Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is the most revered Marine to ever strike fear in the hearts of the enemy. Lewis Burwell Puller, known affectionately by all Marines as “Chesty,” served in the United States Marine Corps in World War I, countless skirmishes in Central and South America, World War II, and Korea. He enlisted as a Private in 1918 and rose to the rank of Lt. Gen. before being medically retired after suffering a stroke in 1955.
Marines the world over recount true and exaggerated tales of Chesty’s heroism, not only in the face of the enemy, but standing up for and taking great care of his Marines as well. His leadership compass was so accurate that after discharging his .45 caliber pistol indoors, a mistake that would normally be a $20 fine for a Marine, Chesty fined himself $100. That kind of leadership has inspired thousands of Marines to lead from the front and set the example for their junior Marines.
Chesty is most famous for his courage in battle. His quotes are used by Marine Drill Instructors and Gunnery Sergeants on a routine basis in order to build confidence and the war fighting spirit in Marines. Quotes like:
“They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away now.”
And most famously…When an Army captain asked him for the direction of the line of retreat, Chesty radioed his Tank Commander, gave his tanks the Army position, and ordered:
“If they start to pull back from that line, even one foot, I want you to open fire on them.”
Turning to the captain, Chesty bellowed, “Does that answer your question? We’re here to fight!”
Chesty is one of the most decorated Marines in history, but his accolades go far beyond his five Navy Crosses, Army Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and three Air Medals. He has a U.S. Navy frigate and the new mobile landing platform named after him, the headquarters building for 2nd Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team is named Puller Hall, Route 33 in Middlesex County, Virginia is named General Puller Highway, he was honored with his own stamp by the United States Postal Service, and the Marine Corps mascot is always named Chesty Pullerton.
Chesty passed away Oct. 11, 1971, but his memory and his legacy lives on in every Marine who has earned the eagle, globe and anchor. The phrase “one more for Chesty!” is one of the most common phrases uttered in the Marine Corps and we see it fitting to kick off the New Year with a tribute to one of the bravest fighting men to every enlist in the United States military.
We honor your service, Chesty. Oorah! Semper Fi!
What is your favorite quote from Chesty Puller?