NYT’s Sulzburger: ‘The Marines Woke Me Up’

Military service was a world apart from prep school.

Former New York Times publisher Ochs Sulzburger, who died Sept. 29, credits the Marine Corps with turning his ne’er-do-well life around, according to this marvelous obit in the Times by Clyde Haberman.

“Punch,” the publisher’s lifelong nickname, attended a series of tony prep schools, but more as a spectator than a student, his sister Ruth recalled.  So in 1944, at the age of 17, he won his parents’ permission to join the Marines.

“My family didn’t worry about me for a minute,” Sulzburger later said. “They knew that if I got shot in the head, it wouldn’t do me any harm.”

Trained as a Marine radioman, Sulzburger served in the Leyte and Luzon campaigns in the Philippines, and then landed in Japan as a jeep driver at Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters. He was discharged in 1946 as a corporal.

He was recalled to service in 1951, commissioned and served as a public affairs officer in Korea and Washington.

“Before I entered the Marines, I was a lazy good-for-nothing,” he once told his mother. “The Marines woke me.”

I know the feeling. The Corps provided me with the discipline and guidance that serve me well today, 50 years after I arrived at Marines Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, the only institution of higher learning from which I ever graduated. 

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