He wrote the book as a means of expressing how and also why the Marine Corps has such an interesting reputation amongst the American populace. In part this book was inspired by the fact that Krulak was asked in a letter “Why does America need a Marine Corps? ” In short this made him think on the matter and come to the conclusion that America does not need a Marine Corps but instead wants one.
Progressing down that line of thought further is what prompted him to begin his study into the history and culture of the Marine Corps and what makes the Marines who they are. Part One of First to Fight details “The Thinkers”. In short it describes the multiple attempts throughout the history of our nation and the Corps by other branches of service to make the Marine Corps either subservient to other branches or eliminate it all together. The most detail is given to the time of post WWII reorganization of the military eventually leading to what we know today.
Krulak through his own personal experience and historical records relays to us the heavy aggression towards the Corps from the Army during this time period. Also we get a glimpse how certain presidents as well have not always been eager to support an independent Marine Corps. The next section of the book talks about “The Innovators” and how the Corps has a long history of adapting to its current situation and overcoming obstacles through different means as part of its job as a fluid fighting force able to overcome any situation.
Mostly this section describes how the Corps was responsible for the creation and testing of U. S. procedure on amphibious landings in the modern day. Also some time is dedicated to describing how the Marine played a large role in pushing forward the use of the Higgins boat which was one of the great tools used in WWII. “The Improvisers” talks mostly about how Marines realizing the power of Air support but also the effects of weather on it are important to the battlefield.
It describes how Marine Aviators came up with tools that would allow accurate bombing even from very high altitudes allowing for missions to take place in any weather or at any time. Next is the section detailing the interesting characteristic of the Corps to always do more with less. “The Penny Pinchers” describes the part of Marine Corps culture that takes pride in doing things cheaper and still getting the job done, which for the smallest branch of the services is a necessary survival trait. The next chapter is possibly one of the most important in the whole book being called “The Brothers”.
It describes in detail the bond between Marines and the esprit de corps that is often found lacking in other military outfits. For instance it describes how the basic training of the Marine Corps changes young men into quickly thinking less of the self and more about the platoon they are a part of. Less individual, more group. Last is “The Fighters” This section is truly an appropriate conclusion to the book because it shows that ultimately for everything else the Marine Corps does and holds dear at the end of it all they are warriors ready to take the fight to the enemy for God and Country.
It tells the courageous story of the Marines at Khe Sanh and how even through some of the bitterest fighting of the Vietnam war they held firm and let no one defeat them. Even though Khe Sanh was not even necessary the fact that the Marines fought for it with so much vigor distills the Marine down to his base component, a warrior willing to go wherever he is sent, meet the enemy in combat and between him and his brothers achieve victory.