From Leatherneck Magazine of the Marines
"H. W. Crocker has just written a book that should make many of the reading lists for both Army and Marine professional education courses. In this year, the 100th anniversary of the start of "The War to End All Wars," Harry Crocker has written a work that resonates from World War I to this day. He is especially complimentary to the United States Marine Corps.
His skill is evident in his organization of the chapters, which deviates from the expected, chronological linear history. First, he covers the events leading America into war. Then he presents a very comprehensive narrative of the battles after the 'Yanks' arrived. But what makes this work really stand out is the author's keen eye and well-researched chapters on the human element: those who fought and made history by their efforts.
He starts that section with 'The Generals, ' including a very informative chapter on Marine Major General John A. Lejeune. He also gives ample space to General Douglas MacArthur and the airpower vision of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell.
In his 'Young Lions' segment, he describes those who built on their WW I experience to rise to the challenge in WW II and beyond. Prominent are President Harry S. Truman, GEN George S. Patton, GEN George C. Marshall, MG William J. 'Wild Bill' Donovan (father of the Office of Strategic Services that became the Central Intelligence Agency) and several other heroic yet very modest men: Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Alvin C. York and the chaplain of the New York 'Fighting 69th, ' Father Duffy, who received the Distinguished Service Cross.
The book's chapter on future President Truman is especially poignant. The only President to fight in WW I, Captain Truman of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, had to 'game' his eye exam. The author doesn't stop with just Truman's WW I combat experience; he follows his life forward from ending the war against Japan to creating the Truman Doctrine.
Crocker describes vignettes with an excellent prose style that makes the book an easy read. One noteworthy contribution is his strong understanding and appreciation for joint operations. Along the way, he treats USMC WW I combat action extremely well in the context of a joint environment.
In developing joint tactics and fighting with French units, one of the most famous statements in Marine history was spoken. When a French officer told Marine Capt Lloyd 'Josh' Williams that the situation was hopeless and he must retreat, the captain made a statement that stands as long as there will be a Marine Corps: 'Retreat, hell! We just got here.'
Politics and personalities are not avoided. After initially resisting putting Marines on the front line, GEN John J. Pershing assigned his Army Chief of Staff, BG James Harbord, to take the Marines forward with the words, 'Young man, I'm giving you the best brigade in France. If anything goes wrong, I'll know whom to blame.' Harbord noted later, 'They never failed.'
The WW I Marines of the 5th and 6th regiments were described as being the best-trained units in the American Expeditionary Forces, 'aggressive with bayonet and famously proud marksmen.' According to Crocker, 'Sixty percent of the entire regiment--mark this--sixty percent were college men. Two-thirds of one entire company came straight from the University of Minnesota.'
In facing the Marines at Belleau Wood, one German soldier wrote, 'The Americans are savages. They kill everything that moves.'
In WW I--just like for today's Marines--fighting like they trained was a key element. The author describes the brutality of war while making a very insightful point about training. For WW I trench warfare, the Marines prepared at Quantico, Va. 'At the newly built base at Quantico, they had drilled in muddy trenches to get them ready for the Western Front. But even Quantico's famous mud could not match the miserable lice-ridden, dank dark, waterlogged trenches of France, infested with monstrous rats that feasted on the dead and that Marines bayoneted or shot, treating them like mini-Boche.'
As the first Marine to command an Army division, MajGen Lejeune gets a chapter to himself. Crocker tells how U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Lejeune entered the Marine Corps. After the required two years at sea, Midshipman Lejeune returned to take his final exams to become a commissioned officer. Standing sixth in his class, he was slated to be a naval engineer, but he wanted to be a Marine.
Crocker writes: '[A] naval officer told him, 'Frankly Mister Lejeune, you have altogether too many brains to be lost in the Marine Corps.' '
Proving his intelligence, he managed to have that comment repeated to the Commandant of the Marine Corps who then specifically requested Midshipman Lejeune be given a Marine commission.
The book describes how some of MajGen Lejeune's Army superiors were of mixed opinion of him; 'too independent minded and too ready to question orders, and held suspect Lejeune's style of leading men rather than driving them.' This section reads about right to this day.
As a between-wars Commandant, July 1920-March 1929, Lejeune is given full credit as 'a deft administrator doing much with the small budget Congress allotted him, including keeping Marine Corps aviation alive and laying the intellectual groundwork for the Marines of the future--as an amphibious assault force.' His guiding light was leading by example, and his fundamental belief was that 'leadership was a moral calling.'
The book is a worthy read for all interested in combat and the challenges faced by individual Marines and soldiers to their highest leaders. It is a reading journey that is presented with respect and understanding."
-- Ed Timperlake, former commanding officer of VMFA-321
"A rousing military history of an older, and in some ways better, America. The pen portraits of America's heroes in the First World War--whose fame in many cases extends beyond, like Patton, MacArthur, and Truman--are terrific!"
--William Peter Blatty, Academy Award-winning screenwriter and bestselling novelist, author of The Exorcist
, and co-screenwriter (with Blake Edwards) of the World War I comedy-drama Darling Lili
"Harry Crocker presents a very readable, lively, and historically rich account of America's involvement in World War One, from strategic-level power politics to the blood and grime of the trenches. The war narrative is complemented with short, incisive biographies of prominent leaders--Pershing, Mitchell, and Lejeune, among others--and the 'Young Lions' such as George Patton, Eddie Rickenbacker, Alvin York, and 'Wild Bill' Donovan. This is an outstanding and enjoyable volume for both seasoned military history buffs and readers who want to know more about the dramatic events that were shaping our present day a century ago."
--James S. Robbins, author of The Real Custer
"A brilliant book. Crocker is the absolute master at creating readable history--and on few subjects is his clarity more needed than on America's involvement in World War I, helping readers to understand and appreciate our commitment and sacrifice. The Yanks Are Coming!
is a great book--highly recommended for anyone interested in American military history."
--Phillip Jennings, former Marine Corps combat pilot and author of Nam-A-Rama
and The Politically Incorrect Guide(TM) to the Vietnam War
"A great story has met a great writer! Historian Harry Crocker skillfully records the important but often overlooked story of America's pivotal role in winning World War I. Peopled by a fascinating historical cast of characters, The Yanks Are Coming! puts the reader on the front lines with the American doughboys with a you-are-there sense of immediacy. It is a memorable story of American courage and sacrifice, and the author's insightful, fast-paced narrative enlivens it anew. First-rate!"
--Rod Gragg, author of The Illustrated Gettysburg Reader
and The Pilgrim Chronicles
"Harry Crocker has tackled one of the most perplexing major wars of modern history, untangling the confusion to deliver a narrative that is not only easy to follow, but a joy to read. Unlike so many histories of the Great War, which draw readers into the snarl of the war's complexity, Crocker's unwinds the sinews, laying them out in plain sight. It is a rare book that can be truly described as hard to put down. If a person was to read just one book about the Great War, there is no better one than this."
--Bill Yenne, author of Hap Arnold: The General Who Invented the U.S. Air Force
and a contributor to encyclopedias of both world wars