No matter how far Herbert Livingston traveled during a long career in the U.S. Marine Corps, a souvenir from World War II went with him. While stationed in Australia, Livingston had a horse’s head tattooed in blue ink on his right forearm and a colorful design with the name of his Australian girlfriend inked into his left.
Nearly 70 years later, he still has the tattoos, although the name of the young Australian has faded with time. Livingston, who grew up in Boston, joined the Marines in January 1942, not long after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
“I always wanted to be a Marine,” he said.
He saw fierce action as a machine gunner on the front lines at Tulagi, Guadalcanal and Peleliu. When a piece of shrapnel hit his leg on Guadalcanal, a Navy corpsman patched him up and sent him back into combat. But during a four-month siege on Guadalcanal, malaria and skin diseases so weakened him that he was sent to Australia to recuperate and receive more training. Getting a tattoo was something that he and other Marines did to pass the time while stationed near Melbourne, he said.
Livingston chose a horse’s head for one tattoo because he liked horses and rode them while in Australia. In the other tattoo, the name of his then-girlfriend, Moira Lorraine Jones, runs across the bottom of two clasped hands and a setting sun. After the war was over, Livingston left the Marines, married a Bostonian and had two children. His wife, Christina, wasn’t bothered by his tattoo with another woman’s name and ignored, it, Livingston said.
The couple would be married for 56 years before she died in 2004.
Christina, sensing that Livingston didn’t like civilian life, encouraged him to re-enlist in 1949. This time he went into Marine aviation. He served two years as an air controller and in flight clearance on airbases in Korea during the Korean War. Later, in Vietnam, he assigned pilots to planes. Because he liked flying, he volunteered as a gunner on medevac flights picking up wounded soldiers. After serving in Billings as a Marine instructor, he retired as a first sergeant and went to work for Hines Motor Supply, retiring for the second time in the 1980s.
Livingston, 90, has two children, Robert Livingston, of Missoula, and Donna Tauscher, of Colstrip, and two grandchildren.