Life in the U. S. Marines – Life on a Ship – October 17, 2016

Life in the U. S. Marines – Life on a Ship – October 17, 2016

While a part of the F.M.F. (Fleet Marine Force), you will be exposed to life on a ship and that means living with sailors. Sometimes, take an example like myself, I was able to serve a little more than two years physically on a ship during my four years, three months and 17 days in the U. S. Marine Corp. But Marty,  lot of people would say, you traveled all over the world and saw places that people would give their eye teeth to get to see in their lifetime. I say, but at what price.

med cruise in 1965

Most of the time, I was stationed with a bunch of guys that I would have given my life for but I’m talking about the losers that were in charge of us during that period of time.  I’m talking about the sergeants that were our immediate supervisors or the Commanding Officers that commanded our units. In most cases, the majority were a bunch of losers. the only one that struck a cord in me that was worth a damn was that of a Sgt. Jesse ij boot camp. He was straight up and told it like it was. He was a true Marine.

He told us a story one time that had us laughing because it was so true of life in the crotch, as we used to say back in the day. He said that while he was standing duty on the front gate and the officers would come in day after day that he would salute them and give the cursory salutation. He said that he was always smiling and would glance and salute the car as it [passed by and say “Eat Shit, Sir” in stead of  “Good Day, Sir” or “Evening, Sir”.


We all knew that rifle inspection was an important part of life in the U. S. Marines and that your rifle was an important [part of your daily routine. It was important that you kept your rifle in a clean and inspected manner. He told us that when he acquired a few extra dollars that he bought an M-1 rifle for his own use and pee’d in it on a regular basis and made sure that the inside of the barrel was completely rusted out. I guess he got his rocks off knowing that this was one rifle that would never pass a rifle inspection.

Now, getting back to life on a ship. On my first long term cruise, I did come across a CPO, Chief Petty Officer, that gave me and a few other Marines advice on how to survive life on a ship for the duration and under heavy seas. He told us that even on a good day, some sailors had a tendency to get sea sick. On every ship, life functions on a 24/7 basis. The ship is always running, even when it is at port  so life on the ship goes on.

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The crew that is running the ship at night have to eat, just like the day crew have to eat, and that means that the mess hall is open at midnight for a light meal to keep the night staff fed and functioning. For Marines on a ship, this is an extra meal. For sailors, they have to be creative to get those extra goodies to make the night a little easier. For those new to the sea, this CPO’s advice was good advice and that was to get something solid in your stomach, like bread or crackers, so that would prevent your system from getting sea sick. I took his advice to heart on the first night out at seas and never got sick any other time that I was on a ship from that time on.

Most of the time that I served in the F.M.F. would be on an LSD (Landing Ship Dock) that opened at the rear of the ship and took in water via the ship’s ballast tanks, like the ship you see in the above picture. When the LSD was low enough in the water, the LCM’s (Landing Craft Mechanized) would float out of the well of the LSD. While I was in the U. S. Marines on LSD’s, the LCM’s carried tanks and heavy equipment that was used by our unit, 1st Landing Support Company/Shore Party Bn. the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) had their own boat.

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This is a picture of an LCM under heavy seas in the Mediterranean Sea. You can see a bulldozer on the beach setting out a line to hold the LCM on the beach as it was unsafe to return to the LSD under the heavy seas. I believe that this picture was taken in Marmaris, Turkey and that we were spending the night on the beach because of the weather, too.

It was a little cold out and we needed to get a fire going to keep warm. There was a small rowboat with grass growing out of it and we took it apart to use as fire wood and kept warm. It was the next day that I found out that one of my fingers was swollen due to a splinter from the wood we used. In a matter of days, my middle finger on my left hand was swollen twice its size. In a few more days, we were in the port of Golfe Juan, France, the French Riviera and liberty call went and I was on my way to the flag ship that had a surgeon on board.

The surgeon looked at my finger and wanted to know what was in my finger and that I needed to have an X-Ray of my finger. The Navy Corpsman informed the doctor that there was no X-Ray machine on the flagship but that the dentist office had an X-Ray that the dentist used. In a short moment, I was off to the dental office for an unusual X-Ray. The dental technician said that he would take the picture and that I had to hold my hand up with my middle finger extended. It was comical.

It was back to the surgeon’s office and a look at the X-Ray to see what was causing the inflammation on my middle finger. The surgeon didn’t see anything and that he opted for slicing it open and not cutting it off. He got the needle ready and started to inject my middle finger at the base of the finger but my hand kept on jumping off the table as he would put the needle in.the area where the needle was to go in my finger. The surgeon called two corpsman in to hold down my hand and the finger was finally numbed enough for the surgeon to do a little surgery.

My finger was so sore and swollen that the surgeon had words with my corpsman that was attached to my LSD and that I should have been highlighted from my LSD to the flagship because he thought the swelling was spreading and that I was getting gangrene and would certainly have had my finger cut off. Thank God.

The finger and the missing piece

Now the humor of the finger while on liberty in Golfe Juan, France. We were there at the time of year that the film industry was there for the Cannes Film Festival and the port was full of tourists. I was walking around Golfe Juan, France with my cover in my hand, that’s a Marine’s hat, so to speak. As we were walking around Golfe Juan, France, It was awful uncomfortable with the heavily bandaged finger and I used my cover (hat) to cover the bandaged hand.

In a short period of time, I was pulled over by the Marine Corps MP’s (Military Police) and wastold that I was out of uniform because I was not wearing my cover with my uniform. I took the cover and put it on my head and the MP looked at me and said that it was okay for me to carry my cover in my hand with the big bandage and that I would have no problem with them later in the night.

And so the pillow calls for a few days of baby sitting are on the calendar for Monday through Wednesday,



Return to: Life in the U.S.Marines Story Index

Marty Dougherty #ashorepartymarine 


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