'toW stories in the annals of the U. S. Marine
Corps are more fantastic than that of a tough,
tow-headed gunnery sergeant named Faustin
E. Wirkus. His childhood dream of beconminr
Marine led this 20th Centur. sobinson Cr~
feather crown and an island gdom just Bs
by boat from the harbor o York. He ne
the only white king in the en story of the voodoo
isle of La Gonave, off the t of Haiti. With the
help of 12 dusky queens he ruled over 12,000 natives
until he was forced from his throne. The blacks still
wait for his return, but now it's in vain. King Faustin
Born in the grimy coal mining town of Pittston,
Pa., in 1897, Wirkus was christened "Faustin" after
a Polish saint. Little did his parents dream that the
odd name would shape his fabulous destiny. Nor did
they picture any future for him other than the
mines. But at an early age Faustin decided to escape
the pits. He was 11 and already at work in the col-
lieries when he saw his first Marine recruiting poster.
At 17, by pushing his birthday ahead a year,
Wirkus joined the Marines. As soon as his boot
training was finished he volunteered for a hitch in
Haiti. That was in 1915 when Haiti's president,
Guillaume Sam, had recently been torn to shreds and
dragged around town in a burlap bag. Under the
Monroe Doctrine the Marines had stepped in to take
over the troubled government. Sam's successor was
all for American help in straightening out Haiti's
jumbled affairs. But the rival faction, beaten at the
polls, took to the hills with machetes and out-
When the rookie Marine sailed into Port-au-Prince
harbor his imagination was fired by the silent, for-
bidding island of La Gonave that rose out of the sea
40 miles to the west. Rumors of savagery and weird
voodoo rites there went the rounds of the ship. It
was said that since the time of the buccaneers, no
white man had landed on La Gonave until the
Marines had set up a post.
But Faustin's curiosity had to be shelved for
many years. Meanwhile, in Haiti, he worked at
patrolling the hostile waterfront of Port-au-Prince,
where Marines were ever on the alert for revolution-
His next assignment took him over jungle trails
to the bloody mountain fastness of Perodin, a ghost
village deep in the Haitian hinterland. For nine
months he patrolled the seething countryside. It was
honey-combed with revolutionists who were burning
homes, stealing cattle and murdering every man who
sed to join their cause.
'ln one bloody skirmish, Wirkus killed a rebel
hiding behind a palm tree by estimating the height
of the man's chest and sending his bullet straight
through the trunk. This amazing shot so awed the
other bandits that they dropped their guns and fled.
His boldness and daring in bush warfare brought
him a promotion. Soon he was the only white officer
in complete charge of the native troops in the
Perodin outpost. The first thing he did was to build
himself a mud hut befitting his new station. Later
he added a fireplace and a flue. The chimney was a
major miracle to the natives. As soon as they beheld
the smoke actually disappear up the flue, they dis-
patched runners along the trails to tell the country
by Elaine Bassler Mardus
folk of the white magician. Thus began the Marine's
reputation as a sorcerer as well as a sharpshooter.
As military chief of Perodin, Wirkus commanded
native vigilantes who volunteered to ferret out the
small bands that were still looting their people. At
odd hours of the day or night these scouts dropped
into Wirkus' office to report. They never produced
any bodies, however, to back up their claims. Wirkus
finally demanded proof from one vigilante leader.
The black left in high indignation. Several weeks
later he returned and put a package of banana leaves
on the Marine's desk. When Faustin opened the
bundle, to his horror he saw six human left ears!
In 1920 Wirkus was transferred to a more tranquil
Haitian neighborhood to give his frayed nerves a
rest. A sub-district commander of Arcahaie, he was
also nominally in charge of La Gonave. At last he
was to find out about the isle whose evil reputation
had fascinated him. He could learn nothing from the
white officers who had formerly been stationed there,
for none of them had ever dared venture into the
Nevertheless, Wirkus applied for duty on the
island. In preparation, he mixed with the natives on
the mainland and learned a lot about them. Because
he was reputed to be a master of magic, he even
succeeded in getting initiated into the closely
guarded voodoo rituals. Staining his face yellow, he
passed himself off as a Jamaica Negro. In the full
of the moon he was escorted into an eerie voodoo
temple where a spirit voice summoned from Africa
gruffly called him a stupid fellow and snubbed him.
At last, in 1925, Wirkus was appointed resident
commander of La Gonave. Where others had found
a hell hole, he found a Negro garden of Eden. He
arrived on the isle with a huge box of bonbons. These
he dispatched post haste, with his compliments, to
the queen, Ti Memenne. Enormously pleased with
the sweets, her dusky majesty called on him in her
garb of state, a cotton store dress, gay bandana and
shiny patent leather shoes.
In the first few months of his residency, Wirkus
explored the jungle trails alone and unarmed. Hidden
signal drums warned the villagers of his approach so
that wherever he went, he was expected. He got to
know the people, visited their huts, shared their
food, listened to their troubles.
In no time at all, the islanders adored him. He, in
turn, fell in love with them completely. He treated
them with courtesy and never belittled their voodoo
beliefs. He took them as he found them and didn't
try to make them over.
As a token of their love, the natives made him a
member of their 12 Congo Societies. These were
unique labor unions each ruled by a queen of the
blacks' choosing. Ti Memenne, as the queen mother,
ruled over the sub-queens. In this primitive co-
operative, to the constant beat of the Congo drums,
the natives swung their machetes and hoes in their
neighbor's garden to plant the crops en masse. Each
member got the benefit of one full day's work from
all his fellow members. The work cycle was repeated
until the end of harvest.
In this simple, orderly way Wirkus got seemingly
impossible things done. At the risk of his own job,
he exposed the local graft in the collection of taxes.
He didn't rest until the island farmers got a square
deal on assessments. Incidentally he also saved the
Haitian government taxes amounting to $40,000.
HE BUILT a landing field to show off the
beauty of his island to officials from the
mainland. He took the first census, a difficult job
because of the local belief that only the devil kept
track of his children. He wheedled seeds and blooded
sows from the mainland government for his islanders.
He taught them to plant in rows, instead of scatter-
ing seeds at random as they had been doing.
These practical reforms and his"magic" endeared
him still more to the natives. It was said that
although his skin was white, he had the sympathetic
heart of a Negro.
The final attribute was his peculiar Christian
name. A former native emperor of Haiti had been
named Faustin I. He had vanished in 1848, promis-
ing that his namesake would some day return to take
his throne. To the naive, mystic blacks of La Gonave,
the friendly Marine seemed certainly to be the
In a highly constitutional manner Wirkus was
nominated king in a secret conclave. His nomination
was ratified at a convention of the 12 sub-queens.
The final seal of approval came from a blind seer
who confirmed the belief that he was indeed the
reincarnation of Faustin I.
The Marine's coronation was celebrated with
pomp before his 12,000 black subjects. A voodoo
priest smeared the blood of a white rooster on his
wrists. Then, to the muffled roll of ceremonial drums,
a crown made of sea-shells, hummingbird feathers
and slivers of a broken mirror was jammed on his
Faustin II's royal status brought with it a fresh
batch of responsibilities. As a medicine man, he was
called upon for everything from delivering a baby to
curing a hog with cholera. His most vexing problem
was sick infants. Fortunately he got hold of a book
on pediatrics. This he thumbed earnestly as he made
his rounds through the jungle.
Accessible to everyone, Wirkus was hailed on the
trails to settle boundary disputes and fishing con-
cessions. The major items on his itinerant judicial
docket, however, were love triangles. Although
polygamy was accepted, all too often wives battled
for exclusive possession of their common husband.
When these marital mix-ups were dumped into his
lap, Wirkus made the husband do the choosing. He
insisted, however, that the discarded lady get a
settlement of pots and pans.
Tr' E only problems the king dodged were those
A involving religion. One day a native policeman
named Charlemonde appeared before his majesty.
He was deeply troubled. It seems the fellow had been
impressed by a Baptist missionary at a revival meet-
ing he attended on the mainland. He was ready to be
converted. The stickler was that first he would have
to give up seven of his eight wives if he were to
become a good Christian. Wirkus refused to advise
the, burly Negro. He did point out that, along with
the seven wives, Charlemonde would also have to
relinquish the seven plantations these women hoed
and tended for him. It didn't take long, then, for the
native to choose between his gardens and his
Where his knowledge fell short, the Marine king
relied on his common sense. In one case, his know-
how put him on a level with the local gods. An
islander named Constant Polynice had a passion for
cockfighting, but his gamecocks were so lazy that
they constantly lost every bet their hopeful master
placed on them.
Faustin II mapped out a training schedule for the
indifferent roosters. He covered their food with
gravel so they would have to dig for it. He threw
them into the air in a dark room to make them
exercise their wings. He tied a pullet just out of their
A month later Polynice reported gleefully that
now his "Marine Corps roosters" had muscle and a
fighting heart. They had, in fact, beaten every single
opponent. Only someone close to the gods, the native
was convinced, could have thus, transformed his
For four happy years Faustin II ruled his "Black
children" by working with them. Whatever he
taught them whether it was building a house,
breeding pigs, planting a field or comforting a colic
baby -- they listened eagerly. For in their simple,
childlike way, they had given him their love.
Ironically enough, it was their very love which
doomed the benevolent monarch's rule. The govern-
ment of Haiti had begun to take an active interest
in the island, now that the Marine had redeemed it
from its ugly reputation. In 1928 the president of
Haiti decided to visit La Gonave. This was the first
inspection by a high dignitary from the mainland in
the history of the island. Not long after Wirkus was
relieved of his post. Rumor had it that the president
couldn't tolerate the idea of a king- not even a
jungle king in any part of his republic.
Wirkus left without telling his subjects that the
very honor they had bestowed upon him was respon-
sible for his forced abdication. He knew it would
make them miserable and he loved them too much
for that. He finished his hitch at other stations in
Haiti and left the service in 1931 to write a book
about his amazing adventures. His fame soon circled
the globe. From Iceland to Japan, newspapers car-
ried the strange story of his tropical kingdom.
From a poor miner, the ex-Marine became a
celebrity. After his book was published he lectured
for a while. Then he became a customer's man on
Wall Street. In 1939, when war clouds threatened,
he ditched his prosaic job and enlisted in the Marines.
This time his ability to understand and handle
people landed him a public relations post.
Several years later, tragedy struck. The tough
soldier who had withstood bullets, ambush and
disease was stricken with a fatal disease. After a long
and gallant fight, he died in 1945 at the age of 48.
If he has realized his dearest wish, his soul has
joined the dark-skinned hosts he loved so well, to
pick heavenly bananas in God's jungle garden. END
Atlantic City took it on the beach last year
G AY and sun-blanched Miami Beach will
get it this year when the Marine Corps
League gathers its forces in that fabu-
lous town. Last year Atlantic City was given
a boardwalk view of how a Marine landing
must have looked to the pillboxed Japanese.
This fall's assault against the Florida sands
and candy-striped parasols may be still more
impressive, for the man who handled the real
thing from Tulagi to Okinawa, will be the
convention chairman. We speak of General
Holland M. Smith, whose Marines called him
"Howling Mad" when he was out of earshot.
The League's 24th annual convention will
run for five days, beginning on October 7.
It's impressive title will be National Victory
Assembly. The League, whose sole purpose
is to promote the Corps and help Marines and
former Marines who need help, has drawn
the interest of a number of well known persons
in this country. Many of these are on its 52-
member national committee. They include
Bernie Bierman, Milton Caniff, Attorney Gen-
eral Tom Clark, Bing Crosby, Jim Farley,
Herbert Hoover, Eric Johnston, Tyrone Power,
Eddie Rickenbacker and Gene Tunney. All
are expected to be on hand when the gavel
of League Commandant Jospeh Alvarez opens
High spots of the convention, sandwiched
between 18 solid hours of business meetings,
will be a military show in the Orange Bowl;
the mock invasion; a parade depicting sig-
nificant historical Marine Corps events since
1776; the selection and crowning of a Miss
Semper Fidelis, and miscellaneous social ac-
tivities including a moonlight boat ride and
the annual dinner, at which General A. A.
Vandegrift, Marine Corps Commandant, will
be the principal speaker.
In a message concerning the League meet-
ing, General Vandegrift wrote:
"I am personally interested and whole-
heartedly indorse the success of the Assembly.
In the true spirit of Marines, I am sure it will
be none other."
When the shouting is over and Leaguers
are packing for a reluctant leave-taking they
hope they will have collected enough money
to finance a permanent tribute to the Corps.
This would be an international Marine mem-
orial club to be erected near the site 'of the
mock landing Marines will make there on the
afternoon of Thursday, October 9. END
My hands had already curved themselves
around the money on the polished
brown of the table
by Sgt. L._F. Johnston
he wants to end up with a mortgage on his
782 equipment. In the game of science there
are many factors whose consideration means a
One does well to have day after tomorrow's
weather forecast at his tongue's tip. He can lose
nothing in knowing whether or not any of his
opponents are suffering of last night's debauchery.
If the host had a minor squabble with his spouse
before gaining permission for the smokey session,
that, too, can be of value.
To illustrate my system let me give you a descrip-
tion of a session in Argentia, Newfoundland. We
sat at a long, polished table in a topside room. There
was blowing snow outside; a lone Argentian was
standing by. (All these things entered into my cal-
culations. There are times when a slide rule is a
handy aid to poker problems.)
There were five hands in this game. Three were
nondescript fair-to-awful players, while the fifth
was the rawest of tyros. I smiled, to myself of
course, as I watched him drop three cards in an
attempt to shuffle. He did not blush in proper shame
as he asked if a flush beats a straight. In appearance,
he looked exactly like a man who would drop three
cards on the shuffle and who would ask if a
flush beat a full house. I smiled in benign superiority,
promising myself not to be too hard on the lad.
Well toward the end of the evening it was my good
fortune to find two very respectable pairs in my
hand on the deal. I make mention of the fact that
there was no limit. It was the sky, if a man's courage
was equal to it.
I opened for the size of the pot. Such noncommital
betting is desirable. It neither boasts of, nor apolo-
gizes for, the hand of the opening player. Of the
remaining four contestants, three chose to vie with
me for the pot that had risen to awesome propor-
tions with our four remaining players.
The draw is lost to my memory, except that the
beginner on my right took one card. I therefore
plugged him as trying for a straight or flush. My
one card did nothing to improve my hand. I checked
into the man who had taken one. This is sound
policy among knowing poker players. To bet into
the one-card man is to expose oneself to a rattling
raise. It also makes him appear unnecessarily foolish
in having to call the raise and lose.
The two others dropped. My sighs of relief were
purposely kept inaudible. That would be to confess
even greater weakness than was told by my checking
move. The boot was not dropping. He made a very
substantial bet, the size of the pot, in fact. That
left me with the hard -choice of either paying
to see his cards, or admitting that I considered my
hand in this case utterly without worth.
It was at this point that I brought into play my
superior knowledge of poker and player psychology.
One has to think in these instances. Now, I hoped
as I fondled my chips, figuring that the clicking
sound would tell on his untrained nerves, the be-
ginner will not have the courage to bluff. Had I
not seen him blush when he could not spread his
hand in a workmanlike fashion? Had he not asked
whether three of a kind would take a flush? Cer-
tainly, and plainly, he had made either a flush or
I threw in the two pair, face upward, permitting
a look of quiet wisdom to spread itself over my
features. Not that it mattered in the least, I noticed
that the other players approved of my folding
"I guess you win, son." My voice held no rancor,
I was the exemplar of good sportsmanship. "You
probably got a straight. Drag the pot. It's your
"Golly, sarge, how did you know?"
I swallowed my resentment at the anemic epithet.
One must not let his prejudices trip up his card
judgment. My two pair were already lost in the pack
as he spread five cards on the table. I was counting
my remaining chips when a growling voice from
the other side of the table said,
"Hey, Dilbert! That ain't no straight. You can't
stretch two to seven."
The boot's mistake was actually a source of em-
barrassment to me. Tolerance is a good thing to
carry into the game. There was immense under-
standing in my words as I said,
"Son, I will tell you a few facts about this game."
By Gadfrey, one could like a young fellow of
that sort. Yes, even help him along with the fruit
of my many years' experience. It is good to hear
the men with little time bespeak their willingness
to respect the havers of experience.
"Look, a straight is five cards in consecutive
order, like four, five, six, seven, and eight; or nine,
ten, jack, queen, and king. See?"
Ah, such malleability! A good man, this kid. The
makings of a sound poker player. And Marine, too.
I determined that he should profit by my years of
"And, son." There was no design toward intimi-
dation in my tone; merely friendliness from an older,
more knowing man. "Two to seven does not beat
two pairs, even threes and deuces."
"I get it Sarge."
"Now just make certain this little lesson has gone
home, I will take this trifling pot."
My hands had already curved themselves around
the money on the polished brown of the table.
"Everyone saw my hand; it's in the deck some-
"You will take nothing, Mac. And love it. You
threw your hand in," said the tyro.
His brusque unmannerliness caused me some pain
as he thrust my hands aside.
"A penny up for the next hand, you guys!"
I couldn't remember having given him any in-
structions on that point. Perhaps I shouldn't be so