NOTE: The following story ran in the
June 1994 issue of, Leatherneck Magazine.
It is reprinted here with their permission and I thank them
very much for that!
Their website is:
Story by R. R. Keene
Photos courtesy of LtCol Wesley R. Christie, USMC (Ret)
Gunnery Sergeant Bernard A. McGinley was as regulation as
they come. He'd come out of a Catholic orphanage in
Philadelphia and understood discipline. He knew if you stayed
straight, sharp, clean and sober (while on duty), the Corps
would take care of you. And the Corps was everything to him.
It had been so since 1934 when he and six others rowed a
whaleboat across the Beaufort River from Port Royal to Parris
Island, S.C., and into their Marine Corps careers.
McGinley was not a big man, but he was tough, willing and
able. He learned that there were only three types of duty for
Marines: sea duty (where most went), guard duty (at either an
ammunition depot or navy yard) or duty in China. He would
serve at all three and then some.
He'd come a long way from being a buck private powder-
monkey on one of the 8-inch broadside guns in the battle- ship
New Mexico. By the time he boarded the cruiser USS Quincy in
1943, McGinley had two gold service stripes and nine years of
service. His brown cordovan shoes and blancoed white hat cover
and belt were immaculate as befitted a Marine staff
noncommissioned officer. The seven brass buttons on his dress
blue blouse had been polished with a blitz cloth, with the
bottom button resting uneasily against his brass waist plate.
The bayonet-edge creases on the blouse and trousers held
because brown soap had been run down the inside and ironed
into the fabric.
Before reporting aboard, McGinley paused to roll a smoke
and survey the new cruiser he'd soon know all too well.
She was a beauty: no-barnacles new. The paint hadn't
even started to chip. She was a modern, sleek cruiser of the
Baltimore class, displacing 13,600 tons, 673 feet from stem to
stem, a crew of 1,142 men including 41 Marines and their two
officers. Well-armed, she carried nine 8-inch, 12 5-inch, 48
40-mm. and 24 20-mm. guns.
Originally she was to be named St. Paul, but when Quincy
(CA-39) was sunk supporting Marines on Guadalcanal (off
Florida and Savo islands in the early hours of Aug. 9, 1942),
it was decided that the name should be perpetuated. One look
told McGinley that Quincy (CA-71) was every bit the man- of-
war her namesake was. It would be up to the crew and him to
uphold the honor of the name Quincy.
When World War II broke out, McGinley had sent a stream
of letters requesting transfer to combat duty in the Pacific.
His requests were finally answered with a set of orders that
read in part: "Because of your previous sea experience, you
are hereby transferred to Norfolk, Va., as a gunnery sergeant
for the USS Quincy." Quincy wasn't duty with a rifle company
as he'd wanted, but it beat being a recruiter in Pittsburgh.
Scuttlebutt had it that the "skipper" of the Marine
Detachment was a mustang, a former sergeant and drill
First Lieutenant Wesley R. Christie, commanding officer
of the Mar Det, had been all that and more. When the war broke
out, he was a student at the University of Georgia in his home
state and lacked only a few credits for his degree. However,
on Dec. 8, 1941, he wrote Major General Commandant Thomas
Holcomb stating: "I want to go fight the Japanese.... I heard
you can go back with your old rank. I was a sergeant."
The Marines were obviously interested. They sent Christie
to Quantico, Va., to earn a commission.
Christie's disappointment came when he received his
orders. He'd requested Guadalcanal, but the orders read: "Sea
He lodged a protest with his colonel.
"Sir, I want to go to Guadalcanal and fight with the
Marines. I don't want to go to sea."
The colonel said, "Son, you can go and talk to the
Commandant if you want, but it's not going to do you any good.
Our best men are needed on independent duty, and you are going
There were similar stories among the older Marines who
went aboard Quincy in 1943. But, being a Marine means nothing
if one cannot obey orders. Consequently, each man played, as
best he could, the hand fate dealt him, and to further ensure
that, they had 1stLt Christie.
"Nobody's gonna act like the Navy," Christie told his
Marines. He looked specifically at his staff NCOS. "You are
Marines, and you have to set the example."
Christie had noted McGinley's previous sea duty and
appointed him acting first sergeant. McGinley also stood in as
commander on one of the quad 40-mm. gun mounts. As a veteran
of the old broadsides, he'd have preferred having the Marines
on the larger guns, but orders were orders.
Having been a sergeant, Christie felt comfortable and
secure with the likes of McGinley, GySgt Bob Weiman, Sergeant
Ed Chermak and the rest of his NCOS. They were smart and good
disciplinarians. They didn't bring everything to their
commanding officer. If there was something they could do or
square away, they did it. They made the work of Christie and
his executive officer, Lieutenant Joe Huesman, a lot easier.
During their shakedown cruise to Trinidad and the
southern Caribbean, the Marines took quickly to the routine of
being at sea and underway. They were up every morning taking
care of their guns. Then they held muster, followed by rifle
and gun inspection.
Having been a drill instructor, Christie remembered an
old colonel who said, "What we need to win this war is more
close order drill."
Consequently, there was close order drill-lots of it,
with a healthy dose of the manual of arms thrown in. He smiled
when he overheard one Marine give thanks they were not on a
carrier: "He'd have drilled us to death."
The tasks of the detachment as a division in the gunnery
department were to man 20-mm. and quad 40-mm. antiaircraft
weapons. In addition, they served as orderlies for Quincy's
skipper (Navy Captain Elliot M. Senn, whom Christie recognized
as "a master seaman and tough cookie"), executive officer and
the admiral when a flag was aboard. The uniform of the day for
Marines, depending on the season, was green or khaki. Honor
guards were provided for visiting dignitaries.
The detachment formed the nucleus of the ship's landing
party and trained Navy blue-jackets who would augment such a
force in amphibious-infantry squad, platoon and company
tactics, and to be ready, if called upon, to land, or board
Quincy's senior officers left the Marine Detachment
pretty much alone and provided Christie with everything he
needed. In return, the Navy expected the Marines to be
shipshape and well disciplined
Standard punishment on ship in those days was "three days
p--- 'n punk" (72 hour confinement in the Marine-guarded brig
on bread and water). It was invoked for minor infractions such
as being drunk and disorderly, or absent without leave, and
didn't usually go on the individual's 'service record. The
ship's brig was usually located in a stale, sweltering,
watertight compartment, well below the weather decks, which in
itself was unpleasant enough to deter most from committing
other infractions. Christie let it be known that woe be it to
the Marine who would fall from grace enough to be confined to
Christie, who was promoted to captain, also learned. He
learned that being on the drill field at Parris Island was
practice. Leadership in the fleet was more difficult. He put
his Marines first and relied on his NCOS. Christie had also
been appointed, as collateral duty, the ship's legal officer.
Quincy had lawyers, but the logic was that Marines had better
training in such matters. While Christie didn't have a law
degree, he had the trust of the naval officers. Consequently,
he accepted the duty and made the most of his assignment and
"learned a lot about how to keep people out of trouble."
The detachment was taking shape. They were gaining unity
and learning to act as one. The NCOs provided the strength and
instilled a desire to outperform the Navy by being model
Marines. If there was a weakness, it was that many had never
been to sea and lacked experience with naval guns and with the
Navy in general.
A salt like McGinley could help with some of that, but
the rest was going to have to be learned as the ship sailed
into the North Atlantic, escorting merchant- men bound for the
Underway, McGinley and others listened carefully to the
radio. A few times they picked up Axis Sally, Germany's
version of Tokyo Rose, who surprised them by knowing their
ship's name, the name of the ship's captain and the "fact"
that they had been sunk. Axis Sally would have them sunk a
couple of times during the crossing.
In actuality, the trip went rather well, giving the
Marines and sailors time to better gel as a team. Quincy
berthed at Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 14, and the word
started to filter down that the invasion of France was
The next day, Capt Christie was the officer of the deck
when General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied
Expeditionary Force, came aboard to inspect the ship's
company. Christie noted that the general was "quite a man. He
didn't fool around too much with the officers, but rather he
went right straight to the [enlisted] men. He met a lot of
them and talked with them, and in turn they boasted of having
spoken with the supreme Allied commander."
Christie wondered, in admiration, how the general could
spend so much time on Quincy and with so many ships in the
fleet. Eisenhower then addressed the entire crew with words
similar to those he said to his entire command on the eve of
the invasion: "You are about to embark on a great crusade
toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of
the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-
loving people everywhere march with you."
The invasion would be at Normandy. The few Marines who
were there noted with not a little irony that the largest
amphibious operation the world had ever known (which featured
47 Allied divisions, 4,400 ships and landing craft, and
154,000 troops) saw the Marines, whose stock in trade is
amphibious warfare, consigned to ships' detachments, liaison
and staff officers. Places in the Pacific such as Saipan and
Tinian were occupying the Corps' complete attention.
Back off the European coast, Quincy took her place in the
armada early June 5. As the ships rounded the southern tip of
England, the weather became so foul they could do little else
but cruise south for 12 hours. Scuttlebutt had it that the
landing had been compromised and other arrangements were going
to have to be made.
The scuttlebutt ceased late that evening when the ship
went to general quarters. From their guns they watched the sky
and saw planes and gliders carrying paratroopers and soldiers
who would land behind the German lines. They remained ready
until 0537, June 6, 1944, when Nazi shore batteries splash- ed
water across the decks of Quincy. The cruiser's shells
immediately thundered like freight trains from 3,000 to 4,000
yards offshore. The fire support line for troops storming Utah
and Omaha beaches included, among many others, the battleship
Nevada, cruiser Tuscaloosa and destroyers such as the William
Merrill Corry (DD-463).
McGinley noted with pride that Quincy was first to take
and return fire. He only wished her first rounds had come from
a Marine gun crew, for the Marines especially related to the
soldiers trying to storm across the heavily defended beaches.
Those who were there will always remember. Christie will
never forget the sky being overcast with air power and barrage
balloons; the English Channel crowded with ships and landing
craft; the deafening noise of naval gunfire; the flash from
German 155-mm. howitzers; and the splash of 88-mm. shells.
Back in May, they had trained with the Army shore fire control
parties in Scotland. Now, these same men were calling fire to
them from the beach. In addition to indirect fire, Quincy took
targets under direct fire as they could see German guns firing
The fire was so intense that an Army P-51, flying close
air support, was hit and destroyed by a shell from naval guns.
And then, there was USS Corry. At 0633, they all heard an
explosion. Corry, only 2,000 yards offshore, had hit a mine
and had broken in half. As her crew spilled into the water,
German batteries concentrated their fire on the dying vessel.
Quincy steamed to her assistance, laying a smoke screen, and
helped to rescue the crew. (All but 22 were saved.) Quincy
sailed through many near misses including a buzz-bomb rocket
off the bow. Incoming shells sent water splashing up over the
sides and onto the wooden deck, but she took no hits.
When the Army moved inland from bloody Omaha (where in
spite of everything, there were more than 2,400 casualties),
Quincy lifted her fire and moved it inland. McGinley felt a
little more comfortable for Quincy. Her 8-inch guns could fire
as far as 23 miles inland, out- distancing the guns of most
The teamwork, guns and distance had all paid off in many
ways. Quincy, in conjunction with shore fire control parties
and aircraft spotters, put rounds accurately on mobile German
batteries. They hammered tanks, trucks and troops with
pinpoint precision. A U.S. Army colonel sent back word, "I was
being chased by a Nazi staff car when your round hit it and
saved my bacon. Thanks!"
It was far from over. For the next several days, Quincy
helped neutralize and destroy heavy, long-range batteries. She
came under fire while rescuing the crew of James Henry Glennon
(DD-620) after the destroyer hit a mine and was abandoned.
After Normandy, there would be Cherbourg and similar fire
missions. The crew of Quincy had become a team, and by most
standards a very good one.
The ship would take and return fire off Toulon, St. Mandrier
and Cape Sicie. She would host President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, King
Farouk I of Egypt and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. She
would sail to the Far East and fire her guns off Okinawa,
stave off air at- tacks and be present when the Japanese
surrendered in Tokyo Bay.
Sometime after Cherbourg, McGinley took sick and was sent
Stateside. He eventually retired as a master sergeant and
returned to Pennsylvania.
Christie commanded the Marine Detachment until Quincy was
decommissioned in 1946. She received four battle stars for
World War II service. Christie eventually retired as a
lieutenant colonel and returned to his home state of Georgia.
He currently resides in Valdosta.
Members of the Marine Detachment meet annually for
reunions. It was at a reunion that retired Admiral Harry
Reiter, who was a commander and gunnery officer aboard Quincy,
paid Christie and his men the best compliment. He looked back,
as veterans often do, and said, "Captain, your Marine
Detachment was the best Marine Detachment I was ever
Christie said, "I've never felt as close to anyone as I
did those Marines. That's what living aboard ship and, of
course, being in a war together can do for you."
NOTE: The story above ran in the June 1994 issue of,