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Marine Raiders donated to Raider Museum at Marine Corps Base Quantico

By Adele Uphaus-Conner, Marine Corps Base Quantico

January 12, 2016 --

On Nov. 6, 1942, the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion under Lt. Col. Evans Carlson embarked on what became known as the Long Patrol, a 29-day, 151-mile slog across the island of Guadalcanal in pursuit of Japanese forces. It was a successful mission and only 16 Raiders were killed, but according to Oscar Peatross, legendary Marine Gen. Chesty Puller, who commanded the 1st battalion, 7th Marines on Guadalcanal, didn’t think Carlson would be able to pull it off.

“Puller told Carlson, ‘If you send the Marines up there, they’ll never come back,’” Peatross’s stepson, former Marine W. Kemp Norman, Jr., said. Peatross was one of Carlson’s Raiders and participated in the Long Patrol. He was a captain at the time.

“My stepfather was always proud of having done something Puller said was impossible,” Norman said.

Peatross was a decorated Marine officer who retired in 1971 as a major general. He earned the Navy Cross for his heroic actions during the Makin Island raid in August 1942 and a Bronze Star for action in Iwo Jima in 1945. He was awarded two Legions of Merit for service in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

In his later life, he wrote Bless ‘Em All, a first-person account of the 2nd Marine Raiders. On Jan. 7, his stepson Norman donated two original copies of the now out-of-print book to the Marine Raider Museum, which is housed in Raider Hall, the Martial Arts Center for Excellence (MACE), at The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The Marine Raiders were elite units, based on the British Commandos, established in 1942 to conduct guerilla warfare, specifically landing in rubber boats and operating behind enemy lines. They are said to be the first U.S. special operations forces to see combat in World War II. All four Raider battalions were disbanded in 1944 when the Marine Corps decided they had out-lived their mission.

In 2015, then-commandant Joseph Dunford announced that the principal combat arm of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which was formed in 2005, would be renamed the Marine Raider Regiment to highlight their lineage to the original Raiders.

Norman said he was looking for a repository for his stepfather’s Raider memorabilia, which also includes letters and photographs. He didn’t know the museum at Raider Hall existed until a friend told him about it.

Joseph Shusko, the retired lieutenant colonel who directs the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, escorted Norman on a tour of Raider Hall. Raider artifacts—letters home, flags, patches, shoes, mess kits, weapons, uniforms, a Japanese bugle with a bullet hole in it from a Raider-fired gun—fill display cases in the hallways and the conference room.

“The Raiders were the first martial artists of the Marine Corps,” Shusko said. “They were also the first to use dogs in combat, wear camo uniforms and develop fire team tactics. They were mavericks in so many ways.”

Evans Carlson, commander of the 2nd Raider battalion in which Peatross served, had spent time in China and was inspired by the idea that all soldiers, regardless of rank, should have the confidence and initiative to make decisions. He borrowed the Chinese term “gung-ho”—translated as “work together”—to encourage camaraderie and teamwork among his troops. This term caught on and is now associated with the Marine Corps as a whole.

“That idea of responsibility at the lower level is unique to the U.S. Marine Corps and is still with us,” Shusko said.

Shusko showed Norman a display listing the names of all Marines who served in the four Raider battalions. They located Peatross’ name among the 8,004 recorded there.

Shusko said that there are in excess of 200 Raiders still living. The oldest will turn 103 this month and the youngest will turn 90. They visit Raider Hall often and tell stories that bring the past to life, such as how they used to wear Chuck Taylor basketball shoes aboard ship because they found the Marine Corps-issued boots too slippery and how they spray-painted camouflage patterns on their utility uniforms.

Norman said he has vivid memories of sitting at the dinner table and listening to his stepfather’s Raider stories.

“He told me how the men used to complain about Carlson ordering them to sing Methodist hymns while marching,” Norman remembered. “There was one story about a warrant officer who looked into the porthole of a Japanese ship only to be met by the end of a Japanese gun. But it misfired, and he survived. When you’re a teenaged boy, you pay attention to that kind of story.”

Norman said his stepfather inspired him to join the Marine Corps in 1950.

“All you had to do was be exposed to him to be inspired,” he said. “I think everyone who joins the Marines is inspired by someone like him.”

Norman said he was “tremendously impressed” by the museum at Raider Hall and happy to have found a safe repository for his stepfather’s artifacts.

“It’s incredible what you’ve put together here,” he told Shusko. “I could not be more proud.”

“Everything here is taken care of by Marines,” Shusko said. “That’s what Marines do. We love our legacy.”


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