DAILY BUGLE REVEILLE AT 1959 JR PLCs

I suggest before you read the following, you first peruse the photograph and take note of the fact that the musical instrument therein is preserved in the exact condition it was in, in 1959.

I came across this old bugle while doing some garage work today, and it provoked once again a memory of long ago. It is one story I thought my military family and friends might enjoy - if I hadnít told it already to my kids.

In the summer of 1959 I reported to Camp Upshur on what was then called MCB [Marine Corps Base] Quantico, into the specific command of Training and Test Regiment, the famous organization responsible for the first introduction of young Americans into the track leading to a commission in the Marine Corps. Camp Upshur, once the site of TBS, was at that time used for Junior PLCs [platoon leader class]- the first 6 weeks of two 6-week summers leading to commissioning at college graduation. It was the same program as OCS [officer candidate school], but spread over two summers.

We didnít have "DIs" [drill instructors] in the sense of the enlisted Marine training at San Diego and Parris Island. We had "sergeant instructors."

My "Sergeant Instructor" was actually an "acting corporal," for that was in the days of transition from seven enlisted ranks to nine, so E-3 corporals were given the title "acting corporal," vice reduction to LCpl [lance corporal]  - and they kept their NCO [non-commissioned officer] status. But, quite frankly, this Acting Corporal (E-3) was anything but an inspiration to young officers-to-be.  I can thank my lucky stars that during my second summer at mainside as a Sr PLC I had a helluva fine Gunny E-6. We also had a real sharp 2ndLt platoon leader who later had a great career in the Corps, becoming a general officer.  His name was John Grinalds.

To get to the story. One day the E-3 "Sergeant Instructor" decided to tell my platoon that what we needed was a bugle to get the platoon up and out in the predawn hours reveille we all remember from those regimented training days. Dumb me, not yet wise in the ways of the Marine Corps, volunteered a bugle I knew we had at home.

Now, home was in Philadelphia, far outside the liberty limits, even for OCs [Officer Candidates]. But "Sergeant Instructor" said I could go get the bugle but with a parting warning, "Just donít get caught."

So one Friday after release to "base liberty," I grabbed the train out of Quantico up to 30th Street station in Philly and took a cab home. I got in quite late and crapped out on the sofa.  When my Dad came down in the morning to go to work,  (My Dad was a police officer.) he was quite surprised and asked me why I was home.  Now, you have to understand, my Dad, born in Scotland, was too young for WW1 and too old for WW2, so he had very little knowledge of the Marine Corps and no military experience.

I replied, "I came home to get the bugle."

His questioning counter-reply was, "The Marines donít have their own bugles?"

I tried to explain the situation. 

Anyway, that Sunday I was back at Camp Upshur in the evening in the Quonset Hut and in comes E-3 "Sergeant Instructor" yelling..... "Candidate Ballantyne, does your young ass have that bugle?"

"Sir, yes sir!" I shouted.

"Blow reveille for me."  He commanded.

"Sir, this candidate does not know how to play the bugle. I just said I could get one, sir"

I think he was stunned a minute, and then bellowed something like (in the days before PC [Politically Correct] language) ...

"I ainít got time for this f***ing sh*t right now ... youíd better f***ing know how to play f***ing reveille by tomorrow f***ing morning or your f***ing ass is in big f***ing trouble.

And it was!  I was sweating bullets for several hours until my urinating and moaning got the attention of my bunkmate.

Miraculously, the guy that slept in the bunk above me, a fellow whose last name is all I recall (Johnson), had played trumpet in high school. (His Dad, I also recall, was a Navy doctor based at MCB Quantico). Johnson volunteered to bail me out.

So, for the rest of the time that summer in Jr PLC at Camp Upshur, Johnson played f***ing reveille each morning.  And, I shined his frigging shoes and cleaned his frigging rifle each frigging evening.

Bob Ballantyne

:-)