The next few years were spent preparing for war. By 1943, he was posted to the pacific war arena where in November, his already impressive reputation was enhanced further. During the landings at Bougainville, his landing craft was struck by a Japanese shell, killing the coxswain and engineer and wounding five others. Seeing the wounded men struggling in the water, despite being under heavy machine gun fire, he returned several times to help them ashore. This action earned him the Silver Star. Also at Bougainville, another story was told about him finding a foxhole to sleep in, containing what he thought was a dead Japanese soldier. While he was preparing his bed for the night, the Japanese soldier got up and aimed a pistol at him. Marvin grabbed a shovel and killed his assailant, he then covered the body with soil and a piece of corrugated iron settling down in the foxhole to sleep.
In June 1944, he was sent to Guam where he was once again involved in ferocious and fighting leading from the front in numerous acts of heroism. Acts which were described in the citation for his Navy Cross.
The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Milton C. Marvin (0-24040), Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving in charge of a Flame-Thrower and Demolitions Section and later as a Rifle Platoon Leader attached to the Twenty-First Marines, THIRD Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Asan-Adelup Beachhead, Guam, Marianas Islands, from 21 to 27 July 1944. Constantly inspiring his men with confidence and determination, Second Lieutenant Marvin directed the combat operations of his units skilfully and without regard for his own safety during several days of bitter fighting in a highly strategic area. Upon locating two enemy pillboxes which menaced the security of newly-won ground after rifle units had seized a ridge commanding the entire beachhead on 25 July, he courageously led his men over thirty yards of fire-swept terrain and destroyed the emplacements, killing two of the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Later the same day, he again led his men against a heavily-defended cave and, failing to neutralize the hostile position with flame and grenades, personally advanced to the entrance of the cave and placed a charge of explosives which demolished the emplacement. Ordered to reinforce a point in the weakened defense lines during a fierce Japanese attack, he fought tirelessly throughout the night in the face of withering enemy fire and contributed materially to the successful resistance of our forces against great odds. Subsequently leading a rifle platoon in an assault on an area strongly protected by caves and emplacements, he valiantly made his way forward with two of his men and destroyed three of the positions, but was mortally wounded while attempting to wipe out the fourth. Second Lieutenant Marvin's indomitable fighting spirit, brilliant initiative and resolute conduct throughout this extremely vital period reflect the highest credit upon himself, his heroic command and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. Details: Commander in Chief, Pacific Forces: Serial 00143 (12 March 1945).
He died on board the USS Wharton on 29 July 1944 in Guam and was buried at sea. His name is engraved on the 'Wall of the Missing' at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Honolulu, Hawaii. Such was his reputation that a Red Cross Center on an island in the Pacific was named in his honour.
A few months after his death, but before the news had reached Leatherneck, another side of Slug’s complex character was revealed. The journal wrote that, ‘There’s a Marine in the South Pacific who stumps generals with cross words and gets away with it. He is Milton C. “Slug” Marvin… and he does it with cross word puzzles. He began his hobby of making cross word puzzles years ago when he was in China service and has kept it up ever since. Now practically everyone in his outfit from CO to junior privates work on his puzzles, most of which have a considerable Marine Corp flavour.’ One such example was 1 across ‘These are used by Troops throughout the world.’ To which the answer was ‘chevauxdefrise’ (i.e. Chevaux De Frise). A more erudite example was 66 across, ‘A book of wise sayings in the Apocrypha’, with the answer ‘ecclesiasticus’.
Soon after the war, the Leatherneck magazine featured ‘the immortal’ Slug’s story in an article titled ‘A Marine’s Marine’. The final story, which has an air of being apocryphal, was that after Slug was wounded, ‘He was taken aboard a hospital ship lying offshore the night after he was evacuated from the entangled network of caves where he had been hit. A medical officer on board said, “This man’s dead.” The heroic Slug piped up: “Like hell I am.” But he died just a few hours later.'
In 1937, Marvin met his second wife Elizabeth Radko at a Christmas party and they were married two years later, 1 December 1939. Elizabeth, a Manchurian born white Russian from Harbin, had arrived in Shanghai with her parents. In 1932, when she was sixteen, her parents decided to return to Soviet Russia. Because she had established herself as a successful dressmaker and perhaps considering that there may be other opportunities available, Elizabeth chose to stay in Shanghai.
In December 1939, 'Slug' returned to America but his new wife was stranded in Shanghai. Elizabeth told her story after the war to the San Diego Marine Corps Chevron newspaper;
the Manchuria-born Russian girl had attempted to leave the crowded seaport in the spring of 1939 several times, only to be refused a visa and passport. Failing to obtain papers from Washington granting her the right to come to America, she paid a visit to the American Consul… I was very frightened at first, because I could not speak English so well, but I knew I must get to ' the States… The Consul was very nice, and gave me the visa and passport. I was the very first one on that boat the next day, you can be sure of that!... Arriving in New York harbor in March, 1939, the young refugee ran down the gangplank to meet her husband. "I was crying so hard, I couldn't see . . . everyone wanted to know why I cried. It was because I was so happy to be away from Shanghai and in the lovely United States!
US Fourth Marine 'Slug' Marvin was a native of Chicago, Illinois, born 31 August 1902. After a brief period as a professional boxer, he entered the Marine Corps in April 1922 as an enlisted man, staying until 1925. During these years, while serving in Pearl Harbour, he helped organise a soccer team. He tried his hand at professional boxing once more, re-enlisting in the Marine Corp in July 1926. Prior to arriving in China in August 1930, he briefly served as part of the Western Mail Guard Detachment, followed by a spell on board the USS Arkansas, several months in Nicaragua and some time at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
His first posting to China encompassed his rugby playing period. He played his last game of rugby in Shanghai in early December 1934, by January 1935 he was back in the United States. An uncompromising sportsman man, he was a
ferocious and sometimes volatile man on the pitch, being sent off for arguing with the referee on at least one occasion. His first love was boxing, but he only had one bout in Shanghai before an injury to his shoulder stopped his career. After retiring from the ring, he spent many years coaching fellow Marines in the noble art.
While in Shanghai, 'Slug' proved himself no friend of the Japanese. He had several 'confrontations' with them which ultimately led to him being ordered from Shanghai for his own safety. The story behind his quick exit has entered Marine folklore and various versions of it have been printed with varying degrees of embellishment. His wife’s version was close to the facts reported at the time in the China media and throughout America.
She recalled that, that when Marvin was on a motor patrol in 1938, he saw three Japanese men removing a Chinese flag from a store, spit on it and throw it on the floor. He jumped out of his patrol car manhandled the Japanese into his patrol car and returned the flag to the store. The next day’s newspaper reports added that it was 06:00 in the morning and that after stopping the car, Marvin had been threatened with a gun by one of the Japanese. Unperturbed, he merely returned the threat with his own gun.
The Japanese were handled on the assumption that they were simply armed thugs (although it was strongly believed that they were agents of the Japanese Army acting as Agent Provocateurs), and taken to a please station where a local newspaper reporter took a photo of them being forcibly removed from the car. A later version of the story in Leatherneck was a bit more colourful. Their story was that ‘Slug' Marvin had a reputation for hating the Japanese, and he saw to it personally that they heard of his contempt and dislike for them. As early as 1938, Marvin had started waging a one-man campaign against the Nipponese,
and earned international recognition for himself by subduing three enemy assassins’ intent upon staging a raid in the International Settlement in Shanghai China.
Because of the incident, a few weeks later, ‘Slug’ left Shanghai for a few weeks while the dust settled. On 30 August he was aboard the USS Marblehead on his way to Chinwangtao [Qinhuangdao] in the far north east of China on the Yellow Sea coast. While there he lost no time in setting up a makeshift boxing ring and training Marines to box. He returned to Shanghai in September 1938 to resume his duties before returning to America in December 1939, as noted above, minus his wife.
Elizabeth Marvin's story was told in the Marine Corps Chevron magazine in 1945. She is pictured showing the awards won by her husband
US Marine Milton Calvin 'Slug' Marvin
The Marine's Marine
The US Marine team photographed in 1930 including 'Slug' Marvin who was training his colleagues to become the best rugby team in Shanghai
After spending almost three years in the United States, in September 1937, Slug was back in Shanghai. He maintained links with boxing but did not grace the rugby pitch again. The Walla Walla magazine, a monthly journal published for the Marines in Shanghai, printed an article about a Miss Cecelia Wu, who was celebrating her birthday. Affectionately known in the Brigade as ‘Cissy’, she was marking her 26th birthday by hosting ‘a small number of her more intimate
friends at a party given at her home.’ During the party Miss Wu gave a speech telling her appreciative audience that;
although in the past she had been known as a gay social butterfly and a party girl, she has found at last a satisfactory outlet for her innate urge for self-expression in guiding marines in their often complicated social lives. Her association with the Second Marine Brigade, she declared, will always stand in her mind as one of the few beautiful things which have come to her in the course of her life, she added, that has had it’s share of sorrow and empty triumphs.
After such a moving speech, it was left to Gunner Sergeant Slug Marvin, ‘her most attentive admirer’, to present her with a bouquet of flowers. Perhaps, being so close to Marvin, Cissy knew what had happened to his first wife. What she made of his second wife is not known - perhaps Marvin was another empty triumph in Cissy’s life?
On 31 August 1933, ‘Slug’ married twenty-one year old Zinaida Visilevna Mirinova at the American Consulate in Shanghai. She was a Russian lady born in Blagaveshensk, Siberia. A talented linguist, as well as speaking Russian, she also spoke English and French! When Marvin returned to the United States on the USS Chaumont on 17 December 1934, he left without his new wife who followed him one month later, on the transport ship USS Grant. I have found no further records of Zinaida, her subsequent history remains a mystery.
Left: Slug pictured in 1934 shortly before leaving Shanghai for the first time. Above: Slug (in black shorts) puts Marines through their paces in 1938
Milton Marvin's first marriage to Miss Mirinova
‘A Marine’s Marine’
Milton Calvin 'Slug' Marvin (1902 - 1944)
A source referenced copy of the text below is available on request
Player for United States Fourth Marines (1929 – 1934)
Marvin's exploits were reported throughout the United States, in this example, the Fort Myers News Press [extract] from August 1938
In February 1940, Mrs Elizabeth Marvin finally got a Visa to travel to the United States to be reunited with her husband