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Ultimate Marine (Diamond vs Gray)


Who is the Ultimate Marine’s Marine? Each day, we’ll compare two Marine Corps legends across three categories: Service (actions while in uniform), Legacy (how their service continued to impact the Corps and the world) and Motivation (esprit de corps and overall badassery). The Marines Blog will judge initial rounds internally and guest writers will take over for the final rounds. Be sure to make your voice heard by voting in our simultaneous fan bracket here on the Marines Blog. Share your opinion on our Facebook page, or tweet your thoughts with us @usmc using the hashtag: #UltimateMarine

ViewBracketToday, I have the privilege of comparing two lesser-known legends of Marine Corps history, Master Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond and Gen. Alfred Gray.

At first glance, it seems like a hands down victory for Diamond. I mean, come on, who else can get away with sporting a goatee like that in uniform? When ViewFanBracketyou look at the image of Gray, it might not stand out, but he is the only commandant to have his official photo taken in utilities.

This might be harder than I initially expected.

Diamond stood just shy of six feet tall, weighed 200 pounds and was dubbed “The Honker” by fellow Marines. According to those who fought alongside him during World War I, “the tougher the action, the louder he would yell.”

One legend, though not confirmed, has him as a master mortarman lofting a round into the smokestack of an enemy ship. Another legend, which is confirmed, has Diamond mysteriously getting orders back to his unit at Guadalcanal, but when he arrived his unit had already shipped out to Australia. “The Honker” didn’t let that stop him; Diamond bummed rides on airplanes, ships and trains to make it to his unit.

Gray, on the other hand, made changes to the Corps we still see today. He began his career on the enlisted side and went on to serve in the highest rank a Marine can achieve – Commandant of the Marine Corps. He essentially coined the idea of the “smarter Marine.” He established the Commandant’s Reading List and encouraged officers to listen to their ranks. He also brought back the idea of ‘train like you fight.’

That being said, both had significant careers and both were successful in their own way. Strictly looking at awards, Gray has a distinct edge over Diamond, who only earned one personal decoration. But, Diamond fought in both world wars and his confidence and mannerisms earned him nicknames like “Mr. Marine” and “Mr. Leatherneck.” Diamond wins this round by a hair, a goatee hair.

Service: Diamond

How do you determine the impact two extremely successful Marines had on the Corps when their time in uniform and contributions were so drastically different?

Diamond served at Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C, and Camp Lejeune. He brought his war experience and tenacity to train and mold the future of the Corps. His orneriness and general disposition was so unique, that a lot of his actions are still lore and legend. It’s hard to know what’s true about Diamond, and what are fables – that says a lot about the man’s legacy.

Gray on the other hand, is the exact opposite. His contributions are black and white, as sure as the bricks that make up the Alfred M. Gray Research Center on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
He instituted maneuver warfare into Marine Corps Doctrine. He is also credited with making the Marine Amphibious Units special operations capable. Maneuver warfare, coupled with deception operations and other nontraditional techniques proved invaluable during Operation Desert Storm and later in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gray is a Marine Corps genius. His change to policy helped turn the Marine Corps into the fighting force it is today — few people in this tournament can match Gray’s contributions, and for that, he takes this round.

Legacy: Gray

Though both Marines are lesser known throughout the ranks, they both made an ever-lasting impact within the Corps.

As I look through the pages and pages of search results and scanning through a select few, I have to give this category to Diamond. The amount of myths and stories about his time as a Marine far exceeds Gray’s. Though Gray probably made a more significant impact on the Corps, he can’t match Diamond’s status as a Corps legend.

Diamond is the warrior. Gray is the thinker. Both men made incredible contributions to the Corps, but we’re highlighting the ultimate Marine’s Marine and for better or worse, Marines look to the warrior for motivation.

Motivation and Winner: Diamond.

— — — — — —

Round One

Daly vs Lejeune

Foss vs Hulbert

Diamond vs Gray

Basilone vs Johnson

Puller vs Barnum

Hathcock vs Mawhinney

Vittori vs Glenn

Butler vs Davis

Round Two

Daly vs Foss

Diamond vs Basilone

Puller vs Hathcock

Glenn vs Butler

Final Four

Daly vs Basilone

Puller vs Butler

The Ultimate Marine’s Marine

Daly vs Puller

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  • Terry Mahoney

    I think this is the only one where the Marines are going to vote against the bracket. General Gray was the Marines’ Marine. I interviewed him while still in, and have to say I’d probably put him #4 on the list behind Butler, Puller, and Daly. And that’s it. Of the two, I’d even take Gray over Mattis.

  • Eric Winslow

    Same here Gen Gray.

  • Marine Corps Production

    All competitors have to have left the Corps more than 20 years ago since “legacy” is a rated category.

  • Phil Herrin

    why isnt mattis on this list?

  • Thomas Glenn Hill

    Lou Diamond was a Great Mortarman, but I Knew General Grey up close and personal, a true Marines Marine !

  • Adam Bonus

    Tough choice I did go for MGS Diamond fighting in both WW1 & 2 says a lot about a man.

  • Craig A. Loney

    My commandant when I was in the Corps …… Gen. Gray

  • Robert E. Allen

    In 1944 Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond was at Parris Island. Of we were under the impression he had won WWI all by himself. At Parris Island he was supervising that last of ceasing to be a civilian. Back then, when you pulled off your skivvies Diamond with is goatie was standing by the furnace hollering “Move it, move it.”

  • mardbrow

    Another tough call of course. Must have missed the last round. Still got to give it to Master Gunnery Sgt. Lou Diamond. Number one he’s working that goatee and number two he’s enlisted, probably by choice if I had to guess.

  • David Seigler

    I’d rather have a thinker lead me than someone so inpulsive as Sgt. Diamond, then again when in a foxhole sometimes inpulsive is way better!

  • Doug Fortune

    I voted for General Gray because he was my Commandant when I enlisted in the Corps.

  • Scott Corner

    Go back in our history and I think you’ll find that one day General Gray will be compared with Lt.Gen. Victor Krulak. Like Gen. Krulak in the 30′s, Gen. Gray’s vision, temperament, charisma, leadership, etc., made the Marine Corps relevant at a time when (and we don’t like to admit this) the Army was leading the way in “maneuver warfare”, education, etc. Without Gen. Gray the Marine Corps may have found itself irrelevant in Desert Storm and may have found itself a much larger victim to the “Peace Dividend” of the 90′s. And, Gen. Gray made every Marine feel like a warrior from re-designating Marine units as “Expeditionary”, rather than “Amphibious”, to letting Marines on guard duty carry loaded weapons. Yes, before Gen. Gray we didn’t trust Marines with loaded weapons. I could go on. Bottom line, I’ve never met a Marine, officer or enlisted, who did not admire Gen. Gray.

  • Michael McNulty

    I think it would have been a natural progression for Marines to improve and excel at what they do, but when it come down to it in a firefight you need a tough strong leader to get through it victorious!

  • Homer Hazel

    This was a very hard choice. Both are outstanding Marines. I wound up supporting the General because he made institutional changes.