How the Chinese influenced the motto of Marine Special Operations

Marines with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command complete a fast rope and rappelling course on Landing Zone Parrot at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mackenzie Gibson/Released)

“The Marine Raider Regiment consists of a Headquarters Company and three Marine Raider Battalions (1st, 2d and 3d). The Regiment provides tailored military combat-skills training and advisor support for identified foreign forces in order to enhance their tactical capabilities and to prepare the environment as directed by USSOCOM as well as the capability to form the nucleus of a Joint Special Operations Task Force.  Marines and Sailors of Marine Raider Regiment train, advise, and assist friendly host nation forces – including naval and maritime military and paramilitary forces – to enable them to support their governments’ internal security and stability, to counter subversion and to reduce the risk of violence from internal and external threats. Regiment deployments are coordinated by MARSOC, through USSOCOM, in accordance with engagement priorities for Overseas Contingency Operations.”

Taken from the Chinese phrase, “Gong He”, the literal translation of Gung Ho is “Work in Harmony”

Brigadier General Evans F. Carlson, USMCR, first heard the term used in the mountains of north China in 1937 where he was assigned to observe Chinese guerrilla resistance to the Japanese incursion. When Brigadier General Carlson was placed in command of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, the first organization in the history of modern American armed forces to be organized and assigned purely for raiding and guerrilla missions, he chose Gung Ho as the watchword and spirit of the battalion.

Carlson said, “I was trying to build up the same sort of working spirit I had seen in China where all the soldiers dedicated themselves to one idea and worked together to put that idea over. I told the boys about it again and again. I told them of the motto of the Chinese Cooperatives, Gung Ho. It means Work Together-Work in Harmony….”

The following is an excerpt from an address given by then Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson at Guadalcanal on anniversary of the organization of the Second Marine Raider Battalion, February, 1943:

“Gung Ho! To Work in Harmony! Our goal; to create and perfect a cohesive, smooth-functioning team, which by virtue of its harmony of action, unity of purpose and its invincible determination, will be able to out-point the enemy on every count.

A Chinese symbol still remains on the Marine Raider Regiment logo today.
A Chinese symbol still remains on the Marine Raider Regiment logo.

What are the requisites? First the quality of leadership. Leaders must be professionally competent, they must be honest, especially honest intellectually, admitting their mistakes when they make them and endeavoring to correct them. They must share the hardships and privation of those they lead and prove by ability and character their qualifications for leadership.

Most important is the development of what we call the Gung Ho spirit; our ability to cooperate – to work together. Not only is it imperative to understand this spirit; it is imperative to apply Gung Ho to daily actions no matter how unimportant they might seem. This calls for self – discipline and an implicit belief in the doctrine of helping the other fellow. Followed through to its ultimate end it will mean that each, while helping the other fellow, will in turn will be helped by him…

Human beings are creatures of habit. Human nature does not change its coat without a struggle. But Rome was not built in a day. The important thing is for each individual to have the desire to help the other fellow, the desire to achieve that mastery over his mind. His body and his desires, that he might succeed in disciplining himself. This means tolerance of ideas, tolerance of personal eccentricities, the sweeping away of personal prejudices, and concentration on an effort to see the good in human beings
of all types and persuasions.

It is my hope that this exposition of our goals…, of the character of our doctrines and the reasons why we do what we do, will inspire you to greater efforts in the direction of making the spirit of Gung Ho your own.

May the Supreme Being who has guided us with such infinite wisdom in the past continue to watch over, protect and guide you, bringing us to victory and richer fulfillment of life’s obligations.”

Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson
Commander, 2nd Raider Battalion
United States Marine Corps


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