In This Review

Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps
Underdogs: The Making of the Modern Marine Corps
By Aaron B. O'Connell
Harvard University Press, 2012, 400 pp

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.