View Full Version : The Magnificent Marines

03-27-06, 07:04 AM

March 26, 2006 -- DOES the Marine Corps suffer from "institutional paranoia"? Well, as the saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you don't have enemies. If Marines have a heightened sense of concern that the other services are out to get them, it's only because it has so often been the case.

What has permitted the Marine Corps to survive in an often hostile bureaucratic environment is the quality of its leaders and its willingness to reinvent itself as an organization according to the needs of the country.

Under legendary leaders like Smedley Butler, John Lejuene, "Howlin' Mad" Smith, Victor "Brute" Krulak, Robert Barrow and Al Gray, the Corps has evolved from a small adjunct of the Navy that was founded to provide detachments for service aboard naval vessels and to guard naval installations ashore. It was a "colonial infantry" that carried out constabulary operations in the Caribbean and elsewhere before and after World War I, that morphed into amphibious assault troops that fought their way across the Central Pacific during World War II. During the Cold War, it was known as a "force in readiness" and today, with the U.S. Navy, it leverages the great "common" of the sea to project American power across the world's littorals.

In "Boys of '67," Charles Jones, a staff writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, provides a riveting and entertaining overview of the Corps over the last three decades. Jones recounts the intertwined lives of three remarkable Marines who entered the service during the Vietnam War and who, like those who had gone before, helped to shape the Marine Corps during the tough years following that conflict.

Jones, the son of the late Lt. General William K. Jones, USMC, chose not to follow in his father's footsteps, but his portrait of the Corps reflects a real admiration for those who served and the book constitutes a tribute to his father's chosen professions.

Jones' cast includes Ray "E-Tool" Smith, Marty Steele and the author's first cousin, Jim Jones, who served as the 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps before being tapped by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to become supreme allied commander, Europe, the first Marine to hold that position.

Each brought different strengths to the table. Each had his own style of leadership. Each confronted his own mortality while his character was being shaped in the crucible of battle. Each had to cope with the grief that attends the loss of comrades. Their combined stories constitute a microcosm of the life and times of the Marine Corps in a time of transition.

The "boys of '67 became men of principle and power who helped shape the identity and course of the modern-day Marine Corps. Unlike the fathers and uncles whose boots they tried to fill, these men faced a series of often confusing conflicts waged in unlikely places - from the Iraqi mountains to the South China Sea - where their missions and outcomes often lacked the clarity and national support of an earlier age."

If you want to understand the culture and ethos of a proud organization, read "Boys of '67." As Gen. Tony Zinni says in his forward to the book, the careers of Smith, Steele and Jones "were formed and forged in war and their contributions to a truly remarkable renaissance of our service gave us the powerful Corps we have today."

Mackubin Thomas Owens is a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College.