By the time America declared war against Germany in 1917 and joined allied forces in France, World War One was in its fourth year. The first real test in battle for the United States Marine Corps was the 1918 battle at Belleau Wood. The Germans had advanced to within 50 miles of Paris. Belleau Wood was part of an Allied campaign to push back against the German Spring Offensive to halt their advance towards Paris. The battle raged on for three weeks before the Marines were finally victorious. General Pershing said it was the most important battle fought by American forces since the Civil War. It was during the battle of Belleau Wood where the fighting spirit of the Marines and soon- to-be mascot, the English Bulldog, became synonymous.
According to stories, the Marines fought with such tenacity and valor that the Germans nicknamed the Americans Teufelhunden or “Devil Dogs.” In Bavarian folklore, devil dogs were wild mountain dogs. The battle at Belleau Wood was real, but the German nickname was based on mythology. However, it wasn’t long before a recruiting poster painted by Charles Falls appeared showing a dachshund wearing a spiked helmet and Iron Cross running from an English Bulldog wearing a helmet with the globe and anchor insignia on it. Written on the poster was “Teufelhunden – Devil Dog Recruiting Station.” The poster was embraced by the Marine Corps and the public.
The first unofficial mascot, King Bulwark, was an English Bulldog pup sired by Rob Roy, a well known and famous English Bulldog. Born May 22, 1922, the pup’s royal registered name was quickly changed to Jiggs. Private Jiggs was enlisted into the United States Marine Corps at a formal ceremony on October 14, 1922 by Brigadier General Smedley Butler.
Jiggs quickly rose through the ranks. His promotion to corporal came less than three weeks after his enlistment. On New Year’s Day 1924, he was given the rank of Sergeant, and promoted to Sergeant Major in July 1924. Unfortunately, Jiggs had a rebellious streak. He was court-martialed several times for lack of proper manners, but he was always forgiven and his rank reinstated. The pampered pooch lived his life in the limelight, even starring with Lon Chaney in the 1926 movie, “Tell It To the Marines.”
The overweight four legged Marine passed away January 9, 1927 just four months shy of his fifth birthday. Two Marines stood guard over Sgt Maj. Jiggs as he lay in state in a hanger at Quantico, Virginia. Flowers from his many fans surrounded his satin-lined coffin. He was mourned throughout the Marine Corps and buried with full military honors.
After the passing of Jiggs, his replacement was donated by heavyweight boxing champ James “Gene” Tunney, a former Marine who had fought in France. Jiggs II was not a disciplined Marine in any sense of the word. He chased people and bit them, and had no respect for authority. Apparently, the boring life of a recruit hanging around the barracks wasn’t exciting enough for him. He passed away from heat exhaustion in 1928 after one of his many terrorizing rampages. From the 1930s to the early 1950s, all Bulldog mascots were named Smedle y, in honor of General Smedley Butler.
Beginning in 1957, new mascots were named Chesty, a tribute to Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller, Jr., the most decorated Marine in history who earned five Navy Crosses throughout his distinguished military career. On July 5, 1957 the first Chesty, decked out in specially made Dress Blues, made his first public appearance at the very first Friday Evening Parade at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington DC and immediately won the hearts of the media.
Chesty II was a rebel and refused to follow orders. He was always in trouble, even going AWOL for two days. He was returned to base in a police paddy wagon. However, he was successful at siring a litter of pups, one of which became his replacement.
Chesty III was the exact opposite of his father and became a model U.S. Marine. Neighborhood children adored him and he returned their affection, earning him a Good Conduct Medal. Since Chesty III, each Bulldog that has followed have been worthy of their stripes as official mascots of the United States Marines.
Sgt. Chesty XIII recently retired after five years of service, and new recruit Pfc. Chesty XIV began his military career in 2013. His duties include marching in the Friday Evening parades, greeting dignitaries, helping with tours at the Home of the Commandant, and attending a variety of events around the Washington DC area. Beginning with Jiggs, all of the Bulldog mascots have been males.
The official Marine Corps motto adopted in 1883 – Semper Fidelis (Semper Fi) – means Always Faithful. The English Bulldog is loyal, tenacious, resolute and faithful, with a never give up attitude, which is why the Bulldog is the perfect mascot for the United States Marine Corps.
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