Master Gunny Sgt. Stan Smith of Venetian Lakes, south of Punta Gorda, hit the beach at Inchon with MacArthur early in the Korean War, marched up and back to the Chosin Reservoir with the 1st Marine Division and served with the 3rd Marine Division at Danang in 1965 as one of the first Marines units sent to Vietnam. However, his toughest assignment, during his 21 years in the Corps, may have been the two years he spent at Parris Island, S. C. as a boot camp drill instructor turning females into Marines.
“They were just like the males, the ladies came into the Marines from all walks of life. You had to lower them down until they were nothing, then build ‘em up as a team,” the 79-year-old former sergeant recalled.
“Before I got the job, the colonel interviewed my wife to make sure she didn’t mind me being the drill instructor for a bunch of females. During this period, from 1962 to ’64, my wife and I were staying close,” he said with a smile. “It was nothing for me to be propositioned by my troops. I’d come in and find notes on my desk: ‘Meet me out behind the dumpster!’
”Have you ever inspected a female Marine’s foot locker? It’s quite an accomplishment for a male D.I. It was especially interesting when they didn’t have their bras properly folded in their foot locker. I was the guy who had to teach them how to do it right,” Smith said.
Like their male counterparts, the girls in the Corps went through much of the same rigorous training.
“They were shown how to fire an M-1 rife, a .45 caliber pistol and throw hand grenades. They had to climb ropes, jump water barriers and climb walls during the 12-weeks of basic training,” he said. “At the end of the training we had some very sharp broads.”
There was a time during the two years Smith spent instructing the would-be lady Marines he thought he might lose his stripes.
“I had a new platoon and I was teaching them to drill, but they weren’t getting it. So I had them double time around the parade field. One of them fell and passed out on the ground,” Smith said. “I told the rest of ‘em: ‘Don’t any of you stop. You keep on going. I waved over one of the female instructors to take care of the downed recruit.
“The next thing I knew I was standing in front of the colonel wondering if I was gonna get busted. The report came in that the recruit who collapsed was three months pregnant. How she got into the Corps nobody knows.
“The colonel said to me, ‘Go about your duties sergeant. You’re doing a good job. Keep it up!’”
In 1947 at 17 Smith joined the Corps. He and his two younger brothers had grown up in an orphanage near Allentown, Pa. His first duty assignment was serving for two years aboard the carrier USS Coral Sea.
When the North Koreans went to war with the South Koreans in June 1950 stating the Korean War, Smith found himself on board a landing craft at Inchon, North Korea with the 3rd Marine Division.
“The boat drivers didn’t want to go all the way into the beach, so they dropped their ramps about 150 yards from shore. We dropped into waist deep water with full packs and our rifles,” he said. “Our mission: Stop the Chinese from shipping supplies to North Korea down the Inchon River.”
Once the Marines captured Inchon, Smith was transferred to the 1st Marine Division. The 1st made the perilous trek north to the Chosen Reservoir surrounded by the enemy and fighting freezing conditions every step of the way.
“We didn’t have enough warm clothes – we had our basic uniforms. Our biggest problem was the cold,” he said. “I tried to feed everybody in our unit by taking their C-rations and dumping them in a pot and cooking them over a Bunsen-burner.”
Smith was a cook with a rifle. He spent much of his time on the line fighting the enemy in the freezing cold going and coming from Chosen.
After returning from Korea he served the next three years as a food service instructor before being sent to Parris Island to be a D.I. for the ladies. From there Smith was assigned to Camp Swabb on Okinawa in the Pacific.
“I went to Vietnam in 1965 from Swabb with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. We boarded ships and landed at Danang. That’s where we found out about guerilla warfare,” he said. “We gathered up all the stuff the Vietcong were using against us, like pungi sticks and poison arrows and sent them back to California. A guerrilla warfare school was established at Twenty-nine Palms, Calif. All the new troops going over there spent two weeks going through the school.”
After Vietnam, Smith returned to Camp LeJeune, S.C. and provided his troops with some of the best chow in the Marine Corps.
“I won seven awards for the best mess hall at Camp LeJeune,” he said proudly.
In 1991 he and his wife, Frances, moved to Port Charlotte’s Windmill Village. Shortly before Hurricane Charley devastated this area in 2004, Smith sold his mobile home and moved to Venetian Lakes.
“My place in Windmill Village was demolished by the storm,” Smith said. “This place was only slightly damaged.”
This story first appeared in print in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, January 11, 2010 and is republished with permission.