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Web site started
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  Plt. 349 USMCRD
San Diego, CA

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.
Click for the Gunny's Memorial Page (Under Development)

Place of Enlistment: Dallas, Texas

Years Served: 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 movie.

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 many years.

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 results.

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 the summer.

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 shooter."

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.

Semper Fi,

Clarence W. Connell, GySgt USMC Retired

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