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Lou Diamond

Master Gunnery Sergeant Leland "Lou" Diamond USMC (May 30 1890September 20 1951) is famous within the US Marine Corps as the classic example of the "Old Breed" - tough, hard-fighting career Marines who served in the Corps in the years between World War I and World War II.

Early years

Diamond was born May 30 1890, at Bedford, Ohio. He enlisted in the Marine Corps at Detroit, Michigan, 25 July 1917, listing as his former occupation "railroad switchman." Although he enlisted at age 27, much older than most recruits, the difference was never noticeable.


Because of his incredibly powerful voice, which matched his 5'11" 200-pound frame, Diamond was once dubbed "The Honker." Many of his comrades at Guadalcanal considered him "a human air-raid warning system."

Even while on active duty, Diamond lived informally, often going hatless and wearing dungarees in open defiance of military dress regulations. (He even accepted one of his decorations in dungarees.) Self-confidence, even cockiness, was one of his outstanding characteristics. He considered anybody with less than ten years in the Corps a "boot." While he bawled out recruits who sometimes instinctively saluted him, he frequently failed, himself, to salute less than a field grade officer.

Diamond rejected opportunities to apply for a commission — that is, become an officer — saying "nobody can make a gentleman out of me."

World War I

As a Corporal in January 1918, he shipped out from Philadelphia aboard the USS Von Steuben bound for Brest, France. He saw action with the famous 6th Marine Regiment in the battles at Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, the Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Promoted to the grade of Sergeant, he marched to the Rhine with the Army of Occupation. At war's end, "Mr. Leatherneck" returned to America, and received an honorable discharge.

Inter-war period

Railroading, and civilian life in general, did not suit him, and on 23 September 1921, Diamond re-enlisted.

"Mr. Marine" itched for more action and he soon got it in Shanghai, with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. But the Sino-Japanese controversy, in Diamond's opinion, was "not much of a war," and on 10 June 1933, he returned to the United States, disembarking from the USS Henderson (AP-1) at Mare Island, California. By then he was a Gunnery Sergeant.

Diamond returned to Shanghai with his old outfit, the 4th Marines, ten months later; was transferred to the 2nd Marines in December, 1934; and returned to the States in February, 1937. Two years after his promotion to Master Gunnery Sergeant on 10 July 1939, he was assigned to the Depot of Supplies at Philadelphia to help design a new infantry pack.

World War II

Following the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Diamond shipped out to Guadalcanal with Company H, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, arriving at the beaches 7 August 1942. He was then 52 years old.

Though not a "spit-and-polish" Marine, Diamond proved himself an expert with both 60- and 81mm mortars, his accurate fire being credited as the turning point of many an engagement in the Pacific during World War II. Among the many fables concerning his Guadalcanal service is the tale that he lobbed a mortar shell down the smoke stack of an off-shore Japanese cruiser. It is considered a fact, however, that he drove the cruiser from the bay with his harassing "near-misses."

General A.A. Vandegrift, Commander of the 1st Marine Division, and later Commandant of the Marine Corps, wrote a letter of commendation that states in part:

To every man in your company you were a counselor, an arbiter of disputes, and an ideal Marine. Your matchless loyalty and love of the Marine Corps and all it stands for, are known to hundreds of officers and men of this Division, and will serve as an inspiration to them on all the battlefields on which this Division may in the future be engaged.

After two months on Guadalcanal, physical disabilities dictated his evacuation by air against his wishes. He was moved to the New Hebrides and later to a hospital in New Zealand, where he somehow acquired orders to board a supply ship for New Caledonia. There a friend ordered him back to Guadalcanal — the supposed location of his old outfit. Upon his arrival, however, Diamond discovered that the 1st Marine Division had shipped out to Australia, a distance of over 1,500 miles. Diamond made the trip, without orders, by bumming rides on planes, ships and trains.

But Diamond was destined to see no more combat. On 1 July 1943, he disembarked from the USS Hermitage (AP-54) at San Pedro, California, and twelve days later was made an instructor at the MCRD Parris Island, South Carolina. He was transferred to Camp Lejeune on 15 June 1945, and joined the 5th Training Battalion with the same duties.


Diamond retired on 23 November 1945, and returned to his home in Toledo, Ohio.


His death at the Great Lakes, Illinois, Naval Training Center Hospital, September 20 1951, was followed by a funeral, with military honors, at Sylvania, Ohio.


The Philippine-American actor Lou Diamond Phillips was named after him by his father, a Marine.

Although Diamond is sometimes referred to as "highly decorated", his only personal decoration was the Secretary of the Navy Commendation Ribbon, which later became the Navy Commendation Medal. Diamond's other awards include:

- the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the First Marine Division for Guadalcanal

- the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, eight awards representing twenty-four years service

- the World War I Victory Medal, with four campaign stars (Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Defensive Sector), for service with the 6th Marine Regiment.

- the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, for service in the Rhineland in 1919

- the Yangtze Service Medal, for service in China in 1927-32

- the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal

- the American Defense Service Medal, for service 1939-1941

- the American Theater Medal, for service in the United States 1943-1945

- the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, with two campaign stars (Guadalcanal-Tulagi Landings and Capture and Defense of Guadalcanal), for service with the 2nd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment

- the World War II Victory Medal

Diamond was also entitled to the French Fourragere (Croix de Guerre 1914-1918) as a personal award, since he had participated in earning it with the 6th Marines

See also

External links

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