Marines Capitalized

A reader asks (again) why do I capitalize “Marine” when I’m referring to the corps or one of its members. I answered that question sometime ago in this blog, but I guess it’s time to answer again.

During the thirteen years I spent so much time in Vietnam, my job was to support military forces on the battlefield with information about the enemy—which units were opposing us, where they were, what their strength was, what their plans were—derived by intercepting and exploiting their radio communications. The U.S. units I worked with were both army and Marine.

A problem I ran into repeatedly was not being believed. All too often, commanders knew little or nothing about my profession, signals intelligence (SIGINT), and were hard put to believe this strange civilian operating under the cover of being an enlisted man in their unit. It happened to me so often that I coined a term for it, “the Cassandra Effect.”

I faced credibility problems repeatedly with army units but never, not even once, with Marines. The Marines were trained to exploit SIGINT to the hilt. The Marine cryptologic units, who intercepted and exploited North Vietnamese communications on the battlefield, were the best I worked with. These guys were pros.

One important reason that the Marines were so good at exploiting SIGINT was the influence of an officer who had been SIGINT specialist before he became a troop commander. He was in Vietnam constantly back then, commanding troops and using intercepted enemy communications to guide him. His name was Al Gray.

More tomorrow.

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