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Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine Hardcover – November 10, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 128 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Coram (Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War) clearly admires Krulak (1913–2008), a contentious Marine leader, and most readers will agree. Son of Jewish immigrants (a fact he suppressed), he attended Annapolis to obtain a free education. After observing Japanese naval operations as a young officer in 1937, he worked tirelessly to promote his design for what later became the Higgins boat, which proved essential for WWII amphibious operations. A decade later, he fought for acceptance of the helicopter. Krulak won numerous decorations for courage and rose to high command, where, Coram claims, his Marines enjoyed greater success than the army in Vietnam, although bitter quarrels with superiors and President Johnson over the war's conduct denied him his dream of becoming Marine Corps commandant. Despite Coram's high regard for Krulak and worshipful view of the Marines, he reveals innumerable details that Krulak suppressed, distorted, or invented in oral histories. Coram portrays a driven, fiercely outspoken. but creative warrior who probably deserves his legendary status. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Coram’s third fine biography of one of the American armed force’s stormy petrels tells the life of Lieutenant General Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine Corps. Krulak began his public career by concealing his Jewish background at Annapolis, then went on to see combat in WWI. Between the wars, he carried out covert intelligence missions and development work on the equipment for amphibious operations. After combat in WWII, he was invaluable in the Pentagon infighting that saved the marine corps both then and after Korea. He commanded the marines in the Pacific during part of the Vietnam War, and his disagreements with Kennedy, Johnson, and McNamara probably cost him his chance to be commandant of the corps. Something of a diamond in the rough, he lived to see two of his sons as prominent Episcopal clergymen and his other son retire as commandant of the corps. Probably the best epitaph for Krulak is the one he might well have preferred: a good Marine. --Roland Green

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 374 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (November 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316758469
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316758468
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (128 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Coram is a national treasure and the recent release of BRUTE confirms his position as one of America's premier military biographers. Mr. Coram took the straight and true method of portraying a genuine great man, but not in absence of his humanity. As Norman Maclean observes in his classic A River Runs Through It, man is a "damned mess;" even the great and the hero has flaws, and General Krulak was no exception. Coram correctly observes in the Acknowledgements:

"Some aspects of Brute Krulak's early years are disturbing. I elected to take an explanatory stance toward those years. Some will say I should have replaced the frail reed of sympathy with the righteous sword of judgement. But my sins as a young man were scarlet, and they were many. I do not consider those green actions the defining moments of my life and if I am to be measured, let it be by the deeds of my later years. Here I afforded Brute Krulak what I would ask for myself."

Wow! It would be nice if more biographer's used such a perspective; as a great man once said to me, "It is not how you start, it is how you finish."

General Krulak did his Corps proud and sometimes it was not pretty, but he held a passionate love for his country and his Corps. Mr. Coram presents a man of single minded purpose, who kept his Corps relevant because he knew that is what America wanted and continues to need. Mr. Coram traces the life story of a man driven to achieve and contribute. From General Krulak's contributions to the development in the years leading up to WWII of amphibious warfare as a core competency to his largely rejected ideas of counterinsurgency warfare in Vietnam, Mr. Coram paints the portrait of a man of substance, intellect, and passion.
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Format: Hardcover
In a breathtaking career spanning the 1930's through the 60's, LtGen Victor Krulak left his mark not only on the Corps, but also on the victory of WWII. He was also the father of 3 sons who all served, the most recently known, General Chuck Krulak who was the 31st Commandant of The Marine Corps. The Krulak name in the history of the Marines is well known, and for good reason. However, his rise, and his family's hold is one that perhaps no one of a certain lineage-dependent mindset could have predicted in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Born in 1913, Krulak didn't fit the external mold of those who traditionally ascended the ranks of the military to make a full-blown career of it --at least on the surface. He was not descended from a familial line who had served in the military. Plus, was short, and had a roughness hewn from growing up in Cheyenne, Wyoming when it still very much was the wild west. Krulak was also Jewish.

Writer Robert Coram unravels the strands of mystery surrounding Krulak's roots. While Coram makes far more of Krulak's Jewish roots than the man did himself, the writer does so to reveal Krulak's drive. Perhaps rather than say Krulak reinvented himself, it would not be unreasonable to say that Krulak discovered himself in the genteel halls of Annapolis. The person who emerged was Episcopalian, a new-traditionalist, with just a hint of the dust from the plains of Cheyenne. To Krulak, where he was going was far more important than from where he had come.

The drop-bow Higgins-boat, used in amphibious landings throughout the Pacific and at Normandy, was the result of Krulak's observations of similar craft designed and used by the Japanese during the second Sino-Japanese war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read Coram's book on Boyd, I was excited to pick this up. Boyd had been an unexpected great read ... picked up on a whim and it became one of my top ten books for three reasons. First, it told a great story that exposed truths about the culture it focused on. Second, it was about a fascinating character. Third, it was based strongly in research and fact.

Brute hits the first and second, but Coram's book seems less grounded in detailed analysis this time around. There are many leaps of logic .... Brute was near something so he must have been involved ... Brute liked something so he must have done it ... etc. That is not to say that these leaps didn't lead to truth, but whereas in Boyd, Coram seemed to detail the logic train, it wasn't done in Brute. There also seemed to be a lot of hyperbole ... Brute had a tremendous secret to hide about his background, family, etc ... which didn't seem to be necessary. It is almost that the author hit on this ying / yang theme about Brute's public and private persona that didn't quite hold up, but he didn't rework the initial premise.

Those criticisms not withstanding, I would still recommend this book. Not as strong as Boyd, but a good read for anyone interested in the Marine Corps, US Military History, or perhaps surprisingly, Business. Yes, Business. The way Krulak managed through the bureaucracy teaches much to those found working in today's corporate hierarchy.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Coram has a genius - that's not too strong a word - for finding unjustly forgotten military men who have had a profound impact on American history and national security. The best thing about the biographies of these men is that their contributions were both martial and intellectual and Coram makes the bureaucratic battles as exciting as the battlefield heroics.

Mr. Coram has done it again with Brute. Anyone who designed the primary landing craft used by the allies in World War II could have considered that he had lived a useful life. Same for the fellow who looked at a primitive helicopter and first conceived of it as a weapon of war. Ditto for the guy who prevented the US Marine Corps from getting eliminated. That all of these contributions came from General Krulak - along with much else - is extraordinary.

But Gen. Krulak's most significant contribution failed. He was one of the only senior advisors to President Kennedy to oppose the campaign to oust Ngo Dinh Diem. Once Diem fell, there was no escaping the consequences. General Colin Powell's warning that "you break it, you own it," applies not just to the enemies of the US, but even more to the allies we foolishly depose. The coup against Diem was the first time in US history when the US toppled a friend, not an enemy, and South Vietnam immediately fell apart. The repercussions spread quickly. Even before JFK died three weeks later, Cambodia, citing the coup, threw out its American advisors and declared non-aligned status. LBJ had no room for maneuver. The pantheon of heroes in the whole tragic affair was pretty small: Paul Harkins, Margurette Higgins and Victor Krulak up against the Best and the Brightest, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Establishment itself.
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