Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine
Robert Coram. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 384 pp. Illus. Bib. $27.99.
Reviewed by Colonel Gordon W. Keiser, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
Robert Coram has written an in-depth study of a complex and gifted leader who contributed greatly to the Marine Corps’ performance in three wars. From a “selfish and headstrong boy” with many deficiencies, Victor Krulak became an officer of “dazzling intellect and extraordinary vision.”
In his first chapters Coram traces Krulak’s Russian-Jewish heritage and childhood. After an ill-fated marriage at 16 and at first failing his Naval Academy entrance exams, Krulak was sent to a prep school that advanced him to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he promptly acquired his nickname, “Brute.” Accounts of those years vary widely; as Coram points out, he “would tell his own version until the day he died.” (It is unlikely he made the height requirement—he was 5 feet 4 inches tall—by bopping himself on the head with a hammer.) In 1934, he was “the shortest and lightest man ever to graduate from Annapolis and be commissioned in the Marine Corps.”