Brady takes on this task by interviewing a number of Marine combat veterans and recounting their remarkably powerful yet simple responses to his basic questions such as why do we fight, and why do we fight so well. These questions inevitably lead to the related "why did you become a Marine" or "why did you seek the Marine Corps when there were other less demanding or dangerous options."
He goes a long way toward answering these questions in the preface and acknowledgments, but the richest vein of ore comes in the powerful statements of the Marines themselves. Some of these statements were written responses such as that of Jack Chapin, a well-known Marine Corps historian, as well as other totally unknown men who were inspired to write the author in answer to a Leatherneck magazine query. I found these to be among the most powerful and convincing responses of all, and herein lies the strength of Brady's work—the tremendous diversity of participants. They were drawn from throughout the nation, joined the Marine Corps willingly with every understanding of what was expected of a Marine, and, to a man, were proud to have been involved.
The theme is repeated throughout. Marines will fight, and fight as they do—violently, incessantly, and with satisfaction—because it is expected of a Marine. He understands perfectly that he must honor the reputation of the Corps that has been handed down to him from Marines of the past. Serious injury or death on the battlefield is far better than to be found wanting by your mates or superiors. Their opinion of your fighting ability or help when it is needed means much more than life itself. This understanding has permeated the marrow of the Corps, and is instantly recognizable by the most junior Marine.
There is, however, another equally important reason Marines will fight with no quarter given and with all the brutality and violence they can muster. It is a reason rarely talked about and virtually never in print. I have observed it firsthand many times over. Mostly it is seen in the faces and actions of long-serving Marines, and it was present before they even enlisted. Indeed, it is perhaps the primary reason these rock-hard old reliables sought out the Marine Corps in the first place—they like to fight! There it is. In our politically correct world, such a statement is heresy, would cause immediate censure and certainly a visit to the psychological ward. But that doesn't change the reality that Marines like to fight and seek out the Corps for that reason.
When asked if he found combat satisfying, Joe Owen responded succinctly: "We joined to fight." The author doesn't give this particular reason much ink, but the Marines who responded by letter or interview make it abundantly clear; as my own rifle company experience tells me, they can never get enough of it. This ghostly appeal to combat assures the Marine Corps that it will always have a sufficient cohort to fill its ranks.
The patriotic reasons for serving one's country are still there to be sure. Avenging the wrongs visited upon our nation, such as at Pearl Harbor and most recently on 9/11, were powerful motivators, and will always be so. But there are many ways to serve before arriving at the narrow and final specialty of ground combat where one is likely to encounter the enemy personally in close-quarter battle. Every Marine, no matter what his or her specialty, understands that our Corps exists for this, and they accordingly prepare themselves mentally and physically. They literally seek this duty with an understanding that it is the ethos of the Corps to fight, to always be prepared to fight, and to support in every possible way those Marines involved in the fight.
James Brady offers us many examples of this hard reality about America's Marines.
Planning for Conflict in the Twenty-First Century
Brian Hanley. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008. 209 pp. Appen. Notes. Index. $75.
Reviewed by Michael S. Neiberg
It is easy to sympathize with the fundamental premise of this book that the U.S. military needs less bureaucracy and more education. Brian Hanley, a member of the U.S. Naval Institute Editorial Board, presents a strongly argued case for reforming both the mentality and the structure of the education of American officers away from narrowly defined professional learning and a system of systems approach toward a broader education based in the humanities, especially the study of history. Such a shift, he argues, would insulate the military from some of its contemporary flaws including rigidity of mind, uniformity of behavior, and the search for approved solutions. Although I share his beliefs, I am not nearly as sanguine as he is that such changes would produce the desired results.
This book is divided into two parts. The first is a cogent critique of the current system of PME (Professional Military Education), with a special focus on his own branch, the Air Force. The overly technological transformation-centered approaches of PME come in for special criticism. Such a system, Hanley argues, takes insufficient account of human variables in war and fails to prepare officers to see all sides of a strategic problem. Wrapped carefully within this discussion is a stirring rejection of the "aimlessness and obtuseness of our strategy in Iraq." Indeed, the first section of the book is as much a damnation of the preparations for Operation Iraqi Freedom as it is a clarion call for the reform of PME.
The second half of the book takes three case studies from World War II to prove the validity of the points made in the first half. Studies of the Ardennes campaign of 1940, Stalingrad, and the war in North African desert show that technological and bureaucratic superiority do not guarantee victory. Rather, "intelligence and moral character" are what mattered. By the former, he does not mean military intelligence in the narrow sense of the word but the intelligence that comes of education and deep study.
The first half of the book is more successful than the second. Even people with an indirect exposure to the inanity of much of PME can be easily swayed by Hanley's trenchant disparagement. He calls for breaking the system and starting again, with a truly joint war college staffed by highly qualified military and civilian instructors replacing the mid-grade, service-specific ones now in use. Although not all instructors at such schools are the "ticket-punchers, sun-setters, and time-servers" he dismisses, Hanley is certainly correct to argue that the system must provide a tougher intellectual challenge and a wider variety of material to master.
The second half of the book is supposed to provide the historical support for the first section's arguments. It is partially successful, demolishing the notion that victory always goes to the side with superior technology and a more mechanical approach to military systems. Nevertheless, not all of the history is exactly on point and not all of it is accurate. Much of Hanley's discussion, moreover, is based on work more than 40 years old. He cites authors such as Basil Liddell Hart, Alistair Horne, and William Shirer, but many excellent recent historians—Hew Strachan and Robert Citino among them—are conspicuous by their absence.
Despite these flaws, Hanley's work deserves to be read by those interested in the future of PME. In the wake of all that has gone terribly wrong in Iraq, the United States will need to take a serious look at its military's strengths and weaknesses. Not all of the answers will involve adding new generations of weapons and communications technologies. We will also have to begin to rethink how we prepare our officers for the battlefields of the future. Hanley's thesis and his proposals for reform deserve to be a part of that discussion.
Ted Williams at War
Bill Nowlin. Burlington, MA: Rounder Books, 2007. 351 pp. Illus. Notes. Bib. Index. $24.95.
Reviewed by Paul Stillwell
Certainly among the greatest hitters baseball has ever known, Ted Williams played for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960. During that time, however, he missed three full seasons and parts of two others because of wartime duty. The finest biography to date is still Leigh Montville's warts-and-all 2004 portrait Ted Williams. This new volume goes into specialized depth on the player's service as a Marine Corps pilot in World War II and the Korean War.
Nowlin, long-time editor of publications for the former Ted Williams Museum, has made a cottage industry of writing about Williams and the Red Sox. Even so, this is no hagiography. The author echoes Montville in describing Williams's petulant, often profane personality. But he also makes the point that Williams was a supremely talented individual who threw himself completely into aviation once he was in it.
After the United States entered World War II, Williams understandably sought to continue his successful baseball career. Public opinion was mixed on his draft deferment, which resulted from his being the sole supporter of his mother. Williams, who had a stubborn streak throughout his life, justified the deferment on a legal basis. Then, to demonstrate that he made his own choices, his enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1942. His training as a V-5 naval aviation cadet began in earnest after the baseball season. In May 1944 he earned his wings and was commissioned in the Marine Corps Reserve. He spent most of the rest of the war as a flight instructor at Pensacola, Florida. In the summer of 1945, he was ordered to the West Coast for potential combat duty. The war ended abruptly in August of that year with the dropping of the atomic bombs, and Williams was mustered out early in 1946, ready to play baseball again.
With the advent of the Korean War, the Marine Corps was in desperate need of pilots and in 1952 recalled Williams to active duty. Nowlin suggested that he probably would not have been recalled had he opted for a Navy commission back in 1944 because the Navy had enough pilots. In any event, Williams was bitter about being taken away from baseball once again, but plunged into the process of re-training and, in this case, making the transition from the propeller-driven planes of World War II to the F9F Panther jet fighter.
He was assigned to Marine Fighter Squadron 311, which flew out of a field near Pohang, South Korea. Also in the squadron was future astronaut John Glenn. VMF-311 flew air-to-ground missions with bombs, rockets, and napalm. On 16 February 1953 Williams came close to losing his life. He was on a bombing run when his Panther was hit, either by ground fire or chunks of shrapnel from the bombs he had dropped. With his plane on fire, he flew it to a U.S. Air Force base in South Korea. There, he made a belly landing and skidded eventually to a stop. He blew off the canopy and made a hurried exit. In succeeding months, Williams flew still more missions. In the summer of 1953, with the war having ended, he returned to the Red Sox.
In telling the story, Nowlin depicts a real human being, not a cardboard hero. He has done an amazing amount of research, tracking down and interviewing dozens of Marines who served with Williams and observed his personality. They also provide useful atmosphere on service conditions, both in the United States and in Korea. Alas, Nowlin's thoroughness is both a strength and a considerable drawback. He quotes his sources at great length, to the point of numbing repetition and sometimes contradiction. The book is blessed with an abundance of photos, many of them excellent, but—like the text—just too much. The story would have been better if considerably pared down.
Ted Williams was among baseball's best ever and someone who also used his considerable gifts in the service of his country.
Toward the Light of Liberty: The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World
A. C. Grayling. New York: Walker & Company, 2007. 336 pp. Appen. Illus. Notes. Bib. Index. $25.95
Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander Mark R. Condeno, Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary
In the aftermath of 9/11, nations have enacted laws and measures affecting their national security. These measures range from the implementation of national identification cards to strict rules in transportation facilities. In this context, questions concerning invasion of privacy, human rights, and freedom of the press have arisen.
Such questions have fostered a number of books and articles encompassing different perspectives, from the historical to the contemporary. One recent addition to the literature of the Western world's struggle for freedom is Toward the Light of Liberty . Author A. C. Grayling reminds us of the hardships and courage in the fight for independence and liberty from the 16th century to today's response to the threat of terrorism.
The author opens by discussing the Reformation through the fight against Absolutism into the 19th century. Here he sets in place the roles of Martin Luther, John Locke, and Tomas de Torquemada, among others, in their struggle for rights and liberty. He looks into the period of the Enlightenment and the rise of democratic institutions during susequent eras, with the essential theme being the separation of church and state. Substantial historical data on the fight against slavery, and for workers' and women's rights follows, along with chapters on the 19th-century independence struggles, the aftermath of World War II, and the Cold War era with its primary focus on human rights laws and mandates. The penultimate section discusses the effects of terrorism and security maintenance on society.
Liberty and individual rights are the hallmarks of Western society. The threat of terrorism has prompted and enabled us to reconsider both as intrinsic to our being and existence. One of the book's arguments is that Western society has taken a conservative approach to terrorism by implementing security measures that curtail freedom and rights. Only by looking at another angle—the massive number of victims of 9/11, the attack on the USS Cole (DDG-67), the resort and city bombings in Southeast Asia, or the Coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan—can one gain perspective on this approach.
Tapped personal e-mails or installation of monitoring systems on a city's main thoroughfares—as long as one is not committing any untoward act—are seen by the author as an ounce of prevention. He notes that, "Terrorism is wholly different . . . it is insidious, secret and treacherous . . . it targets unsuspecting innocents." Thus, the implementation of security measures forms part of the core in combating the threat.
Professor Grayling has done an outstanding job in presenting a historical account of the West's struggle for liberty and the difficulty of its achievement and maintenance.