Marines Lose Prestige As Top Shooters

The San Diego Union's Washington Bureau
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Quietly, but with grim determination, the Marine Corps is out to regain its lost leadership in rifle and pistol marksmanship competition.

The campaign has been a carefully guarded secret from everybody but insiders. The first clue came when the Corps, in a recent closed session of a Congressional appropriation committee, asked to divert nearly $1 million from the cost of new construction at Camp Pendleton to the improvement of range facilities at Marine Corps Schools at nearby Quantico, Va.

Then the Marines announced they would move their Marksmanship Training Unit, a crack outfit of champion shooters from the San Diego area to Quantico by Oct. 1.


The reasons for the move were discussed as little as possible. When congressmen insisted, an appropriation subcommittee was told the Marines wanted to get the marksmanship unit of 12 officers and 50 enlisted men, . . . "Closer to Corps headquarters". . . "closer to the area where most competition matches are held". . . and to Quantico "where individual training can be emphasized."

Everything the congress was told was true, but the real reason behind the move was not voiced. The fact is that Marine Corps marksmanship teams have been getting beaten regularly by the Army and the Air Force.


Last year at Camp Perry, Ohio, in the competition that counts, Marine teams came in fourth and eighth in the National Trophy Pistol Team Match. Under orders of Marine Commandant Gen. David Shoup, no Marine team entered the National Trophy Rifle Team Match.

The slump came even though the Marine marksmanship unit includes members like Capt. William McMillan who won the 1960 Olympic gold medal in rapid fire pistol shooting; Gunnery Sgt. James Hill, winner of a silver medal in prone rifle firing at the 1960 Olympics, and Gunnery Sgt. Michael Pietroforte, the only person ever to win the National Trophy Individual Rifle Match with a perfect score.

At Quantico the Marine unit will have many more chances to compete at less travel expense than was true on the West Coast. Eight out of ten of major shooting matches are held in the East or Midwest.