First to Fight! 1 1 Is First to Fight Really that Good of a Book… Air War College 2 September 2009 By Michael E. Cordero LtCol USMC First to Fight! General Al Gray, the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) placed the book First to Fight (FtF) written by Lieutenant General (LtGen) Victor Krulak, on the first Service reading list established in 1988. 2 General James Conway, the 34th and current CMC mandated in an All Marine (ALMAR) message 2 during May 2007 that all Devil Dogs would read the book FtF and discuss its importance and what it means to them.
During September 2009, General Conway published another ALMAR that supported his Commanders who recommended retaining FtF as the CMC’s choice. 4 Is this book really that good?! LtGen Krulak retired from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1968 surrounded by much controversy; he was promised by both the Secretary of the Navy and Defense that he was going to be the next CMC and President Johnson surprised everyone by selecting somebody else. 5 He finished/published FtF in 1984; the title comes from recruiting slogans of World War I (WWI) and has been preached at USMC boot camps and Officer Candidates School since at least 1984. Although history would prove that the USMC is usually the first into a conflict, the book is not a complete history of the USMC.
In a book that is 270 pages long, well over half of the book is written about events that took place primarily between 1934-1968, the years that he was on active duty. Surprisingly, he mentions nothing about the USMC’s role in America leaving Vietnam in 1975 and dedicates less than a sentence to the tragedy of the Beirut bombing attack of 23 October 1983.So why did LtGen Krulak write this entertaining, easy to read book? LtGen Krulak wrote FtF as a means to show both the American public and future Marines why the USMC is such a special and unique institution. When General Conway first made FtF mandatory reading, he stated, “This book depicts an elite, economical force that relies on adaptability, innovation, and esprit to succeed. It describes our Corps, and I want every Marine to understand who we are and what we are about.
7 LtGen Krulak was both a highly decorated warriors and a very intelligent man; he earned the Navy Cross and also wrote some of the Corps first field manuals and doctrine concerning amphibious operations and the use of helicopters. 8 He wrote FtF in such a manner that it would grab the reader vice having one fall asleep after a few minutes of opening the pages; it is not boring and it is not scientific in its approach. The book begins with a foreword from Clare Booth Luce that is interesting since the USMC still has the least amount of women in its ranks, about 6%, than any other military service.However, Ms Luce’s only brother served in the USMC during WWI and thus she gained a tremendous appreciation for this elite fighting First to Fight! force. Her major lesson learned from FtF is that the USMC is concerned with not only its’ future but that of the United States of America (USA) as well. 9 3 The next section of FtF is a Preface that is quite interesting for it begins with a two sentence long note dated 30 October 1957 from General Pate to then Brigadier General’s Krulak.
0 BGen Krulak’s 3+ page long response–America does not need a USMC but wants an institution that will make the country proud via its actions and conduct–could be viewed as a precursor to the next 14 chapters of FtF that are broken down into six subsections: The Thinkers, The Innovators, The Improvisers, The Penny Pinchers, The Brothers, and The Fighters. These chapters illustrate just how adaptable, flexible, persistent, and tenacious Marines have been for almost 234 years.Although the USMC strives to always be most ready when the Nation is least prepared and has proved itself repeatedly since 1775, history would suggest that it is Congress and the American people themselves that want a USMC. LtGen Krulak makes this point of why Congress passed the National Security Act of 1947 (Public Law 80-253) deemed that there shall be three Marine Divisions and Air Wings. 11 Thus, FtF should continue to be read by all Marines–past, present, and future- -as well as anyone who has ever wanted an easy way to quickly learn more about this extraordinary Service.
It should be stressed to refer to this book by its full title–First to Fight: An Inside View of the United States Marine Corps- -when mentioning it for by not doing so could lead to allusions that LtGen Krulak meant this book to be a definitive history of the USMC, something it is truly not. 12 What it is though is one person’s very insightful view on the major events that took place within the Corps during his years on active duty, especially those controversial events that he has intimate knowledge of to include President Truman’s and General Marshall’s attempts to do severely minimize the USMC roles in the future defense of America. 3 It would have been great if before he died last year (2008) if LtGen Krulak could have written a “Part 2” to update/include other important events that have taken place since the early 1980s, especially since his son was the CMC from 1995 to 1999 and the Marine Special Operations Command being created in 2006.
4 Finally, three major takeaways that readers of this terrific book should realize are (A) the USMC and the USA can never afford to become complacent for doing so leads to disaster, (B) the USMC must always accomplish the mission and take care of the individual Marine or risk becoming irrelevant, and (C) that the USMC truly believes it has a moral obligation to the citizens of the USA to be the best. 15 First to Fight! 4 1 The pictures on the first page are from the following websites: Top Left and Bottom Right are from URL http://images. google.
om/images? hl=en&safe=off&um=1&sa=1&q=first+to+fight+book%2C+USMC&aq=f& oq=&aqi=&start=0 >; bottom left is a photo taken in 1994 with LtGen Krulak with his son, General Krulak (the 30th CMC), < http://www. frankdeangelis. com/Lieutenant%20General%20Victor%20H.
%20Krulak. htm >. The quote is found on page xv of Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak’s 1984 book, First to Fight: An Inside View of the United States Marine Corps. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. When General Gray created the “Commandant Reading List in 1988 (< http://www. cu.
usmc. mil/lejeune_leadership/pages/reading. aspx >, First to Fight: An Inside View of the United States Marine Corps was mandatory reading for GySgt, MSgt, 1stSgt, CWO-4, and Captains (< http://www. diakonos. com/tun-tavern/readinglist. php3 >). 2 3 ALMAR 030/07, Marine Corps Professional Reading Program, by General Conway ( , < http://militarytimes.
com/static/projects/pages/almar_030_07. pdf > , < http://www. marines. mil/news/ messages/Pages/2007/MARINECORPSPROFESSIONALREADINGPROGRAM.
aspx >. 4ALMAR 029/09, Updates to Marine Corps Professional Reading Program, released on 8 September 2009 by General Conway. http://www. marines. mil/news/messages/Pages/ALMAR029-09. aspx > 5 See page xxiv of Marine Corps Generalship by Doctor Edgar Puryear (2009). 6 The Heritage Press website < http://www.
usmcpress. com/heritage/usmc_slogans. htm > has an interesting collection of trivia and historical bullets about the USMC. The author learned this slogan as part of USMC history as a recruit at Parris Island during 1984 and at OCS during 1988. 7 See ALMAR 030/07. For more info about the Navy Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor) see < http://smallwarsjournal. com/ blog/2009/01/lieutenant-general-victor-h-kr/ >.
9 For more information about how remarkable Ms Luce was, see < http://www. cblpi. org/programs/ > and < http://www. hluce.
org/cblbio. aspx >. According to these links, “Clare Boothe Luce serves as a leading example of the personal and professional success that come from grace, hard work, dignity, faith, commitment to family, unwavering values, and strength”, traits that the USMC admires.Ms Luce was born in 1903 and died in 1987. 10 In 1957 General Pate was the 21st CMC (< http://www.
tecom. usmc. mil/HD/Whos_Who/Pate_RM.
htm >) while BGen Krulak was the youngest general officer on active duty at the age of 43; see the following URL for his official BIO < http://www. tecom. usmc. mil/HD/Whos_Who/Krulak_VH. htm > or < http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Victor_H.
_Krulak > for some other interesting information about this true American patriot. 11 For more information surrounding the National Security Act of 1947 see < http://www. residency. ucsb. edu/ws/index. php? pid=13607 >, < http://regdocs.
okstate. edu/wilhite2. htm >, and < http://www. patriotfiles. com/index. php? name=Sections&req=viewarticle&artid=7837&page=1 >.
12 LtCol Andrew Crabb wrote an article that was published in the November 2009 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette that contained 21 endnotes. Compare the following two notes: First to Fight! 5 “13. Irwin, LTC William, USA (Ret), the Jedburghs: The Secret History of theAllied Special Forces, France 1944, Public Affairs, New York, 2005, p. 239. ” “21. Krulak, LtGen Victor H.
, First to Fight, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, Chapters 1, 2, and 3. ” 13 Chapters 1 &2, especially page 24, of First to Fight: An Inside View of the United States Marine Corps depict the interesting strategy that President Truman and General Marshall attempted to use/implement in order to ensure that the USMC simply became another “Navy” entity that answered to the Chief of Naval Operations.See < http://www. presidency. ucsb. edu/ws/index. php? pid=13607 > for a written apology dated 6 September 1950 from President Truman to General Cates due to some disparaging remarks he made in a letter the previous month to Congressman McDonough: “I read with a lot of interest your letter in regard to the Marine Corps. For your information the Marine Corps is the Navy’s police force and as long as I am President that is what it will remain.
They have a propaganda machine that is almost equal to Stalin’s. ” 14Similar to what Colonel Harry Summers, US Army (retired) did when he wrote On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (1982) and On Strategy II: A Critical Analysis of the Gulf War (1992), . LtGen Krulak died on 29 December 2008 at the age of 95. Maybe his son, General Charles Krulak will update the book in the same manner that Michael and Jeff Shaara did for their respective books Killer Angels and Of Gods and Generals that complement each other (see URL < http://www. jeffshaara.
com/index. html > for more information). 15 White Letter Number 05-07, Physical Fitness and Military Appearance Standards, by General Conway.