The Marines And General Mundy — The Rest Of The Story

On Saturday, April 12, I was privileged to attend the Military Tribute at the Marine Corps Memorial near Arlington National Cemetery honoring General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., the 30th Commandant, who died on April 2.

At the moving ceremony on grounds surrounding the Iwo Jima MemorialLt. General Gregory Newbold, USMC (Ret.) presented a Eulogy, and Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben delivered a Homily that included this from Timothy 2: For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” 

This is a short video of the beautifully played Marine Hymn tribute to Gen. Mundy, which I recorded during the solemn farewell.

The memorial ceremony was followed by a reception at the Home of the Commandants, hosted by the Commandant of the Marine CorpsMrs. James Amos, and the Mundy family.  During conversations at the reception, several guests said that they had written letters protesting an unfair obituary that the Washington Post published on the previous Saturday, April 5.

The slanted obituary quoted ideological critics of Gen. Mundy, such as former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, without balance or additional information to put into context social-issue controversies that occurred during Gen. Mundy’s time as Commandant during the first term of President Bill Clinton.  Gen. Mundy was the first Commandant to be asked pointed questions about controversies raised by President Clinton, and the media criticized him for providing honest answers.

In response to a storm of letters, the Post offered to publish three Letters to the Editor, including mine, on April 12:

Now It Can be Told: The Married Marines Story

The Washington Post obituary revisited criticism of General Mundy for issuing a controversial 1993 directive phasing out the enlistment of married recruits.  CMR has been reliably informed that there is far more to this story.

In an April 7 email, retired Navy Capt. Eugene T. Gomulka revealed that General Mundy did not approve the directive in question, but he shouldered responsibility for it anyway because it occurred on his watch.  Here’s the rest of the story, reprinted with permission:

“I was the Deputy Chaplain of the Marine Corps from 1991 to 1994.  It was an O6 billet that I was filling as an O5.  When General Mundy became the Commandant in 1991, divorce rates were increasing which were impacting not only retention rates, but suicide and abuse rates as well.

“The Commandant asked his staff to come up with a plan that would promote better marriages and reduce high divorce, suicide and abuse rates.  When a member of the study group proposed only recruiting single men and women, committee members rejected the proposal.  The Marine Corps had far fewer married applicants/recruits than the Army, Navy or Air Force. If the Corps prohibited the recruitment of married recruits, the Committee did not feel it would make much of a difference in reducing the problems that stemmed from problematic relationships.

“When the Committee was getting ready to release its findings and make its recommendations, there was a major staff change involving Lt. Gen. Matt Cooper who, as Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, was replaced by Lt. Gen Bob Johnson.  There was a member of Lt. Gen Johnson’s staff who was not at all familiar with the workings of the study group who took it upon himself to insert a directive into an ALMAR [to All Marines] on marriage that would eliminate the recruitment of married men and women.

“This was not only done without the knowledge or concurrence of the study group, but also General Mundy.  The day the ALMAR was released General Mundy was at a ceremony in Quantico at which I also was present.  When he saw me, he signaled that he wanted to see me after the ceremony.  When I met with him, he asked if I chopped the ALMAR, to which I said “No.”  He said he spoke with Brig. Gen. Miller, the Staff Judge Advocate General of the Marine Corps, who also said he did not chop the ALMAR.

“Even though General Mundy was blindsided by the ALMAR, particularly that section dealing with married recruits, he NEVER passed the buck and blamed it on someone else.  Because he was the Commandant and it happened under his watch, he accepted responsibility for it (even though he personally agreed with the study group, which felt that prohibiting the recruitment of married men and women would not help solve many of the Corps’ problems).  General Mundy never revealed how truly blindsided he was.”

And there you have it.  Several people at the reception were aware of what really happened, and they told me about the efforts to support Marine families that Gen. Mundy initiated.  It was a mark of character that Gen. Mundy took responsibility for the controversy and did not blame anyone else.

“60 Minutes” and Other Controversies

Much to his regret, in the fall of 1993, General Mundy appeared on the popular Sunday evening program “60 Minutes.”  During a segment on alleged racial bias in the Corps, he was asked to comment on data showing that members of minorities dropped out of Marine officer training programs at higher rates than others.  His comments about the abilities of minorities in some tasks were widely criticized, and he later apologized for misunderstandings he had caused.

The Washington Post obituary ended with this comment: “Asked by The Post in 1999 if he had any regrets about his career, Gen. Mundy said, ‘Never, ever go on ‘60 Minutes.’ ”

The New York Times obituary added this to the narrative:

“General Mundy assigned Lt. Col. Alfonse G. Davis, a black officer, to advise him on how to recruit and promote minority officers. In 1999, four years after General Mundy retired, “60 Minutes” revisited the issue and cited an increase in the number of minority members in the corps’ senior officer ranks.”

On another occasion, Gen. Mundy told a group of female officers that direct ground (infantry) combat was a very brutal business and he did not women to go there.  There was no need for General Mundy, a Vietnam-era infantry veteran, to apologize for comments that feminists did not like.

The  majority of military women then and now do not want to be ordered into the combat arms.  And the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, on which I served, also expressed concern about the cultural implications of policies that would deliberately expose women to close combat violence at the hands of the enemy.

Nor was General Mundy alone in opposing repeal of the 1993 law regarding gays in the military.  Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times mentioned that the 2009 letter he signed in support of the 1993 law was personally co-signed by 1,167 retired Flag & General Officers for the Military.  Many of the legal and military consequences predicted in that letter have come to pass, with more to come.

Obituaries are an important subset of journalism.  They should summarize a person’s life objectively and fairly, without the distortion of unbalanced criticism from advocates who disliked the deceased.  It was wrong to burden a grieving family with unanswered criticism in an obituary, but all can be reassured that the legacy of General Mundy remains intact.

ADDENDUM

Since posting this article, CMR has received additional information from Brig. General Gerry Miller, USMC (Ret.), who served with General Mundy for two years as his senior lawyer (Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant).  In that capacity, General Miller saw first-hand how social controversies developed and how Commandant Mundy responded with integrity.  His letter to the Washington Post, setting the record straight in response to the unfair obituary written by reporter Matt Schudel, provides more insight into an important chapter in the history of the Marine Corps:

Letter from Brig. Gen. Gerry Miller, USMC (Ret.) to the Washington Post

Additional commentaries of note and photographs of the Military Memorial and Reception are linked here:

 

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.  This piece originally appeared at the Center’s website and is reprinted here with permission. 

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

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