Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller’s Story: The Impact Of A Legend

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The United States Military and militaries all over the world have spawned a huge amount of heroes over the last few decades. These are men that against all the odds marched into a very uncertain situation and made great changes. Perhaps the American military’s greatest hero is Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, a marine and native Virginian who served in the Pacific during World War 2 and in the Korean War. Although he passed almost 50 years ago, his story is still astounding and inspirational. Today we’re going to tell you all about America’s most decorated marine.

A Hero Is Born

The place was West Point, Virginia and the date was June 26, 1898. Unbeknownst to them, Martha and Matthew Puller had just given birth to what would be America’s biggest hero. Sadly, Matthew who had spent his adult life as a grocer would pass when Lewis was just ten. In search of a father figure, Lewis would spend his childhood listening to Civil Wars vets tell stories of their days on the battlefield.

Raised By Veterans

The Civil War had taken place about 30 years before Puller was born. There were some veterans still alive at that time. It isn’t shocking that Puller would brush shoulders with them. Being an impressionable young man, it was these old timers that put him on the path to greatness. It is said that one of his biggest heroes was the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

The Border War

By 1916, a young Puller had grown tired of hearing veteran stories and wanted to make some of his own. That’s when he decided to fight in the Border War with Mexico. At the time he was too young to go on his own accord and needed permission from his mother. Bent on not seeing another family member pass away, she rejected his request and the opportunity was missed for him.

First Shot At Military Life

1917 was a huge year for Puller. The young man enrolled in the Virginia Military Institute and joined the United States Fighting Forces. Excitement sparked in the young man’s restless heart as the United States joined World War 1 and began deploying troops to Europe. He resented sitting around studying and from that moment on openly declared his desire to join in on the war.

Readying Himself For War

Puller jumped on his first chance to join the marines and in 1918 began training at South Carolina’s Parris Island, one of America’s most famous boot camps. What attracted him to the marines were the legacies they were leaving behind on the WW1 battlefield. He heard how they left German stormtroopers fear at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France. The German’s referred to the Marines as “Devil Dogs.”

 

Paramilitary Police In Haiti

It seemed fate was against Puller’s military dream. Just as he was fully trained and ready for battle, World War 1 came to a victorious end. Despite, that he became a lieutenant and eventually aimed to become a corporal. Given his determination to fight, Puller got himself posted in Haiti and joined the paramilitary police. It was his job to keep the peace while the United States occupied it. It was a hard job, but he put his all into it and by the time he left he had been involved in over 40 operations against insurgents.

 

Fighting The Sandinista In Nicaragua

When his time with paramilitary police was up, Puller decided to train marines in camps across the state of Virginia. Then came his next foreign posting in Nicaragua. The year was 1928 and Puller was already 30-years-old. He was tasked with fighting against Guerilla forces who were against America’s occupation of their country. The rebel group was known as the Sandinista and led by August Sandino. Puller fought hard against the rebels, so hard that he was presented with the Navy Cross. it is the second-highest military award available.

A Second Navy Cross

The citation that came with his Navy Cross detailed that he fought in five battles where he was completely outnumbered. Despite that, Puller was able to lead his men to success. After his brush with success, he returned to America for one year. once the year was up he went back to fighting in Nicaragua and within a short amount of time managed to garner himself another Navy Cross. In ten short days, he and his forces nearly eradicated the Sandinistas completely.

Guarding In Beijing

After finding copious amounts of success in Central America, Fuller headed to Beijing to join the China Marines. This time his job was less stressful as he was in charge of guarding the American diplomatic service in Beijing. He also spent lots of time sailing the Asia sea on the USS Augusta. Little did he know, his dreams were about to be fulfilled.

Puller In World War 2

Now into his forties, in August 1941 Puller decided to head back to the United States and took up command of a Marine Battalion in North Carolina. That’s where he was on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The United States had officially joined the World War 2 and Puller took his unit to the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal. It was shortly after that he’d find himself in six month battle with the Japanese on the largest of the Solomon Islands.

Japnese Surprise Attack

Picture a dark night in October 1942. A night when tropical rain was falling relentlessly and night that saw Puller and his infantry unit stretched in a mile long battle line around the perimeter of Henderson Field, an airbase that they had captured from the Japanese earlier in the year. This was also a night that saw the Japanese launch a surprise night attack in the attempts to gain back their airbase.

His Third Navy Cross

Puller and his unit were ridiculously outnumbered and on paper, anyone would say that the Japanese had an easy win on their hands. The two forces fought relentlessly for three hours through the night. 70 US soldiers were lost in the battle and 1,400 Japanese were lost. When the fire ceased Puller and his unit stood victorious. It was this battle that garnered him his third Navy Cross. He was credited as being the source of the success.

Puller’s Continued Success

That wasn’t his last brush with greatness. The date was January 1944 and the location was on the New Guinea island of New Britain. Puller and his unit found themselves heading the Battle of Cape Gloucester. Amidst relentless Japanese automatic and mortar fire, puller pushed a counteroffensive against stiff odds. Despite the situation looking utterly hopeless, the Japanese forces were pushed back.

 

An Appetite For Action

In November 1944 Puller found himself at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It was that he began commanding an Infantry Training Regiment. He stayed there until the war ended. After that, he garnered commands in New Orleans and Pearl Harbor. Then June 1950 came around and the Korean War broke out. Being a man of action and adventure, Puller couldn’t help but show these guys what the Marines were capable of.

 

Success In Korea

By 1950 Puller was already a man in his fifties and a colonel. This didn’t stop him from being in the heart of the action. He led the First Marine Regiment ashore at Incheon in South Korea. It was this move that garnered him a Silver Star Medal. One of his biggest success during the war came at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. It was the victory here that saw him receive a fifth Navy Cross.

 

Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide

The Korean War wasn’t as bad as World War 2, but it was also no walk in the park either. It was during this war that Puller found him and his unit completely surrounded by enemy troops. It was then that he said these words, “All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us… they can’t get away this time.”

 

The Most Decorated Marine

Winning an astounding five Navy Crosses and a ton of campaign medals, Puller was awarded an Army Distinguished Service Cross. These medals combined make him the most decorated marine in the history of the United States Military. He stands as living proof that no matter where you’re born, you can stand to succeed beyond what you think your means are. All this history came from a guy who was brought up by a grocer.

Retired

In 1953 the Korean War came to a cease-fire and Puller’s life in action once again came to an end. Two years later he decided it was time for him to settle down and relax. Afterall, a man can’t live his entire life in action. After his retirement, the respected serviceman was given the honor of being bumped up to the rank of a lieutenant general.

No Medal Of Honor

Puller did it all during his time with the marine and while he does have a really impressive number of medals to his name, one he doesn’t have is the Medal of Honor. Many marines to this day think that it’s crazy that this man has never received the Medal of Honor that he so much deserves. There is no telling how life would be today with a man such as Puller. A man who truly put his whole being into the perils of war.

 

His Love For Battle

Chesty Puller’s love for battle must run in the bloodline. He is a distant cousin to George S. Patton, one of the most decorated Generals of all time. He served in Europe during the war and also had a very big impact on military history. He is definitely a legend in his own right. His father-in-law was William H. Dabney, a decorated colonel in the marines and also won a Navy Cross for heroic actions during the war in Vietnam.

 

Lewis Burwell Puller Jr.

In 1945 Puller gave birth to a son and named him Lewis Burwell Puller Jr. He followed in his footsteps by force when he was called to join the Vietnam War. Like his father, Lewis was also a marine. He was a platoon leader for three months and then had an accident while in battle. It resulted in severe injuries and him in the hospital. He reported that upon seeing him in his hospital, his father wept.

Lewis Wrote A Book

In 1991 Lewis wrote a book called Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller Jr. The book was a smash hit and ended with him triumphing over the disabilities he got at the hands of war.  The book even received a Pulitzer Prize. He worked a job as a successful lawyer until 1994. It was at that time that his life came to a mysterious close. One that shocked everyone he knew.

Relationship Between Father And Son

The book tells of the relationship Lewis had with his father. He said that being the most decorated marine in history’s son definitely had its advantages, but also had obligations. It was always assumed that one day Puller Jr. would join the military. That said, while most would expect a marine father to be harsh, Chesty Puller was always understanding and would take the time to listen to his son.

The Last Days

Many can assume that Chesty Puller didn’t enjoy the retired life. He spent much of his working and able days looking for a battle to fight. Being confined to a rocking chair on a front porch couldn’t have been anything less than a boring for the war hero. He can rest assured that in the United States military he is still celebrated to this day. In fact, when troops go to sleep in boot camp they are made to say, “Good night, Chesty, wherever you are!”

The Impact Of A Legend

To this date, no marine has been able to live up to the legacy of a man who was truly a lover of action and adventure. Chesty Puller was a man who had the unmatched talent of defying the odds. No matter the battle, he would place him and his unit at the heart of it and truly believe that they’d see things through. In the end, it wasn’t a war that put Chesty to rest, but natural causes. He was a man who came here 73 years and left an impact we’re still hearing to this day.

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