Back in '57
I was a young corporal serving in the Marine Corps' Communication Center
(CommCenter) located on the 4th deck of the Navy Annex, Arlington, VA.
One of my tasks was to deliver, on foot and as rapidly as possible, high
priority messages received from all sources to the Headquarters Marine
Corps Duty Officer whose office was on the lst deck near the Commandant's
Office. In those days we who had been on drill teams, VIP guard posts and
the like had double leather soles on our shoes as well as metal "taps"
on the inner sides and on the bottom of the heels. The taps tended to sound
like a cymbal going
off in the Navy Annex when one snapped to attention and the taps on the heels met.
Late one afternoon, as I was high-tailing it to the Duty Officer's post with a high priority message, I exited the stairs on the first deck and rounded the corner at a blazing pace. Just then my slippery leather soles lost traction on the tiled floor and I played Commandant's office opened and out steps General Randolph McCall Pate. Hit him just above the ankles and we both ended up on the deck against his door. All I could see was those big four stars and the Portsmouth Brig which was still open in those bracing myself against the bulkhead (wall). Needless to say I made those taps on my heels sound like a rifle shot when they hit together.
aides and what seemed like most of the officers in the Navy Annex appeared
and helped the Commandant to an upright position. Without realizing it
I forgot where I was and reverted to my boot camp training under my Drill
Instructor, SSgt Anconna, and in a reflex action I spit out those well-learned
words, "Sir, the private regrets his actions, sir. Sir, please excuse me
for my actions, sir." General Pate's response was soft and nothing like
my Drill Instructor. He said, "Son, are you alright?" "Yes sir!" He said,
"Please be careful. We can't afford to lose good NCO's in the Marine Corps.
way Marine, one should be proud of being a corporal in the Marine Corps. Even generals recognize twostripes as an NCO."
Still braced against the bulkhead I managed to squeak out a feeble "Aye, aye, sir." Then the Commandant said, "You better get to wherever you were gong Marine and steady as she goes." Other than the inspirational welcome from by senior DI my first day in Boot Camp, there is no other message I received in my almost 9 years as a Marine that has remained so clear in my memory.
Just as a secondary note, the Colonel who was the duty officer gave me a "reamer" because the time stamp on the message was over 3 minutes from its receipt until the time I handed it to him. I saw no need to explain the reason for the delay to him or to the Watch Officer in the CommCenter. I did not make NCO of the month that "YEAR".
George H. Morrow