WASHINGTON - Marine Corps hero "Chesty" Puller would have been proud to be honored with a postage stamp, but he would have wanted to include the face of every Marine he served with, his daughter said Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Puller and three other Marines - Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly and Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune - are on a set of four 37-cent stamps being unveiled Thursday in ceremonies at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington and Camp Pendleton, Calif. The stamps go on sale nationwide the same day.
The Postal Service gets thousands of proposals for stamps every year and selects only about 30 for production.
"Father would like those odds, and he beat them," said Martha Puller Downs of Alexandria, Va., the general's daughter.
Indeed, during the Korean War, when surrounded by more than 100,000 Chinese soldiers at the Chosin Reservoir, Puller is reported to have said: "They're on our right, they're on our left, they're in front of us, they're behind us; they can't get away from us this time."
Marines still leave mementoes at Puller's grave. "They knew he took care of them," Downs said.
Yet growing up, she said, "I really didn't know him as a legend or hero. I knew him as a magnificent father ... he was fun."
A native of West Point, Va., Puller was a battalion commander and regimental commander with the 1st Marine Division during World War II and the Korean War. During his 37-year career, he was awarded 14 personal decorations in combat, five Navy Crosses, one Army Distinguished Service Cross plus a long list of campaign medals, unit citation ribbons and other awards.
Being honored on the other three stamps in the set are:
- Basilone, who won the Medal of Honor in World War II. Basilone was cited for holding 3,000 Japanese soldiers at bay for 72 hours during the battle of Guadalcanal with only 15 men, 12 of whom died in the fight. Sent home to promote the sale of war bonds, Basilone requested to return to combat and again distinguished himself in the battle for Iwo Jima, where he was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart.
- Daly, who received the Medal of Honor twice for separate acts during combat in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion and in Haiti protecting American lives during an uprising in 1915.
- Lejeune, who is remembered as a wartime commander and the first Marine to command at Army division in combat. Lejeune led the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in World War I. He is credited with establishing Marine Corps institutions and traditions and the Marine base located near Jacksonville, N.C. bears his name.