|Birth: ||Nov. 3, 1931|
West Palm Beach
Palm Beach County
|Death: ||Feb. 14, 2011|
Major Gene Duncan enlisted into the Marine Corps in February 1950 at the age of 18. He served as a section leader for 81mm mortars in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in Korea. Discharged four years later as a staff sergeant, he enlisted into the Reserve of the Marine Corps and remained active therein until 1961 when he returned to active duty and augmented into the Regular Marine Corps as a second lieutenant.
Major Duncan's enlisted billets included administrative clerk, Russian linguist, and 81mm mortar section leader. His officer assignments were tank officer, communications officer, naval gunfire officer, cryptologic officer and ordnance officer. He held eight command billets for a total command time of over eleven years.
He served two combat tours in the Republic of Vietnam and was twice wounded.
He retired from active service in June 1979.
Since retirement Major Duncan involved himself in writing books of interest to Marines, sister services, and civilians. He was active on the speaking circuit, traveling from base to base, talking to Marines of all grades and jobs, imparting leadership and ethics to our young and not-so-young military men and women, especially Marines. In one period of three years he logged over 80,000 miles in these efforts.
Major Duncan has been repeatedly referred to as "the Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling of the Marine Corps." At a gathering in August 1990 at a reception at the Commandant's home in Washington, Duncan was publicly praised by General Gray for his contributions to the Marine Corps. He was presented a Certificate of Commendation by the Commandant. The certificate reads in part, "Through his wisdom and serious thought on topics such as ethics, honor, leadership, and moral courage, he not only captured the heart and soul of the Marine Corps, but successfully imparted to a new generation of Marines its most valued traditions."
Major Duncan currently has twelve books bearing his name and he was the publisher of his own works in his company, Gene Duncan Books, in Boonville, Missouri. He also wrote a weekly column for a Florida newspaper.
During Operation Desert Shield Major Duncan appealed directly to the Commandant of the Marine Corps for active duty, stating, "I want to fight in one war which has public approval before I die." He was unofficially told that his impaired hearing might keep him from active duty, but he replied, "I don't want to LISTEN to the Iraqis, I want to SHOOT them." His application was still being considered when Desert Storm ended.
Duncan held a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Florida State University and a Master of Education Degree from Memphis State University.
He passed away on February 14th, 2011 after a courageous fight against lung cancer. The family has announced their intent to have the Major's remains interred at Quantico National Cemetery in Quantico Va.
Published in Fort Wayne Newspapers from February 19 to February 21, 2011
H.G. "GENE" DUNCAN (MAJ U.S.M.C. Retired) 79, of Fort Wayne, died on Monday, Feb. 14, 2011, at his residence. He was born on Nov. 3, 1931, in West Palm Beach, Fla. He retired in 1979 as a Major from the United States Marine Corp after 29 years of service. He was a member of the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Marine Corps League, and Knights of Columbus. Surviving are his son, David Gene (Kimberly) Duncan of West Palm Beach; grandchildren, Emory, Keaton and Reis Duncan; and sister, Mary Haskins of Florida. Memorial service is 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21, 2011, at V.A. Medical Center Chapel, 2121 Lake Ave. The Rev. Father Daniel Leeuw officiating. Military graveside service is in Quantico National Cemetery, Quantico, Va. Preferred memorials to Heartland Hospice. Arrangements by Hockemeyer & Miller Funeral
AN ODE TO MAJOR DUNCAN by Tony Middleton
In the early 1980’s I was a young Marine struggling to come to terms with the Corps’ decision to utilize my talents, not in training for war, but in the payroll office. It is vital that you understand that I was conned by an unscrupulous recruiter to join the Marines under an open contract. This means that you have essentially thrown yourself upon the mercy of name-less, face-less bureaucrats to place you as one more tiny cog in the great green machine.
That was NOT my plan! You see… (time for brutal honesty here) I did NOT join the Marines for job training, or education funding, or even to impress girls with my uniform. I also did not join because I was escaping poverty, or looking for a better life.
I joined to kill people and blow shit up!
But right out of bootcamp I found myself at odds with the very Corps I purported to serve. And once the Marine Corps decides where you belong – that’s it. You’re stuck! That I am almost completely colorblind didn’t help matters either.
Now after spending an inordinate amount of time and effort in trying to switch MOS’s, and being told very pointedly by a general officer to whom I’d requested an audience to “knock it off and take what the Corps gives you”, I was in a deep dark funk about the whole situation.
It’s about then that I stumbled across the writings of retired Marine Major Gene Duncan. He and a fellow retiree named Capt. Tom Moore had collaborated on a series of books with odd titles like BROWN SIDE OUT, GREEN SIDE OUT (Run in circles, Scream and Shout). Now it’s not possible to fully explain to you dear reader the impact those books had on me. I was suffering from a lack of good leadership and severe disillusionment with the Marine Corps overall, and Major Duncan came along at exactly the right time.
The subtitle of his books is something along the lines of Marine Corps Sea Stories. Some of the short essays in there are humorous anecdotes from his and Capt Moore’s 30 odd years in the Corps. Other writings are the Major’s views on leadership and how the Marine Corps ought to be run. It is beyond my meager capabilities as a writer to adequately summarize the sheer wisdom (well seasoned with laughter) that I found in those texts. But here was the Marine Corps that I thought I was joining. Here was leadership as it was meant to be employed. Oh to have served under the command of such men! Alas I was destined to serve for the most part under the auspices of men with call signs like “Trash Five”.
I loved the Marines (and still do) with all my heart. And I usually will not allow criticism of the Corps to escape my lips within the hearing of any who have not worn forest green. But the truth is it is a human organization that is no better than the men that make it up. And I have seen the heavy toll taken by creeping (now galloping) political correctness over the years.
But I am proud to have worn the same uniform as men like Gene Duncan and Tom Moore, despite the fact that the Marines never allowed me to face down screaming hoards of commies coming thru the wire – nor did they allow me to blow up anything.
Robert Hall, who authors the very excellent blog, The Old Jarhead, mentioned a day or so back that he was going to visit Gene Duncan, and the very mention of the name brought back a flood of memories. A long story made exceedingly short: Bob sent me Major Duncan’s phone number with the caveat that the major can hear very well, but can only reply with the help of a friend. It seems that he hasn’t much time remaining – cancer has had its way with him.
Many times I had wanted to talk to Major Duncan about things I’d seen or experienced. But what would someone who’s been everywhere and seen everything want to discuss with an old payroll clerk like me? But this time, keeping Gene Duncan’s theory of Lions and Lambs firmly in mind; I called the number.
Capt. Tom Moore Jr. answered the phone.
At the risk of getting all choked up, I almost rushed through the words I had stored up in my heart for the last 30 years. I hope I didn’t sound like a damned fool.
“Major, I first read your books about 30 years ago, and I wanted you to know what an inspiration you’ve been to me. Your theory of Lions and Lambs and stayed with me all this time, and I have long wondered what it would have been like to have served under an officer of your caliber. I just wanted to say Thank You, Semper Fi, and God Bless”.
You see, when you read something that sinks deep into your heart in such a fundamental way, you come to almost feel like you know and understand the author. Like he’s talking only to you. I learned a lot from Gene Duncan and his buddy Tom Moore. They taught me essential lessons of leadership far better than if it had simply been delivered in some classroom somewhere. I have sought, to the best of my ability, to approach all that I’ve ever done with the real courage of my convictions: as a Lion, not a Lamb. To realize what that means on a visceral level – well, you’ll just have to read the books. It won’t be wasted time I assure you.
Semper Fi Gentlemen. It was a real pleasure. May God bless and keep you.
Quantico National Cemetery
Prince William County
Plot: Section 10a / Site 243
Created by: Tony Middleton
Record added: Feb 16, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 65742694