EAGLE, GLOBE, AND ANCHOR
For his 19th birthday, he [Leon] urged me to send him a handgun.
—WILLIAM URIS, IN HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY
THE WELL-KNOWN INSIGNIA of the U.S. Marine Corps—an American eagle astride the globe with a fouled anchor behind—symbolizes the three-pronged reach of the corps: on land and sea and air. Semper Fidelis, “always faithful,” adopted as the Marine Corps motto in 1883, is an equally commanding expression of the core value of brotherhood. Originally the title of a march composed by John Philip Sousa, then conductor of the Marine Corps Band (he appears briefly in Uris’s O’Hara’s Choice), the phrase is the lynchpin of the marines, representing fidelity at any cost. Such camaraderie sustained Uris in battle and beyond.
Uris was not slated to fight when he signed up in January 1942. Written clearly at the bottom of his service-record card is “not to be assigned to combat duty,” likely because of his age. He would not turn eighteen until 3 August 1942. This exemption was not to last, however. His outstanding performance at radio operator’s school and his rating as a sharpshooter led to his being assigned to the Second Battalion of the Sixth Marine Regiment, which was sent to the Pacific. Action at Guadalcanal and Tarawa would result in Uris’s promotion to private first class. But the road to such achievements, detailed in a series of vivid letters to his half sister Essie and his mother, tell of a young man’s trials, loneliness, and danger in preparing for battle.
On 23 January 1942, four days after enlisting in Philadelphia for the duration of the national emergency (rather than for a specific number of years), the fivenine, 150-pound Leon Marcus Uris, serial number 359195, arrived as a member of the Twelfth Recruit Battalion at the recruit depot in San Diego, California, with the rank of private.1 His recruit train had crossed the United States, stopping in Buffalo, Chicago, Texas, and California. He had enlisted as a reserve, which meant that after the conflict, he would serve an additional six months but receive a $100