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May 3, 2017

MSGT Rolland May US Marine Corps (1948-1968)

by dianeshort2014



By Completing Your Reflections!
 Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

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Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Marine Corps?

Actually, it was sort of a joke that backfired. After high school, my two best friends and I all got jobs in the New York Engineering Department at the AC&F Plant in Berwick. We started out in the Mail Room and after several months there, we were assigned to Drafting Boards as Apprentice Draftsman. It was a pretty interesting job; it was great to go out in the Plant and see the cars being built and be able to spot a piece for which you had done the drawing. We were in the Passenger Car Division and, at that time, they were building some beautiful cars. But the three of us were restless; we were always plotting something different to do. At one time we discussed going to California to see what we could do there. Another time we were going to buy a cement mixer and start laying sidewalks. We came up with all kind of hare-brained ideas, none of which we ever followed through. Everybody would just laugh when we came up with a new scheme, knowing it would probably end like all the others. And then we decided to join the Marine Corps.

This time we actually resigned from our jobs, but we decided up front that it would be all or none. We felt pretty good with that because we were pretty sure at least one of us wouldn’t pass the physical. One had some bad teeth, one had bad feet, and I thought I was too short. We resigned effective the end of August, and originally, were scheduled to go to Philadelphia the 22nd of September, 1948 for our physicals. At that time the Marine Corps was quite small, the slogan was, “Only 100,000 may serve”. It turned out the quota for September had been filled and we were rescheduled for October 20. Things were getting pretty tight; we had no money coming in and all of us were getting close to the end of our savings, but we hung in there. October 20 finally arrived and we were off to Philly. The Marine Corps played a nasty trick on us; they accepted all three of us. We were sworn into the Marine Corps on October 21 and that afternoon, we left Philly by train for Parris Island, S. C. Things would never be the same again. We graduated from Boot Camp on January 12, 1949.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

After Boot Camp, I was assigned to the Reproduction Section, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, VA. I was originally supposed to be assigned to the Drafting Section, but when I arrived, there were no openings in that Section so I was “temporarily” assigned to the Photo Section. Twenty years later, when I retired, I was still in the OF 1500 field, Printing and Reproduction, not the OF 1400 field, Drafting, Mapping and Surveying. With the exception of the two and a half years assigned to the Marine Security Guard Program as an MSG at the American Consulate General, Madras (Chennai), India, my entire time was in the Reproduction Field.

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which were the most significant to you and, if life-changing, in what way.

Surprisingly, in a twenty year career, I never served in any combat operations. I came close one time; in November of 1951, I received orders to report to Camp Pendleton for assignment to a replacement draft and duty beyond the seas. Several weeks later, orders came from HQMC assigning me to the MSG Program. Since these orders were by name and the earlier orders were on the basis of MOS, the latter orders had precedence. This is one of the big “what ifs” in my career. Had I not gone to India, I would never have met my future wife or had the family I did. It would have changed my entire life. One can only wonder.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which one was your least favorite?

I enjoyed all my duty stations, but I must say, my tour In India has to be the most memorable. As I mentioned earlier, I met my future wife while on this tour and the duty itself was completely different from any other I experienced. Where else would a young enlisted Marine meet Ambassadors and other diplomatic notables, both American and foreign? The fact that I was one of the original Marines assigned as an MSG to the Consulate General in Madras contributed to it being a memorable experience. The MSGs hosted the first Marine Corps Birthday Party in Madras in November of 1953. It was quite a success. MSG duty is unique and only a relatively few are fortunate enough to experience it.

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

I would guess the thing that stands out the most is that as a result of being assigned to the MSG Program, I got to circumnavigate the Globe. I went to India by way of the Pacific and, two years later, returned to CONUS by way of the Atlantic. As we flew MATS at that time, this resulted in a number of touchdowns and layovers in many countries. I spent a week in Toyko, Japan, living aboard APL 46 in the Harbor. As we were only authorized civilian clothes on this assignment, this was a story by itself. Also, we had a layover in Bangkok, Thailand. We also touched down in Saigon when it was the capital of Indo-China. On the return trip, I had a 4-day layover in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. We also touched down at Wheelus AFB in Tripoli, Libya. So, although I have not been to the Halls Of Montezuma, I have been to the Shores of Tripoli. Our itinerary is listed:

Departed Washington — 8 February 1952 (By rail from Union Station), Chicago, Ill. 9 February 1952, San Francisco, Ca1. —11 – 15 February 1952, Departed Travis AFB, Ca1. -~- 15 February (By Military Air Transport Service (MATS)), Hickam AFB, (Honolulu) Hawaii — 15 – 19 February 1952, Departed Hickam AFB — 19 February 1952 (MATS), Johnson Island — 19 February 1952, Wake Island — 20 February 1952, Iwo Jima — 21 February 1952, Tokyo, Japan — 21-28 February (Quartered aboard APL-46 in harbor), Departed Tokyo, Japan — 28 February 1952 (MATS), Okinawa — 28 February 1952, Manila, Philippine Islands — 28 – 29 February 1952, Saigon, Indochina — 29 February 1952, Bangkok, Thailand — 29 February – 1 March 1952, Calcutta, India — 1 – 5 March, 1952, Departed Calcutta, India — 5 March 1952 (Commercial Indian Air), Arrived Madras, India — 5 March, 1952.

RETURN ITINERARY: Departed Madras 23 April 1954 (Commercial Indian Air), Calcutta, India 23-25 April, Departed Calcutta 25 April (MATS), New Delhi 25-26 April, Karachi, Pakistan 26 April, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia 26-30 April, Cairo, Egypt 30 April, Wheelus AFB, Tripoli, Libya 30 April, Lajas Field, Azores 30 April-i May, Newfoundland, Canada 2 May, Westover AFB, Mass 2 May, U. S. Naval Base, Boston, Mass 3 May 1954.

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or any other memorabilia, please describe those which are the most meaningful to you and why?

The Marine Security Guard Ribbon is the most meaningful to me. As I mentioned earlier, being an MSG is a unique experience and one experienced by a limited number of Marines. Supposedly, only the best are selected, and while that may be true now, I am not so sure it was in the early days of the Program. After all, they took me.

The Expert Badges are also meaningful to me. I was not a “natural” shooter. My exposure to firearms was very limited prior to entering the Corps. I did not shoot Expert until after I became a Staff NCO and then I shot Expert with the rifle four of my last five requalifications.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

I can’t single out one individual I would say had the biggest impact on me. I will say that my final senior DI, our Platoon had several over the course of Boot Camp, SSgt. W. R Stephenson, showed me you can enforce good discipline without resorting to “Chicken S–t” methods. That definitely impacted me when I became an NCO. One of the most colorful Marines I knew, and one for whom I had great respect, was Captain Marc A. Moore, S-3 Officer, H & S Bn, Hqs, FMFPAC. Capt Moore had been an aide to General “Chesty” Puller and some of that “Chesty” aura had rubbed off. I know that Capt. Moore could “chew you out” with the best of them. He retired as a Major General.

Can you recount a particular incident from your service which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?

Two of my best friends enlisted with me. One was 18 at the time, The other and I were 19. At that time, the Marine Corps had a program whereby 18 year-olds could enlist for one year active duty followed by a number of years in the Reserves. Our friend really wanted to take advantage of that program, but my other friend and I convinced him to sign up for three. We had been in Boot Camp about a month and the younger of the three really hated Boot Camp, when my other friend and I were called up to Battalion Headquarters. Needless to say, we were apprehensive. Now this friend and I had enlisted in the Marine Reserve several months before we joined the regular USMC and all they wanted us for at Hqs. was to give us our discharges from the Reserves. The discharges were the regular discharge certificate with the word RESERVE typed under the large UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS across the top. On the way back to the Barracks, we concocted a plan to tell our other friend we were being discharged. We showed him the discharges, from a distance, and told him we were going home. I learned some new curse words that day. “You SOBs, I could have joined for one year, you talked me into three. Now you are going home and I’m stuck” and on and on. We were able to maintain this charade for several days before he realized if we were leaving, we would be gone. We got a good laugh then and still do when the three of us get together, except the younger one; he still fails to see the humor in the situation.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? 

I continued on in the Printing industry. After a couple of years in the private sector, I obtained a position at the U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. The Division I worked in was responsible for 6 small Government Plants around the country. Now the Marine Corps, in addition to mobile Reproduction Sections at the FMF Headquarters level and the various Divisions, had two fixed Printing Plants, one at Camp Lejuene and one at Quantico. I had served at both and the equipment we had was very similar to what the GPO had in their Field Plants. My experience in the Marine Corps coupled nicely with my job at GPO.

What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

I belong to a number of Military Organizations. To name a couple, the Marine Embassy Guard Association and the Marine Corps Engineer Association. Belonging enables me to stay abreast of what is happening in these fields now.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

The Marine Corps instilled discipline into my life and caused me to stick with something, even when the going got tough. It also prepared me for employment after leaving the Marine Corps.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Marine Corps?

Things have changed so much since I was on active duty, I’m not sure I am in a position to give advice. All I would say is “Hang Tough”; most of you are facing situations I was never asked to face. Just know, your service is respected and appreciated.

In what ways has helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
 I have hooked up with some old friends who I hadn’t heard from or about for years. In addition, I have become brothers to a number of Marines with whom I never served, but with whom I share common experiences and interests. Also, it is great to read the Forums and get a feel for what other Marines are thinking and doing.


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