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Commemorating the start of the Battle of Belleau Wood, 100 years ago today, and Sergeant Daniel Joseph Daly, who is credited with shouting these words to his men, just before charging the Germans. It is reputed that Daly was twice offered a commission, and that he responded, on both occasions, that he would “rather be an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.”
I’ve been well schooled by my nearest and dearest, over the past forty years, on the unique position enjoyed by the word “outstanding” atop the United States Marine Corps hierarchy of merit. And I have a sense that the soon-to-be Sergeant Major was using the adjective correctly in reference to himself. He is one of only seven Corps recipients of two Medals of Honor (there are nineteen such across all the service branches), and he and Major General Smedley D. Butler are the only two Marines to have been awarded their Medals for separate actions, in different years.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a bit of the fog of battle about the origin of the quote itself. Some claim that those weren’t exactly Daly’s words, that they were either even more salty, or slightly less so; others say that, perhaps, they were shouted by someone else. Still others say that a similar cry was first given breath by Frederick the Great, at the battle of Kolin in 1757.