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'Walking Dead' Marine battalion to be deactivated

By Jonathan Drew

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Decades before the television show, a Marine Corps battalion decorated for extensive combat in World War II and Vietnam earned the nickname the "Walking Dead."

Now the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, which also saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being deactivated during a ceremony Friday at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The step comes as top U.S. military and political leaders are moving to trim the size of America's military after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corps historians say the battalion appears to have gotten the nickname because of its high rate of casualties during the Vietnam War. But the unit also has a reputation for heroism that included Medal of Honor recipients at Guam and Iwo Jima during World War II and two in Vietnam.

Formed during World War I, the battalion had previously been deactivated in 1994 and reactivated in 2007. Its insignia depicts a cloaked grim reaper carrying a scythe.

Retired Marine Col. Wesley Fox, who received the Medal of Honor while leading a company within the battalion in Vietnam, said he resents the deactivation.

"Not a better battalion in the world. I don't know why they're the ones who keep getting put on the bench but that's the way it goes I guess," Fox said.

The deactivation comes as the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Marine Corps by several thousand to 182,000 by 2016 and could cut further. The Corps' wartime peak in recent years was more than 200,000.

More than 300 battalion members who have been reassigned to other units will participate in Friday's ceremony, which will include each platoon or company marching to the reviewing stand to salute the battalion commander. Dozens of veterans of the unit were also gathering for a reunion.

A memo by Marine Corps historian Annette Amerman says the nickname was changed for at least a while starting in 1984 to "Walking Death" and the insignia became a dragon because some members thought the older nickname was derogatory.

However, when the battalion was reactivated in 2007, "Walking Dead" was once again embraced and the battalion's official Marine Corps website currently bears the grim reaper design.

The "Walking Dead" nickname and battalion history are celebrated on several websites run by veterans and a Facebook page that has more than 1,700 members.

The battalion's legacy was noted at the time of its 2007 reactivation by then-Col. David Berger, who was leading its regiment at the time. Berger is now a lieutenant general commanding the I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California.

"No other unit can claim more history or more heroic leaders than 1/9," Berger was quoted as saying in a 2007 article on the Marine Corps website.

The "Walking Dead" television series, about survivors of a zombie apocalypse, began airing in 2010.

On the eve of the deactivation, Fox recalled first hearing the nickname in 1968 from a personnel officer.

"He asked me if I wanted the 1/9, and I said that sounded good to me. He did the paper work," said Fox, who's 82. "Then he asked: `Have you ever heard of the Walking Dead?' My response to him was: `Maybe a better name is the Walking Death.'"

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tbplayer44 August 29 2014 at 12:36 PM

As a Marine Corps Veteran, this saddens me. As an American, this scares me. At a time when Radical Islamic Terrorists are showing their intent of invading our Country, our Liberal President is more concerned with cutting our protection so he can use that money to pay for Birth Control, Abortions, and the care and education of Illegal Immigrants.

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7 replies
moochelleboochelle August 29 2014 at 11:35 AM


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4 replies
MIKEY'S SCREEN August 29 2014 at 12:54 PM

I was not an assigned member of the 1/9th during Vietnam BUT our unit did support them as an assigned tanker with the 3rd Tank Bn in I Corps.

These guys fought with distinction on a daily basis.

Semper Fi to all my Marine comrades!

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1 reply
BELMO MIKEY'S SCREEN August 29 2014 at 2:18 PM

Semper Fi Brother we may know each other. MOS was 1811 and I had buddies with A, B and C 3rd TKS (see my logo handle and you may immediately know who I am), If we do not know each other I am sure we know and may have served with some of the same Devil Dogs.back in 68 to 70 (3rd and 5th Tks), Hope we see each other at the USMCVTA Reunion in Washington DC in 2015. If you have never been to one you might consider going as there are a ton of brothers from 3rd Tks..Check out the association web site at http://www.usmcvta.org/

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AMedicGary August 29 2014 at 12:47 PM

of course ....... kill the military to make us more vulnerable .... just another part of Obama's plan to ruin this country.

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8 replies
tomkota August 29 2014 at 1:05 PM

sad sad sad....semper fi my brothers
Obama your a piece of sh+t

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3 replies
philcva63 August 29 2014 at 12:33 PM

Welfare, Wall Street, etc. win, the military as usual is quickly forgotten. Read if you will, Rudyard Kipling to see what happens to the military, after the battles are won. Forgotten can be worse then any wound.

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1 reply
William McCurtis philcva63 August 29 2014 at 1:05 PM

Amen, Brother, Amen

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bobparks77 August 29 2014 at 12:37 PM

Hussein Obuffoona is deactivating America as well.

Flag Reply +29 rate up
cigarpal August 29 2014 at 12:23 PM

Whenever "political leaders" are involved in military decisions nothing good will happen.

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dutchhollo August 29 2014 at 12:33 PM

Vote for Democrats and you never ever have to worry about a foreign enemy. Just look towards Washington.

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5 replies
William McCurtis August 29 2014 at 1:02 PM

I know the feeling. Upon hearing the deactivation of 2nd battalion, 64th Armor, I almost cried. That's where I learned the values, morals and responsibilities of leadership as an NCO. The "Walking Dead" should, for now and always, remain a huge part of Marine Corp tradition and recognition. If a Marine had, or has, the distinction of being, or, having ben, a member, then I think there should be an Authorized Patch or Crest to be worn on active duty, and any other occasions, no matter what unit the Marine has been reassigned to. So...from an old Army Tanker..."Semper FI", and job well done. Thank You, brothers

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