General Holland M. Smith, U.S.M.C.
From a painting by Commander Albert K. Murray, U.S.N.R.
THE AIM OF THIS BOOK is twofold: first, that due credit be given to a gallant body of men, the United States Marine Corps, who in their path across the Pacific were faithful to their traditions and to their country second, to point out the errors that were committed in World War II in such a manner that they will not be repeated in World War III--God forbid.
This is a personalized account of over forty years in the service of my country, culminating in the greatest war in our history. I never kept a diary. I had no official historian at my elbow recording in detail the battles I fought. I was too busy fighting those battles to set down anything in chronological form. Therefore, I find myself largely relying on my memory to compile the story of those forty years. If I have erred in facts, it is due to the momentous times through which I have lived and served.
I bear no malice toward any man or any Service. Any criticism in this book is made only for constructive purposes in the light of national defense needs. I am sure that a grateful country will not forget the magnificent efforts made by the Marines in the Pacific for the successful prosecution of the war against Japan.
I fully realize that all branches of the Marine Corps and the other Services that helped us are not mentioned in the brief compass of this book. But I wish here to pay tribute to those I may have omitted--the Marine Women Reserves, the commanders of the small craft in the Pacific who got us ashore and supplied us, the Medical Service who cared for our wounded, the Seabees who never let us down, and those units of the Army who fought alongside of us.
I am grateful to the many friends, in and out of the Service, who inspired and helped me write this book. Lieutenant Colonel C. Robert Payne, USMCR,who served on my staff, suggested the title. Among those who helped to fill it were Andrew Higgins, Robert Sherrod, Mac Asbill, Jr., my former aide, Vice Admiral Char A. Lockwood, Jr., who assisted me in the preparation of the submarine chapter, and my faithful orderly, Platoon Sergeant William L. Bradley.
I also had the assistance of Percy Finch as my collaborator. Finch, a veteran war correspondent, came to the Pacific with a long record from other wars, and by accompanying me on my major operations, he followed the Cenfmd Pacific drive which I had the honor to command.
HOLLAND M. SMITH.
THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A MAN, a Corps, and a war. The accomplishments of the man and his Corps profoundly influenced the outcome of the war.
The man, of course, is Holland Smith, who; although he was in the public eye continuously throughout the late war, is actually little known to the average reader of this book. I say little known because to most of them he is the nickname "Howlin' Mad" or a tough General who got results at the expense of human life, or perhaps just a typical Marine. None of these newspaper characterizations portray the man. Nor am I so presumptuous as to claim either the knowledge or the ability to transmit to those who do not know him the essence of Holland Smith. For over two years, however, I was privileged, as his aide, to know him as intimately as any man ever did. Perhaps I can explain some of the aspects of the man which would otherwise be lost in the turmoil of this book.
On the surface, of course, he is a famous Marine whose successes against the Japanese enemy are legendary. Recipient of four Distinguished Service Medals, he initiated and supervised the training of our soldiers and Marines in the art of amphibious warfare and then led them across the Pacific in one of the most phenomenal military advances of all times. On many occasions, as the reader will see, he was forced to fight in order to be allowed to fight.
Beneath the surface a different pattern appears. Like that of most men General Smith's personality is complicated. Its many facets are presented in this book, but some of them maybe overlooked
by the reader whose attention is drawn from the man to the many conflicts in which he was embroiled. Perhaps few who lay down this book will realize that it was written by a man whose tenderness was scarcely exceeded by his courage. Few will know that he spent hours during this war in hospital wards imparting to the wounded and often the dying some of the courage with which he was possessed. I have seen him reprimand a Marine officer as severely for failing to demonstrate warmth, understanding and appreciation to a wounded veteran on whom he was bestowing the Purple Heart as he often did a Naval officer for attempting to usurp the functions of the landing force commander.
On the eve of every Pacific battle in which he participated I have heard him say with unutterable sadness but unflinching courage, and with profound regret that the objective required tile sacrifice, "There will be a lot of dead Marines on that beach tomorrow." Much of his greatness lay in his ability to lead so courageously when he felt so deeply.
Few will know that he often threw the protective cloak of his authority and position around an erring subordinate whom he knew to be capable of rising above his mistakes. Yet he always tempered justice with mercy in dealing with his subordinates, even when reason alone indicated that the sword of justice should fall. Small wonder that every enlisted man and officer who was ever closely associated with Holland Smith felt the most profound admiration, loyalty and devotion toward his General.
Perhaps none who did not see the drama enacted will realize that the vehemence with which he fought his equals and superiors in the chain of command was manufactured by a man who sought to protect his corps and vindicate his conviction at the expense of his own reputation and position. Often during the hectic months in the Pacific I have heard him say, "No one can cast strictures upon my Marines and get away with it." No one ever did. Herein lies the genesis of the inter-service conflicts for which he has become famous. Always his battle was directed toward securing for a small and oft neglected Corps the dignity and recognition which it so richly deserves. Often a fight was
necessary, and when it was, Holland Smith was ever available.
First, last and always he is a Marine. his love for and loyalty to his Corps are born of a conviction that the Marine Corps is the finest body of fighting men on earth. This conviction is shared by every other Marine, but few have fought for it as he did. This book is, in part, a continuation of that fight. The glorification which the reader will find herein is a glorification of the Marine Corps, not of Holland Smith.
The other purpose of the book, and perhaps the principal one, is to criticize constructively many of the things which were done during the war and which the writer thinks could have been done better or should have been left undone. This criticism is as frank as the man from which it comes. Many, perhaps, who feel its sting will grow bitter and resentful. It was not written for them. It is directed at those who some day may profit from lessons learned the hard way. If the render would read this book in the spirit in which it was written, let him scrutinize carefully the facts which support the contentions herein advanced and decide for himself whether those contentions have merit. Let the mothers who learn that their sons were lost through some fault of preparation or organization or planning glean strength from the knowledge that someone has the courage to expose these faults in the hope that those to whom future decisions will be intrusted shall not fall prey to them again.
MAC ASBILL, JR.
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