First to Fight by Lieutenant General Victor H.
Krulak is where the history, reputation, and truth about the United
States Marine Corps meet. Within this 252-page book you will find
a combination of historical fact, interesting background, and
personal recollection from one of the men who helped shape what
the Marines are today.
The book is organized in seven different sections, each explaining
a different facet of the Marine Corps. The first section explains
in detail the struggle of the Marine Corps to survive as an entity
over its long history. General Krulak explains how the Marine
Corps had to fight for its current status as an equal organization
with the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Even a series of Presidents
were among those who tried unsuccessfully to merge the Marine
Corps with the other services.
As the fight to survive raged, the Marine Corps needed to prove
herself as a necessary force. General Krulak explains how the
need for an amphibious assault force was the niche that the Marine
Corps could and successfully did fill. With interesting and humorous
stories, General Krulak shares behind-the-scenes information about
the rocky evolution of amphibious vehicles needed to assault enemy
beaches. On pages 103-104, General Krulak tells of one demonstration
of such a vehicle. After convincing a hesitant Admiral to board
the amphib for a demonstration, Krulak proceeded to attack a coral
reef that subsequently knocked off one of the tracks. Enraged,
the Admiral, who was originally hesitant because he was short
on time, proceeded to walk in the knee-deep water to the loading
dock and eventually was taxied back out to his ship.
Part three, the Improvisers, tells of how Marines stumbled across
a way to provide high level bombing accurately even at night and
in inclement weather. Together with the story of Inchon, where
a severely scaled-down Marine Corps mushroomed into a provisional
brigade consisting of the 5th Marine Regiment Reinforced and Marine
Aircraft Group 33, this chapter shows how the Marines make due
with what they are given. This philosophy is further explained
in the next chapter which immortalized the Marine Corps’ frugality
and “inventive requisitioning” techniques.
Parts five and six bring together the personal and professional
relationship between Marines themselves and the American public.
These relationships, forged by the millions of men and women who
have donned the Marine Corps uniform, are a result of training
methods and careful selection. General Krulak gives the reader
a taste of why Marines do what they have come to be known as America’s
force in readiness.
First to Fight has many good traits. The book, while easy
to read and addictively interesting, never sugarcoats the intense
conflicts between high level officials. General Krulak enhances
the “official” record with personal accounts of events and people
now legendary. His no-holds-barred approach to his writing
makes General Krulak’s book both honest and educational. His explanations
of the struggle to keep the Marine Corps alive and the early development
of amphibious doctrine make First to Fight a must-read for anyone
interested in understanding the modern Marine Corps.
In parts of the book, General Krulak provides a mountain of detail.
While these facts would be of great historical value for a reader
who knows military structure and nomenclature, they tend to bog
down the reader at points. The political volleys also tend to
get tedious when the General describes the how the Marine Corps
had to fight tooth and nail for institutional survival. These
faults were few and far between and did not subtract from the
wealth of knowledge that the book provides.
First to Fight is a book that every Marine must read.
The effect of this book is comparable to a father telling his
of the ways of the world. General Krulak provides plenty of stories
that Marines can beat their chests about but more importantly,
the book explains the combined nature of the Marine Corps and
why today’s force benefits from yesterday’s warriors. For the
other services, the book is the first place to start in order
the Marine Corps. In one book, General Krulak captures the family
history of America’s force in readiness and explains why their
reputation is well-deserved.
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