Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the lack of news coming out of the Marines’ heroic stand on Wake Island, the Marine Corps recognized the need to have more news and photography emanating from the combat zones, and more assistance to civilian news media in getting into these combat areas and reporting the actions to the American people.
Brig. Gen. Robert L. Denig, a highly decorated WWI Marine was recalled from retirement to organize and head the Corps’ first Department of Public Relations (DPR).
His initial support consisted of lstSgt. Walter J. “Joe” Shipman and a secretary. Denig recognized early on that the Marine Corps simply did not have qualified Marines to send to the Pacific to cover the early battles. He petitioned the Commandant and received permission to recruit qualified newsmen from the civilian workforce.
Shipman promptly donned his dress blue uniform and went looking for the pros where they worked – at Washington newspapers. His pitch “You’ll get combat duty and Sergeant stripes if you can successfully complete boot training at Parris Island.” He had plenty of takers with his guarantee of combat. So successful were Shipman’s recruiting efforts in Washington, in fact, that he practically denuded every city room in the capitol.
The Times-Herald, as it happened, was hardest hit, causing its vociferous publisher, Cissy Patterson, to complain directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The President, in turn passed the complaint to Major General Commandant Thomas Holcomb, who soon directed General Denig to do his future CC recruiting outside DC.
Although recruiting was already well underway, it was not until June 6, 1942, that an Associated Press story first reported “LtGen. Thomas A. Holcomb, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, announced today that newspaper reporters of not less than five years experience are being accepted for enlistment as combat correspondents. After six weeks training as fighting troops, they will be given the rank of Sergeant and sent overseas with combat units. General Holcomb said the Marine Corps is sacrificing none of its high standards, and combat correspondents must meet all physical requirements for regular Marines.
Newspaper photographers were initially recruited for the program together with reporters and were similarly designated CCs, primarily because they very often wrote their own captions and stories to accompany their photographs. The combat correspondent program was so successful in World War II that the concept remains today – exclusive with the U. S. Marine Corps – and CCs continue to “tell it like it is” wherever Marines see action.
These World War II Marines called themselves Denig’s Demons. More than 46 CCs and Combat Cameramen lost their lives in combat in WWII and in subsequent combat actions.
Sadly, none of the original Demons are alive today but their legacy has been carried on by Marine combat correspondents and combat camera Marines who continually report from the far-flung fields of battle that this nation has been involved in.
On November 17, 2012 the USMCCCA formally recognized the achievements of Denig and his Demons by dedicating a monument honoring them as well as all Marines who continue to tell the Marine Corps story at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico, VA. The USMCCCA also periodically honors a practitioner of mass media with the Robert L. Denig Sr. Memorial Distinguished Service Award.
The USMCCCA Today
The Association has come a long way since the first WWII CCs organized as a group in New York City after WWII. A similar group was formed by CCs in the West, then other parts of the country, with all of them eventually banding together to form the USMCCCA which is incorporated in the State of New York. National bylaws, drafted and controlled by the membership, guide the Association.
Today, chapters are located in various cities across the United States, and hundreds more CCs are members-at-large residing in every state of the Union and in several other countries.
The Association is managed by a nine-member board of directors, consisting of four officers (Association president/board chair, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer), each elected annually by the membership, and five directors who serve two-year terms (three elected in odd numbered years and two in even years). An executive director, hired by the Association, conducts the day-to-day business operation.
The USMCCCA Foundation
The USMCCCA Foundation came into being in 1997 as a publicly supported charitable, educational, historical, and patriotic non-stock 501(c) (3) nonprofit corporation to serve members of the USMCCCA, active, former and retired United States Marines who have served or are serving in our two main occupational fields (43 and 46) and their dependents. It is the principal fund raising authority of the USMCCCA. It is governed by at least 12 but not more than 24 Directors.
The USMCCCA annually recognizes the achievement of active duty Marines in occupational fields 43 and 46 who compete in the Office of USMC Communication Visual Information Program competition. First place winners receive a handsome plaque and a check for $75. Second place and honorable mention winners receive a certificate of achievement. The cash award for first place will be increased to $100 in 2015.
The USMCCCA Foundation offers two scholarships each year in the amount of $3,000 each to members, dependents of members, and active duty Marines in occupational fields 43 and 46. The scholarship for general studies is awarded in the name of Gladys McPartland, the first secretary of this Association. The second scholarship is for a degree in communications.
Additionally, each Marine graduate at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) at Ft. Meade, MD., receives a one-year complimentary membership in the Association.
The USMCCCA Foundation annually makes certain grants to qualified organizations. Typical of these are grants made over the past eight years to the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund, Oceanside, CA.
The Association has for many years met annually to conduct business, salute the achievements of active duty Marines who are our Distinguished Performance Award winners, and to provide camaraderie for members and their families. The conferences are held usually in either August or September and are normally rotated between coasts.
The Association publishes a quarterly newsletter “Now Hear This” as well as an annual USMCCCA Journal at the end of each year.
The USMCCCA Website:
The Association’s website carries news of both the Association and its Foundation. Members can use the website to update their membership, register for conferences, make contributions, and many other activities. Visit us at www.usmccca.org.
The Executive Director of the Association serves in a dual capacity with both organizations.