PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents Sgt Ralph Hammer’s legacy of his military service from 1972 to 1978. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Marine Corps.
Growing up as a child, and since my first memory that I can remember, I always heard my Mother who had Served in the United States Marine Corps and the Great Pride of being a “MARINE” during service and after; she had started as a Model in Hollywood and was contracted for Billboard Pictures for WOMEN to Join the Marines allowing Men in Desk Jobs to Go out and fight the Japanese. My Mother was SO Proud of the Uniform that she Enlisted before going home.
Mom (Mary Frances Hargett) ended her Active Duty in 1946 and Married my Father, who had been a Petty Officer First Class aboard an LST as a Mechanist and Gunners Mate at NORMANDY on June 6th, 1944. Because my Father Spoke Fluent German, he was attached to British Commandos Early in the War. While Commandos were setting Explosive Charges on German Ammunition and Fuel Supplies, My Father walked GUARD DUTY in an Overwatch Position in a German Uniform carrying a Submachine Gun. Dad (Ralph Hubert Hammer Sr.) had attempted to tell me many times about his Actions and exploits, but 5 minutes into it, he would leave, and I would see tears in his eyes as he walked away, remembering the Friends He had Lost. His Little Brother (My Uncle, Joseph Hammer Jr.) Had Served in the United States Marine Corps from 1960 to 1964 in Communications, Opening his own Alarm Company.
My Grandfather (Joseph Hammer Sr.) was a Sergeant in the German Army During The Great War, WWI, as a Machinegun Section Leader in France and Belgium. He foresaw another WAR in the future for GERMANY in 1920 and moved his family to the United States. It took my Grandfather Seven (7) Years to become an American Citizen, and He was so proud that he carried his Papers ’till the day he died. He Never forgave me for NOT Speaking German. The only reason he overlooked it was because He and I had Both been ‘MACHINEGUNNERS’ in the Military, and He Respected me for it.
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?
I was made Sergeant in two and a half years Meritoriously and Served as a Weapons Platoon Sergeant with FOX Co. 2/7 1st Marine Division San Mateo, Camp Pendleton, California, and Reenlisted for D.I. School with a couple of my Brothers who left ahead of me while awaiting the return of my Relmdoc (Reenlistment Document). which had been LOST for some unknown reason. My best friend was Second in his D.I. Class, and they made him a RECRUITER in his Hometown, saying, “They do NOT guarantee you will be a D.I after your Graduation.” I was still waiting for Marine Corps CMC to find my Documents when I received an offer from a Midwest Police Department for a POST academy date that I accepted.
During my first three months as a Police Officer, I received another Offer from the UNITED STATES ARMY to Reenlist as a Staff Sergeant. Hence, I went to Oklahoma City and Tested and had to return to the Recruiter’s office in Olathe, Kansas, where I found my Recruiter had retired, leaving a Former Green Beret Staff Sergeant Who Told Me was going to make sure I did NOT get the Promised E-6 Promotion but come in as an E-4 instead. He then made some NASTY comments about the MARINE CORPS, which after a “Scuffle” in His Office that sent him to the hospital, I never heard from the ARMY again.
After my two years of college, I attempted to Reenlist in the Marines as a Warrant Officer, only to be turned down for having Too many Dependents (That Hurt) but NEVER my Pride. I’m Now 68 years old and still get in fights over My MARINE CORPS PRIDE.
If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?
Operation Kangaroo-1, June 1974. Our Company Fox 2/7 First Marine Brigade, Kaneohe Bay Oahu, Hawaii. I flew to Australia aboard Two AC-130 Marine Transport Aircraft Stopping over on Kwajalein Island for Lunch (the runway was too short and only 16 feet above Sea Level), stopping 10 feet from the Beach just before the Surf. Taking off, we knew what the Bomber Pilots felt like taking off from the Aircraft Carries attacking Japan. We landed for the Night on GUAM and enjoyed the Hospitality on The United States NAVY. Every Level of their Barracks Soda Machines was Loaded with all of our favorite BEER flavors at only a quarter each. (If you wanted a Soda, You had to make it to the ‘Package Store’ before CLOSE).
The next day boarding our AC-130’s Everybody’s Sea Bag was Twice as heavy as when we disembarked the day before. We really hated leaving those Swabi’s behind. It gave us a NEW appreciation of our “Brothers” in the NAVY. What a Great bunch of guys. We left a bunch of Empty Soda Machines behind. Our Next Port was Rockhampton, Australia, where we met the ‘Diggers’ of the First Royal Australian Regiment. We were attached for Combat Operations against the MARINES en route from Okinawa. The Next morning our AC-130s were rolled out with ten-foot Flame Orange ‘Skippy’s (KANGAROO’S) painted on both sides of the Vertical Tails of our Aircraft. The ROAR of Cheers from Both MARINES and Aussies together Sealed our Brotherhood forever!!! Our Pilots threatened to SHOOT anybody attempting to Remove them. The Marine Pilots were Very PROUD of their acceptance by the Australian Army Air Corps. Once in the Bush, my Squad and I snapped to attention and Saluted an Officer with Red Captains’ Bars.
A group of Aussies was laughing their asses off as they walked over to us, explaining, “YOU DON’T HAVE TO SALUTE HIM, MATES, HE’S IN THE RED CROSS.” I’m not too fond of the American Red Cross, which Refused to help my Wife and Kids because I was only a Corporal. My wife got help from the U.S. Navy Wives Relief Fund until my Payroll was straightened out. I found nothing BUT RESPECT for the Australian RED CROSS who follows their Troops everywhere in the Bush, providing them with Writing Materials, Stamps, Envelopes, Fresh Water, Hot Tea, Cold Tea, Coffee, Cookies, Chewing Gum, All FREE.
I Saluted Him every time I saw Him, and He returned it out of RESPECT. He was AWESOME !!! The Next Morning We fell out for P.T. in Formation. When the Battalion Commander said “G.O.,” the Aussies took off like a herd of Buffalo. The U.S. Marines all Stayed in Step, calling Cadence. The 1,000 Aussies fell in behind us In Step and joined in the Cadence. When we got back to camp, I heard their Bn. Commander asked our Company Commander (Captain Gary W. Barnes), “WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY MEN ?” He Thank Captain Barnes for giving his Troopers So Much PRIDE. I stayed in InTouch with a Machine Gun section for years later, who informed me they Still Run P.T. in Formation with Cadence. Later I worked seven days of Shore Patrol Duty with a Royal Australian Military Policeman in Queensland named Cpl. Ian “Spud” Murphy. He allowed me to live with his beautiful family while in Port.
Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.
My M-60 Machine Gun Section was aboard a CH-46 en route from the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai back to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, when the Chopper Crew Chief ordered us to prepare for a Crash Landing in the Ocean. We had lost all Hydraulic power and were falling fast. We had trained for this so many times it was like second nature. We removed all of our Combat gear, Helmets, Flak jackets, and weapons, stowed them under our seats, and put on Mae West flotation Vests. I remember reaching into the pouch and checking that my Shark Repellant was in place (Thirty years later, it was proven to ATTRACT Sharks). We didn’t hit the water as hard as expected, the bubble windows had already been kicked out, but you have to remain inside until the blades hit the water to avoid being chopped into Shark Bait. We all escaped the sinking aircraft and deployed the two inflatable rafts. The Coast Guard was fast and rescued us within 20 minutes. As for the CH-46, it was recovered from 80 ft. of water with our gear.
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
My Favorite Duty Station was, without a doubt, “Hawaii.” Every weekend that I didn’t have Duty, My Beautiful wife Jane (Married 51 Years now) would take our two Sons and drive (We shipped our 1964 Old’s F-85 Cutlass to Hawaii for $185.) around the Island to our choice of Beaches, Mountains or Waterfalls and be together without spending a fortune (which a Private thru Corporal was not Rich, to begin with). My oldest Son Jimmy was Born three years before I joined the Corps (is now 50 years old), and our 2nd Son, Dana, who was born at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu in 1973, tells everybody he’s “Hawaiian.”
To me, there is no such thing as a “Least Favorite” duty station. I Loved being a United States Marine and fully intended to be a “Lifer.” I savored every day I had on active service and Regretted every day I missed in the last 44 years. I’m rapidly approaching 70 years old, and the only thing I can truly look forward to is being buried in Dress Blues, Regrouping in Hell with ‘Ol Friends, and making one final assault on Heavens’ Gate!
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
“EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE AS AN ACTIVE DUTY MARINE” !!! And two years as an Active Duty Marine Corps Reservist at Chavez Ravine next to Dodgers Stadium with XRAY Battery 1 / 14, I had NO Artillery experience at all. Still, They had NO one in their Armory with Machinegun Experience, SO I fit right in caring for a half dozen M-60s and four .50 Cal’s. I remember going out in the Field with those boys and their 155 Howitzers and shooting those BIG GUNS. They were SO Accurate, hitting 55-gallon drums from 12 MILES AWAY! I couldn’t have requested a Better Duty. My Commanding Officer made me the “Ammo-Tech” Armed with my Duty Smith & Wesson .357 under my BDU jacket in the Field. GOD, I miss those days.
When I ended my Service, I attended College to go back in as a Warrant Officer assigned as a Gunner on a Cobra Gunship, but when I tried to Reenlist, I was turned down because I had “Too Many Dependents.” The U.S. Army offered me a nice position, but I couldn’t see myself as a Soldier instead of a MARINE. Sorry, no disrespect meant to Soldiers. My Youngest Son, Jason, was a Soldier at Fort Bragg. It’s Funny; 44 years after I got out, My wife wants to know when I’m going to STOP getting a High & Tight and let my hair grow out. I tell Her, “When Chesty Orders Me Too.”
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
In 1975 as a Weapons Platoon Sergeant with Fox 2/7, San Mateo, Camp Pendleton, California, I Served 30 days as Commander of the Guard for 7500 Vietnamese Refugees after the Fall of Saigon, South Vietnam. Being a U.S. Marine has opened many doors for me in the Private Security Sector. I have done Executive Protection for Royal Families, and Movie Stars Like Sylvester Stallone, who gave me his American Bulldogs Gangster and Devine, creating a very lucrative business for me and my Wife “Hammer’s American Bulldogs.”
As a Contract Security Police Officer at Edwards Air Force Base, Rosamond, California, I received 27 Letters of Commendation and an Air Force Meritorious Citation. I was also assigned to the Protection Detail at L.A.X. for Air Force One with three Secret Service Agents. I have conducted Aircraft “Bomb” inspections before flights to New York, Miami, and Las Vegas as a Plain Clothes Armed Protection Agent for Royal Families. I finished my armed assignments as a Contract Custody Officer with the United States Marshal Transporting Federal Prisoners and Witness Protection. I owe ALL of my lifelong experiences to my time as a UNITED STATES MARINE.
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?
CROSSING the EQUATOR and Becoming a “SHELLBACK.” Forget “RANK”; the “Pollywog” in front of me was my Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Timmons. We went through the swat line, running down a slippery hallway against pressurized fire hoses and down the Slop-Chute of the U.S.S. Tulare through (of all things) Protein Firefighting Foam, YUK !!! ( Do you have any idea how DISGUSTING that stuff is ?) and landing in the Bilge of all the Nasty discards from the “Galley” AND finally ending up at “Davie Jones Locker,” having to “Kiss” the hairy belly of the Fattest Navy Chief on the Ship (Smeared with Peanut Butter, Raw eggs and Mustard.) Now THAT is something you will NEVER forget
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?
CAPTAIN Gary W. Barnes, my Company Commander with Fox Company 2/7 in 1975. As a “Mustang” enlisted man in Vietnam, he got out and went to College majoring in Physical Education. he was featured on the cover of “Leatherneck Magazine” for most Pull-ups, 125-Non Stop. Winner of the “Iron Mike Award” While out in the field, he showed me how to deploy a 60mm Mortar (also known as a Company Commander’s personal Artillery) with a Steel Pot (an old-style Combat helmet) filled with Mud, Captain Barnes could hit anything he wanted from a thousand yards out. He once showed me how to hunt wild ducks with Red Pop-up Flares and FISH with Frag Grenades, and The whole Company had a Fish-Fry that night. I was extremely honored to be taken under his teaching abilities.
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?
One day my Platoon Commander, Lt. Satran, and I led the Weapons Platoon / Headquarters Section on a 30-mile force march up the back way to Case Springs with the entire 2nd Battalion (850 Marines) when our Sergeant Major started falling behind. So we all got down and faced outboard waiting for Sgt. Major Yanakie to catch up. I heard the Lt. says, “Sergeant Hammer UP,” which was repeated by almost every man. I ran to his position, snapped to attention, and Saluted (which you would not do in an actual combat situation). He pointed at the ground and said, “Sergeant Hammer, what the hell is that” pointing at the Biggest Dead Bullfrog I have ever seen and telling him what it was. He said, “Watch This, Weapons Platoon Face Inboard” everybody turned around as the Lt. picked up the dead frog (maggots falling everywhere and Yell’s out, ” ANY MAN IN MY PLATOON WHO HAS BALL’S ENOUGH TO EAT THIS FROG WILL GET A 72 HOUR PASS WHEN WE GET BACK “.
Cpl. Alsop runs up, locks his heels, and salutes. The Lt. hands him the frog. He folds it in half and bites off a mouth full of tough hide and maggots with tears streaming down his cheeks. The Lieutenant LOST It and threw up. Half of the men got sick in the bushes. I ordered Cpl. Alsop spits it out, and He says, “Sorry, Sgt. Hammer, but I came this far, and I’m not about to lose that Pass, and true to his word, he ATE every bit of that dead FROG. Then he asked for a drink of water from my Canteen, but when he tried to give it back, I told him to KEEP IT and took one of his empty ones on his belt.
The Lt. tried to renege on his word, and the next time I saw him, He was standing at attention in front of the CAPTAIN, who gave Cpl. Alsop his 72-hour Pass. Three days later, Cpl. Alsop was back from the Hills of Tennessee with a case of 24 jars filled with his Daddy’s “MOONSHINE.”
What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? if you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?
Law Enforcement, Plain Clothes Armed Executive Protection, Bodyguard Details, Federal Custody, and presently “Retired” with bullet damage to my lower spine that cost me five inches of my Liver.
What military associations are you a member of, if any? what specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?
EVERYTHING! The Comradery, the Brotherhood, the Discipline, Honor, Standing Tall before the Man, The Training of my men, MY WAY, and being accepted by my Superiors. I was given 85 MARINES straight out of Boot Camp to Train as Machine Gunners, Riflemen, and 3.5 Rocket Men. We didn’t have Women Comat trained Marines back then,
But I would have liked to have seen them. So would My MOTHER, who was also a Sergeant in the Marines in WWII. I still miss it Today, and it’s something I can never get out of my system. I may have ended my Service 44 years ago, But I AM EVERY PART A U.S. MARINE Today as I was. Then, “Once a Marine, ALWAY’S A MARINE… SEMPER FI LEATHERNECKS !!!
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Marine Corps?
I Trained with the M-14 Rifle, So I guess many things have changed. I started as an M-60 Machine Gunner, Something I had in common with my Grandfather, who was a Sergeant in charge of a Machine Gun Section in the GERMAN ARMY in WWI. He always talked to me in German, and I never understood what he was saying, But he was very Proud of me just the Same.
To the NEWBEs in Diego and the Island, Never give up, Never Quit, When it hurts, and you think you have to quit. DON’T!!!. It’s Over before you know it, and then 50 years from now, your chest will fill with PRIDE, and you will brag about the HELL you went through. You will know who all the Marines are around you; YOU can tell just by looking at their faces; you’re in the BEST Company of Brothers in The WORLD, and you will proudly say, “I’M A UNITED STATES MARINE,” Until Then LADIES, You’re lower than Whale Shit, and that’s at the Bottom of the Ocean !!! Good Luck and Semper Fi.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.
Together We Served is not JUST about Marines, even though that was what I was looking for. This site has helped me recall things I have not thought about in years. It Actually Hurts that I could have forgotten SO much that I swore I would NEVER forget, But I Did, and I’m embarrassed for it.