The first section explains in detail the struggle of the Marine Corps to survive as an entity over its long history. General Krulak explains how the Marine Corps had to fight for its current status as an equal organization with the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Even a series of Presidents were among those who tried unsuccessfully to merge the Marine Corps with the other services. As the fight to survive raged, the Marine Corps needed to prove herself as a necessary force. General Krulak explains how the need for an amphibious assault force was the niche that the Marine Corps could and successfully did fill. With interesting and humorous stories, General Krulak shares behind-the-scenes information about the rocky evolution of amphibious vehicles needed to assault enemy beaches. On pages 103-104, General Krulak tells of one demonstration of such a vehicle. After convincing a hesitant Admiral to board the amphib for a demonstration, Krulak proceeded to attack a coral reef that subsequently knocked off one of the tracks.
Enraged, the Admiral, who was originally hesitant because he was short on time, proceeded to walk in the knee-deep water to the loading dock and eventually was taxied back out to his ship. First to Fight describes a myriad of USMC amphibious projects and ideas, including amphibious tanks and tractors, amphibian cargo trailers, the exercise of command authority during the sensitive transition period ashore, the precise utilization of naval gunfire, close air support to ground forces, the tactical employment of helicopters, the evacuation of casualties, expeditionary airfields, and all-weather bombing. These projects and ideas, when combined, created an amphibious system and, in many cases, remain critical components of 21st century USMC warfighting from the sea. Through Joint Project 2048 and associated ideas, the ADF will not replicate USMC capabilities, but as First to Fight demonstrates, the ADF can learn from a significant body of work and hard lessons previously experienced by the Marine Corps.
Part three, the Improvisers, tells of how Marines stumbled across a way to provide high level bombing accurately even at night and in inclement weather. Together with the story of Inchon, where a severely scaled-down Marine Corps mushroomed into a provisional brigade consisting of the 5th Marine Regiment Reinforced and Marine Aircraft Group 33, this chapter shows how the Marines make due with what they are given. This philosophy is further explained in the next chapter which immortalized the Marine Corps’ frugality and “inventive requisitioning” techniques.
Parts five and six bring together the personal and professional relationship between Marines themselves and the American public. These relationships, forged by the millions of men and women who have donned the Marine Corps uniform, are a result of training methods and careful selection. General Krulak gives the reader a taste of why Marines do what they have come to be known as America’s force in readiness. General Krulak provides plenty of stories that Marines can beat their chests about but more importantly, the book explains the combined nature of the Marine Corps and why today’s force benefits from yesterday’s warriors. For the other services, the book is the first place to start in order to understand the Marine Corps. In one book, General Krulak captures the family history of America’s force in readiness and explains why their reputation is well-deserved.