Cover image for Underdogs : the making of the modern Marine Corps
Title:
Underdogs : the making of the modern Marine Corps
Author:
O'Connell, Aaron B., 1973-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2012.
Physical Description:
xiii, 381 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Summary:
"The Marine Corps has always considered itself a breed apart. Since 1775, America's smallest armed service has been suspicious of outsiders and deeply loyal to its traditions. Marines believe in nothing more strongly than the Corps' uniqueness and superiority, and this undying faith in its own exceptionalism is what has made the Marines one of the sharpest, swiftest tools of American military power. Along with unapologetic self-promotion, a strong sense of identity has enabled the Corps to exert a powerful influence on American politics and culture. Aaron O'Connell focuses on the period from World War II to Vietnam, when the Marine Corps transformed itself from America's least respected to its most elite armed force."--Provided by publisher.
Language:
English
Contents:
A harsh and spiritual unity -- The privates' war and the homefront in the 1940s -- The politicians and the guerrillas -- Forgetting Korea -- First to fight in the 1950s -- Rise of the amphibious force-in-readiness -- Conclusion : Marine Corps culture since 1965.
ISBN:
9780674058279
Format :
Book

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VE23 .O25 2012 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

The Marine Corps has always considered itself a breed apart. Since 1775, America s smallest armed service has been suspicious of outsiders and deeply loyal to its traditions. Marines believe in nothing more strongly than the Corps uniqueness and superiority, and this undying faith in its own exceptionalism is what has made the Marines one of the sharpest, swiftest tools of American military power. Along with unapologetic self-promotion, a strong sense of identity has enabled the Corps to exert a powerful influence on American politics and culture.

Aaron O Connell focuses on the period from World War II to Vietnam, when the Marine Corps transformed itself from America s least respected to its most elite armed force. He describes how the distinctive Marine culture played a role in this ascendancy. Venerating sacrifice and suffering, privileging the collective over the individual, Corps culture was saturated with romantic and religious overtones that had enormous marketing potential in a postwar America energized by new global responsibilities. Capitalizing on this, the Marines curried the favor of the nation s best reporters, befriended publishers, courted Hollywood and Congress, and built a public relations infrastructure that would eventually brand it as the most prestigious military service in America.

But the Corps triumphs did not come without costs, and O Connell writes of those, too, including a culture of violence that sometimes spread beyond the battlefield. And as he considers how the Corps interventions in American politics have ushered in a more militarized approach to national security, O Connell questions its sustainability."


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Exploring the U.S. Marine Corps's "stories, assumptions, and habits of mind," O' Connell, professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy and a Marine reserve officer focuses on the period from WWII, when the corps was viewed as "the least attractive military service," to Vietnam, when the corps emerged as the elite American armed force. His thesis is that the Marines synergized their distinguished combat performance in the Pacific and Korea with an active, interventionist role in American society. The corps cultivated relationships with journalists and members of Congress, and combined sophisticated marketing with hard-core politics, forming alliances yielding benefits to all participants. Structuring the process was a Marine sense of superiority that facilitated redefinition as "an elite force of military first responders with a global reach" and "a wariness of outsiders that bordered on paranoia." This sense of separateness allowed the Marines to de-emphasize bureaucracy and view war "through the language and logic of art." They privileged sacrifice and suffering in the context of a blood-sworn community. The resulting cultural capital has defined Marine performance from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan as central players in national defense. O'Connell offers an excellent analysis of how the marines became the Marines. 24 b&w illus. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Choice Review

O'Connell (US Naval Academy) has penned an important, extraordinary volume--wonderfully descriptive, copiously referenced (86 pages), and richly punctuated by anecdotal presentations. While his background thesis is the overly broad concept of civil-military relations, the focus is on the ambiguous and immeasurable phenomenon of culture as it applies to the US Marines. Perhaps the most important of a variety of issues and Marine initiatives that O'Connell addresses is the post-WW II discussion of unification, in which the demise of the Marine Corps was envisioned as a possibility. The Marines crystallized their continued existence through a number of vectors, including the powerful and unique "Chowder Society," and an agreement between political enemies Paul Douglas of Illinois and Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who shared a former Marine identity. The ultimate goal was to solidify the duality of an image of toughness and virtue with a family orientation--a "David-like fighting unit" engaging "Goliath-like enemies" at home and in contingency confrontations. While the Army, Navy, and Air Force pursued nuclear weapons following WW II, the Marines focused on an amphibious force in readiness--a decision that has paid great dividends in America's more contemporary confrontations. A wonderful book, but more importantly, a significant addition to military historical literature. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. J. Stanley emeritus, Towson University


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introduction: Culture Warriorsp. 1
1 A Harsh and Spiritual Unityp. 24
2 The Privates' War and the Home Front in the 1940sp. 61
3 The Politicians and the Guerrillasp. 98
4 Forgetting Koreap. 148
5 First to Fight in the 1950sp. 187
6 Rise of the Amphibious Force-in-Readinessp. 231
Conclusion: Marine Corps Culture since 1965p. 268
Abbreviationsp. 281
Notesp. 283
Acknowledgmentsp. 371
Indexp. 373