The Tragedy at Parris Island

The Tragedy at Parris Island

OVER THE YEARS, I have had a few mixed feelings about the Marine Corps. It is not easy for me to defend them, yet in a curious way I suppose I respect the Marine Corps more than the Army. Discounting the overdeveloped and often nauseating public relations of the Marines, and the professional braggadocio which makes them our institutional equivalent of Texans-on-a-tear, one can still hardly pride oneself at knowing much about life if one tries to deny that the Marines have been probably our best combat soldiers, and that they have a high number of courageous men in their ranks.

Of course, our generation of sensitive people has begun to deny the proper existence of such virtues as courage, and I would declare this to be one of the abuses of psychoanalysis. Years ago I remember a psychology student telling me that the platoon sergeant in The Naked and the Dead, Sam Croft, had exhibited an infantile fixation toward the maternal breast in his compulsion to climb a mountain. Since what was left out of account was precisely the fact that not every man who has such a fixation is capable of the stamina, the will, and the courage to drive a platoon of unwilling men up a mysterious and forbidding mountain, I was left a little more aware of how the new faith can strip from anyone exactly their most striking and admirable human qualities. So, too, with the Marine Corps. I can dislike an institution, I can fear its ultimate dangers, I can detest its moral values, but I feel I give way to the anti-human plague of our time if I fail to recognize such obvious virtues as courage where courage indeed exists.


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