Review by: Robert B. Loring
In the rarified world of great military history storytelling, we have located a book of remarkable distinction. The new book, “The Fighting Leathernecks,” written by William Douglas Lansford, qualifies with a near-perfect score. For within its pages reside the accounts of some of our Corps’ most legendary figures. And, although you surely may have examined some of these bold accounts on a starlit night around a campfire, trust me, you’ve never heard their stories told with such gusto, and told in such an enjoyable way.
Ahoy, Raiders! The esteemed author, William D. Lansford, is himself something of a legend. He served with the storied 2d Marine Raider Battalion during the early days of the Pacific campaign. He made the landing on Makin Island and took part in the battalion’s “long march” during the hotly contested Guadalcanal campaign.
Lansford’s rough-and-tumble stories of these hard-fought desperate days are filled with the mud-Marines’ salty language. They include the personal accounts of famous Marines we all know and love, and perhaps thanks to this fine work, some with whom you will soon become acquainted. But while Marines everywhere will enjoy reading the chronicles of these famed Medal of Honor winners, the book also gives us remarkable insight into these iron-hard Marines, as flesh and blood human beings.
Notably, we revisit the glory days of such astonishing Marines as Evans F. Carlson, Smedley D. Butler, Herman Hanneken, Anthony Biddle, David M. Shoup, Mitch Paige, John Basilone, Thomas A. Wornham, Clyde Thomason and Eugene Obregon. One other reader wrote, “If most of these names don’t ring a bell, then you’ve let your Marine Corps knowledge dull and tarnish like those who fail to shine the back of their brass. That is all the more reason to buy this book.”
Of course what makes each of their personal stories—really vignettes—more intriguing is that the author personally knew, or served, with most of them. His knowledge of his subjects and his masterful writing skill help bring each of these “Giants of the Corps” to us: up-close and personal.
Additionally, the author includes some interesting stories of some things we’ve, most likely, never heard. Does anyone, aside from our honored surviving Carlson Raiders, remember the 2d Raider Battalion’s “war-games” raid on Lualualei?
Prior to their deployment to meet the Japanese on the jungle island of Makin, Lieutenant Colonel Carlson’s men took on a nearly impossible training mission. In this true-to-life exercise, the Raiders infiltrated and captured a well-protected U.S. base on one of the Hawaiian Islands. None of the high brass, but perhaps Carlson and his Raiders, expected that it could be done. So, grab a copy of this captivating book and find out how the highly trained Raiders managed to do the near-impossible.
A joy to read, this book will keep Marines and other military history buffs intrigued. Cover to cover, from Haiti to the ridges overlooking Seoul, Korea, readers feel they are in the presence of the leathernecks who inspired them to join up. Aside from the author’s somewhat annoying habit of incorrectly referring to the Medal of Honor as the “Congressional” Medal of Honor, this book carries us along with the iron men whose names decorate the mess halls of our youth.
“Ahoy, Marines—shine your brass, then zero in on this outsized history of our Corps’ bigger-than-life heroes.
Editor’s note: A prolific reader and Leatherneck contributor, “Red Bob” Loring is dedicated to supporting social programs improving the lives of citizens in East Pasco County, Fla.
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