When he first was demonstrated the flame-thrower, Puller crossed his arms and asked, “Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”
USMC Lieutenant General Lewis “Chesty” Puller served the United States for 37 years. Nicknamed “Chesty” because of an extremely upright posture, his military awards include five Navy Crosses …a feat yet to be matched.
In 1917 Puller, eager to start his military career, enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute. Aching for combat, he dropped out and joined the U.S. Marines. Commissioned a Lieutenant in the reserves, he was quickly listed inactive as WWI simmered to an end.
Without batting an eye, Chesty reenlisted in the Marine Corps (which busted him to private.) He didn’t care though, and immediately volunteered for combat duty. within the month he was shipped off to Haiti. There he actively participated in over forty engagements during the Second Caco War. Puller was rapidly promoted, and by 1930 reached lieutenant again.
After the Second Caco conflict, the Corps sent Chesty to command a Nicarauguan National Guard unit battling rebels there. Lieutenant Puller rampaged through the jungles, netting himself two Navy Crosses for outstanding bravery under fire. During his service there, he was crowned “The Tiger of the Mountains” and a 5000 Peso bounty was placed on his head by the rebels.
By WWII, Lewis Puller was a highly decorated and seasoned veteran. Then a Lieutenant Colonel, he bulldozed on, snagging his third and fourth Navy Cross fighting the Japanese at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. As executive officer of the Seventh Marines, two separate times he was cited for the prestigious military medal. In both instances he was witnessed directing his men and company commanders along the lines while fully exposed to enemy fire. He was even shot twice by Japanese snipers and once hit by mortar shrapnel. Puller later lead the 1st Marine Division through the Battle of Peleliu. The Marines suffered 6,500 casualties within a month of the campaign, solidifying the operation as “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines.”
For an interim period before the Korean War, Puller taught tactics and strategy at a number of military institutions. But by 1950 he could once again be found in battle, spearheading the USMC landing at Inchon, South Korea.
At the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, Puller’s 1st Marines were completely surrounded by ten divisions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Chesty, not one to be ensnared, broke through 7 divisions of Chinese in freezing temperatures and held his position. The brilliant maneuver allowed remaining Marines to complete the retreat with minimal losses. Although, Puller would never call it a retreat, instead that he was simply “attacking in a different direction.” For actions at the reservoir, he was awarded his fifth Navy Cross.
One story goes that Puller was in the heat of battle when an enemy grenade landed near him. As his men dove for cover, Puller nonchalantly called out, “Oh that. It’s a dud.”
Lewis “Chesty” Puller is the highest decorated U.S. Marine in history. Before bunking down for the night, Marines at Parris Island still say, “Goodnight , Chesty Puller, wherever you are!”
What an inspiration for us all! A true man of honor, duty and courage, wouldn’t you agree? Share your thoughts below, and don’t forget you can view or purchase Chesty’s military awards by visiting www.usamilitarymedals.com or by clicking his ribbon rack below.