Gunny Broughton's Toilet Seat

usmc rifle marksman badge  


   In 1990, I was the commanding officer of the 14th Counter Intelligence Team, (at that time the largest team in the Marine Corps, regular or reserve).   In August of that year, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and that put the Marine Corps on a war footing.  Early on, I was informed that my unit could expect to be deployed to the Middle East and I took the appropriate actions to ensure the Team was prepared.


  I had in the training schedule a weapons qualification and so, in due course, we were on the rifle range with M16s.   Now the 14th was a unit heavy with officers and staff NCOs and among the staff NCOs was Gunny Broughton.  Broughton had served in Viet Nam as a sniper, a fact that he took every opportunity to impress upon his fellow staff NCOs, to a certain extent, to their irritation as well.    On qualification day, Broughton was assigned to the first relay and apparently had again pointed out to his fellow NCOs what a crack shot he was.   Just as the first relay was preparing to approach the 200-yard firing line several persons (whose identity I should conceal) engaged Broughton in a heated discussion on a point of rifle marksmanship.  As Broughton was distracted, several other NCOs (who, likewise should remain anonymous) completely fouled up the windage and elevation knobs on Broughton's weapon.  Without realizing the sabotage that had been committed, Broughton took up his rifle and prepared for the 200-yard rapid fire.  The line was ready, the tower gave the command "ready on the right! ready on the left! all ready on the firing line!"   Two hundred yards away the dog target rose from the butts and the crackle of rifle fire erupted from the line.   A few moments later, the dog targets dropped into the butts for scoring and Broughton rose from his firing position confident that he was on his way once again to an expert qual.  The targets rose from the butts, and disking the scores commenced.  Broughton had a beautiful tight pattern… almost off the target and the red disk waved back and forth (Maggie’s drawers) indicating ten misses.  Broughton almost went into apoplectic shock, and behind the line a group of my staff NCOs were gagging trying to suppress their laughter.  Broughton took immediate action to correct his dope and tried to retrieve his qualifying score.


  Shortly thereafter, I conducted a class A's inspection.  The unit turned out, opened ranks and followed by my Team Chief taking notes I proceeded down the first rank.  I faced in front of Gunny Broughton and looked him up and down, sharp, squared away in every respect, and then I saw the shooting badge he had qualified for.  Marksman, the dreaded toilet seat.  I was unaware of the aforementioned sabotage, and so I was baffled, I started to ask a question and before I said anything Broughton softly growled, "I don't want to talk about it Sir."  I closed my mouth, took one more look at the badge and faced to my right and proceeded to the next Marine.


  I took the 14th to the Gulf War where all hands performed in the highest traditions of the Corps.  Upon return, I went on to serve in the 2 shop of 1 MEF for 3 years then on to a teaching billet with the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, for my sunset tour.  After retirement I joined the Docents of the MCRD Command Museum where I found an old comrade, from the 14th, Gunny Ayers.   In time, Gunny Ayers would tell me all the shenanigans that the troops would pull behind my back…. including the sabotage of Gunny Broughton's weapon on qualification day.  I remember politely laughing at the story but thinking in the back of my mind, what a stinker.  


   One particular Wednesday, at the museum I was pleased to find Gunny Broughton touring the facility.  He, I and Ayers began reminiscing on the old 14th, the men, and the war.    It was at this point that I asked Broughton if he ever forgave his fellow Gunnys for sabotaging his weapon on qual day.  I failed to heed Ayer's frantic silent mouthing of the word "NO."   Broughton's face turned red, he turned around on Ayers and all I heard was "You son of a B------."  Ayers took off running and Broughton was chasing him.  I was left speechless…. it was a moment that justified the saying, "loose lips sink ships."  In this case I had sunk Ayers.   Broughton finally returned to me, somewhat breathless.   He said "Colonel, if you know that my score was sabotaged, can I wear the Expert badge?"  I looked him square in the eye and said "Hell no! You're a Marksman and that’s it!"   Yes, I can be a stinker too.   

NOTE: This piece reflects the experiences of a single individual and is not endorsed by any official Marine Corps source.
Lt Col L. M. Howard, USMC (Ret.)

MCRD Command Museum docent 15 years+

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The Navajo Code Talkers

“We have different languages, different skills, different talents, and different religion. But
when our way of life is threatened, like the freedom and liberty that we all cherish, we
come together as one. And when we come together as one, we are invincible. We cannot be defeated.”

–Peter MacDonald, Navajo Code Talker, 2017


Many students of military history can name the generals and presidents who led America to victory in its past wars and some can name the above-and-beyond soldiers who gave the last full measure of devotion to defend our Liberty. However, there are patriots who fought for this nation on whom so much of the nation’s fate rested, and yet far too many Americans have not heard of them and don’t know their names. They are the Native American Code Talkers: first pioneered in World War I by Choctaw, Cherokee, and Lakota soldiers. Their success inspired the U.S. Military to seek out even more Native Americans for this special service in World War II. 


boot camp

Philip Johnson, one of the few white Americans to fluently speak Navajo, presented the idea to the U.S. Marines for a Navajo telephone squad, recalling the successes of earlier code talkers in WWI. When the Marine Corps directed Johnson to present his idea, he called on four Navajo friends from the Los Angeles shipyards to demonstrate the capability to transmit military messages in their native language. Convinced, the Marine Corps selected 29 brave men (out of the 3,600 Navajo serving on active duty—accounting for 6% of the Navajo population) to become the first Navajo Code Talkers. The program would eventually grow to more than 400 Code Talkers before the end of the war, with 200 alone participating in the Battle of Iwo Jima. The original 29 developed a working code for their language to include new military terms and phrases nonexistent in American Indian languages and in which more Navajos could be trained. The warriors were then shipped out from San Diego to join Marine battalions and regiments across the Pacific.


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American military leadership was mesmerized by the success of the Code Talkers, as they could translate three lines of English to Navajo in 20 seconds (as compared to the code-breaking computers which took 30 minutes). They would then immediately relay the message to their counterparts in another regiment in the field or a man onboard a ship to direct naval bombardment of the Japanese positions. The Navajos were at every major Marine Corps offensive throughout the Pacific, giving the Marines a powerful edge over the Japanese; these included the bloody campaigns at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Roi Namur, Kwajalien, Tarawa, Tinian, Saipan, Bougainville, New Georgia, Okinawa, and Guam. During the month-long Battle of Iwo Jima, six Navajo Code Talkers transmitted, without error, more than 800 vital messages. In an account given by Peter MacDonald (Code Talker, 1 st Marine Brigade, 6 th Marine Division) on the importance of the Code Talkers during this historic battle, he said, “Without Navajo, Marines would never have taken the island of Iwo Jima. That’s how critical Navajo Code was to the War in the Pacific.” 

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The very existence of the Navajo Code Talkers remained a military secret from the end of the war in 1945 until 1968; President Ronald Reagan declared August 14 to be “Navajo Code Talkers Day” in 1982 and presented the surviving Code Talkers with a certificate of recognition. In 2000, the U.S. Government enacted federal legislation to award Congressional Gold Medals to the Navajo Code Talkers for their bravery and service in contributing to America’s triumph over Japan in WWII. The remaining tribes received recognition and medals in 2008 for their contributions to the military victories of WWI and WWII. These men felt a pride and love for this country that so many Americans know and can identify with. Their contributions and sacrifices for the freedoms that we treasure, but far too often take for granted, are yet just another reason for us all to say ahéhee (thank you) today to all these brave men.

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peter macdonald begaye sr. begay

President Donald Trump with Navajo Code Talkers Fleming Begaye Sr., Thomas Begay (5th Marine Division) and Peter MacDonald (6th Marine Division), November 27, 2017.



Navajo Code Talker Sgt Johnny Manuelito. His Congressional Gold Medal is on display in the MCRD Museum. 




Christopher D. Wilson has interned at the MCRD Command Museum since 2019. He is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and is currently a graduate student in United States History at the University of Oklahoma.

Note from the author: Many Native American soldiers followed the warrior traditions of our peoples and enlisted on their own accord, and still do to this day. As the great-grandson of a Choctaw WWII Army veteran, I can attest to the love and honor shown to the Stars and Stripes all across Indian Country. Thirty-two Native American tribes, including mine, contributed Code Talkers to the U.S. Military throughout the duration of the two world wars. No Native American Code was ever broken. We are proud to be a part of this country. We are Americans.

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The Gentle Warrior

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General O.P. Smith


General “O.P.” Smith was commissioned a 2nd Lt in 1917. He served in a variety of posts including Instructor at Quantico, Ops officer 7th Marines, Executive Officer of Division of Plans and Policies HQMC, Commanding Officer of the 1st Marine Division in Korea and later as the Assistant Commandant under General Cates. He retired as a four-star general in 1955.


General Oliver Prince Smith was an intelligent, methodical man. He displayed no flair, no drama. His most endearing trait, it has been said, was the calm demeanor in most everything he did. He was known to display great care toward his troops, especially the wounded. During the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, he made daily helicopter visits to his three regimental outposts. Only a few times was that not possible due to the sub-zero temperatures freezing the gearbox oil for the rotors.


Gen Smith paid close attention to logistics and supplies along the MSR (main supply route). At one point, the 10th Corps commander demanded that the 1st Marines pick up the pace and move faster. General Smith was demonstrating a sound, even method of moving his Marines north along the MSR. The perceived “sluggishness” was due to Smith’s insistence that at every stage, reserves of ammunition and supplies be staged forward and stockpiled. A decision that made the difference when they were ordered to withdraw later.


During the advance it became apparent that Chinese Communist forces numbering at least 100,000, (approximately 10 divisions), were closing in on 10th Corps including the 1st Marine Division. The prudent decision was to withdraw to the coast. Thereafter began a fighting tactical withdrawal the likes of which has not been seen since. Roughly 78 miles were traversed beginning Dec. 1st 1950 in sub-zero weather and fending off constant attacks. General Smith’s dogged leadership not only saved the honor of the Division but also the reputation of American arms in Korea.


One reason that General Smith is an unsung hero is reflected in a meeting he was in with 10th Corps commander Gen Almond and an Air Force general. They stated they would fly all of their personnel out, and were authorized to destroy all of the weapons, vehicles and supplies. Gen Smith paused, looked at each of his visitors, and stated, “We are going out as a division, with all of our equipment, and will fight our way as an organized division. We are attacking in another an organized division.” The meeting came to an abrupt halt.



"Major General O.P. Smith says farewell in Korea to 1st Marine Division. Smith turned command over to Major General Gerald C. Thomas, center. Brigadier General Puller, assistant division commander is at far right, 1951." From the Lewis B. Puller Collection (COLL/794) at the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections. OFFICIAL USMC PHOTOGRAPH.

 Tom Rhodes has been a docent at the Command Museum for 2 ½ years. He served as an active duty Marine from 1971-1975, serving as an 1141(electrician) and 8511(Drill Instructor).

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Little Known Heroes of the Corps: Peter Ortiz

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As Marines we all remember men like Basilone, Puller, Daly and a host of others, but who remembers Peter Ortiz? Perhaps his exploits are less well known because he served in the European theater during World War II, one of the few Marines to do so. But his legacy is extraordinary. 


Ortiz was born in New York City in 1913 to a Spanish father and a French mother. He grew up speaking French, Spanish and of course English. At the age of 19 in 1932 his parents sent he and his sister to Grenoble University in France. He learned to speak German and was a good student, but the academic life offered little excitement for him. So, in 1933, to the consternation of his parents, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion.


Ortiz was sent to Morocco and took part in the campaign fighting the Rif Berbers. He was awarded two Croix de Guerre medals and the Medaille Militare for heroism. To this he added parachute wings and learned to speak Arabic. In 1937 Ortiz was discharged from the legion as a sergeant. He returned to the United States and promptly went to Hollywood hoping for a career in the movies. Fate had other plans for Peter Ortiz.


In 1939 war erupted in Europe and Ortiz immediately returned to France and rejoined the Foreign Legion. He took part in the 1940 Battle of France and was wounded and captured while detonating the charges that blew up a bridge. In 1941 he escaped from a POW camp in Germany, made his way to Spain, and was able to return to the United States. 


In 1941 Ortiz joined the Marine Corps. Upon reporting to Paris Island, Drill Instructors were amazed at their new recruit proudly wearing a Foreign Legion uniform with all of his decorations. Reviewing his history, language skills, and combat experience the Corps recommended Ortiz for the newly formed OSS. Ortiz was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and sent to jump school at New River in North Carolina (even though he already had 154 jumps with the Foreign Legion). 


In 1942 Ortiz was sent to Tunisia as part of Operation Torch. His mission was to sabotage and combat intelligence. In 1943 Ortiz was at the Battle of Kasserine Pass where American forces were mauled by the Germans. Ortiz found himself fighting with the British and then fell in with old comrades of the Foreign Legion. He was wounded while attacking a tank and invalided back to the United States.


In January 1944, fully recovered, Ortiz parachuted into southern France to organize the Resistance and assess its capabilities. While in occupied France, Ortiz always wore his Marine Corps Class A uniform with all his French and American decorations (he said later to impress the locals). During this first insertion into occupied Europe, Ortiz encountered four Royal Air Force pilots hiding out with the Resistance. Ortiz went to the local Gestapo headquarters, and while speaking perfect German stole a vehicle and drove the British pilots to Spain and freedom. For this he was eventually awarded the Order of the British Empire. In May he was awarded the Navy Cross by the Marine Corps.


Ortiz parachuted back into southern France again in August 1944 with five other Marines. During this second insertion Ortiz was sitting in a café one night. Nearby, four German officers were dining and drinking and in the course of the evening Ortiz overheard these Germans insulting the U.S., President Roosevelt, and finally the Marine Corps. This was too much for Ortiz; he returned to his room, put on his Marine uniform and a trench coat over it. He returned to the café, where he confronted the German Officers, whipped off his trench coat and pulled out his .45 automatic. The astounded Germans were then ordered to drink a toast to the U.S., Roosevelt and finally one for the Corps. Ortiz then shot out the light and in a hail of gunfire made his escape.


On August 16, 1944 Ortiz and his five Marines took on a company of German infantrymen. The Germans took hostages of the local villagers, threatening to shoot them if the Marines did not surrender. Calling out in German for the enemy to cease fire, Ortiz approached the German Major and surrendered his men on condition that the villagers were not hurt. The Germans were astounded that they were facing only six Marines. Ortiz spent the rest of the war in a POW camp from which he attempted multiple escapes.


Peter Ortiz ended the war with two Navy Crosses, the Legion of Merit "V" , two Purple Hearts, the Order of the British Empire, French Legion d Honneur, Medaille militaire, and five Croix du Guerres among many other awards. Ortiz retired in 1955 and was promoted to Colonel on the retired list as a decorated combat veteran. He died in 1988 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was a first class fighting Marine if ever there was one and deserves to be remembered.

By L. M. Howard, LtCol USMC, Ret.
LtCol Howard has served as a Docent at the MCRD Museum for over 15 years.

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