One Montford Marines story:
Gregg Reese | 11/9/2011, 5 p.m.
OORAH! (Alternatively spelled "OOHRAH," and "OOH-RAH.")
--A motivational cry used by United States Marines, possibly derived from the sound that a submarine's dive klaxon made when delivering Marines to war zones during the Korean conflict.
The U.S. Marines use the American preoccupation with hero worship as a pivotal element of their advertising, offering potential recruits the chance to escape a mundane situation of civilian life and join an exclusive club that combats threats to family, country and way of life. Media saturation was not commonplace in the waning years of World War II as Jack McDowell's older brother came home from his Marine graduation, resplendent in his crisp green service uniform.
This and the stories of adversity and camaraderie at Montford Point in the midst of darkest North Carolina were enough to prompt the Brooklyn native to seek adventure a tad more strenuous than the occasional gang fights of his youth.
Basic training proved arduous to enough make young McDowell reconsider his decision to enlist, especially during one memorable episode in which his platoon endured a series of 600-yard runs carrying 40-pound foot lockers in the driving rain, but he was able to succeed and shipped out to the Far East for martial exploits that evaporated when the Japanese surrendered in September 1945.
McDowell missed World War II, but the close of that clash did impact his military career. It ended Japan's rule of the Korean peninsula, resulting in its division in one of the first political maneuvers of what would become known as the Cold War. The Russians (in the north) and the Americans (south of the parallel) assumed control of that country until the communists attempted to appropriate the entire country in June of 1950, resulting in the escalation of hostilities that became known as the Korean Conflict.
McDowell's participation in the historic Inchon landing 200 miles behind enemy lines led to one of the highlights of his Marine career. Several weeks into the counterattack, McDowell, then a sergeant, was designated section leader for a mortar unit when his authority was challenged by a Caucasian marine from Kentucky. McDowell shared his memory of the trajectory of that relationship:
"Cpl. H. was a couple of years older and had been in the Corps longer. He was a racist and was clear about that. He was the only one I went to knuckle junction with. Eventually, I got the better of him and we mutually decided to tolerate each other."
Several months later, when he received the first wound of his military career from a North Korean submachine gun, this same redneck was among those who pulled him to safety.
"After the crucible of the Chosin Reservoir and later when I was injured, we lost contact with each other until 1955 when we had an amiable coast-to-coast telephone conversation (me at Camp Pendleton, he at Quantico)."
The next few years proved to be uneventful for the battle-tested noncommissioned officer as he recovered from his injury, started a family, and moved through the ranks of the Corps. In the wake of the Ribbon Creek incident, in which six recruits drowned during a training exercise, the Corps pursued a rigorous reform of its training practices, and Staff Sgt. McDowell was selected for drill instructor duty. This assignment was not to his liking, but he accepted the challenge and became drill instructor of the year for Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, in 1958.