The Last of the Horse Marines

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by jacobtowne, Jan 16, 2007.

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  1. jacobtowne

    jacobtowne Senior Member

    This isn't strictly WWII, but rather a prelude to the China-Burma-India Theater.


    Last Review

    Time, Monday, Mar. 07, 1938

    "I'm Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,
    I often live beyond my means;
    I sport young ladies in their 'teens,
    To cut a swell in the army."


    Forgotten by one generation, this rollicking ballad of 1869 was revived for the next. In 1901 Charles Frohman produced Playwright Clyde Fitch's Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. Female lead was pretty, 21-year-old Ethel Barrymore in her first starring role. The characters whistled and sang the old ditty but audiences blithely believed that both the dandified captain and his "Horse Marines" were something cooked up for their special entertainment.

    As audiences supposed, Captain Jinks was a myth. But, although few knew it, mounted marines were a real part of the U. S. Marine Corps. During the U. S. "trade-follows-the-flag" era, mounted marines were used in Cuba, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Mexico and Nicaragua. In 1903 a squad of marines jogged on horseback through barren Ethiopia to visit Emperor Menelek II. Then in 1909, with China on the edge of a bloody revolution, a detachment of U. S. marines stationed at Peking mounted stumpy-legged Mongolian ponies, set to watching over U. S. citizens living outside embassy quarters. Since then, the Peking marines have remained a mounted unit. A fixture in China service, they liked to refer to themselves as "the world's only Horse Marines."*

    One afternoon last week the 30 enlisted men and one officer, who make up the detachment, mounted their little ponies, and in their vivid blue, red-striped uniforms, with sabres flashing, pennants streaming, charged past in review before U. S. officers and guests at Peking's Breckinridge Field. It was their last review. With the Japanese patrolling the city, U. S. Army authorities decided to disband and dismount the Horse Marines, shunt half the personnel to Tientsin, transfer the remainder to other marine units.

    *Not strictly accurate. Marines frequently resort to horseback to cover the 2OO-square-mile ammunition depot at Hawthorne, Nev., but the Peking outfit was the only regularly organized troop.

    JT

    Photo: U.S. Marines on their Mongolian ponies, Peking, 1937.
     

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  2. Kyt

    Kyt Very Senior Member

    Thanks JT, we often forget that mechanization wasn't univerasal so close to the beginning of the war (or even during the war), even in the US.
    .
    And the picture's great - makes the Marines look massive.
     
  3. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    Thanks JT, we often forget that mechanization wasn't univerasal so close to the beginning of the war (or even during the war), even in the US.
    .
    And the picture's great - makes the Marines look massive.

    The ponies are only 13 hands or so which is only just over four feet at the shoulder.
     

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