Clarence W. Connell
* We lost the Gunny on March 14, 2007. He will be missed
by his family, friends, the Marines of Platoon 349 as well as
all the Marines who served with him.
the Gunny's Memorial Page (Under Development)
Place of Enlistment: Dallas, Texas
19 yrs. - 9 mos. - 21 days
From Our Senior DI:
When I was on my first tour as a DI, enough good things happened
to me that they overshadowed the bad things that happened during
my second tour. My first Plt Was (338-1957). I was a JDI and
the advice I received from the SDI was the best I could have
gotten. When that Plt finished training, half of them and half
of Plt 339-1957 were held back and used to make a recruiting
I was put in charge of the detail to make
sure everyone was properly dressed in the uniform for the shoot
and at the location of the shoot. On one day about two weeks
into the project one of the DI's who was scheduled to be in the
shoot did not show up on time for his scene and I had to stand-in
his place. The Major and I had a talk and when the AWOL DI did
show, I congratulated him on being the new NCOIC as his reward
for being a no-show for his assignment.
I was relieved and went back to work and
picked up Plt 391-1957. I was assigned as SDI, my first as SDI.
That Plt gave the Marine Corps an officer who had originally
planed to do his four and get out. I had a talk with him and
the result was he stayed for 32 years and retired with the Eagles
of a Colonel. He held every level of supply up to Quartermaster
General. He is on my mailing list or I should say I am on his.
After that Plt graduated, I was assigned the job of company Police
Sgt but I went on leave before I actually took over the job.
That's when I met the future Mrs. Connell.
I was home for my birthday and she was off work with a sore foot.
We went on a blind date, arranged by a mutual friend. I guess
it was a friend, as we are still hanging around together after
I requested to go back to working with
recruits and my request was the Plt that made me famous, Platoon
349-1958. It wasn't luck, I managed to pull all the right IOU'S
that I could because I knew that with Sgt Ernie Cockrell (us
two Texas boys wuz gonna du sumthin' great). Ernie was very good
at teaching drill and I was pretty fair at motivation, especially
after those who chose to defy me got to spend time in my invisible
chair. A talk with me, while sitting in the chair led to amazing
I had an interesting talk one day while
at drill. We had just moved onto the big grinder when I spotted
an officer coming our way he was from Regt HQ. to observe our
training. When he got up to us I reported our Plt number, our
T-day and my name.
He said, "Thank you Sgt I am Captain
James L. Day from Regt Hq."
he put out his hand and as we shook I said, "It is a pleasure
to finally meet you sir, I have heard a lot about you from a
mutual friend." He let go of my hand and said, "Who
would that be?" I said, "SSgt Robert A. Younghans."
He said, "You know Bob Younghans?" I said, "Yes
Sir." He said, "Okay first thing is a test, but give
the troops a break." I did and lit the smoking lamp.
He said, "No more 'sir' ever, unless
there are other officers present and it's for now. "If you
know Bob you know the answer to this, what are the three most
important things in the Marine Corps?" I replied, "Training,
Training, and more Training." He said, "Yes you know
Bob. How is he doing and where is he?" I told him how and
where. He wanted to know how long I had known Bob and what I
thought of him as a person and as Marine .I told him that I thought
that Bob was the finest and most dedicated person and Marine
I had ever had the privilege of knowing or serving with and that
he had been my mentor from the time I met him. He said well you
made a fine choice.
We talked about the training and just about
life in the Corps for most of an the hour. He looked at his watch
and said, "Since I am on the pay roll I'd better get back
to work." He wrote in his book and turned it around to me
and said, "Any comment?" I said, none at all sir, thank
you very much." He said, "Be advised that if I see
your name on my check list any more, I wont disturb you. I will
just write still doing a very good job and the FMF's loss is
our gain here at the recruit depot." I said, "Sir you
can bet money I wont let you down and thank you for your trust."
When I related the above to Vern Smith,
his reply was kind of a classic, "You got to spend an hour
talking to Jim Day, Medal of Honor Winner and all we got was
one lousy cigarette."
I had nothing out of the normal happen
with the next Plt I picked up. Plt 391-1958 was my second Plt
with that same number. I have only been in contact with one man.
He wrote me a letter in 1999 in reply to a request in leatherneck
for a copy of Plt picture. He said that the things I taught him
in boot camp paid off as he spent all or part of 1965,66,67,68,69,70
and 71 on active duty.
He said that after 27 years of active and reserves he chickened
out and retired as MGySgt but, stayed on the pay roll as a civilian
employee at Albany GA.
That was the sum of my first tour. They
say to earn your "HAT" you have to get at least one
career Marine out of each Platoon. My count on the first tour,
four Platoons total, career Marines were, One Officer with 32
years and 9 enlisted with over 25 years (2 of which were E-9's
in my MOS). So I guess I paid my way.
In two years I was in a movie, had a Plt
fire 100% on the range which was the first time in three years,
plus made over the average of career Marines and got a wife.
After my first tour on the Drill field
I went back to my MOS field which was 1349 Engineer Equipment
Chief (Commonly referred to as Heavy Junk Boss). In 1961 I came
back to MCRD for a second tour and it soured when they set me
up to get busted by putting me in as a JDI with a SDI who was
widely known as a "thumper." But, after three days,
I went to the series officer who I had known for years before
he became an officer. I had served under his dad and at the current
time his dad was a general. I told him that we needed to have
a talk. He said he was busy and he would get back to me. I said,
"It will just take a minute."
I said "Lieutenant, you've got 24
hours to find me another job out of this company. Otherwise I
go to the IG and THE only people that will have a career when
I get through will be me, the 1st Sgt and the two who were Jr
DI's with the last Plt." He said, "Sgt are you threatening
me?" I said, "No sir, I am stating future happenings
of facts." I looked at my watch and said, "You now
have 23 hours and 55 minutes. I want you to know that I am doing
you this favor out of the respect that I have for your father,
for you I have none, as you haven't done anything to earn my
respect yet. You have taken up with the wrong crowd here and
it will do you in. Mark my words."
The next day I was transferred to the bldg
310, which was the holding unit for recruits being processed
out as recruiting errors for various reasons. I went back to
the company to checkout with the Top Sgt. He asked where I was
going I told him, (and I said it so they could hear in the back
office) "Well I thought I was going to the Special Training
Plt where I could work out and stay in shape but they railroaded
me to the goofy house building and to top it off I have to take
pro pay back (they had stopped pro pay just one week before).
I only get to work one day out four. I
will probably wind up having to get apart time job to keep from
sleeping the three days I am off. I just don't know what this
Marine Corps is coming to 1st Sgt when you try your hardest to
give some one the shaft and you wind up with him getting a good
deal." With that I figured that I had better leave before
he choked, to keep from laughing.
I first entered military service (U S Navy
in 1947) spent from 27 May 1947 to 5 April 1950. My first year
was spent going from Dallas to the west coast then to east coast
by train which was nothing to me as I was a railroad brat any
way. Those brought me to Jacksonville, Florida then one day we
were told to pack our sea bags and get out in front of the barracks.
A bus came by and picked us up and took us to the airstrip we
were told to get our peacoats out. When we got air borne we were
finally told that the heaters were broke and we were headed in
to a snowstorm.
We landed a Millington, Tennessee in 3feet
of snow and it was still snowing. I wintered over there and in
April 1948 I requested a drop from a school that I never wanted
in the first place. I ended up on the USS Mindoro (CVE-120) almost
one year to the day that I joined the Navy. The ship home ported
in Norfolk, Virginia. Our sea trips were towards the Artic Circle
in the winter and the waters of the islands South of Cuba in
Two years of that fun was all I could take.
I took my discharge on 5 April 1950, just before Korea cut loose
in June 1950. I Went to work on the railroad 21 April 1950 thru
January 1951 and on 19 February 1951, I joined the Marine Corps,
which happens to be the anniversary of the landing on IWO JIMA.
Again, I made the trip from Dallas to the west coast then to
the east coast and back to the west coast. From 1951 to 1955
I was stationed at, MCRD, CLNC Barstow, California, Balboa
hospital, MCRD Again, then Pickle Meadows, Then CPCA
TC-2 and then to Japan. From 1953 until 1955 back to the land
of the BIG PX. From 1955 to 1957 I worked in my MOS.
The other time off the drill field, Mid-November
1963, the morning of the 22nd, Tiny Ayling and
I were in the head shaving when someone came thru hollering,
"Some one just shot the President in Dallas." Tiny
looked around and said, "What President?" I slapped
him on the shoulder and said, "We only got one you big dummy."
He said, "Oh you mean that one. Well lets go and find the
Shortly after I came back from Okinawa,
in March 1965 I reported in to 1st Engr Bn at Camp Pen. Cal.
I was assigned as Bn NCOIC. When I got to the company office,
the 1st Sgt I recognized as a man that I had been assigned to
work with in 1955 on a field problem. He was the Company Gunny
and they were the aggressors for the Rgmt. Operation around the
Case Springs area.
One day before the problem started I was
in their tent and one of their troops saw my new watch that I
had purchased for my birthday and asked what the two stems were
for. I told him it was an alarm watch. He asked me to show him
how it worked so I set it for a ring in five minutes. I did not
notice that their Gunny was asleep in his bag.
When the alarm went off it sounded sort
of like a rattlesnake. The Gunny came out of that sleeping bag
like it was on fire with a k-bar in his hand and the sleeping
bag was less about 90% of it's feathers. He had laid it open
from head to foot and he yelled, "Where's that damn snake?"
We informed him that we would go look for it as we believed that
it had left the tent.
Now as Paul Harvey would say, "The
Rest of the Story." When I reported in to 1st Engr Bn, the
Gunny with the K-Bar is now 1st Sgt and he asked if we had served
together before, that I looked familiar. I told him that we had
served on a temporary assignment stripes ago for a few days and
that it would come to him eventually.
Each week we had meetings of Plt Sgts.
After four or five he asked me if I had a tape recording of the
meetings? I said, "no," but that in true instructor
fashion the important stuff he always mentioned three times,
you know, tell'em what you are gonna tell'em, tell'em, tell what
you told'em. If you can't remember after three times, you bring
someone with you who can remember.
Anyway I had been looking for my watch
that I had put away and I finally found it and every time I came
to the office I would tell him, "It will come to you eventually
Top" when I did find it I made a point to go to the company
office about 1030 and ask if I could look up something in the
file cabinet behind him. He said, "Go for it!"
As I got behind him, I pulled the stem
of my alarm and just as I pulled the first drawer out, it went
off. The 1stSgt went from a sitting postion behind his desk to
a standing position in front of the desk, pointing his finger
at me and screaming, "CASE SPRINGS 1955, YOU SON OF A BITCH!"
I just smiled and said, "I told you it would come to you
and it did."
He came around to where I was standing
and said, "You got a real wide mean streak. Did you know
that? And you are forbidden from getting behind me as long as
you a member of this command." He grabbed me around the
neck and asked, "Where all have you been these last 10 years?"
I said, "Well, all but two on the Drill Field and I am here
today to reply to this flier to apply to go to recruiter school."
I did the paper work and left to go back up the hill where my
work place was and we were getting things ready to go to Vietnam.
My orders had been to take brand new equipment,
make them operational and park them. I received orders to come
up to base supply and bring 5 or 6 operators to pick some new
type of dozers. They had rubber tires. The company CO was coming
out the back door as I came up the street. I said to him, "Come
on, I'll show you why when we get to Nam with these, they will
not go into the paddies from the hard surface roads."
We started sending equipment to San Diego
to load. As time moved slowly onward, everything was on board.
Then the troops started coming on board. We had one piece of
equipment that I was the only one licensed to operate and haul
the MRS-200. It was too big to drive on a California highway.
My wife had dropped me off and we had said
our tearful goodbyes with my car on blocks in the garage in Vista.
The special semi rig that was supposed to haul me to San Diego
was an hour late. When I called base Motor T, they said the driver
had an inside flat and he was just pulling out. It would take
about 45 minutes to get to me as I was at 64 area, the most Northern
area on Camp Pen.
As I laid the phone down it rang in my
hand I almost dropped it. Anyway it was the 1stSgt, he said,
"Damn am I glad you are still there." I said, "You sound like
we are in love, what's got you so
happy?" He said, "I am looking at a speed letter, you are to
be at PI to start recruiter school
in 10 days, if not sooner. But by no later than 10 days in the
absence of written orders. Proceed by whatever means at your
own conveyance and expense. Save receipts for rembursement
upon arrival." And that's how I wound up
in TEXAS, my home state.
Clarence W. Connell, GySgt USMC Retired
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