The 8th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, John R. Massaro, turned 90 on May 22, 2020, and besides being the oldest living Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, he just may be one of the reasons why all Marines say “Oorah” today. A 2015 Marine Corps Times article described an 85-year-old retired Sergeant Major Massaro, reflecting on his time with 1st Marine Division, Reconnaissance Company in the mid-1950s.
Massaro explained “Oohrah” was an imitation of the “arrugah” sound made by the klaxon horn on Navy submarines which he and his fellow reconnaissance Marines used as a simple greeting.
But it was Massaro’s use of the phrase during one of his follow-on tours as a drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego that many consider to be how subsequent generations of Devil Dogs and Leathernecks became indoctrinated in the use of the Corps’ most adaptable phrase.
The 19th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black has reached out to his predecessor to wish him a happy 90th birthday and to extend a “resounding Oorah” of his own via a signed letter wishing him “continued health and happiness” as well as thanking him for his contribution to the legacy of our Corps.
“Our 8th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps’ biggest legacy is the thousands of Marines he influenced over his career. Those Marines grew up to lead and mentor the future generations of the Marine Corps.”
The 19th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps also wants Marines and sailors to remember who we are and why we exist, and how honoring great leaders like Massaro strengthens our Corps for current and future generations.
“Today there is a Chesty Puller, a Jason Dunham or Kyle Carpenter that nobody has heard of yet. Recognizing those that have lead us throughout our history places importance on what matters most to the Corps, the commitment and dedication of the individual Marine.”
Black also reflected on who is responsible for our Corps’ legacy today.
“Each of us writes the history of the Corps. We own it. Some Marine today will have as much or potentially more influence on the Corps as any Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps.”
Like all great leaders Massaro doesn’t take credit for the iconic phrase or even for the many great accomplishments of his career.
"I was blessed," he said. The hand of Providence guided me where I went."
Of Massaro, Black had this impression, “leaders like Sergeant Major Massaro represent the best of the Marine Corps, they do what they have to do, giving, sacrificing, and making us all better without even a thought of it,” Black said in his closing thoughts. “That is just what we do.”
Think of the 8th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, John R. Massaro, on his 90th birthday and say “Oorah” to the Marine that by many accounts debarked a Navy submarine with a whole lot of motivation and helped land the iconic phrase ashore to those of us outside the reconnaissance community.