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Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps Hardcover – October 29, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 381 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674058275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674058279
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A superb cultural history of the modern U.S. Marine Corps. This book makes a significant and original contribution to both the military history of the Cold War and the ongoing conversation about the militarization of American culture. (Beth Bailey, author of America's Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force)

A brilliant synthesis of military and cultural history. Underdogs will do for Marine Corps history what Peter Karsten's The Naval Aristocracy did for naval history. (Ronald H. Spector, author of In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia)

Underdogs is a probing history of one of the most storied institutions in American life: the United States Marine Corps. Aaron O'Connell takes readers inside the culture of the Corps to explore its strengths, its weaknesses, and the lessons it can teach to us all. (Nathaniel Fick, author of One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer)

This fascinating and sometimes frightening cultural history highlights the Marines' exceptional agility in catering to and cultivating the changing needs of American power, and the costs of doing so. (Michael S. Sherry, author of The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon)

O'Connell offers an excellent analysis of how the marines became the Marines. (Publishers Weekly 2012-08-13)

Unlike the other branches of the armed forces, writes O'Connell, the Marines did not rush into nuclear technology after World War II. Instead, he argues, the Corps built on its combat record, especially in the Pacific island-hopping campaign, to re-orient itself as an elite, naval or helicopter-borne, quick-reaction force, able to provide various combinations of unit strength on very short notice. Using an equipment and technology budget line from the Navy, the Marines expanded in size and technical capability to meet this adopted objective. The real eye-opener here is O'Connell's account of the behind-the-scenes lobbying and PR work conducted by the Chowder Society, "an unofficial organization of...well-connected officers' dedicated to protecting the Corps from postwar defense reorganizations. According to the author, this went beyond lobbying and included spying, leaking classified documents and smearing opponents. The group made full use of the Marine's press networks, building especially on the wartime centralization of news distribution. Headquarters had developed tactics for dealing with the press, such as preparing "Joe Blow" stories of hometown combat troops. O'Connell shows how Hollywood transformed the image of the Marines, who sustained a casualty rate double that of the Army, by crafting stories that depicted them as military heroes. Then, to support peacetime political combat, those stories were tweaked to portray them as gentle protectors of families and motherhood. The author contrasts the stories with the reality...A powerful account of the relationship between fighting war and preserving peace, viewed through the lens of the stories that built support for both. (Kirkus Reviews 2012-09-15)

[O'Connell] attributes the rise of the Marines from a tiny, unpopular 1941 corps to preeminent armed service in 1965 to the success of the Marine Corps' public relations campaign...This insightful cultural history is recommended for those interested in U.S. military history and modern U.S. history. (Library Journal 2012-10-01)

O'Connell's depth offers military professionals, serious history enthusiasts and ordinary armchair buffs enlightening insights via easy-to-understand explanations of why the Corps always has considered itself unique and superior to the other U.S. Armed Forces...O'Connell patiently cuts through the origins of the USMC's cultural power, delineating its maneuvers, contradictions and effects on mid-20th-century American life...[Underdogs] deserves high honor and distinction. (Don DeNevi Leatherneck 2012-10-01)

O'Connell [separates myth from reality] with brio in his absorbing account of the Marines between 1941 and 1965. (Max Boot Wall Street Journal 2012-12-18)

[A] thoroughly researched and splendidly written book. (John R. Coyne, Jr. Washington Times 2012-12-21)

O'Connell, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, analyzes the development of the corps' culture from World War II to the Vietnam era. The Marine ethos was defined by a commitment to toughness ingrained at boot camp and a willingness to suffer reinforced by the high casualties the corps experienced in World War II and the Korean War. O'Connell does not shrink from describing the physical and mental toll this culture takes on individual marines and the violent behavior, drunkenness, and domestic abuse that represent its dark side. He also details the organization's relentless self-promotion, which helped turn it from the least to the most admired of the services and guaranteed its independence. The corps has a deserved reputation for assiduously cultivating politicians, journalists, and filmmakers to help burnish its public image and win bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. This is an honest, but not unsympathetic, take on the Marines and a fine contribution to the study of military culture. (Lawrence D. Freedman Foreign Affairs 2013-01-01)

As well as detailing the inner psychological effects of front-line fighting on Marines, O'Connell describes how war turns public opinion, and how the Corps employed the media, movies, and Congressional support to build a positive public relations network. (C. D. Quyn Sacramento Book Review 2013-02-15)

O'Connell has penned an important, extraordinary volume--wonderfully descriptive, copiously referenced, and richly punctuated by anecdotal presentations...A wonderful book, but more importantly, a significant addition to military historical literature. (J. Stanley Choice 2013-04-01)

About the Author

Aaron B. O’Connell is Associate Professor of History at the United States Naval Academy and a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Customer Reviews

Very well written.
Larry Studley
This book is a great read with a fair balance of facts and historical background so the reader has a full understanding of the import and meaning of the results.
Harrystc
The love of history and the Marine Corps prompted me to read this book.
Major

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By K. Skillin on November 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those looking to bridge the gap between exciting, but not necessarily accurate, accounts of various exploits of the Marines, and the accurate, but dry histories of the Corps, this is it! Underdogs gives the story of the shaping of the modern Marine Corps in vivid detail with interesting analysis of the underlying causes. Fans of Marine Corps history as well as those looking to understand a culture that is mysterious to many should look to this book as the new baseline from which to start understanding America's most elite branch of the military.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By jimbohoward on December 13, 2012
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O'Connell is very frank in covering the positive and negative aspects of the Corps' history. On balance, he comes out on the positive side of the ledger and clearly captures the idea that it is the USMC culture that is so central to the Marines' success. While the other services may offer world travel or high-tech planes and gadgets, the Marines simply ask "Do you have what it takes to be a United States Marine?"
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By James A. Homan on December 12, 2012
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Very good analysis of the psychology off what It takes to be a Marine. Recommended for all Marines; squids, soldiers and corporate Air Force types will not like it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harrystc on January 8, 2013
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There is a moment described in the book when Sen Paul Douglas (D Ill.), the most liberal senator of his time, must make amends with Sen Joseph McCarthy (the original neo-con and communist outer). Douglas must shake Tail Gunner Joe's hand for a picture. Only loyalty to the Marine Corps could have brought these two disparate philosophies together. The result is the Marines stave off an effort by Pres. Eisenhower to limit them or indeed reduce their size and importance. Eisenhower was, of course, an Army man. There are amazing stories about the chowder Marines, generally younger officers who held civilian jobs as aids to various House and Senate elected people. The history of the politics, spin and ultimate survival of the Marine Corps is the heart of the book at it is a great read for anyone who has pondered the mission, role and modern history of the Marines. Though the author is a Marine Reserve officer, his objectivity seems faultless.

My objectivity is not. I am a Marine, though I served on active duty for but two years (and long ago). Last year the Commandant of the Marine Corps ordered all Marines to be referred to as Marines and not former Marines. And that is how we all feel.

This book is a great read with a fair balance of facts and historical background so the reader has a full understanding of the import and meaning of the results. If you like history post WW II, if you like military history, if you have ever wondered about the Marine Corps, this is a book for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jacob H. Harrer on September 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
O'Connell's cultural history of the modern Marine Corps takes great efforts to explain how the Marine Corps is the way it is today, giving historical and factual context to the mindset and functionality of the fiercely loyal and highly-celebrated fighting force. The scholarship contains many interesting anecdotes to reveal an objective look at how Marines perceived themselves in the past versus reality.

Most intriguing to me was the story of Marine Corps public relations efforts and government networking during World War II and the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. The hyperaggressive, focused lobbying effort guaranteed the Marine Corps not only survived, but prospered and made significant gains during the armed services unification efforts.

Much of the research is secondary, so O'Connell's many arguments need further qualification. However, it is a HUGE step in the right direction. Nothing like this has ever been attempted, and I believe no other book about the Marine Corps addresses the heart of the organization so thoroughly and objectively. If you want to know solid facts about the Marine Corps rather than the tall tales learned in boot camp, this book is for you.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By larry s kosnik on March 1, 2013
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Very informative; even though I'm a Marine myself from the VN era I learned more about the culture I lived....with two sons who are currently active career Marines now I'm sending the copies so they can do the same!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joseph E. Filipczak on February 2, 2014
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As a 78 year-old observer and Marine, I was somewhat disappointed in this book. Written by a Lt. Col., surprised me that he seemed critical in so many areas. I have never been in combat but have followed the Marine Corps ever since I was a kid. My older brother was an active duty Marine in the 1950's, after the Korean War. I appreciated the discussions about the Marine Corps and its ways, training(the best in the world), its traditions. It was an intellectual review of the Marine Corps but it still all gets down to getting the job done. All those niceties are great, but nothing works like success.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Dean McGrew on July 31, 2013
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I found the book to be very readable. I served 2 years in the Marine Corps, and I enjoyed the insight into the culture of the Marine Corps. The thoughts on Boot Camp and training rang true with what I experienced. I found the history and the author's view on the larger picture to be very enlightening. The author is a Marine veteran, but I thought he gave a balanced perspective.
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