An examination of Holland Smith's career in the Marine Corps
follows its evolution from an insular constabulary at the turn of
the 20th century to a juggernaut, landing American troops island by
island in vital amphibious engagements up to 1945. Serving in
important assignments from the Philippines to China to Latin
America, Smith became deeply involved in the development of
amphibious strategy and tactics, as well as in the creation of
proper landing craft by the early 1930s. After Pearl Harbor, the
Marines would turn to him to plan and lead operations in the
Gilberts, the Marianas, and the Volcano Islands, culminating in the
epic operation at Iwo Jima. Venzon details the life of this quiet,
modest man who, she contends, deliberately cultivated the persona
of an irascible, unreasonable perfectionist, in an effort to do
everything possible to protect the Marines under his command.
Smith braved malaria and dengue fever in the Philippines, sailed
through the backwaters of post-Manchu China, and fought in the
earliest banana wars in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. After
World War I, he was the first Marine to attend the General Staff
College at Langres, and from then on became am important member of
4th Marine Brigade Staff, and later on the staff of the army's I
Corps. Here, he learned that war in the new century would be as
much about planning, logistics, communications, and intelligence as
it was about brute force. Upon his return to the United States, he
attended both the Naval War College and the Marine Corps Command
and Staff College. By 1940, he commanded the First Marine Division.
His deliberately explosive behavior, however, would ultimately push
him out of the circle of legendary World War II leaders.
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