Lest We Forget: Marquee Title

By Lieutenant Commander Tom Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Because the Marine Corps values its heritage so highly, it is likely that many Marines already know why he chose this book from the thousands that have been written about the U.S. Marine Corps. But others may wonder.

What makes this book—this man—stand out in the literature of the Corps, among a pantheon of legendary heroes?

Is it that during World War II Victor H. Krulak—known universally as "Brute"—aggressively and heroically commanded his parachute battalion on Choiseul Island even though seriously wounded? Or that he fought at Okinawa and inside China during that same war? Was it his later service in Korea and then Vietnam? Was it that he earned the Navy Cross, Bronze Star, the Air Medal, and a host of other decorations? Or that he rose to the rank of lieutenant general? All of these achievements give him credibility and make him immensely valuable to the Corps and to his nation, but it was his vision and his attitude that made this man unique and led to his 1984 book being singled out now.

Today, we think of Marines and amphibious warfare as nearly synonymous terms, but it was not always so. As a young officer in the late-1930s, Krulak was one of the early visionaries who was initially referred to as "some nut" but through persistence and persuasion helped make sure the Marines were ready to storm the beaches in the now-legendary Pacific island-hopping campaign of World War II.

In the post-war period, Krulak proved himself as adept at winning battles in the halls of Congress as on the battlefields of the Pacific, when he played a key role in defeating those who were trying to disband the Marine Corps.
 
In 1948, he staged the first helicopter assault, a tactic that two decades later would become a centerpiece of the war in Vietnam. And in that same war, he developed a strategy that might well have been a path to victory had it been allowed to flourish—a strategy that is being emulated today by General David Petraeus as he attempts to find a way to victory in Iraq.

But beyond these visionary achievements, perhaps Brute Krulak's greatest contribution is in not only living the values of the Corps but in voicing them. First to Fight is so much more than an impressive memoir; it is a clarion call that is both inspirational and challenging. It clarifies what makes the Marine Corps unique, and it forces the reader to admire and respect those differences.

In her foreword to the book, Claire Booth Luce observed that Krulak "makes clear that the U.S. Marine Corps is more than a crack military machine. It is a fraternity bonded in blood." She describes the book as "the work of a first class soldier repelled by bureaucracy and deeply desirous of seeing our nation safe and strong."

Brute himself describes his book as an "amalgamation of fact, legend, anecdote, and interpretation to create a faithful image of what the Marine Corps is and a rationalization of the mystique of this altogether American institution."

General Conway has chosen his "marquee" well.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy .
 

 

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy.

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Captain Bernard Cole

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