Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, celebrated for his leadership in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and for his authoritative book on the Marines, "First to Fight," died Monday at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. He was 95 and had been in declining health for several years.
In a career that spanned three decades Krulak displayed bravery during combat and brilliance as a tactician and organizer of troops.
"Brute was very forgiving of young Marines who made mistakes," said retired Col. G.I. Wilson, a combat veteran. "But he was hell on senior officers who preferred careerism and bureaucracy over decisive action. He detested those who lost sight of looking after their enlisted Marines and young officers."
That's old school leadership. We need more of it today, from the Oval Office on down.
In World War II, as a lieutenant colonel, he led a battalion in a weeklong battle as a diversionary raid to cover the invasion of Bougainville. Although wounded, he refused to be evacuated. For his bravery he was awarded the Navy Cross.
Under heavy fire from the Japanese, the Navy sent patrol boats to evacuate wounded Marines. Krulak befriended one of the young commanders, John F. Kennedy. Decades later the two shared a drink of whiskey in the Oval Office after Kennedy was elected president.
In 1984, his book "First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps" was published, examining the history and culture of the Marine Corps. It remains on the official reading list for Marines and has been said to carry the DNA of the organization that prides itself on being the worst enemy that a foe of the United States can imagine.
"The Marines are an assemblage of warriors, nothing more," Krulak wrote. He called on Marines to maintain a "religious dedication" to being ready to "go and win -- and then come back alive." He disdained Pentagon bureaucracy and, even as he celebrated the Corps' history, he called for Marines to "remain on the cutting edge of the technology that will keep its specialty effective."
Bing West, former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and author of books on Marines in Vietnam and Iraq, said Krulak "was legendary for the depth of his intelligence."
I read General Krulak's book about three times before it got on the Marines' Required Reading List. Hell, I read it before Marines were required to know how to read!
Semper Fi, Brute.