The 8th & I Reunion Association

An organization of Marines
who served at
Marine Barracks
8th & I Streets, S.E.,
Washington D.C.

The President's Own - United States Marine Band

The United States Marine Band is the premier band of the United States Marine Corps.
Established by act of Congress on July 11, 1798, it is the oldest of the United States military bands
and the oldest professional musical organization in the United States.

The President's Own - United States Marine Band

Some history of the Drum Major's Mace

When I first got to the Barracks and the Band's Drum Major was Hank Peter's, a really intimidating and impressive Marine SNCO and Drum Major, he used a mace that had a Silver Head on it that was sort of flat on the top of it. Hank Peters and Gene Belschner were to two most Drum Major appearing and acting Drum Major's I saw in all my life and especially during the Friday Night Parades when the Band was on one end of the parade deck while the D&B was on the other and they marched together and joined into one musical unit! Drum Major Danny Osher also carried that mace. Then while Drum Major Donovan was there Assistant Drum Major Jimerson was sent over to England to pick up a Bear Skin hat from Boosey & Hawkes. Their representative apparently kept him drunk right up until the time he put Jimerson on the plane to come and home and just before he walked through the departure point he handed Jimerson a brown paper bag and said here's the hat! When he got on the plane he examined it and it was a regimental dress hat, like our barracks cover, of one of the Guards Regiments. Needless to say when he got back to the Band it was difficult to explain his 10 days over there TAD and not getting the Bear Skin cover!

Then a new design for our mace was solicited from Boosey & Hawkes and the sent drawings over of the current mace which everybody loved. By now LtCol Harpham was Director and he arranged to send me over as his representative to approve and pick up the Mace. LtCol Harpham knew old Sir Jeffery Hawks very, very well personally and he called Sr. Jeffery and told him about the bear skin hat incident and that he was sending me over as his personal representative to approve and pick up the new mace and that I had his complete authority to reject it on the spot! LtCol Harpham decided to send along with me the buck sergeant who was our general handyman and gofer as a reward for all his great unsung work.

On the day after we arrived he and I in civilian clothes took the tube out to Middlesex where the Boosey & Hawkes factory was located. They made nearly all of the ceremonial equipage for the Brigade of Guards, the Royal House and the rest of the British Armed Forces. In WWII they had produced plane engines for bombers and fighters. We were immediately taken with great fawning to the Board of Director's Conference Room where the entire Board of Directors were present. We ate a nice light lunch after being introduced to everyone and the atmosphere was pretty strained. After lunch they had the mace brought in and it was unwrapped from it's cloth case and shown to me. I closely compared it to the drawing I had brought along to make sure all the wordings were correctly spelled in accordance with what had been approved and such. I was in utter awe of the workmanship that was apparent, especially on the head of the mace itself. It was beautiful! They all relaxed and became very friendly after I said that I would accept it but I told them I wanted a damage proof carrying case to transport it back to the Barracks and they were tickled pink to only have to do that. They arranged for Sir Jeffery's chauffeur, Ernie, to drive us back to our hotel on the Strand in his Rolls Royce limo.

He made arrangements to pick us up the next morning and drive us up to Windsor Castle for a special tour Sir Jeffery had arranged for us. We saw a lot of the castle that is not normally shown and it was awesome. On the way back he stopped in a small out of the way English village called Hurley on Thames. We had an early dinner there in the 2nd oldest Inn in England having been founded around 1325 AD something. It was supposed to be the 2nd oldest Inn in England. We had the best steak I have ever eaten anywhere in the world, and I have eaten Kobi steak in Japan and steak fixed on the King Ranch down in Texas. When we got back he dropped us off to see one of the British shows in a theatre and gave us tickets to another theatre the next night for a interesting show. Since we were there for 10 days TAD and the previous year I had met the new Director of the Royal Marine Band when he had visited us we decided to visit him. He had wanted to visit Gettysburg when he came over so I got a staff car and driver and took him up and gave him a really good tour of the Battle field as well as Antetium which wow'ed him. We took the train down to Deal on the souther coast to what was then the Royal Marine "Bootcamp" where he had a Sgt and SSgt meet us at the train. We had lunch with him and his wife at their house and then a tour of the Band watching them rehearse. That evening was a SNCO Evening at which the CO requested the privilege of the Sgt's Mess from the Regimental SgtMaj, which of course was granted. I wedged myself in between a pillar supporting the upper floor and the bar and drank gin tonic's all night long. I have always gotten sick on the smell of beer and simply can't get it down my throat!!!!! That night after everybody turned in I went into the head and gave up an offering to the God of Porcelain, took a handful of aspirin and went to bed setting my alarm for an hour before Reveille! I was fresh shaved and squared away and went as Reveille was being sounded knocking on the doors of my host Sgt and SSgt cheerfully wishing them a great morning and suggesting we hustle over to the mess to eat! I tormented them all day long, though it damned near killed me. I did get satisfaction of seeing them hustle to the coffee everyplace we went first thing and muttering something about those Damned American Marines!" Of course my buck sergeant was right with them.

The Adjutant was a Major who rode a horse all around the base with jodhpurs, spit shined riding boots complete with spurs and whip/crop. Our host took us the next day to see Canterbury and the Cathedral there as well as the old Dover Castle.

When we were ready to leave Ernie showed up with the mace in a custom made metal carrying "box" that was painted glistening black with white lettering on it "US Marine Band, The President's Own" and a carrying handle. It took some doing but I managed to talk the Chief Stewartress of the Pam Am 747 which we were flying on to allow it to be stored in the cabin instead of the hole. We were supposed to fly into Baltimore where we would go through customs where everything was arranged. But for some reason we were re-routed into the new Pam Am International facilities at JFK which was sort of new itself. They made us go through custom's there. I paid for what I had declared and then they demanded I pay fee's for the Mace! I tried to reason with the arrogant custom's guy at that spot while line was growing behind me. I explained it belonged to the US Government in the form of the Marine Band, "The President's Own" and that we were directly under the command of the President himself. He still demanded I pay for it. So I decided to go into my Gunny role and get pissed off and I told him he could jam the G-damned mace up his ass because I wasn't going to pay the government for what the government had just purchased and he could damn well be prepared to explain to the White House why he had seized the Mace of "The President's Own Band"! I started stomping off with him chasing me and people stopping and staring. this brought his supervisor who was just as bone headed so I got even madder and louder. Finally I attacked the attention of a Custom Officer who was a Major and I calmly explained it all to him. He made a call to BWI and they confirmed it all so I got to bring it with me on the continuing flight to BWI without having to pay for it.

I believe this is the same Mace that is still used today.

The Drum Major's bearskin cover used to have a beautiful large brass insignia of the Marine Band on it's front and a gold chain running from one side to the other connecting at gold uniform buttons. It really was impressive but Drum Major Donovan didn't like it and wouldn't shine it and finally talked Col Schoepper into allowing him to remove it since it looked so "dingy"!!!!!

I had early told you about getting Dennie over from the D&B to be Drum Major. I was wrong slightly in my relation of it to you. Col Schoepper was still the Director and the position was to be a replacement of Assistant Drum Major Jimerson who had been transferred back to the regular Marine Corps as a MSgt with a new date of rank starting upon that reassignment. Major Harpham was put in charge of finding the new replacement for Jimerson. The rest happened as I stated though.

Jimerson was a really good guy. You husband may have know him. He was married to an Islander named Pearl. He became a stone alcoholic. He couldn't function unless he had at least a pint of vodka in him and he drank 110 proof. Finally things had gotten so bad that Drum Major Donovan went to Col Schoepper and told him about it so it was decided he would be transferred back to the regular Corps which was actually what Jimerson wanted. Then Snellings got involved and arranged for him to go back at his old regular rank as GySgt with an entire new date of rank commencing upon his return. It was just plain wrong, but another attempt by Snellings to get back at the band for not making him an Assistant Director. So Jimerson decided to play the "race card" and rightly so in my humble opinion, and CMC's office got involved directly in the transfer. Jimerson went back a MSgt but lost his time in grade. Snellings was able to brag he had screwed Jimerson but the truth got out that he really had not gotten what he had wanted.

Submitted by 8th & I Marine David "DB" Wright, Drum & Bugle Corps and U.S. Marine Band, 1965-1974 / USMC 1959-1974, Vietnam veteran, Las Vegas, NV


The below photo of a B-25 (WWII era) reminded me of a great story once told to me by MGySgt James Donovan while he was Drum Major of the US Marine Band, "The President's Own!" While a SSgt & GySgt PIO of the US Marine Band, I worked around the Drum Major quite a bit and during a relaxed session one day he told the below story grinning all the time at recalling it.

At the great Victory Parade in Washington, DC at the end of WWll, all the branches of our Armed Forces, including the US Coast Guard (which fought as a part of the Navy), marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House with a massive fly over of every kind of plane we used during that war.

Then a young Marine, Big Jim Donovan (he was 6-06 tall) managed to hitch a ride in a Marine PBJ in a USMC Squadron (USMC & USN designation of B-25) as part of the Marine fly over. His assigned seat was in the Tail Gunner's position. As you can see from the photo below, there was very little room in that cramped position and normally the smallest member of the gunner crew got stuck into it. I can recall his telling me how hard it was for him to get himself folded into the space and his knees were nearly up to his ears as it was so tight and cramped. But he was determined to be a part of that historic event.

They took off from the MCAS Quantico and, of course, in true military fashion, our Marine practice had to be early rather than late, and they ended up flying in huge circles over Virginia below DC. As the planes were finally given the order to join the parade flying continuously above the marching troops, rolling vehicles, other artillery, tanks, armor, amphibious and other military equipment on the ground, the plane he had hitched a ride on either (I forget exactly) had engine problem or literally ran out of gas (I think it was the latter) and had to make an emergency landing in a farmer's field, which they did safely.

Until he told me that story, I did not know that the Navy or the Marines had any B-25's in their inventory back then. I had once been in a B-25 brought around with out wings, on a semi truck after the war while still a young boy. I remembered sitting the the nose seat, pilot's, and vividly recall sitting in the tail gunner's seat and at 6 years old (and very large for my age) it was comfortable for me. So it really blew my mind recalling that experience when "Big Jim" told this story. He really had to have wanted to be in that flight to have endured the several hours in that cramped space and I was further amazed at how he could have possibly folded his body up sufficient to sit where I had sat while a kid! But MGySgt Donovan was a fairly amazing Marine and on rare occasions you could get him to tell a story.

Submitted by 8th & I Marine David "DB" Wright, Drum & Bugle Corps and U.S. Marine Band, 1965-1974 / USMC 1959-1974, Vietnam veteran, Las Vegas, NV


Take a close look at the Bearskin being worn by the Drum Major of the US Marine Band, “The President's Own” around 1970. It had a beautiful heavy wide chain of brass loops falling down from an anchor point above the front metal pate terminating at a large regulation Dress Blouse Brass Botton (Full sized button) on each side. Front and Center on the front the large metal “Plate” you see was the coat of arms of THE US MARINE BAND,”THE PRESIDENT'S OWN” IN BRASS AND SIVER and beneath it was a large brass laurel wreath. It was truly unique and several times I heard the Drum Majors of the Army and Navy Bands discussing attempting to put similar devices on their Bear Skin Covers but had been shot down because it would be “imitating” the Marine Band.

Then it sort of disappeared after a long period of complaining about having to remove and shine all this from the Bearskin. The Supply Sergeant offered several times to have it all anodized so it would not have to be shined but it seemed that particular Drum Major wanted to look more like the Brigade of Guards looked and not with the stuff he was forced to wear. I'd be surprised if anyone can even find it any more but I would love to see it returned to its former place of glory, prestige and pride as it was truly unique only to that Band!

Somebody please put this into the proper hands of someone who appreciate this missing piece of history who might be able to restore it to its rightful place again!

Submitted by 8th & I Marine David "DB" Wright, Drum & Bugle Corps and Band, 1965-74 / USMC 1959-74, Vietnam veteran, Las Vegas, NV

U.S. Marine Bank on the steps of the Capitol Building. July 1958; Director: Lt Col Albert Schoepper, Asst Dir's: Capt Dale Harpham and 1st Lt James B. King, Jr

Marine Corps Band pass in review before President John F. Kennedy during the Inaugural, Jan 20, 1961

Submitted by Tom Lewis

1961, 8TH & I YEARBOOK




Submitted by John Reim, Ceremonial Guard Company, Silent Drill Platoon, 1958-1961, Franklinville, NJ

Early-1960's ... Antony "Tony" Matarrese, Pianist, U.S. Marine Band,1954-1973,
Playing For John F. Kennedy, Jr., At The White House. Note: Antony Matarrese Passed Away On 10-9-17.

Submitted by Eliot "Ike" Evans, 8th & I, U.S. Marine Band, 1970-1998, Dumfries, VA

1988 Parade Program

Arthur S. Witcomb, solo cornet and Assistant Leader of the Marine Band (from 1905 to 1935). Publicity photo at the WH, July 1924. Calvin Coolidge's son died and Witcomb played Taps in VT at the burial. (Born in Birmingham, England in 1879-- died June 18, 1950 in DC). Witcomb was cornetist in the Coldstream Guards before coming to the US.

This on display at the Globe & Laurel restaurant in Stafford, just South of Quantico, VA:

Photo of Mr. Sousa's original sketch for Semper Fidelis

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