Boot Rifle Tranning at Camp Mathews

     I subscribe to a weekly newsletter called Sgt. Grunt.  It is published weekly on Fridays by a one of us Marines who never quit being a Marine after we quit wearing the uniform.  It has a store site where you can purchase Marine related items, but mostly it consists of short letters, remembrances and salutes to us marines active and inactive.  

     You have probably figured I’m a old bird by now, but some of these letters really remind me just how old I’m getting to be.  For instance recently there has been a spate of entries regarding the old boot rifle training camp at Camp Mathews.  This camp no longer exists as one of the letters noted last Friday.  The old Marine stated his platoon was the last to do rifle  there in 1964.  This was where the recruits at the San Deigo Recruit Depot got their live fire training.  I did my rifle training in nineteen-fifty-six.  Camp Mathews was located north of San Deigo in what is Layhola now.  It sat just off old highway 101 on the east side of the road.  It was a series of rolling hills and gullys, with the rifle ranges located in the lowest valleys. 

     We were bussed up to Mathews in old grey Navy buses, with our rifles and duffel bags.  We lived out of the duffel bags for the whole duration of the time spent there.  I disremember if it was four or six weeks, but it was a pain in the a$$.  We were quartered in row after row of eight man squad tents.  These were erected over a plywood floor with a outside frame of two by fours, with the heavy five inch octagon pole in the middle supporting the whole thing.  If you ever saw the TV series MASH that was what our living quarters looked like.  Except we did not have the mesh siding like they did.  On hot days we could with permission roll the sides up (seldom given).  At night they were rolled down and secured it was almost not worth the trouble to roll the sides up.  We had eight canvas army cots in each tent around the outside edge.  Each day was started with the cleaning and police our tents and entire area with the walks swept and the dirt Lawn raked. 

     In boot camp we had no first name unless there was someone else with the same last name then a initial was used.  In our platoon we had two sets of brothers and a set of cousins.  They were known a big Decker and little Decker, Plugh 1 and Plugh 2 and Riley 1 and Riley 2.  But I deviate from my story, one night we had turned in with lights out, now after lights out there was  no talking allowed.  One guy named Robert Washington chimed out with goodnight Bob seven times.  One other asked what the hell you doing?  He replied I just thought all of us in this tent is named Robert, a thought that had escaped us all.  About that time the drill instructor stuck his head into the tent and blared “Bob up and kiss my A$$,   And give me fifty pushup’s”.  This was September and early November, hardly more than a mile off the ocean.  It was hot in the days but bitterly cold and often foggy at night.  We had these old cots with the thin canvas     bottom two sheets replaced weekly and the two thin wool blankets we had brought with us.  It got cold at night.  Each tent had a kerosene heater in it which when we were allowed to light them were useless in these tents and most of the time they would not ignite and when they did gave off a vile fume that was sicking.  We burned by day and froze by night but they were making tough Marines out of us kids. 

     let’s talk about the fun and games all day every day was spent learning how to aim and fire the weapon.  Hours and hours of snapping in, practicing aiming and squeezing the trigger.  then exercises to strengthening the arm mussels which left you arms so exhauted you could not hold the rifle steady.  March or run from one site to the other and if the DI was pi$$ed maybe you duck-walked with your rifle over your head.  Seems like we did a lot of duck-walking, every so often we fell out with our duffel bags  on our shoulders and duck-walked up and down some crappy hill.  We had one poor black guy who had been in the Marine Corps Reserve.  He had his full issue of clothing winter greens, summer khakis and being from Chicago even the heavy wool overcoat.  His bag weighed way more than the rest of us.  The DI gave him no breaks, sweat would pour off his head and soak his clothes.  I do not know how he survived it.

     On Sundays all through boot camp you could attend church service on base in formation.  We were allowed to purchase a certain number of Sunday newspapers for a few short hours on Sunday morning this was the only contact we had with the out side world other than our letters from home.  Sunday was grab a$$ day, we would be marched off to some remote area and usually be pitted against another platoon in some form of rough game.  Usually shirts against skins, in some contest which usually consisted of us all jumping into a pitt andtrying to eject the other side out by force.  Of course your DI was not happy if your platoon lost.  The one I hated the most had a huge six foot diameter ball we had to try to push past a goal line.  I was run over by the ball and trampled under foot more than once and once used as a battering ram.  At that time I was six foot tall and weighed one-hundred-eighteen pounds, just a long stick.

     We finally fired for qualification and this phase of training was over and we were to return to the depot in San Deigo.  the rumor was we were going to hike back so I convinced the guys we needed to fill our canteens.  We never kept water in them for some reason, but many followed my lead.  We lucked out and were bussed back to base. About half way the radiator on the buss we were riding in overheated.  After pulling to the side of the road and watching the rest of the convoy fade into the distance we asked the young driver if they carried jerry cans of water and he said no.  We were standing around scractching our a–es and heads.  I stepped up and handed the driver my canteen and said use this.  He laughed at me and said that ain’t enough.  To which I replied well there is thirty of us.  So there we stood along side highway101 with a line if young Marine Boots handing a navy pog our canteens and we made it back to base thirty minutes late.  Of course the Di blamed us for being late.

     Well those days are long gone and so is Camp Mathews.  Tucked into the memory of a old Marine Boot.  Got to rambel now ramblingbob 


155 Responses to “Boot Rifle Tranning at Camp Mathews”

  1. Steve Says:

    They had good desserts there also,the cooks &bakers school was there.

  2. Merle Fountain Says:

    Boot there in 1953, several platoons there as DI in 1956, 1957.
    Its UCSD campus these days. Amazing transformation

  3. Bert OLoughlin Says:

    Brings back many memories of Camp Mathews – especially duck walking up those damn hills.

  4. ramblingbob Says:

    You know now suppoedly they do not duck walk the recruits, because it suppoedly is harmfull to the knee’s (wonder if that is why mine are bad 50 years later? lol). But damn we sure did a bunch of it way back when.

  5. Prisciliano Avalos (percy) Says:

    I went throught Camp Matthews in 1964. Platoon 320,commenced 7 Feb 1964 was the last or next to last to qualify at Camp Matthews before it was turned over to UCSD. Most of us went to the fighting 7th, Camp Las Pulgas and the very next year(May 1965) we mounted out to South Vietnam.

    Semper Fi
    Percy (C 1/3 & H 2/7)

    • Raymond Potter Says:

      I would like to communicate with you. I am retired MGySgt Potter, PLT 111, 1964, MCRDSD, member of Utters Bn, H&S 2/7. I started life in Las Pulgas as well. At Mathews we lived in Quanset Huts, up on the hill from the tents. The very Quanset Hut I stayed in was a remote library on the UCSD Campus for years before it was torn down.
      Now the VA Hospital sits on the site of the CG’s HDQS and today only the 5 quansets on MCRDSD remain, across from the new Receiving Barracks.
      Spent many days on MCRDSD as a DI. Know several of the former H 2/7 guys. Semper Fi. MGySgt Potter

      • Percy avalos Says:

        Hello MGySgt Potter, i just now came across your posting. I was assigned to Hotel 2/7 July 1964. I was in the 1st Platoon. My CO was Cpt. OConner. We landed in Que Nhon 17 July 1965 and conducted several Operations in the area and eventully moved up to Chu Lai. I was reassigned to a Security Unit in late Dec of 1965 and stayed there untill i roated back in June of 1966. My second tour started in July 1967-1968 with C 1/3 and then discharged from active duty in Feb 1968. Take care and talk to you later.

        Semper Fi
        Percy (C1/3 & H2/7)

  6. Fred Cianci Says:

    I went through in mid May 1963. We forced marched with full pack and gear from Highway 1 to the camp. Can’t remember if it was 4 or 6 weeks but it was alot longer than the 2 weeks they do today. Qualified Rifle Expert with a 236 score, highest in Battalion. Brings back great memories, and started me on a lifetime love for long range shooting, which I still do today at 63.

  7. Robert L. Dark Says:

    Through Camp Matthews in July 1956. At this old age I would love to do it again. Platoon 182. What fun!!!

    • ramblingbob Says:


    • Joe Hatfield Says:

      I went there in July 1956. My head DI was Sgt Baca. I think I was in 184.

      • George Eckles Says:

        Some of you guys are making me feel young. I was there in October, ’57 as a boot, and four months in ’60 as a swimming instructor.

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Don’t even recall my Plt. number….was it 263? I was there in 1953. It was a push. Fired Expert, top in Regt..but merely 223 on windy day for record. Pushed us on into Combat Trng. at Tent Camp 9 near San Clemete; then, onto ship for Asia. Ahoy! And away we went! S~F, Paul

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Seems not much changed from 1953. I hear ya, George. Tough, taking a comrade to brig, and in situation, you feel might be trumped charge. Lot’s were for the smalls, so I treated them best as could; even spoke up on their behalf..for what that was worth. S~F, Paul

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Hey, Joe! What? You say you’d do it again? You’re either candidate for section 8, or our point man on next patrol. Which ever! It’s Semper Fi to you,.Marine, Paul

  8. Doc Smith Says:

    Yep, your reading it right, MCRD, Plt. 344, 1959, got out 63, joined the Navy, Corpsman, Field Med School, then FMF for next 16 years. Once a Marine always a Marine. That was a great description and brought back a lot of memories. Our DI had us fill our seabag with bedding and what ever else we had. Fall out, throw it down the hill, right across the company street, retrieve it, as needed. Then fall back in your tent, take everything out of the seabag and be ready for inspection in some humanely impossible short amount of time. That duck walking was not a good thing. I think they’ve changed a lot of the ways they do things now.Plt. 344 was right across the company street from the confidence course, so we got started on that sooner than 1st and 2nd Bn.s.
    Keep your K-bar whet, and your haversack dry. Semper Fi

    • ramblingbob Says:

      Had my K-bar for 51 years. It held a edge better than any thing I ever had. Gave it to my grandson on graduation from boot camp in 06. He has just returned from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. 6-2, 160 pounds of lean, hard, closed mouth Marine. Not much talk of the bad shit he endured. Saw three of his close comrads killed in front of him. Worse than Viet Nam, getting permission to engage, hell of a way to wage war.

  9. Lee Revell Says:

    Went through Camp Matthews in November of 1960. I remember agony hill well. We usually duck-walked it evenings after snapping in and/or firing all day. Had cake to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday on the 10th. After qual day, we force marched back over the hills and to a point where we were picked up by cattle cars and driven back to MCRD. Our platoon (288) graduated on Pearl Harbor day, Dec. 7th, 1960. 49 years later, I continue to realize that the Corps owes me nothing……on the contrary. I will be forever indebted to it for instilling in me the virtues that have guided me through a great life. God, I miss those good ‘ol days! Semper Fi.

  10. Mike Harris Says:

    I went through Camp Matthews in April of 1960, Platoon 218. I recall Duck Walking only once when someone didn’t pre-qual. Upon reaching the tent camp, we had a talk with him. He qualified the next day.
    My favorite memory is eating an Olive while still in the chow line and being seen by my D.I. He stomped over to the line and his hot breath hissed in my ear to see him in the Duty Tent after chow. Eating was not a pleasure that evening and the punishment was worse than I thought. For eating an Olive, I was “awarded” 500 squat jumps to commence immediately in front of the Duty Tent. I made it to 250 before my legs cramped up and I fell over.

  11. Hal Brown Says:

    I went through Camp Matthews in August, 1951, with Plt. 194. The training and qualifying then was three weeks, but then my platoon had to pull one week mess duty there so we spent four weeks in those tents.

    Hal Brown, Sgt. 1951-1954

  12. Doc Kiesel Says:

    What memories! We only “duck walked” a few times in late 1960 but we had to carry our foot lockers on our backs. I also remember the whole platoon having to line up at the DI’s door and each and every one of us were given an attitude adjustment. And heaven forbid if you tightened up your stomach muscles because Gunny would make it that much worse. Ahhhh, those were the days

  13. Doc Kiesel Says:

    and we did HIKE all the way back from the rifle range to MCRD.

  14. James Lewis Says:

    Went through rifle training at Camp Mathews in November of 1961, Platoon 178. What a raw, beautiful landscape; about five years ago, I was saddened to hear it is now part of a college campus in the middle of civilization. I hated those tents at Camp Mathews, also. We about froze at night, but we were never allowed to light the stove that set in the middle of the tent. We had to roll up those sides of the tent every day. I qualified as high sharpshooter (216), but the other three times while on active duty in the Corps (1961 – 1966), I qualified as expert. We did some duck-walking, but mostly we just ran. We had a D.I. that just loved to run us for miles almost every night. That overnight bivouac and hike back from the range (at the end of rifle training) was something I remember vividly (rough).
    Thanks for reliving the memory.
    James Lewis

  15. Walter Zorich Says:

    Went through rifle training at Camp Mathews with Platoon 364 October 1953,One night about mid-night our Drill Instructors woke up the Platoon had us fall out in our scivvies (cold) a member of the platoon Earl Utnage (spelling may be different) from St.Louis Mo.I am also from St.Louis. Thought it was funny and started smiling, the Drill Instructor told Pvt Utnage to wipe the smile off his face,he tried but it returned the Drill Instructor picked up a rock started striking Pvt Utnage on the top of his head telling him to wipe the smile from his face throw it on the ground stomp on it kill it and bury it ,the smile returned several times ,the Drill Instructor repeated the drill until the smile was killed.
    Great Memories Semper Fi
    Sgt Walter J. Zorich

  16. Walter Zorich Says:

    To Prisciliano Avalos (percy) my brother Tony Zorich was with 2/7 and went to Vietnam in 1965

    • Robert Cole Says:

      I was in A-1-8 weapons plt. 66-67 Camp Lejuene. Went to Cuba Jan.67
      with a Tony Zorich just wondering if he’s the same Tony. He and his buddy Cpl. Dull would always get into a fight with each other, after coming back from the club. Would be buddy’s again the next day. No big deal just wondering!

  17. Ellis Badon Says:

    My time at Camp Mathews was spent with Platoon 256 probably in October 1961. I arrived at MCRD in early August 1961 and it seems to me that we spent only two weeks at Camp Mathews. I remember those tents and having to live out of the seabags. Duck walking, judging from the comments made here, must have been discontinued just prior to my enlistment. I do remember our drill instructors complaining about how soft we had it because they could not make us duck walk. They did show us how it was done. Very interesting. However, I don’t remember it being cold at nights. Perhaps the nights weren’t so cold in October or we were just lucky. I also remember the forced marches to and from rifle training. Funny stuff now, but not so funny then. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up. I have three lasting friendships from my days in the Corps and they are the most fulfilling of my life. Semper Fi Bud, Mike and Benny and Marines everywhere.

    • ramblingbob Says:

      Well, I also was in Mathews in Oct. and many nights were cold as heck and we had wet fog. and those damn stoves newer saw a match. Also several times they tried to light the useless things for us in MCRD , only once did it work and the fumes were worse than the cold.

    • tom dicks Says:

      went thru mattews in sept 1962 plt#162 we were made to duckwalk at the range and at mcrd we would be glad to do it again semper fi to gunny rodgers and fuck you to cplsmith

  18. cpl hatton Says:

    our plt 184 went thru boot at diego in the summer of 1956, we qualified and did our mess duty at tent city camp Matthews. Still rememer the outhouses and Rifle Instructor there. So Glad I qualified, those who didn’t did lots of Duck Walking. Semper Fi to all the Corps everywhere. Have family and friends serving now most in Afganistan.

    God Bless The Corps,
    Cpl hatton

    P.S. Ssgt Baca was our senior Drill Instructor

    • joe hatfield Says:

      i am joe hatfield from indiana. my best friend was dan halbrook. i too well remember sgt baca. my bunk mate was jerry rifenstall. i remember you. i liked sgt magoo and valenswayla. with your name starting with an, h , we were in the same hut at mcrd. i think we were at camp matthews for 4 weeks. i have tried to locate halbrook for years with no luck. really nice to come across you.

  19. JC Says:

    my father was a graduate of the Third Battalion Platoon 325 from san diego. i still have his graduation book, if anyone would like copies. i am looking for any info i can get from his time spent there.

  20. Rudy Gallegos Says:

    I went through Camp Mathews in late Nov and early Dec 1965. Platoon 288. I hated mess duty. Most of us were 17 or 18. I shot expert. 221. A year later I got lazy and shot marksman at Camp Lejeune. Never let that happen again.

  21. Rudy Gallegos Says:

    I stand corrected. I said that I went through Mathews in 1965. Platoon 288. It was in late Nov and early Dec 1962.

  22. Ron Sorensen Says:

    Plt 331-june 63 big agony and little agony will never be forgotten

  23. James Halverstadt Says:

    I was in the last Platoon(358) to go through Camp Mathews in 1964.
    It took a few years but I still remember and use all the lessons and technics I learned there.
    Semper Fi

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  26. Thomas J. Mott Says:

    I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1958 # 1851987, platoon 1007 at mcrd. We went to camp matthews in cattle cars and lived in the tents near the front gate, it was ok, i had a crystal set with ear phones to listen to music at night. The DI’s were Guy Dewolf, s/sgt, and herman c clunk who got busted for sellng drugs to the recruits and a punk little sob named sgt. zimmers. FOR YOUR INFORMATION, the butts are still there on the east side of the freeway. where the freeway is now, we used to march to the butts and there was a small bridge at arrival the DI would say “Over the bridge HUH”, thats now the San Diego Freeway. GOOD TIME!

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  29. John H Lawson Says:

    Did the rifle range thing at Camp Matthews in Oct/Nov 1956 plt 2039 and to this day have vivid memorys of sleeping in those cold damn tents and the next worst thing was the COLD showers because they had a very small water heater-we ducked walk so much that we started quacking.Also did my messduty here and it was here that I learned that the reason my eyes were burning was due to SMOG,being from Ohio I had never heard of such a thing.We did not have to hike back to MCRD because we left on NOV 10 and had to get back for the parade on the Grinder.Which is another unforgettable memory,so was the next 3 yrs.Semper Fi Cpl Lawson

  30. J D Diggs Says:

    1957-plt#254 July remember duck walking backwards with rifles over our heads…what a wreck, we went down one side of a gully and up the orher. The ground was nothing but powder. At the PX Pvt Moses got caught buying a plug of brown mule chewing tobacco. He sat in front of us swing his legs with the whole plug in his mouth, the drill instructor would hit him in the adams apple with his swagger stick and make him swallow. We were doing stationary double time with our sea bags on our heads. He was one sick Pvt.
    J D Diggs—Ralls, Tx

  31. Thomas Gray Says:

    This Marine went through Camp Matthews in 1958; firing the M-1 rifle, 1911A1, Ruger 22 Caliber pistol. Remember Duck Walking “Big Agony” and “Little Agony” well. We were billeted in 10-Man tents and also lived out of our seabags. My platoon (338) hiked back to MCRD, at the completion of marksmanship training at Camp Matthews, no “cattle-cars” for us.

  32. Dan de la Torre Says:

    In 1958 I joined a USMC Reserve Helicopter Group out of NAS, Oakland, Calif.
    Went to boot camp at MCRD San Diego ( Platoon 296.) Then to Camp Mathews for our MI Rifle qualification. I remember one of the duties there was to pull targets and mark the hits, two recruits to each target. A miss was called a “Maggie’s Drawers.” When the target shooting started, we were told to sit with our backs against a cement wall for safety. Looking up we could see the bullet holes when the target was hit. Then it happened, a US Marine Corp cal. .30 bullet ricocheted off something and embedded into the cement wall between me and my partner, just inches from our heads. An Officer came over and couldn’t believe his eyes as he pulled out the slug. I remember we were questioned by an old crazy Sgt. who ran the target pits. I guess he was scared to death of what would have happened.

  33. Alan Retchless Says:

    I, too, suffered the agonies of the duckwalk more than once. We did
    it with foot lockers on our backs. I enjoyed this extra-curicular activity
    which seemed very funny to the DI’s. If memory serves me correctly, I was there for 4 weeks. One week doing mess duty. Spent the month of February, ’56 there. Hated it when the “Johnny Miller” food
    wagon rolled in and we didn’t dare look at it!

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  35. Harvey Cash Says:

    I was in platoon 258 grauated OCT 16 1963 we went to Camp Mathews in Aug- Sep of 63 rifle range distance was 200 300 500 yards using the best rifle ever made the m14. I shot a 232 being a expert which i’m still very proud of still today my last day of traing at pendelton was Nov. 22 1963 Sad day same day Kenndy was killed .Old memories are for ever semper fi.

    • Ray Says:

      I was a coach at Camp mathews in 1963 and we hated to see the new screws coming from MCRD because we feared for our life at times. I was recognized as “Coach of the Quarter” that Fall with a 99.9% qualifying rate by the Base Commander. I hated the occasional stray rounds that nearly missed us on the line and recuites that “jerked” the trigger. Slamming their finger in the weapon’s breach normally stopped the jerking. Seriously, I too was a Hollywood Marine and qualifed Expert every year with the M1 & pistol which is the reason I ended up at Mathews after my RECON days.I may have been your coach? Those were great times and life was fun even if we did duck walk, right? Semper Fi Marine!

  36. The Frisco Kid Says:

    I went Mathews in Dec. 1949 and it was the worst time in my 18 years. December was the coldest month I ever experienced (I was a native Californian). We didn’t have stoves in our tents but they did issue us an extra blanket. It was no fun lying in the cold, wet ground and snapping in for hours. I remember qualification day we all had shivers trying to aim at the black. Thank God for the prone and sitting positions or none of us would’ve qualified.
    In boot camp I qualified for an Aviation MOS so of course, after graduating, I was assigned to advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton, little suspecting that North Korea had a party in store for us in a few short months.
    BTW, I never had any experience with the M14 but my buddies who stayed in The Corps said it was a fine rifle but they still preferred the M1.
    Semper Fi from an old Geezer.

  37. Alan Dvorkin Says:

    Camp Mathews was for me the best part of Boot Camp. We were Plt. 243 and as I recall we were taught more that the M14, we also got to lug the BAR and it’s ammo can up and down the hills; and if I am not mistake we had our first exposure to granade practice. Most of us ended up in Viet Nam and a large number never came home. We had one member of our Plt. awarded the CMH. Hope those of you who are still around are healthy and well.

  38. Jim Williams Says:

    My name is Jim Williams and I was PMI on the range at Camp Mathews 1963-64. Hey guys I haven”t seen one word about the PMI’s and how they helped you all qualify. I can remember a large number that never would had it not been for his coach. SEMPER FI

    • boomernc Says:

      My name is Tom Slone went thru Camp Mathews Nov of 1963 Platoon 183 I remember sleeping in those Quansent huts freezing cold and hik
      ing to the Rifle Range full pack qualified with the M14 230 damn good weapon

  39. Thomas Gray Says:

    Well Williams, Semper Fi to you, a PMI!

    • John H Lawson Says:

      I,m a old man these days and as such i confess that I ,m not sure what a PMI would do,my 1st guess would be fiflecoach and if thats correct in 1956 you would be the guy that promised to hit my head with the 8 rnd clip for the M1 if I bucked my next shot,am I warm??

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  41. William Rainey Says:

    Went through Camp Matthews in July 1964, Platoon 353; I remember snapping in very well and having to dump a bucket of sand in my sea bag, followed by a bucket of water for leaving my lock unlocked! What a mess! Sgt. Teason, Cpl Fisher and Cpl Koboski (not sure of his spelling) were the DI’s in our platoon.

    • John "Mike" Strope Says:

      I too was in MCRD Platoon 353 in the summer of 1964. Couple of things, I don’t find you in the platoon 353 book and I don’t remember Cpl Koboski (mis-spelled or otherwise). I recall Cpl Jones as one of the DIs along Fisher and Teson. Of course, perhaps you missed getting into the book and my memory of things from so long ago isn’t as good as it used to be. Seems like there may have been a change in one of the DIs. Perhaps Jones joined later.

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Comrades, pls see ol’ Corps comments I made earlier of Mathews, back in ’53. The place seems to have maintained itself as hell on earth! S~F, Paul

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Kudos, comrades, who remember names of D.I.s. As for me, it was simply push us through for that last draft to Korea 1953. All, damn near a blurr, until on that APA in convoy headed out. 28 das at sea, with battleship Wisconsin, as flag ship. Where we were headed, they told us not, but on calm sea, we were up and down landing nets into Peter boats. We cruised China coast. Mine was APA 220, Okanogan, with 1300 Marines aboard…learned much later, there were as many as 14,000 Marines in convoy. Up on deck, when weather cleared, stood next to sailor and smoked cigarette…suddenly, a giant wall of grey swished by. What the hell was that, I asked? Battleship, Wisconsin, he replied..flagship of the convoy.. Convoy, hell? I couldn’t see a thing! He said the other APA’s were out there, but miles apart, and that we had submarines with us. Lawd, that sailor knew more of what going down, than we Marines knew. We were told nothing, except get into those landing craft. Had we’d hit mainland China, none of us would be here to tell about it. We ended up in Yokuska…but nothing of the operation was ever explained to us. Simply the way it was, those days in Fleet Marine Landing Force. S~F, Paul

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    Platoon 3001 1957 M-1 rifle We had a number of Native American Indians in our platoon. One of them would catch a rattle snake and bring it back into our tent, still alive . If you showed any fear, you would be sleeping with it. I also remember humping back to San Diego from Camp Matthews through a beautiful neighborhood. Our platoon dog led the way. There’s a picture of it on a leash with our Right Guide in our Platoon Book. Anybody remember “Squads right. Forward march!”

    P.S. Duck Walking wasn’t so bad, it was the Elbows and Toes that got me.

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  78. Dave Bickmeier Says:

    I went thru camp Mathews in late May or early June 1964. I think that we we the last class to graduate from there. While I was there, everyone who ate in the mess hall, came down with a case of the “stomach flu”. It complicated running and shooting for a few days.

    Some years back, I was driving south on I-5 and realized that the road went down the length of the rifle range. The memories of running those hills came back as vivid as ever. I’ve searched the area on Google Earth, but no visible signs remain.

  79. don hughes Says:

    I went thru camp Mathews in late May or early June 1960 pt 336.anyone there at the same time?

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  84. Jay B. Allen Says:

    J. B. Allen 3087 says:

    I went through Camp Mathews from late Dec. 56 thru Jan. 57. We lived in those 8 man tents with the roll up sides and no stoves! Our tents were the first row by the Aviator wings which we had to sweep every morning. We fired on Fox range and dropped 12 men which made DI Hatfield furious, and something we paid for daily. Also we were in competition with Plt. 3086 which by the way was the Plt. that did the marching in the movie DI. Since our Jr. DI Goldsboro didn’t get the part played by Sgt. Prutzman who counted the cadence in the flick none of our Plt. got to be in the flick, I’m still upset about that. I remember those Range Coach’s got to wear those fur lined coats with big collars because every morning it was freezing. All in all fond memories of Camp Mathews, the M-1 was a great weapon.

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  86. Jim Lynch Says:

    Memories! Platoon 178, MCRDSD,1957. Liked Mathews due to seeing movies there.Hid a stick of gum which I chewed on at the movie.Saw an A-bomb go off early one morning on the way to BAR firing. Sgt Lowe, Sgt Beene were the Di that were liked, others not so much. Hiked back to MCRD, the ones that didn’t qualify, ran to the front of the column, then back to the rear.Back and forth,back and forth! Still have an M-1

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  88. Larry Wakefield Says:

    Hey Bob,I was in plt 111 1964,do you remember the lovable Cpl. coffer?????

  89. Jim Mimmack Says:

    Hey…I shot for record at Camp Matthews, January 1951 as a recruit. Returned in September 1951 as a coach when the 1st Evacuation Hospital at Camp Pendleton was disbanded. Anyone who shot expert and was over six feet tall was asked to go and I volunteered. I was a Reserve and stayed at Matthews until my COG time ran out late 1952. Good memories of The Cove and Morey’s in LaJolla. Good duty when a war was going on in Korea.

  90. J. B. Allen Says:

    Our platoon 3087 arrived at Camp Matthews Christmas week 1956. I recall just how cold those tents were and in the night the wind would blow the tent flaps. Also there was a large set of wings in a common area we had to sweep daily. The week prior to qualification I broke the little finger on my left hand, DI Hatfield said, “If you go to Sick Bay and they put a cast on it you will be dropped”. So putting on the shooting glove was painful to say the least but I qualified, missing Expert by one point, which was a great disappointment.
    I returned to Matthews and Pendleton in 1997 and nothing has remained the same. I have wonderful memories of the places and of those in the platoon. We almost made it in the movie DI.

  91. Richard Rowe Says:

    Wow. Surprised how this thread maintains legs.
    I went through the Second Training Battalion starting June 22, 1964.
    We spent the two weeks at Matthews, and my Platoon, 251, did the worst on the range over all. Our reward was going back to MCRD for a week of He!!, as the DI’s were pissed. Then a week later, we went back to Camp Matthews, and closed the base, doing mess duty. So, I know for a fact that we were the second to last group to qualify at Matthews.
    I was a Smedley. Remember the Smedley? I was the one waiting on the Officers in their part of the Mess. There was so much brass running around Camp Matthews that week. Highest ranking officer was MajGen Hockmuth, from MCRD. (I was in the 1st Mar Div Comm Center on Nov. 14, 1967, when the General went down).
    Lots of memories in a simpler time.

  92. L. R. Haff Says:

    I was in Platoon 344 at MCRD during the Summer of 1958….also at the range at Camp Matthews. SSgt Dan Danquer was our SDI. I would much enjoy hearing from anyone from our recruit platoon.

  93. Leigh Warsaw Says:

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    The hump back to MCRD was my best memory. Walking though a beautiful neighborhood with dogs barking. Were strung out, for a quarter of a mile, with rifles, and light packs………it was surreal. ‘1957’

  95. Dan McVey Says:

    I went though camp matthews in May 1964 one of the last. platoon 329. I fired 248 some guy in the east fired 249 so I didn’t get the 30-30 he did. I guess that why they made a sniper out of me in vietnam. Would like to find someone that went though when I did. Be great to find someone that was in my platoon.

  96. Paul Stine Says:

    I was there in ’53. Willl never forget the two hill approches to our tent camp; one was Big Agony, the other..simply called Agony. It was hot as hell, when they marched us for chow into their mirserable mess hall… a steamy unappitizing, facility, half buried into the ground. Exhausted, but hungry, they pushed us through the chow line. As I recall, we wore our helmets. Thiings went as usual, ’til I got to end of serving line, when this messman, flopped my pad of ice cream, right into middle of my hot mashed spuds. I glared st him..he grinned at me. Well, I’d had it! I pushed the entire tray of food into his face..turned and ran like hell. Mess Sgt, was yellin’, “Stop that S.O.B. !” Well, Marines at ends of each mess table tried to oblige, by grabbing at me, but I had enough momentum in my favor, they couldn’t stop me. Funny thing about Marines; they didn’t mind punishment, as long as it wasn’t upon them. Well, i climbed Agony in record speed. Wisely headed for tent area different than mine. Went into one, and hid under a bunk; even with tent sides down, it was not the best concealment. I could hear a bunch of ’em seaarching the camp edge. I simply came out, yawned, and inquired what the hell was going on. They gave me short description of the great offense that and taken place, and I joined them in the search. It was my best performace in Escape and Evasion. And was grateful, my platoon kept the faith, with mouths shut. Good men, one and all! Paul

  97. Buddy Eckles Says:

    I was there twice, as a recruit in ’57, then as a swimming instructor of non-swimming recruits in ’60 at the Matthews pool. Those crappy hills we duck walked were named Big and Little Misery.

    • Paul Stine Says:

      We called ’em big Agony, and little Agony, as I recall. Off in distance was Jane Russell, and Marlyn Monroe hills….all were nightmares to Marines. I damn near ended up in brig over incident in chow line at that hell hole mess hall at Mathews. S~F, Paul Stine

    • Paul Stine Says:

      I prison chased to Fuji Brig. Saddest place I’ve ever seen. Ask, and I will tell you about it. S~F, Paul Stine

      • Buddy Eckles Says:

        I chased a couple of times, once at Pendleton and twice aboard ship.
        What was your experience like re Fuji Brig?
        I took two weeks R&R to Japan in Dec (?) ’59 to keep from having to go to cold weather training at Fuji-McNair (?).

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Fuji brig. A nightmare, beyond belief. Marine wrote off-Broadway, “The Brig”. It’s on Goggle. It’s close enough, to what I saw. Was closed for maltreatment following an IG inspection.. Something you want to forget. S~F, P

      • Buddy Eckles Says:

        One of my buddies came to us after 6 months at Leavenworth. He was a big good looking kid and a top athlete. When he first came to the Div, a buck Sgt took a disliking to him and rode him unmercifully. One night in the barracks he had enough and hit the Sgt knocking him onto an upper rack, breaking his jaw in three places.I read this in his SRB. He related to me that while in Leavenworth, they would be out working and the guards carried 10 gauge shoot guns. This one guard used to jab my friend in the ribs ( he still had scars from the muzzle) and taunt him to, “Run, you can make it. I’ll look the other way” I’m sure you remember that if you shot someone in the line of duty, a court martial was convened,if you were found guilty but
        there were extenuating circumstances, etc,., you were fined a dollar and given a carton of cigarettes. I hope those abuses have been rectified.

      • Paul Stine Says:

        A lad I ran to Fugi Brig..saddest thing I can recall. All happened because of false bunk ID for Firewatch relief. See these wise -asses, for fire watch, would give incorrect bunk location, so relief of guard couln’t locate ’em in barracks. Not like boot camp, we didn’t have stenciled laundry bags and towels on the rack. Wake the wrong Marine, and you’d have a fight right now. This kid, searching for one who was to relieve, on watch, located, maybe, the Marine that was to take firewatch. Instead of waking him, he examined dungeree trowser hung on bunk to determine ID. Sgt. of Firewatch happened on scene, and arrested the kid on charge of larceny. I had Prision chase, and had to haul him to Fuji Brig. All in back of that PC, he explained to me what had happened. I totallay believed him, but had to deliver him to brig. Saddest of all, he tried to jump fence, New Years day, and they shot gunned him. The Marine died on the wire…not convicted, simply awaiting Courts. Oh. yeah, that brig was somethin’ else. S~F, P

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Yup, I know the song, the routine. They pitted me hand-to-hand in the pit against the Insturctor .. I took him down. Hell, i’d fist fighted since six years old..played varsity ball at 8 yrs old. Back again in Corps, they’d arranged this Puggle Stick..Hell, I figured that all from the the start…I charged hard, screemin’ like a banchee, stopped abrupt, and delivered strikes to head and body. opponent went down. Ya, I was good came hand-to-hand. They wouldn’t even put intructors into the ring with me. Respect I had, but no medal, nor plus in pay. It was jus’ doing the Marine thing. The way it was. S~F, P

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Yup, I know policy, but treated prisoners well, Quantico to Portsmouth, two of us provided from our pockets anything this guy wanted to eat. Yet, he bolted in Washington Terminal, and it was a big take-down. Hell, civilians were yellin’ at us to let the lad go. Do that, and we’d be serving his time. So carry your assignment, no other choice.. Kinda’ like “The Last Detail”. but no way out for us escourts..we had to get him to Portsmouth. S~F, P

      • George Eckles Says:

        I agree re chasing duty. I knew one of the guys I chased who was charged with rape. On the way to Pendleton Mainside, he asked if I would really shoot him if he ran? I assured him I wouldn’t hesitate.

      • Paul Stine Says:

        A wild bunch we were. Two commandered a japanese locomotive, and I was on the ride.. Apprended, of course, and faced justice in Japanese court…you don’t mess with the Imperior’s train. Figure they got life in Japanese brig. But routine went on at S.Camp Fuji, race roits, and throwing folks, off bridges, or onto rail road tracks. Oh Yeah, seemed it was form of entainment. They debrifed none of us Korea guys..and we were a rough and tumble bunch, Sgt. of ours served with hafl his hand missing, but still had trigger finger..that’s how raggedy-ass we were. Hell, there were bars we didn’t like, so we’d drop tear gas into habach pots. Threw smoke granades into some. I was in Ammo Co, and had hands on all kinds of stuff. Oh, yeah, we had it all….and mean we could be. Prima cord, and C3 was never problem for me…I could get that out the gate. Mission though, was not to hurt anybody. We had one nut in our unit that blew up a local lake. I was in CO when they hauled him in. Explanation, he blew the lake to surface fish to feed his girl friiend family. No hesitation, he was sent to Army Big 8 in Tokoya..lucky not Fuji Brig. Behold, that Army brig commander granted him amesty at Christmas, and he was back in out outfit. I was in office, when captain warned him..”You get Liberty, but there’s not to be incident, or it’s brig”. “Aye, aye, sir,” and off he went, only to be stopped at main gate..wrapped under overcoat were yards of prima cord, and stuffed in pockets C3, enough to blow up the entire community. Such was life at S. Camp after Korea. S~F, P

      • Paul Stine Says:

        You ask about Fuji Brig. Closest I can locate is Goggle “The Brig”-Jonas Mekus. Because it’s was an Off-Broadway play..they’ve crammed way too much activity into it..making it appear as mass confusion. Will say, it looked the cage they show is almost identical, as certainly were the red lines painted on deck. Must have been 1800 hrs., when I delivered prisoner. The men were all sitting at rigid attention on edge of bunks. Not a sound from any, except one who had to use the head. He stood at attention on the red line and requested permission…in some sing-song they were required.. then was escourted by shotgun. Lawd, what a place that was. Made me sad, and a bit ashamed to be any part of that. S~F, P

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Oh, you might like this. Cliff Doud was up there near San Clemete as 4th Parachute, during ww2. Cliff passed couple yrs ago, on death bed, told daughter to tell me Semper Fi. Anyway, he related how USMC had this brilliant idea of arming cave bats with incendary. The bats, the Marines had retrieved from hill caves thereabout. Theses, as test, were to fly into mock-up combat village and cause fires. Instead, they flew into houses near and about San Clemente, and caused fires. Needless to say, the experiment was scrapped. But yes, that occured. S~F, P

      • Buddy Eckles Says:


    • Paul Stine Says:

      Was windy as hell, when we had to fire for record. My performance was sub-standard in off-hand, but wise enough not to change dope on my M-1 sights…not after all those days of adjusting them to be spot on. Hell, I stayed awake at night, sitting on that tent platform practicing my trigger squeeze. I’d have buddy, place a dime, on end of muzzle, and was pulling trigger so smooth the dime didn’t rock. But wind on record day was something else. I was way under score, ’til last position prone at 500 yds. Walla! I put 10 rounds in as bulls eye. Scored merely 225..but was tops for that day. I was gifted an electric iron, and exempted from mess duty. Lawd, they treated me as if I was king of the hill. Must confess, I adopted somewhat Kentucky windage in the prone..a method not recommended by instructors…but it did the job, and I was awarded Expert Rifleman. S~F, Paul

      • Buddy Eckles Says:

        We had a guy from Michigan who was big, fat but determined. He was about to be sent to Special Instructional Platoon to loose weight and get in shape so he could complete Boot Camp, when we went to Matthews. He scored highest in our series. Turned out he was a national high school champion rifle shooter! After that all sins were forgiven, and he graduated with the platoon.

  98. Paul Stine Says:

    Sure..write to me anytime. I’m ol’ Corps, and enjoy scuttlebutt from all brothers. As for me, not a hero, simply a Marine. Paul

  99. Paul Stine Says:

    Some may not relate, but we were the raggedy-ass marines, we operated on short rations, terrible worn out gear, lived in quarters hardly fit for pigs..but we functioned somehow. We were the USMC orphans from Korea. Lots of problems..race riots..and big incidents regarding the Japanese nationals.

  100. Buddy Eckles Says:

    I just learned a couple of years ago that our Commander in Chief, President Eisenhower, thought the USMC was not needed and wanted to abolish us, so funding was cut drastically.
    In ’58 Lebanon became a hotspot and the 1st Div was chosen to send an expeditionary force. My recon squad was chosen to test fire weapons for 1-1-1 to see if we were battle ready. We spent a week at the various ranges test firing and found almost half our weapons were defective/worn out. As a consequence, the 2nd Din was chosen.
    Later, ’59-60, while on joint maneuvers with British Marines and Gurkhas, on British North Borneo (Operation Blue Star) , I was envious of their jungle uniforms (lots of mesh for air circulation, canteens with wide mouths to eliminate noise while filling, canvas and rubber soled boots, etc).
    But somehow we survived and prevailed because we were Marines.

    PS: I think the duck walk hills at Camp Matthews were named “Little and Big Agony”. not Misery, although they certainly were miserable.

    • Paul Stine Says:

      I agree, it was Big, and Little Agony…those hills at Mathews. Fired Expert, with M1, but at Pendleton, I was a Barman, with weapon so worn out, it jammed after two mags..even with gas cone full open. Night manuver we used tracers. Steady as I was, my rounds were going all over the valley. Figured, what the hell, I might scare ’em to death, as sure wasn’t hitting where aiming. (lol). S~F, Paul

      • Buddy Eckles Says:

        When I came out of ITR to the Div, I was assigned to A-1-1-1, machine guns. When we went to the 1000 in. range to qualify, after qualification we spent several hours belt/clipping .30 cal ammo, then staked out over lapping fields of fire, and waited for darkness. After dark, we (I don’t know how many guns, but a lot) were given the command to fire. we opened up rotating the guns within the stakes and watching the tracers. I think every 10th round was a tracer, but it seemed a steady stream. As we over heated the barrels, the tracers started flipping end over end! It was something I’ll never forget.
        Coming back from Okinawa on a 3 mast troop/dependent ship, we encountered a typhoon which lasted I believe two days and nights. We ate standing up. One of my buddies was so sick and couldn’t eat or sleep that he went temporarily insane. and tore a bolted down typewriter out of a steel case desk. 6 of us jump and subdued him and tied him into his rack.When he regained his senses, he didn’t remember any of it.

      • Paul Stine Says:

        Yup, I recall tracer fire..ours were evey fifth in the mag. With 3 Barmen to squad, so 9 of us Barmen in platoon pouring out tracers.. On dark night, it was like 4th July fireworks, My rounds were scattered..but with all us firing…doubt if a mouse could have crawled through it. My frustration was my worn out weapon. When the damn thing slowed, I had to open larger port on gas cylinder. Finally, it shut down completely, and in darkness, had to remove cone, and clear it with pipe cleaners, to get back into action. Then too, I had this totally unreliable Asst. Barman. Hell, the guy would disapear, with half my ammo. He did same on the march, when weapon got to heavy for me, and I needed help, he was end of the column. I told the Skipper, I can’t work with this guy. He said then, if he fails, jus’ shoot ’em…we’ll get you another. Well, I didn’t quite tick like that, though hated cowards, and slackers…but jus’ wasn’t in me to handle it like that. S~P, P

      • George Eckles Says:

        A conscience can be a burden. We had a Lt. who was dangerous and if we had gone into combat I’m sure he wouldn’t have lasted long.

    • Paul Stine Says:

      Thanks for that of Eisenhower, but USMC opponent was Harry Truman..referred, I think, to us as headline seekers. Had plans to consolidate all into the U.S. Armry. But enough ww2 Marine vets in power didn’t happen. S~F, P

  101. Paul Stine Says:

    Yup, I was way up Pacific Coast at Tent Camp 9, near San Clemente. I think we were in last draft to Korea. We shipped 1300 of us on APA 220 Okanogan..28 das at sea in foul weather. Don’t really know how many APAs in covoy, as all were so far off., weather so bad, you couldn’t see very far..but battleship Wisconsin was our flagship. My mis-fortune..we in bow of that ship..stacked 4 high, with weapon slung to rack above rifle swingin’ above my face..constant reminder of where you were headed.. We had a goofy, who’d been a drummer, kept beating rifle cleaning rods on bulkhead in a battle beat. As if we needed that! He damn near drove us nuts. Of couse, we quelled that. S~F, P

  102. Paul Stine Says:

    Like to hear from any Marine, who was with me on transport APA 220, Okanogan 1953. We were stacked four high, in bow of the thing during the typhoons. Navy fed us soda crackers..only thing we could keep down. Days passed, before we got to mess deck. We were 28 days at sea, mainly in storm. Battleship Wisconsin was our flag ship for convoy. Told later, there were 13000 Marines in that convoy., spread so apart, we didn’t see other ships. A destroyer, came along side to take off an injured, and to deliver movie film, and mail that had come out from Hawaii. Hell-o-va experience. S~F, Paul Stine.

  103. Paul Stine Says:

    Oh, Major Kudos to the good sailors of APA 220. Even in storm, they climbed the rigging, to test the engines for our “Peter Boats”, our small assault landing craft..did that every day..storm in, or storm not…they tested the engines. One of these sailors fell, during storm, from his rig, and died on deck..doing his best to serve the transport of his care on the Okanogan. S~F, Paul

  104. Paul Stine Says:

    Well, we did do some good at S.Camp Fuji, in ’54. We provided the Nationals with jobs. They operated, for pay, our boilers for water to barracks, and had big laundry operations..on and off base. Got to point, they were hired to drive trucks, even some filled with ammo into our magazine areas. That concerned me..but was outside my authority. Conflict, at first minor, but Marines became upset about these employees, stealing laundry from our clothes lines. Yup, these employees, appeared wearing Marine garb as work clothes…stuff stolen from our clothes lines, If not enough, these workers, were jumping our chow lines to fill gallons of coffee before we could get to the urn. You guessed it! The Marines got a bit angry, and in one big endeavor threw ’em all off base..and not in kindly manner. Was so serious, the reduction in enterprise, we were almost in shut-down for couple weeks. We suffered a bit, from lack of service… but, lesson taught….NEVER STEAL FROM THE HAND THAT FEEDS YA! S~F, Paul

    • Paul Stine Says:

      Yup, we had ’em all in ’54. Into 3rd Mar Div from 1st mar Div. out of Korea. I mean, the good, the bad, and the uglies. Toughest bunch I ever served with. My Plt. Sgt. had what remained of a hand, but still a trigger he was still active, Never in my life, have I seen such dedication. They were the ones you never forget. Some were bad news; but most part, the others were comrades. Simply the way it was back then…..we were the Fleet Marine Landing Force; i.e, what remained or existed of us those days. S~F, Paul

  105. Paul Stine Says:

    To George Eckles…I hear ya! We had Captains, flighty as a flea, and Lieutenants, goofy as can be, Google Oscar Brand….song says it all. Best to ya! We all tick the same, S~F, Paul

  106. Paul Stine Says:

    Ahoy, George Eckles! Trick we pulled on our goofy Lieutenant, was to catch him drunk, then urge him into push-up contest. Behold, none of us participated..simply sat, grinned, watched, and counted, as he worked himself nearly to death. We kept the magic within the platoon, so were able to do it several times. The Lt. never caught wind, that we were using him as side-show entertainment. Those were the light times…no way were we to have him lead us into crisis. To us, he was merely an ornament. Something we hauled along with us. S~F, Paul

    • George Eckles Says:

      Absolutely right. Some of them were so inept, it was scary.
      Later, when I heard about fragging, although I don’t condone it, I can understand the motivation.

  107. Gunny Ken Havelka Says:

    In 1958 rifle range at Mathews was 3 weeks right after mess duty.

  108. Jay B. Allen, Cpl. Says:

    I’m at the age now when I need to recall certain events correctly while I still can. I was sworn in the Corps 20Nov56 in Indianapolis by then Capt. Archie VanWinkle MOH. In short order I found out what an honor it was to have contact with a Marine awarded the Medal. My career was rather uneventful, Field Music School in San Diego a 5591 (one of the few left). Then to Camp Pendleton with the 1st Div. Drum Corps and Band, several holiday parades in Hollywood the 1958 Rose Parade and in Feb.1958 to Marine Barracks Kodiak, AL. for 12months and 11 miserable days. While there had a great buddy, Sgt. James McBride who became a Marine flyer, I also was promoted to Cpl. with Cpl. James J. McGinty Jr. MOH. It is apparent I was in the presence of several outstanding Marines. They continue to be great memories of my rather common service. No one could be more proud of being a Marine than I.

    Jay B. Allen

  109. Jim Andersen Says:

    I went through Camp Matthews in the summer of 1962 with Plt 349, Series 346. One of the TV networks was filming a documentary centered on a DI from Plt 347. I believe it was called “The Making of a Marine”, but I’ve been unable to find any trace of it anywhere. Anyone out there around that time recall anything about it?

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