Preparing for Victory

Thomas Holcomb and the Making of the Modern Marine Corps, 1936-1943
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Binding:Hardback
Published:April 15, 2011
  • Winner of the "2012 Gen. Wallace M. Greene, Jr. Award" as presented by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation 
  • Recipient of an Honorable Mention/Finalist for a "2012 Samuel Eliot Morison Book Award for Naval Literature" as awarded by the New York Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States

The first book to examine Thomas Holcomb's crucial role as commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps during the Great Depression and World War II. Preparing for Victory explains how and why Commandant Thomas Holcomb successfully supervised the dramatic expansion of the Marine Corps from 18,000 officers and men in 1936 to 385,000 in 1943. Not only did Holcomb leave the Corps much larger, but he also helped establish it as the United States’ premier amphibious assault force and a major contributor to victory over Japan. Despite Holcomb’s successes, he has been ignored or given short shrift in most histories of the Marine Corps. No book-length study of his commandancy exists until now.

Drawing on a wide range of printed and archival sources, my book contends that Holcomb expertly guided the Corps’ preparations for war during the last years of the Great Depression and then provided his “Leathernecks” with astute direction during the first harrowing twenty-five months of World War II. When measured with principles of organization theory and leadership studies, Holcomb’s abilities and achievements match those of such outstanding American military managers as Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chester W. Nimitz, and George C. Marshall. Like these unassuming yet efficient officers, Holcomb shied away from the limelight and therefore never garnered the attention that “Chesty” Puller or “Howlin’ Mad” Smith have. This book fills a void and tells the story of one of the key leaders in World War II. More than any other marine, Holcomb molded his Corps into the modern force-in-readiness that would eventually help fight the Cold War and the Global War on Terror.

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Product Details
  • Subject: U.S. Marine Corps
  • Hardback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (April 15, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1591149037
  • ISBN-13: 9781591149033
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 0 lb
Praise
  • “Throughout [Preparing for Victory]Ulbrich places Holcomb firmly within a cultural context of the Marine Corps, giving the reader as much an institutional history of the innovative Marines officer corps as well as of the key organizational leader that prepared it for World War II and laid the institutional and policy foundations for its later successes. These successes were many and included publication of key doctrines for counterinsurgency (The Small Wars Manual) and Amphibious Warfare (Landing Operations Doctrine, FTP-167).”—International Journal of Naval History

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5.00 Stars
forgotten Marine hero
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
By: David Lee Poremba

We are all familiar with the United States Marine Corps successful role in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. What is not so well-known is the story of how the sea soldiers progressed form a shrunken group of naval police during the Great Depression, into a full-fledged fighting force of nearly a half a million men and women on VJ-Day. Preparing for Victory is the only full length biography of General Thomas Holcomb, seventeenth commandant of the Marine Corps, whose skills as a leader, manager, planner and publicist enabled him to guide the Corps through the lean pre-war period and the demanding, bloody war years to 1943. A career Marine, Holcomb was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1900 and briefly saw sea duty before being assigned to the Legation in China, where he spent the bulk of his time prior to World War I. Shipping to France as part of the Sixth Regiment in January, 1918, Holcomb’s initiation into combat came at Belleau Wood, where his leadership skills saw him become one of the most highly decorated Marines in the conflict. His hard work in training his Marines saw them as a tough, well-organized, esprit-filled team. After demobilization in mid-1919, Holcomb remained as one of only 962 Marine officers in 1920. His war record enabled him to serve in key staff and command posts and in 1928, he was promoted to colonel. As international tensions escalated across the globe, the Marine Corps found themselves completely undermanned with just over 17,000 men in uniform, serving a country unable and unwilling to fight another world war. At this low point, Holcomb became commandant in December, 1936. He would prove to be the right man in the right place. Holcomb’s accomplishments rank right up there with other, more well-known American commanders, such as Admiral Chester Nimitz and General George C. Marshall. But, as history is oftentimes fickle, his role has become obscure. Perhaps his greatest achievement is the Marine Corps that we have today. Thanks to author Ulbrich, Thomas Holcomb has been restored to his place in the pantheon of American Heroes.

 

 
 

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