Of the people Mind Melting Facts has covered so far we’ve had quite a few bad asses. Such people as the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the double agent Joan Pujol Garcia, and even Marine Scout Sniper Carlos Norman Hathcock II. But this week we are really turning up the bad ass dial to one of the most well known bad asses to ever walk the face of this great planet. His name is Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller; perhaps better known as Chesty Puller. If you are in the military you will have undoubtedly heard of this man. Though if you aren’t there’s a good chance you may have heard the name in passing; but now we’re here to give you a bit of his story!
Chesty puller was born 1898 June 26 in West Point, Virginia. He grew fond of military lore as he listened to the old veterans of America’s Civil war. Even at a young age the military called his name. He attempted ito join the Army during the Border War with Mexico in 1916, but they turned him down due to being underage. Many could say this was their loss. Though it’s said he was more determined than ever to join after they dismissed his application. As World War I raged in Europe Chesty Puller once more attempted to join the ranks of those serving. He was accepted by the Marine Corps as a private recruit. He never did see the battlefield in WWI but it was just a matter of time. After finishing boot camp he went on to OCS and after graduating in 1919 he became a non-commissioned officer with the rank of second lieutenant in he reserves. Now, after WWI the military began a period of troop deflation causing Chesty Puller to be put on the inactive list until he reenlisted. Though he was then demoted to the rank of Corporal.
It would be a long arduous road to get his officer status back but this was a man tougher than any that had come before him. Between World War I and World War II Chesty Puller roamed across the globe fighting in the Banana Wars in Haiti and Nicaragua and also in other conflicts in China. In Haiti he fought against Caco Rebels and took part 40 engagements while trying to gain back his position as an officer twice. Then upon returning home from Haiti in 1924 he was finally given back his rank as a second Lieutenant. He was station in the USA for a few years until he returned to Central America to fight in Nicaragua. It was there he was awarded his first of 5 Navy Crosses for leading his men and defeating a superior force 5 times in a row in a period of 6 months. Later, while leading his 40 men through the mountains, he was ambushed by 150 rebels. He lost several people right off the bat but eventually destroyed the entire rebel group; Oh, he was also ambushed twice more while navigating through the same mountain range and consequently destroyed them as well earning his second Navy Cross. By the time he left Nicaragua he had a bounty on his head and the bad ass nickname “The Tiger of the Mountains.” It was from this point on where he would begin to leave mortality behind and join the ranks of immortals reserved for legends.
World War II
After moving around the Pacific few awhile Chesty Puller and the Marines under his command found themselves at Gaudalcanal. Several groups of Marines had broken through the heavily fortified Japanese military line and had become trapped. Many officers thought the groups of Marines were done for, there was no hope for them. Chesty Puller ran out of his command tent to the shoreline, flagged down a nearby Navy destroyer and began directing the action that would save nearly all of the men trapped behind enemy lines. (Although nobody had given him the authority to do so…. he saw the opportunity and seized it). The destroyer rained down a tsunami of steel as landing craft approached the beach. The groups of Marines were able to return to the landing craft to fight another day. For these actions he earned the Bronze Star with a “V” standing for Valor.
#2 Battle for Henderson Field
Also on Guadalcanal Chesty Puller and his men found themselves outnumbered, outgunned and what would generally be called shit out of luck. With 700 young men, along a mile long length of dirt protecting an airfield that was priceless in terms of military strategy, he held off a much more seasoned Japanese force that was twice their size. The Japanese attacked in the middle of the night on October 24, 1942. For three hours they fought as Chesty Puller ran down the lines directing men and company commanders. In the end the Americans lost less than 70 people while the Japanese endured over 1,400 Japanese fatalities. The Americans were also able to seize 17 truck loads of Japanese weapons and goods. After the battle Chesty Puller nominated 2 men for the medal of honor.
It is also important to note that during the Guadalcanal battles Chesty Puller was wounded by shrapnel from an exploding mortar and shot twice by snipers.
Chesty Puller continued to lead men throughout the duration of WWII including the battle of Peleliu which could can read more about HERE.
The Korean War
Many people call it the war that the history books forgot. A war stuck between two major conflicts in American history. Though for the people involved it wasn’t an experience easily forgotten. By the time the Korean War had started Chesty Puller was just a few tender years over the age of 50. He, now with the rank of Colonel, was headed toward a remote part of Korea called the Chosin Reservoir. Before they were able to set up base they were attacked by the Chinese. The following excerpt is from the Wall Street Journal and sums up this situation perfectly:
“As related in Jon T. Hoffman’s ‘Chesty,’ the Marines barely had time to set up base camp when the Chinese People’s Liberation Army attacked their position. The embedded journalists immediately confronted Chesty, demanding to know his plan. Calmly he replied: ‘We’ve been looking for the enemy for several days now. We’ve finally found them. We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem of finding these people and killing them.’ ” (Source)
A month later Chesty Puller was asked to bring his men back (to what is now South Korea) by opening up an escape way for all of the Marines under his command. If you know anything about Korea you’ll know it is freezing in the wintertime… I believe the term of today would be “Freezing-balls” cold. The temperatures were in the below Zero’s (-25 at one point) and they fought their way back to safety. He brought all the dead, wounded and all the equipment worth salvaging behind. He and his men also left seven Chinese division in tatters behind them. Before getting on the boat to head home he talked to reporters and this is what he said:
“Remember, whatever you write, this was no retreat. All that happened was we found more Chinese behind us than in front of us. So we about-faced and attacked.” – Chesty Puller
For his actions he was awarded his 5th and final Navy Cross. Chesty Puller went on to serve a few more years in the military (as a general) until a stroke forced him to resign from the military. He died in 1971. Today he remains one of the most decorated and respected military men of all time. If you’re interested in learning more about Chesty Puller you can watch the attached videos or click the book links below!
Written by: Karl Vanzant
Approved by: Jneebs