed star contains sprays of laurel and oak and is tipped with a trefoil. Standing in bas-relief, circled by 34 stars representing the 34 states in 1861, is Minerva who personifies the Union. She holds in her left hand the fasces, an ax bound in staves of wood, which is the ancient Roman symbol of authority. With the shield in her right hand, she repulses the serpents held by the crouching figure of Discord. The reverse of the medal is left blank, allowing for the engraving of the recipient's name and the date and place of his deed.