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Crossroads of the Marine Corps


Daughter of WWI veteran born at Quantico returns

8 Dec 2014 | Eve A. Baker Marine Corps Base Quantico

There are few people alive today who can say they remember Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, recipient of two Medals of Honor, but Jeanne Black Burke, age 91, is one of them. Burke was born at the Marine Corps Base Quantico hospital on Nov. 4, 1923 and attended school on base through third grade.


On a Nov. 21 visit to the base, Burke recalled that when she was here as a child, she and her classmates had to learn the song “Sweet Adeline” because it was one of Butler’s favorites.


“We were told his wife’s name was Adeline,” she said with a laugh. The general’s wife’s name was actually Ethel.


Burke was greeted at Lejeune Hall by Col. Blake Wilson, base inspector general, and John DeBerry, visit coordinator. DeBerry shared with Burke a number of maps and photos of the base, and led her on a tour of the mainside area.


Burke’s father, Glenn Wright Black, was a Marine who served for 42 years, including in both World Wars. Black started out as an enlisted Marine, working his way up to the rank of gunnery sergeant before transitioning to the officer side, eventually retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He started and ended his career at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, and fought in France, Germany, Nicaragua and Pearl Harbor. (See sidebar for Burke’s recollections from the attack on Pearl Harbor.) Burke’s father achieved the status of distinguished shooter on both the rifle and pistol.


As a gunnery sergeant, Black served with 45th Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Burke said that her father was with the unit when they earned the French fourragere in World War I.


Burke wanted to visit the base and see how much she recognized from childhood. She recalled that Butler Stadium was a concrete amphitheater that was overgrown with weeds back then and reminisced about seeing her father off at the dock when he shipped out to Nicaragua in the late 1920s. That memory is especially strong because a little boy fell into the water between the dock and the ship and had to be rescued.


Burke also came to share her father’s diary from World War I with staff from the Archives Branch at the Library of the Marine Corps. Archivist Jim Ginther said the diary contained multiple entries about Gunnery Sgt. Black’s experiences in the Belleau Wood area, including an account of the battle against the Germans in a wheat field in June 1918.


Burke also shared other unique World War I-era mementos with the staff, such as a Thanksgiving menu from a 1917 meal at Marine Barracks Washington, the Indian patch from her father’s unit, and her father’s letters to his mother from his time with the American Expeditionary Forces.


Staff from the archives are now engaged in discussion with Burke and her family about the artifacts, particularly the diary, so they can be preserved and shared with future generations.


— Writer:

Marine Corps Base Quantico