First to Fight

First to Fight

Author
Oscar E Gilbert and Romain Cansiere
ARRSE Rating
3.5 Mushroom Heads
Of the two co-authors, Gilbert is a former USMC Artilleryman and Cansiere is a French native with an abiding (obsessive?) interest in the US Marines since his teenage years. They have previously co-authored Tanks in Hell: A Marine Corps Tank Company on Tarawa, which was awarded the General Wallace M Greene Award for outstanding non-fiction. Gilbert's previous books include US Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Pacific, US Marine Corps Tank Battles in Vietnam, US Marine Corps Tank Battles in Korea and US Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle East.

In recent years the British military has had to work in close proximity to American Military forces, this included the USMC and there have been numbers of USMC members on cross postings with their British equivalents in a wide variety of roles. Indeed you may have had experience of working with some of them, I have had on more than one occasion worked very closely with both individual members, varied groups and formed bodies of the USMC. That really doesn't have any bearing on the review but may explain any unintended bias or reaction when discussing the "Corps."

The USMC is the oldest branch of the US Military and its size and mission has changed and evolved as the US's foreign policy and military posture has also changed and evolved, at the start of the period in question the USMC's main mission had been to act as security detachments for the US Navy and be the State Department's "Colonial Infantry". The standard Marine unit prior to World War 1 was the Company, indeed it had prior to this not needed any unit larger than that. The authors explain how it managed to expand rapidly with the rest of the US Military and managed its recruitment, perversely enough it maintained a volunteer only policy throughout the war. Which was important to the Corps ethos and maintenance of morale throughout the testing times ahead. There are numerous personal accounts from many individuals recounting their personal experience in the USMC recruitment process, also included in this is accounts from the first female Marines to enlist once administrative roles were opened up to free men for the fighting formations in France.

The chronology follows along from the formation to deployment and generally flows along well, switching from both personal accounts to a wider view of the strategic situation. The accounts of the Marine Brigades actions in France are excellent and well written as the War progresses, as are the numerous problems besetting any formation, ranging from the disdain of the supreme US commander General Pershing for the Marines to the logistical problems they encountered. My only gripes are how when switching from the actions of the Marines in France to other subjects, such as the female Marine recruitment or the Marine Corps early experiences with aviation the chronology is suddenly interrupted and the flow is broken and throughout the book when it's clear that excerpts from previously taped accounts have been transcribed there are far too many incidences of the word "inaudible" just suddenly appearing in the narrative.

Otherwise than that it's a fine account of one of the defining moments of USMC history, and having served with members of the USMC whose units still celebrated specific events in WW1 they do view it with great pride. The accounts of the wider deployment of the USMC was extremely interesting and there's plenty of pictures and mapping. Though once again some has been shrunk to fit too much, leaving it difficult to easily decipher. If you have an interest in the activities of the USMC then this would be a welcome addition to your library, even if your interest is only passing there is more than enough to keep you dipping in and out.

Overall three and a half mushrooms.
Author
CanteenCowboy
First release
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Rating
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