Ultimate Marine: Daly vs. Puller
Carl | June 12, 2013
Who is the Ultimate Marine’s Marine? A comparison of two Marine Corps legends across three categories: Service (actions while in uniform), Legacy (how their service continued to impact the Corps and the world) and Motivation (esprit de corps and overall badassery)
It’s ironic that two of the Marine Corps’ biggest legends are some of its smaller statured men. Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly stood a mere 5’6” at 132 pounds and Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller wasn’t much bigger, but both men were known for fighting like giants.
Although they had size in common, they fall on opposite sides of the rank structure. It’s only fitting that a sergeant major and a general officer should meet in our final Marine Madness bout — officer or enlisted, an amazing leader is an amazing leader.
Although both men were incredible at both leading and fighting, I feel that Daly leaves behind the legacy of the ultimate fighting Marine and Puller owns the title of the Corps’ best leader.
Daly was dubbed “the fightin’est Marine I ever knew” by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. He earned the title from a lifetime of fighting brutal battles, each time portraying a fighting spirit that probably amazed the enemy while also scaring the life out of them.
He earned two Medals of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, a Navy Cross and a Silver Star. Most of them were earned while Daly was in his 40s.
I try to picture being in the enemy’s shoes on their first encounter with Daly. He probably assaulted toward them, at the front of the Marines’ attack, making them wonder, “Is this little, old guy serious?” By the time they found out he was deadly serious, it was already too late.
His most tenacious moment was during the Boxer Rebellion in China, where he defended a strategic perimeter position single-handedly for an entire night. His gallant effort possibly saved an entire company of Marines who may have been blindsided if the enemy had broken through. Now, there are 200 souls somewhere who will never forget how serious Daly’s war face was.
Daly — The Fighter.
Puller was known as a fighter during his time too, but he’s remembered today as the Corps’ most famous leader. He led from the front, earning five Navy Crosses, a Distinguished Service Cross, a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for valor and a Bronze Star for valor. All of these and more make him the most decorated Marine in American history.
To earn them, he dispersed and destroyed enemy bandits in Nicaragua, defended the perimeter by destroying countless Japanese attacks in Guadalcanal and Gloucester and rallied his men in a sub-zero Korean winter to defend supply lines against a desperate enemy, keep valuable equipment and supplies moving toward needy Marines.
In each of these instances, it was Puller’s cool decision making and his ability to inspire his Marines, no matter the conditions, that made him successful — his ability to lead men.
He was the Corps’ Swiss Army Knife, if you will, whatever the situation, you could plug in Puller and he would get the job done, and get it done with swagger.
Puller — The Leader.
Although Puller and Daly left the Marine Corps 58 and 84 years ago, respectively, they’ve become household names for Marines. It’s driven into Marines at every stage of their career that, “These are the men you want to be like, Marines.”
Marines today say, “Goodnight, Chesty Puller, wherever you are.” And a Marine can’t even finish a simple gym workout without someone yelling, “One more for Chesty!”
Quotes like, “Remember, you are the 1st Marines! Not all the Communists in Hell can overrun you!” and “We’re surrounded. That simplifies our problem …” echo through the halls of boot camp to this day.
Chesty Puller’s name is like the blood that courses through the Marine Corps’ veins.
Daly has a similar, but more subtle impact on today’s Corps. Being the most ferocious fighter in Marine Corps history, Daly’s example is the bar that every individual Marine wishes to achieve. To be a force of nature all on your lonesome is practically a super power, but Daly did it. Now, every time a Marine war cries, or performs a bayonet thrust, or a martial arts move, or squeezes off a round during a combat range, they hone their skills as warriors. We must live up to our warrior legacy, a legacy few have contributed to more than Dan Daly.
Dan Daly’s fighting spirit epitomizes what the Corps wants out of its warfighters. Daly was offered a commission twice, but he loved being an enlisted man — he preferred it. Daly could have done without all the medals he was awarded. He needed no recognition and thought awards were “a lot of foolishness.”
Although we don’t do “one more for Daly,” or say goodnight to him before bed, Daly will always be the golden standard of tenacity in our Corps and helped establish the legend that is the “U.S. Marine.”
Dan Daly’s fighting spirit started the legend of the Marine Corps before Puller was ever born. Daly probably inspired Puller to be the man he was.
In 100 years, there’s no telling how many more legendary Marines will hold a place in history, but one thing is for sure, Marines will always follow the examples of Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly and Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller.
We’re not going to make the call on the champion between the Fighter and the Leader. We leave it in your hands.
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