View Full Version : Marine Mail Guards

08-05-04, 09:06 AM
Marine Mail Guards <br />
1921&amp;1926 <br />
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Background <br />
Marines are generally very well versed in the long and colorful history of our Marine Corps. We know of our roots and the events and battles through...

08-05-04, 09:06 AM
"Violence and robbery brought a new and entirely different role for the 4th Marines as the year 1926 progressed. In Elizabeth, New Jersey, on14 October 1926, the brutal robbery and killing of a U. S. Mailtruck driver forced President Calvin Coolidge to turn to the Marine Corps for assistance in the civil community. By Presidential Order, 2,500 Marines proceeded on duty to guard the mail. The Commandant, anticipating the Presidential Order, on 18 October had directed the Commanding General, Headquarters, Department of the Pacific, located in San Francisco, ...You will organize a force from the 4th Regiment, to be known as the Western Mail Guards, under the command of Brigadier-General Smedley D. Butler...

Brigadier-General Smedley D. Butler, known as "Ol' Gimlet Eye" to fellow Marines, brought a long record of combat leadership and two Congressional Medals of Honor to the Mail Guards. Veteran of both World War I and the guerrilla wars of Central America, Butler's easy-going manner hid his cold, methodical approach to the task given to the Marines. As the primary source of personnel for the Western Mail Guard, the 4th Marines initially would be spread throughout eleven states. Part of a twelfth state, Texas would be added on 22 October 1926.

General Butler's fully armed Marines soon became sobering influences throughout Post Offices, mail trains, and mail trucks in those areas. While Marines carried out their mail guard assignment, only one attempted robbery was recorded. That particular robbery involved an unguarded mail train carrying no mail at the time. Meanwhile, in San Diego, the base stood relatively empty with a reduced level of caretaker personnel awaiting the return of the 4th Regiment. When normal operations returned to the U. S. Mail system as a result of the Marine guards, the need for continued assignment of such forces became less and less justified. The return of the 4th Marines to San Diego began on 10 January 1927 and by 18 February all personnel had been returned to their home bases as the Mail Guard Force disbanded.

In 1927, American interests and lives in China and Nicaragua had once again been endangered by internal unrest and civil war. The Marines received the call to conduct expeditionary protective operations in these two countries to protect Americans and their property."

In Conclusion

There is more that can be written here, and I may add more later, but this will suffice to provide some food for thought regarding the Marines as Mail Guards during the 1920s.

The following is from a letter to The Major General Commandant, Headquarters U.S, Marine Corps, from the Office of the Postamaster General, dated February 15, 1922, which states in part...
"My dear General:
It gives me extreme pleasure at this time to submit to you this letter of commendation of the marines who have been performing, during the past three months, the duty of protecting United States mail in railway terminals, post offices, railroad junctions and federal reserve centers. The protection of the mails has been splendidly effective through the loyalty, cooperation, bravery and fearless manner in which the marines have handled the situation in general.
For the twelve months ending with April 9, 1921, there have been thirty-six major mail robberies, with a loss of $6,300,000 stolen from the mail. In April 9 an order went out to the postal service to arm all outside postal employees and through the cooperation of the War Department, guns and ammunition were placed at the disposal of the Post Office department....from April 9, 1921 to October 9, 1921, there had been a total stolen of something like $300,000. In this effort postal employees were injured and killed and some robbers were slain, but the followed a series of robberies and depradations at points at which the Post Office Department had not as yet been able to eqip fully and with which it was unable to cope.
Therefore on November 8, 1921, the Postamaster General submitted a request to the Secretary of the Navy for the use of marines to take over this arduous and difficult duty. This request was immediately complied with and a force of ,,,,were dispatched by the U.S. Marine Corps instantly, in the characteristic of Marine Corps efficiency. These marines were detailed to ride on mail trucks, and on trains...at outlying points...post offices and stations where special protection was vita. They have performed their arduous and difficult duty in a most excellent manner and they have my most earnest praise and appreciation for their invaluable service to the public...
Therefore, I desire to express my personal appreciation to the officers of the Marine Corps connected with this work of guarding United States mail, as well as to the Marine Corps and the Navy Department, for the responsive, expeditious and effective manner of carrying out these duries.

The above information was provided by the
Marine Corps Historical Center
Washington, D.C.