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In the fall of 1960, one-half of the troops belonging to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment had completed 15 months of their 30 month required stint as part of something called "controlled input" in the infantry at Camp Lejeune's 2nd Marine Division. They were asked to volunteer for a six month goodwill cruise to South America and Africa. A cruise that, it came to be said, surpassed the advantages of its equivalent in the Mediterranean.

We were told that all volunteers would be assigned to "Golf" Company and that, as the company would have its full complement of required ranks, there would be no promotions for anyone however long they remained assigned to the unit.

The Company so formed was provided various training, including rubber raft landing at the Division's Recon beach facility and, only God knows why, jump training. Though we never jumped off of anything higher than a five foot platform, we dropped and rolled on the soft sand as though we knew what parachuting was really like, except for the 2000 foot fall.

By November we were aboard the USS Graham County - LST 1176, one of the Navy's first air conditioned affairs and something of an outright pleasure when compared to the quarters found on the AKAs, APAs, LSDs, LSTs, and the Landing Platform Helicopter [LPH] USS Boxer that we had become all too familiar with.

Our first stop was Viegues, that tropical island to the east-southeast of Puerto Rico that the Marine Corps of that time had grown so fond of for training. [ Under considerable political pressure, the island's military use was discontinued in May 2003. ] While there, amphibious landings were practiced with enclosed tracked vehicles called Amtracs, as opposed to Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel [LCVP] craft, also know as a "Higgins Boat," with the dropping front ramps. These are recognized by so many Americans today as the craft used on the beaches of Normandy on 6June44. They were also the most often employed during our landing experiences of the preceding fifteen months of training at Camp Lejeune and in the Caribbean.

The only times we again used the Amtracs after leaving Viegues were during live fire landing demonstrations on the beaches of Monrovia, Liberia on 6Jan61 and at Woodstock Beach, Capetown South Africa on 14Mar61. In the Monrovia epic, we landed with much fanfare, the firing of blanks, the pretense of blood curdling screams and ... 300 yards off the scheduled mark. The Liberian President, his entourage and numerous American representatives stared in awe at the military might of America arrayed before them, as we flung ourselves from the rear of the Amtracs and learned that we had to, first, run south along the soft-sanded beach and then flank left before proceeding in line to "attack" the onlookers. We were devastating! And, in proof thereof, we have the newspaper coverage of it as well as the Capetown landing. OooRAH!

In late January '61, the 3rd Platoon was required to leave the USS Graham County and embark upon the USS Gearing DD-710 for nearly six weeks of "destroyer duty," something probably not done since the "Raider" days of WWII. There, we received first hand experience in dealing with pirates on the high-seas and United Nations security operations in the Congo's river basin, that nation being in the midst of a full fledged rebellion. These "sideshow" activities required contact with and the cooperation of a vast number of United States vessels including the LSD Hermitage, no less than three more destroyers including the Vogelgesang ... billeting the temporarily assigned 1 Squad of the 1st Platoon, the Damato ... billeting the 2nd Squad of the 1st Platoon, the Wilson and the oiler Nespelen ... billeting the 2nd Platoon. There was, as well, the submarine Seawolf.

By cruise end, the members of G/2/6 had frequently crossed the equator and directly assisted in capturing the passenger liner Santa Maria, that had been "pirated" by what today would be called "terrorists" and not pirate forces commanded by a Portuguese army officer named Henrique Galvao, in a protest of European dictators: Salazar of Portugal and Franco of Spain.

We had sailed in both the North and South Atlantics; crossed the equator eight times, once at 000° 00' 00" Latitude at 000° 00' 00" Prime Meridian; were provided overland access to the Indian Ocean, the third of three oceans made accessible to us; and...strolled the streets of three continents: South America, Africa and Europe.

Indeed, we elements of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children (USMC) had visited: Viegues, Puerto Rico Trinidad, British West Indies Recife, Brazil [for Christmas vacation] Monrovia, Liberia Bathurst, Gambia Lome, Togo Abidjan, Ivory Coast Recife, Brazil [ for another six days of Christmas vacation ] Point Noire, the western areas of the Congo river basin as well as Matadi some eighty miles inland via the Congo River, all part of what is known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo Conakry, Guinea Accra, Ghana Freetown, Sierre Leone Capetown, South Africa [ On the Atlantic Ocean side of African continent ] and but a car ride away to eastern South Africa and the Indian Ocean Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas, Gran Canaria of the Canary Island group; and, then by way of Europe's Cadiz and Rota, Spain returned to CONUS...Morehead City, North Carolina 15May61.

All-in-all, a really great excursion at government expense, "don't ya' know."

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