MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. - “Marines I see as two breeds, rottweilers or Dobermans, because Marines come in two varieties, big and mean, or skinny and mean,” said Rear Adm. Jay R. Stark, former president of the Naval War College.
Marines have always been compared to dogs. Most people would take offense to it, but Marines embrace it.
In 1918, during the Battle of Belleau Wood, Marines fought against the Germans with such ferocity the Germans called Marines ‘Teufel Hundin’ or devil dogs. Originally said to be an insult, Marines took it as a compliment.
During a formal ceremony, Oct. 14, 1922, Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler signed enlistment papers for an English bulldog named Jiggs. Pvt. Jiggs’ contract term length was life.
Like every other Marine in the Corps, Pvt. Jiggs had duties and the ability to pick up rank. Within his first three months, he had gone through the ranks and attained the rank of corporal and July 1924 he was promoted to Sgt. Maj. Jiggs.
Because of the unfortunately short lifespan of English bulldogs, Sgt. Maj. Jiggs passed away Jan. 9, 1927, and was buried with full military honors. Hundreds of admirers gathered to mourn him in his satin-lined casket in Quantico, Va.
The mascots boost morale, said Lance Cpl. Katalynn M. Rodgers, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif. combat correspondent. She said it is hard to walk five steps without someone wanting to have a picture taken with Cpl. Wood.
After a long line of replacements, many dogs have been afforded the opportunity to be official Marine Corps mascots. Some lived up to Sgt. Maj. Jiggs’ standards while others fell drastically short by biting, defecating in inappropriate places and unauthorized absence. Such incidents resulted in time in the brig and non-judicial punishments.
Recently MCRD San Diego mascot, Cpl. Belleau Wood, was promoted.
“Cpl. Wood is treated like any other Marine,” said Rodgers. “She went to boot camp with Company A, November 2009. She got swim qualified, did the rappel tower and carried ammo on the shooting ranges. She even has a tan belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and a service record book.”
On the east side of the United States, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island S.C., public affairs office houses the newest mascot recruit in the Marine Corps. Wanting the perfect name, Brig. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, MCRD Parris Island commanding officer, took suggestions on what the new puppy would be named.
“Rather than trying to name him after a single exemplary Marine or piece of equipment,” said Reynolds, “his name reflects the hallowed ground that is Parris Island, the significant reputation the Marine Corps has as the world’s finest and deadliest fighting force and the impact the Marine Corps has had in our nation’s history. There is only one word that adequately captures all of that: Legend.”
Adapting and overcoming is something the Marine Corps is fond. Only Marines can take an insult born in war and turn it into a proud mascot.