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Teaching The Rules Of The Geneva Convention And Other Treaties

   As a Marine heavy machine gun platoon leader and executive officer of a rifle company during the middle 1950s, it was one of my responsibilities to teach the rules of the Geneva Convention (and our other treaties) on how to wage war in a gentlemanly fashion. There are all kinds of rules on how to treat civilians humanely, what weapons can be used, and how to treat prisoners, the wounded, and enemy dead. You are serious about teaching Marquis of Queensberry rules because you hope against hope that your captured, wounded, and dead troops will be treated with respect.

   Many of the officers and enlisted I served with from 1951 to 1957 (reserve and active) were veterans of several Caribbean “police actions,” World War II, and Korea. They had served from Haiti to China, from Cuba to Nicaragua to Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guadacanal, Peleliu, and the Chosin Reservoir. During some of my time in service, I was under the command of Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, known as “Chesty” by his fellow Marines. He was only about 5’6” but had a full “Dolly Parton” pouter-pigeon chest.

  Among many distinctions, Chesty had two major ones. He is the only Marine I know of who started as a lowly private and ended up a general. Chesty could have been Commandant of the Marine Corps at the end of his career, but he had the bad habit of always telling truth to power. He scared the hell out of politicians who would have had to approve his nomination.

  For 27 of his 37 years in the Corps, Chesty was at sea or overseas. He fought against the Caco rebels in Haiti for five years. He fought in Nicaragua for three years and commanded the famous “Horse Marines” in China. He was involved with practically every major WW II action in the Pacific, including Guadacanal, the defense of Henderson Airfield, and most of our island landings. Excluding medals from foreign governments, Chesty earned 14 major combat decorations, among them five Navy Crosses, and is still the most decorated Marine in history. He was even awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the U.S. Army, a medal equal to the highest Navy medal, the Navy Cross. He had so many other campaign medals, unit citation ribbons, and other awards that there wasn’t enough room on his big chest for them. At the age of 68, Chesty volunteered to return to active duty to fight in Vietnam, but was rejected because of age.