Curious George

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Origin of the word Gung Ho.

This unofficial motto of the US Marine Corps is an abbreviation for the Mandarin Gongye Hezhoushe, or industrial cooperative. The term was used in China, starting in 1938, to refer to small, industrial operations that were being established in rural China to replace the industrial centers that had been captured by the Japanese. The phrase was clipped to the initial characters of the two words, gung ho (or gung he, as it would be transliterated today), which means "work together." This clipping became a slogan for the industrial cooperative movement.

Enter Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, US Marine Corps. Carlson was a military attache in the US embassy to China in the late-30s. In China, Carlson reported on both the operations of the Chinese army in the field as well as the country's industrial capacity and was favorably impressed by the industrial cooperatives. When he returned to the States and the US entered WWII, Carlson was appointed commander of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion. Recalling his time in China, Carlson chose gung ho as the motto for his elite battalion and by late 1942 was widely adopted throughout the Marine Corps as an expression of spirit and "can do" attitude.


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