No tall tales here: 4-foot-7 recruit makes it into Marines, likely sets record
Stars and Stripes September 6, 2023
At a height of 4 feet, 7 inches, Pfc. Nathaniel Laprade could be the shortest Marine in the Corps’ nearly 250-year history.
But after making it through the Corps’ grueling boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Sept. 1, he is standing tall. Laprade said his stature helped galvanize fellow recruits during 13 weeks of basic training.
“I think they kind of looked up to me in a way,” Laprade said in a statement Tuesday. “I had one recruit, now a Marine, who told me that I was his motivation.”
While there aren’t any official records on who was the shortest man to ever serve in the military, Laprade is likely in the running.
Richard James Flaherty, a Green Beret who served in Vietnam, had been regarded as the shortest man in U.S. armed forces history, though proving that is probably impossible. At 4 feet 9 inches tall, Flaherty was known as the “the Giant Killer” for his exploits.
Laprade was regaled with stories of Flaherty by recruiters while he was still in high school. Joining the Marines would be a way to one-up him, Laprade said.
“The main part that inspired me was that he was Army and 4 foot, 9 inches,” he said. “If I go Marines when I’m 4 foot, 7 inches, I will beat him in two ways.”
During boot camp, Laprade faced obstacles that literally towered over him as he worked through the array of physical challenges, but he overcame them with little to no trouble, according to the Corps.
“It showed me that mounting the obstacles wasn’t really a challenge because of my height. It just meant I needed to push myself to jump a little higher,” Laprade said, adding that he had come into the Parris Island training with a fear of failure.
Leading his formation on long ruck marches proved to be the most challenging test for him, Laprade said.
“Little legs with a little body weight, a lot of weight in the pack and a lot of miles in the hikes,” he said. “That was the hardest part for me, the hikes.”