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usmc-docs  •  G. B. erskine

     THIS IS THE SECOND OF TWO PAGES housing materials culled from the collection of General Graves B. Erskine in the MCRC's Archives & Special Collections (CLICK HERE FOR PAGE 1).  As his Wikipedia entry aptly summarizes (offsite), the most historically memorable action of Gen. Graves Blanchard Erskine (June 28, 1897 – May 21, 1973) was commanding the 3rd Marine Division during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.  After the war he went on to play a key role in shaping US policy in East Asia & Southeast Asia during the Cold War:  "In June 1950, the Secretary of Defense appointed General Erskine as Chief of Military Group, Joint State-Defense Mutual Defense Assistance Program Survey Mission to Southeast Asia. . . . he visited the Philippines, French Indochina, Malaya, Thailand and Indonesia . . . [he] received orders in December 1950 . . . as Commanding General of the Department of the Pacific [and] performed additional duties as Member of the Advisory Group, Western Sea Frontier and Commanding General, Marine Corps Emergency Forces, Western Sea Frontier."  In 1949, he served as a consultant for the Academy Award-nominated film, The Sands of Iwo Jima, starring John Wayne.  (Right:  Capt. Graves B. Erskine in Nicaragua, 1929). 

     The collection housed here goes back to the days when Graves B. Erskine was a mere Captain in the Marine Corps.  Page 1 of this Erskine collection houses only six documents, but each is exceptional — like the affectionate letter of March 3, 1932 from soon-to-be Jefe Director of the Guardia Nacional and, soon after, dictator of Nicaragua Anastasio Somoza García.  Another gem is the fifth document, a diary of events during Capt. Erskine's service as Aide to President José María Moncada from January 1 to May 1, 1929.

     This Page 2 of the Erskine collection houses 20 photographs from the MCRC (all in 600 dpi JPEG files), also housed & more thoroughly interpreted in PHOTO-DOCS > MCRC.   There are some extraordinary photographs here.

     Grateful acknowledgement is extended to the staff of Archives & Special Collections of the Marine Corps Research Center in Quantico VA; to Lebanon Valley College students Olivia Edwards, Nicole Wilhelm, and Mary 'Katie' Yost for their excellent work at the MCRC for three days in early January 2015; and to the Arnold Grant in Experiential Education for funding this research.


Four Marines, including Graves Erskine (second from left), clustered around a native Nicaraguan at center, with rustic building and doorway behind.  Could be a local cantina & its owner & three of Erskine's drinking buddies, perhaps Juigalpa 1928 (no caption, no date; see other Juigalpa photos below). 

Some 20 native Nicaraguans lined up along a city's main street, with several more leaning against building at right, with the city square in the left background, with steps leading into the square (no caption, no date).

Seven US Marines next to single-prop airplane, with "MARINES" in large letters on bottom of wings, discharging passengers in aviation field (no caption, no date).

July 1928, USMC Captain R. W. Peard mounted & posing in Ocotal in front of the city jail.  Caption on rear:  "Capt Peard riding my horse - in front of Ocotal jail - July 1928"

1928 or 1929, transport plane landing in Ocotal aviation field.  Caption on rear:  "Transport plane landing in Ocotal".

1928 or 1929, León train station, with market woman holding large bowl on her head facing camera.  Caption on rear: "This is our train at the station in Leon".

1928 or 1929, León street scene, with movie house at left, a "Joyería" in the background, two barefoot boys in the street, two girls walking at left, and in general a typical & unscripted & active street scene.  Caption on rear:  "A street in Leon residential & business section. 1/2 block from Parque el Perez.  We live in house marked X.  The house (1) is a movie house - now showing The Volga Boatman."  (no date.)

Late 1928, Somoto.  Nine Marine officers prominent in the military campaigns in Las Segovias posing in front of Somoto officers quarters.  Caption on rear:  "Dunlap's patrol & officers of Somoto.  In front of officers quarters - Somoto, Nic - 1928.  #1 Lt. Brink.  #2 Lt. Lucky.  #3. Capt Erskine.  #4. Capt. Stokes [Stockes].  #5. Col. Dunlap.  #6. Capt. Reagan.  #7 Capt. Austin (U.S.A.)  #8 Lt. Mosher.  #9 Capt. Sanderson (R.O.)"

Bull-fighters in annual fiesta in Juigalpa, 1928.  Caption on rear:  "'Bull-Fighters' at the Rodeo in Juigalpa - (annual fiesta).  Held in town park, fence epected for the occasion.  1928."

Scenes of Civil War in León, 1926-27.  Barricades of piled blocks at right with barbed wire lining the avenue a man walks down.  Caption inscribed on photo:  "Fortificaciones en León, Nic.    Guerra de 1926-27.     2a Avenida Oeste."

Nine Marines pose holding baseball gear on a hillside outside Juigalpa, 1928.  Caption on rear:  "View over valley from plateau on which is situated, Juigalpa. 1928."

Looking down a commercial street in city, with long building at right featuring in large letters, "Pablo Möller & Cia. Ltda.", with man standing in doorway, and avenue receding toward the hills close by.  Perhaps Juigalpa, or Jinotega, 1928 (no caption, no date). 

Looking down a residential street, perhaps Juigalpa 1928 (no caption, no date).

Up to 100 men & women moving & hauling earth by hand & in baskets.  A fascinating photograph.  What is happening here?  Adults (no children) carry, fill & move around with large woven baskets, empty or filled with earth or soil, seemingly loosened on both sides of a kind of small valley leading down toward what looks to be a riverbed.   A palatial mansion sits in the distance, a large iron railroad-style trestle above right & affixed vertically with a large iron post at left.  The downward sloping hill in the background & the lay of the land suggests a river valley in an interior city, perhaps Juigalpa 1928.  Probably a crew of manual laborers working on a road, railroad, or docks improvement project.

Mass assembly along a city street, with Marine Corps band, Nicaraguan politicians, and a very large crowd.  Perhaps President José María Moncada's inauguration in Managua on January 1, 1929, the first day of Capt. Erskine's service as Moncada's aide.  Looks like Managua.

León, 1929.  Caption on rear:  "The calle at Leon, Nic.  We were billeted here until May 1st."

León central park, ca. 1929.  Caption on rear:  "View of the Park in Leon, Nic. Native movie ad from 'The Boatmen of the Volga'."

Handcuffed prisoner standing next to priest & with Marines & Nicaraguan civilians.  Appears to be immediately prior to an execution, and to be the same man whose corpse appears in the photo below (no caption, no date).

Corpse of man laying on ground, with bloodied chest and wearing striped prisoner uniform, with pant-legs of another man standing behind.  Appears to be the same man who appears as a handcuffed prisoner in the photo above (no caption, no date).

Fascinating & intriguing piece of Liberal propaganda, ca. 1927.  Caption on rear: "This is a liberal conception of the Conservative Party's oppression, and is used for propaganda.  Large pictures in color are pasted at places frequented by Liberals.  Also, the Liberals paint their houses red or at least have red the predominant color, and the Conservatives follow the same scheme using blue. Every house has a predominantly Red or Blue."  Inscribed onto the image:  :  ¡¡Horror! El Gran Ginete Apocaliptico en Nicaragua. ¡¡DIOS nos Salve!!"   Shows Emiliano Chamorro riding the horse of "Conservatismo," with legs painted "GUERRA," "HAMBRE," "INCENDIO," PESTE," with "PUEBLO" strapped onto horse, and with a skeleton riding behind Chamorro, reminiscent of José Guadalupe Posada's work in Mexico.  Endless fields of crosses fill a cemetery at Cosigüina -- Tamarindo -- Las Grietas."  Caption below: "APÓSTAL de la Paz:  conoced el cuadro demonstrativo de tus víctimas y flagelo a la PATRIA."  At bottom, list of dates, events, victims & cost in capital.  A very intricate piece of propaganda.

Gen. Graves B. Erskine with John Wayne, 1949.  Taken from Flickr.com (offsite).  "Major General Graves B. Erskine and John Wayne on Set of Sands of Iwo Jima, 1949.  From the Graves B. Erskine Collection (COLL/3065) at the Marine Corps Archives and Special Collections."

Gen. Graves B. Erskine, official photo from Wikipedia (offsite).  No date.