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Elliott's Beach - Chris Sarno Memoir

The area called Elliottís Beach was not nearly as "romantic", however. Due east and near the rifle range, but not in sight of it, Elliottís Beach was a lush area with lots of 10-15 foot high scrub palms and sea grass. Not long after they had completed their instruction and proficiency test on the rifle range, the boots were sent on a forced march to Elliottís Beach. They wore a 60-pound combat pack complete with M-1 rifle and all web gear and attachments. "We had two weeks left on the island," said Sarno, "and we were salty bastards. We moved out in two columns and the DIís blew whistles to hit the deck (in a salt marsh) to simulate being under air attack. We were eating this up as it was gung-ho. The scenery was all salt marsh tributaries like an estuary to the sea. When we finally arrived at the staging area to the beach, we were all muddy and wet. We had a good noon chow and then half the platoon went to assault the fox hole position while my half went to the familiarization range and fired .22 caliber rifles. We also watched a 2.5 World War II bazooka team fire a couple of rounds, and we fired the .45 caliber pistol at wooden targets about 25 yards way. We thought, Ďthis is so easy at that close range.í I fired about 25 rounds, but I never hit the target once. Most of us did the same. The pistol coach said he was not surprised. We learned how inaccurate the pistol could be without constant practice with it. If you do hit your enemy with it, youíll blow his head off."

Later, Sarnoís section assaulted foxholes by fire team coordination. There was no real guidance, Sarno recalled, and the men didnít know if they had done the assault correctly or incorrectly. "There was a lot of yelling in the assault, thatís all," he said. When the assault training exercise was over, the men marched two miles back in a tactical march that still included hitting the deck when the DIís blew their whistles.

"The tide was coming in on the salt flats," recalled Sarno. "Guys fell in deeper water this time. We got back drenched, muddy, and tired, but we ate it up just the same." In the months to come, many of these new Marines would experience much rougher training at Camp Pendleton. But for now, they concentrated on their last days on Parris Island. They spent one morning in a gas chamber, learning the basics of dealing with chemical weapons. They were required to stay in the chamber for several minutes until they were ordered out and into fresh air. They dashed out stumbling and coughing, eyes runny from the sting of the gasóbut one step closer to graduation for having gone through the experience.


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