Memoirs of General A. A. Vandegrift, the 18th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps
Long awaited and well worth it. This exceptional Marine, whose career covered almost 40 years of adventure, tells his story with a quiet competence that only makes it more effective. If you’re looking for buried skeletons or sensational disclosures, however, you’ll be disappointed. If, instead, you’re looking for the logic lying behind some of the decisions of great and lasting significance for the Corps, you’ll be satisfied and fascinated.
His story begins in post-bellum Charlottesville, VA, moves to the School of Application at Paris (one “r”) Island, then follows the young officer to Haiti, Mexico and Nicaragua. His approach is not one of retelling bandit-chasing tales. Instead, you discover the many “whys” behind the many Marine expeditions of that era. The early China years, too, rate a special treatment, with an insight seldom encountered in standard Marine fare. The pre-war days at Headquarters are almost unbelievable, particularly in this day of continuing crises, both real and imagined.
The story then moves to Guadalcanal. This portion – and the treatment of the General’s Commandancy – occupy the major and by far most significant sections of the book.
The memoirs of a famous man are always interesting. They are even more so when they contain the little key which can open a whole series of enigmas. Example: Few Marines who fought at The ‘Canal have ever had a kind word for Admiral Fletcher. What would the senior commander ashore have to say about the Admiral? You’re right. No Marine has ever had a kind word – but he receives more gallant treatment than you might expect.
Some other topics and/or personalities covered:
- Richmond Kelly Turner and FTP-167.
- Holland Smith and “The Saipan Affair”
- Naval gunfire at Iwo
- The battle plan ashore at Okinawa
- Post-war planning and expansion
- What to do with 50% of 82 unemployed generals
- Keller Rockey and the North China agrarian reformers
- Cates-Shepherd and the choosing of a Commandant
- The whole post-war hassle with Congress, the Army, and the “Bended Knee” speech
Inter-service rivalries infuriated the General. It made little difference to him whether the Army conducted amphibious operations in winning the war. The Marines had written the book; it was there for all to use. That some in the Army couldn’t – or wouldn’t – accept such an approach without suspecting some hidden Marine motive was, for the General, the ultimate in frustration. An eye-opening conversation with Chief of Staff Gen Eisenhower is recorded almost verbatim.
Robert Asprey has done an exceptional job. His writing is clear and concise, and as the story teller he is at his best.
This book is not only for old timers. It’s for every man who wears the Marine green. A truly wonderful book.