The ‘Fightingest’ Skippers of the 7th Marines

Senior officers of 7th Marine Regiment at New Britain, January 1944. From left to right: Lt. Col. Odell M. Conoley (Commanding 2d Battalion), LTC Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (Regimental Executive Officer), Col. Julian N. Frisbie (Regimental Commanding Officer), Lt. Col. Henry W. Buse Jr. (Commanding 3rd Battalion), Lt. Col. John E. Weber (Commanding 1st Battalion), and Capt. Joseph E. Buckley (Commanding Regimental Weapons Company).

While researching the Battle of Cape Gloucester, I came across this photo of the 7th Marine Regiment’s commanders in January 1944. Granted, any group of officers that includes Chesty Puller (second from the left) has an epic advantage over the enemy, but when you consider these officers’ service records, it really shows how stacked this unit was, and perhaps why the 7th Marines were called the “fightingest outfit in the world.”

One Marine officer enlisted during World War I and served as a drill instructor (Frisbie)… two fought in Nicaragua (Puller and Frisbie)… Frisbie also faced rebels in the Dominican Republic… Puller saw action in Hayti… Two were China Marines (Conoley and Puller)… Two would later serve in Korea (Puller and Buse), and Buse also served during Vietnam…

Four earned Navy Crosses (Puller with five, Frisbie, Buckley and Conoley each have one)… The Army awarded Puller with their Distinguished Service Cross… Five wore Silver Stars (Puller, Frisbie, Conoley, Weber, and Buse)… At least three officers (Buckley, Buse, and Puller) were decorated with the Bronze Star with Combat “V”…

Chesty Puller (left) and Joseph Buckley being presented with their Navy Crosses for actions at Cape Gloucester. USMC photo by John S. Day, Col. (Ret.), USMCR.

Two became lieutenant generals (Puller and Buse)… Three rose to brigadier general (Frisbie, Weber, and Conoley)… Puller and Weber were both wounded at Guadalcanal…

Maybe if you factored out Chesty Puller, you could pick any World War II Marine regiment at random and find an equally impressive command staff. Maybe not. But these Marine officers spent somewhere around a century and a half collectively, serving in one hellhole after another, fighting guerrillas, soldiers, snakes, mosquitoes, facing hunger, thirst, and exhaustion that most Americans can’t even comprehend.

Thank God these men were born American.

* I haven’t found much on Weber apart from his Silver Star citation, entry in the Marine Corps casualty database, and his grave marker, plus records of valor awards for all these men may be incomplete.

Author: Chris Carter

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