The smaller of the naval services enjoys a reputation for attracting eccentrics to its muster rolls. The historical literature of the early 20th-century Marine Corps is rich with names like Hikin' Hiram (Hiram Bearss), Johnny the Hard (John Hughes), Diamond Lou (Lou Diamond), and Old Gimlet Eye (Smedley Butler). None of the sea stories surrounding these characters, however, matches the exploits of Louie Cukela during the World War I era and interwar years. Much of what has been written about him fails to survive the close scrutiny of official records, but enough remains to support the contention that he was one of the most unusual characters to wear forest green during those eras.
The Marines' Most Bizarre Hero?
Louis Cukela earned the Medal of Honor—as well as a chestfull of other awards for heroism—on World War I's Western Front. But the ethnic-Serbian Leatherneck is best remembered for his unconventional and humorous behavior, which included a knack for butchering the English language.
By Lieutenant Colonel Merrill L. Bartlett, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)