The book “First to Fight,” is a historical account of the Unites States Marine Corps, authored by Lt. General Victor H. Krulak. Having graduated from the US Marine academy in 1934, he served the Marine in many different capacities, before retiring, and passing away in December 2008. During the major American conflicts that involved deployment of the Marines between 1941 and 1968, Krulak was pivotal, and, took part in the deployed troops. Between 1937 and 1939, he served with the Marine in China. He was later in charge of the 2nd Parachute Battalion, and also took part in the World War II, with the 1st Marine Amphibious Corps. In his long career, he also served as a Chief of General Staff and even rose to the Fleet Marine Force Commanding General. This vast bank of experience gives him the authority to write confidently about the Marine Corps.
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is an important component of the US Army, and has a long history, dating back to 1775, when a resolution was passed by the continental congress to raise marine battalions; they were serving on both land and sea, and took part in many operations and combats, including the attack on Bahamas, in 1776. Marines perfected their skills during the World War I, and, even acquired the title, “Devil dogs,” for their offensive attacks. Although serving as a junior force to the US Navy in terms of history and even their financial muscle, the USMC have played a significant role in every battle field that the Americans have ventured into.
First to Fight is a combination of narratives of successes and failures of the Marines, in Krulak’s own experiences. The amphibious attacks, planned, and executed by the US Marines have been well narrated and documented with an intention of inspiring future developments and attacks, as well to bring to the fore, and failures that may have cost the Marines success in some battle fields, so that, such mistakes can be avoided in future. This view is also supported by Nicholas, J., (2014) and Xixiao, G., (1998). One major aspect that Krulak brings out is the capacity to believe in ones judgement and comply with it. He personally proved this in June 1950, when serving as the Fleet Marine Force Operations Officer. Asked by his senior officers how soon he could initiate a combat battalion in the Far East, and have it reinforced, he gave himself 48 hours to sail, and, five days to reinforce. Not because he was sure he could manage, but because he believed that the Marine should render services to the American course, whenever called to do so.
Krulax finally identifies the challenges that continue to affect the effectiveness of the Marines. He singles out the threat to standards of excellence, as the major threat. He foresees diminished performance due to poor dedication to service, and, willingness to dedicate services. He also points out to the need for austerity measures to ensure better effectiveness and performance for the Marines. Lastly, Krulak pointed at prolonged bureaucracy as an impediment to advancement of the Marine. If these challenges were to be addressed, he believes that the Marine Corps operations would be made better.
By looking at this book, one would understand why, in 2007, General James Conway, who was by then the Commander of the Marine Corps, directed that every person working with the US Marine, whether Marines, or, officer, commissioned or non commissioned, must read the book, “First to Fight.” It is only after reading through that one understands the integral role played by the USMC, and how they need to be even more rededicated to service. One also gets challenged by the adventures of the past, and uses them as a stepping stone into the future.
- Nicholas J., 2014. Reassessing the Marine Corps’ Approach to Strategy in the Vietnam War, 1965–1968, International Bibliography of Military History. 34(1), 27-52
- Xixiao, G., 1998. Paradise or Hell Hole?: U.S. Marines in Post–World War II China, Journal of American-East Asian Relations. 7(3), 157-185