Basic School 2-65 Class Reunion 

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Richard Willich's Story

The Quantico football team was comprised of 50 Marines picked from a pool of 250,000 worldwide, many of them with the experience of Division 1 football under their belts.  These were grown men in their prime, not boys still growing.  The average age was 27, on par with professional football at the time.  In fact, if the financial incentives were the same in 1964 as they are today, it’s fair to say that many of the players on that team would have pursued a professional career in the NFL.  The team was that good.

There were only three Lieutenants that made the team in 1964 with 250 Lieutenants in our class, and I was one of them.  On the gridiron, there were no bars and stripes to designate rank; it was just men playing a violent game for fun.  It was also the chance for enlisted men and non-commissioned officers to hit a young Second Lieutenant and not only avoid being reprimanded, but be applauded for it.

The analogies of playing football and going to war have been around as long as the game itself, but the football team at Quantico took that analogy personally and used their scrimmages to test the mental and physical toughness of the officers who would lead them in to war.  Respect was earned one brutal hit at a time until the time came when these three Lieutenants were confronted with a life changing choice.

One day I, and the two other Lieutenants on the football team, were called on to the carpet of Quantico’s commanding officer, Colonel Jonas Platt.  In no uncertain terms, the Colonel let us know that commissioned officers shouldn’t be playing football.  Their focus needed to be on training to lead men into combat, and being pummeled by enlisted men on a daily basis flew in the face of that objective.  This advice was coming from a Marine that was highly decorated from his time in the Pacific Theater during WWII and Korea.  Not having the authority to order us not to play because the General was in charge of the team, Colonel Platt imposed his position by laying out the course our active duty would take if we didn’t hang up our cleats.  That course included three years of active duty as supply and logistics officers which would make us specialists in counting skivvies and cooking beans.

We left the Colonel’s office and immediately began to have a “high level” discussion between ourselves, as Lieutenants will do, each contributing such wisdom as, “Can he really do that?”  It appeared to me that Colonel Platt’s eyes were replaced by two burning coals during our meeting with him and I felt as if, not only could he do what he threatened to do, but he was going to do it!  I immediately resigned from the team and spent the next three years as an Infantry Officer.  The other two Lieutenant’s have been counting skivvies ever since.

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