The following piece was written by my father-in-law, HWL — a man who surely would have intrigued, enlightened, and infuriated me, had he lived long enough for us to meet. As it was, he died a few years before AKL and I met. He was an older, second-time-around dad to her — a veteran not of Vietnam, or even Korea, but of World War II, where he enlisted at 17 and served as a front line Marine in the Pacific.
HWL was a word guy, going onto college after the war, and landing himself an editing and publishing career. What follows falls somewhere between several good things currently available here on The Interwebs: FOUND, McSweeney's, and Letters of Note. AKL uncovered it recently among her dad's letters. It is a product of its time, of war and madness, and of boys being boys, while fighting on behalf of men. For me, it is both a snapshot of a man for whom I feel strong kinship, and a 22-year-old trying to stay sane, stateside, just beyond a time of high insanity.
Umpteenth Marine Division
F.M.F. Pacific, In the Field
29 July, 1948
To: All Marine Units, Pacific Theatre of Operations
Subject: Indoctrination for return to United States
- In compliance with current policies for rotation of Marines overseas, it is directed that, in order to maintain the high standard of character of the U.S.M.C. and to prevent any dishonor to reflect on the uniform, all individuals eligible to return to the U.S. will undergo an indoctrination of demilitarization prior to approval of his application.
- The following points will be emphasized:
- In America there are a remarkable number of pretty girls. These young ladies are not ignorant islanders. Contrary to current practices, they should not be approached with, "Push push?" A proper greeting is, "Isn't it a lovely day?" etc. then say, "Push push?"
- A guest in a private home is usually awakened in the morning by a light tapping on his and an invitation to join the host for breakfast. It is proper to say "I'll be there shortly." DO NOT SAY, "Blow it out your ___!"
- Very natural urges are apt to occur. If it is found necessary to defecate, one does not grab a shovel and newspaper and run to the garden. Instructors will make sure of personnel understanding the use of the toilet — location, flushing, etc.
- In the event of troops retaining helmets, they will refrain from using it as a chair, wash-bowl, or bathtub. All these are furnished in homes. It is not good practice to squat Indian fashion in a corner in the event all chairs are taken — the host will furnish another.
- Belching and passing wind in company is strictly frowned upon. If you forget yourself, a proper remark is "Pardon me." DO NOT say, "It must be that lousy chow we been eating."
- American dinners consist of several courses all served in different dishes. Your previous practice of mixing meat, potatoes, beans, peaches, and pudding to make it more palatable is "taboo."
- Americans have strange tastes for stimulants. Common drinks in the islands, such as underripe wine, sick bay alcohol and grapefruit juice, tuba, aggie, and Aqua-Velva are not acceptable in polite society.
- Upon leaving a friend's house after a visit, one may find his hat misplaced, most probably in a closet. Do NOT say, "Don't nobody leave 'dis room, some s.o.b. has swiped me hat!"
- Beer is sometimes served in bottles and a cap remover is usually available. Don't remove caps with your teeth or belt buckle. In case of whisky being served DO NOT grab the bottle and drain it — always leave at least a half inch for the host.
- In the movies, now under a roof, seats are provided and it isn't necessary to bring a helmet. It is NOT considered good form to whistle at every female star over 8 and under 80 who crosses the screen. If vision is obstructed do not shout, "Move your head, gook face, I can't see thru the wood!"
- Natural functions will continue. It will be frequently necessary to urinate. DO NOT walk behind the nearest tree to accomplish this act. Heads are to be found in public buildings and houses.
- Air raids and enemy patrols are not encountered in America. Hence, the wearing of helmets and weapons at ready, cocked, and loaded, to church or at social gatherings is not needed.
- The previous habit of using profanity at every other word is now a big offense. Also, it is now necessary to pay for rides on buses, trains, etc. because the Marine Corps no longer offers this courtesy as on its 6-bys and Recons.
- All individuals returning to U.S. will make every effort to conform to the customs and habits of the regions visited and to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible. Any actions which reflect upon the honor of the corps will be severely dealt with.
By Order of the Commanding General:
Chief of Staff
Distribution: A to Z