First To Fight begins with Krulak engaged in a conversation with a Gunnery Sergeant who was asked how the Marine Corps got the reputation of having one of the world’s greatest fighting formations. The GySgt replies “Well lieutenant they started telling everybody how great they were and pretty soon they started believing it”. The story goes on to talk about how there nearly wasn’t a Marine Corps.
starts out with Marine Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith on the bridge of the command ship Mt. Olympus, off Iwo Jima on the morning of 23 February 1945 with Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal who said that the raising of our flag atop Mt. Suribachi means there will be an Marine Corps for the next five hundred years. Smith commented “When the war is over and money is short they will be after the Marines again”, and a dozen Iwo Jimas would make no difference. The resolute general was voicing the frustrations of the many generations of Marines before him who had learned through hard experience that fighting for the right to fight often presented greater challenges than fighting their country’s enemies.
The Marines’ survival struggles during their first century and a half were mere skirmishes compared with what was to commence following the Second World War. Even as America was still trying to see through the smoke of Pearl Harbor, there were problems which were seen that were far more serious. A carefully designed plan which, if implemented, would destroy the Marine Corps as a fighting force. The scene was set according to Krulak by three events. In early October 1942 Krulak was a member of a team of four Marine officers assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii to conduct instruction for the division in an amphibious training exercise on the island of Oahu. The teaching of the training exercise task was complete in late November. Preparing to return to the mainland, the four Marine officers paid their parting respects to the division commander, Major General J.L. Collins and his chief of staff, Colonel William P. Bledsoe. To their surprise General Collins chose to speak to his staff on how the Army was resolved to eliminate forever its deficiencies in amphibious matters and its dependency on Marines for amphibious expertise.
The second incident closely related to the first. It took place in Noumea, New Caledonia, about a month later. General Collins was passing through on his way to Guadalcanal with his division. He was with a group of senior Army officers. After dinner, Brigadier General Nathan launched into a condemnation of the Operations of the Navy and Marines at Guadalcanal. He denied the appropriateness of the Marines being there at all and declared that organizational steps were under way to preclude the Marines from further preempting the functions of other services.
The third incident took place in Washington in December 1943. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall presented to the Joint Chiefs of...