Fair Is Fair . . . Even after 70 Years

By Lieutenant General V. H. Krulak, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

He had missed the point. The oath was the important thing, not a piece of paper. If he had just let me raise my right hand with my classmates, it all would have been over. Instead, I stood with a lump in my throat and watched the brief ceremony.

Also present in the room were my parents and my fiancée and her parents. My prospective father-in-law, a captain in the Navy, was thoughtful. He raised an interesting question. ""Now, what are you?"" he asked. ""You graduated from the Naval Academy, so you are not a student anymore. You haven't been discharged, so you aren't a civilian. You are not yet a Marine officer. Just what in the world are you?""
The lieutenant commander learned my commission had been damaged and a replacement was being prepared in Washington. It would be delivered by messenger. He directed me to return at 1400 the following day to be sworn in.

I asked him what uniform would be appropriate for me to wear. He thought for a moment, finally took the conservative course, and said, ""Probably civilian clothes would be best.""

The next afternoon I appeared in his office, accompanied for the third time by my parents, my fiancée, and her parents.

The lieutenant commander administered the oath in a two-minute ceremony. And that was that—until I saw the Register of Officers in the Naval Service, issued in 1935. Sure enough, under the column ""Pay Entry Base Date,"" it showed every member of my graduating class as being commissioned on 31 May 1934—except me. My date was shown as1 June 1934.

In other words, by the administrative error of some Navy Department quill driver, and by the inaction of a judgment-challenged lieutenant commander, I was put after every one of my classmates and denied a day of commissioned service.

It was not just about the arbitrary reduction of a day's commissioned service—there was money involved. My pay as a 2d lieutenant started one day later than all of my classmates, and in a new month. My classmates were paid for the month of May. I was not.

Today, some 69 years later, I remain troubled. Fair is fair. I have been wronged and the record ought to be set straight. My pay entry base date should be 31 May 1934—not 1 June—just like the rest of my academy classmates. With respect to the matter of money, one month's pay, with compound interest at 4% for 69 years, is not small change.

I do not want the money, however. This is purely a matter of principle. I just want to be treated fairly. So once my lineal position is put straight, my solution is to write finis to the matter and give the sum entirely to the Marine Corps Historical Foundation.

General Krulak is a decorated combat veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam who served 34 years in the Marine Corps before retiring as Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, in 1968.

 

 
 

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