cover image Why Marines Fight

Why Marines Fight

James Brady, . . St. Martin?s/Dunne, $24.95 (302pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37280-4

The reasons are almost as numerous as the Marine combat veterans quoted and profiled in this engaging collection of reminiscences. Many cite the training and discipline drilled into recruits and the determination not to let down one’s buddies. Others are motivated by vengeance after a friend is killed. Gen. Smedley Butler, after a career invading banana republics in the early 20th century, opines that he fought mainly as “a gangster for Capitalism.” Some fight for the thrill of it (“the heavy machine gun made you feel like no one could touch you”), and some fight out of the sheer cussedness personified by Sgt. Dan Daley, who shouted, “Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?” as he led his men against the Germans in France in 1918. Parade columnist Brady (The Coldest War), a Korean War Marine vet, sketches vivid thumbnails of his interlocutors and sets the right leatherneck vibe—sympathetic, irreverent, comradely—to draw them out. Some tales meander; this is very much a meeting of old (and a few young) soldiers catching up and telling war stories in a glow of nostalgia. Still, Brady assembles from them an unusually personal and revealing collage of the nation in arms. (Nov.)