When it comes to telling the story of Marine Corps humor, perhaps no artifact does that better than the World War II era “George Medal”.
Inspired by the Battle of Guadalcanal, this novelty award was designed by (and pokes fun at) the misfortune of the 1st Marine Division veterans.
Exposed to approximately six months of savage combat, the battered division arrived in Australia determined to recuperate from their wounds. During this period, a small group of talented officers from the division intelligence section set out to create an “award” in recognition of their continual misfortune. Ever since their formative days in New River, North Carolina, the men felt as if their division was always assigned the hardest work. Following a popular saying of the downtrodden (and “Sad Sacks”) of the time, the term “Let George do it!” became the division’s unofficial motto.
The reverse of the medal was even more direct. Recalling the well-used expression “Sh-t had really hit the fan!”, the officers designed a cartoon showing the posterior of a cow pointed directly at an electric fan. Beneath it is the sarcastic script, “In fond remembrance of the happy days spent from Aug. 7th 1942 to Jan. 5th 1943. U.S.M.C.”
An initial purchase of 100 crude medals was from a small engraving shop off Little Collins Street, in Melbourne, Australia. A deliberately pretentious and humorous certificate was also printed by the Division’s lithographic branch to accompany each award. According to 1st Marine Division veteran Vernon Stimpel, the popularity of the medal soared and a second order was soon made for an additional 400 medals. These were to be presented with a large laundry bag pin, furthering the absurdity of the division’s award. Lore also has it that the manufacturing mold broke during this period. This made the determination of exactly how many original medals were produced in Australia forever unknown. In later years another mold was created and new versions were made and distributed more widely among all veterans of the 1st Marine Division.
Visitors to the Museum can view the George Medals in our WWII Gallery.
Author: Owen L. Conner
Owen L. Conner is the Uniform and Heraldry Curator for the National Museum of the Marine Corps