Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Book Review - "With the Help of God and a Few Marines" by Brig Gen Albertus W Catlin, USMC[Ret]

Earlier in May I acquired three new WWI books for my collection. I finished the first of these over the weekend; "With the Help of God and a Few Marines" by Brig Gen Albertus W Catlin, USMC [Ret]. This particular book focus, as most WWI Marine books do, on the fighting at Belleau Wood.

This is quite an interesting read, Catlin was the colonel of the 6th Marine Regiment and was wounded during the battle (fairly early) by a sniper. There are some very nice small maps in the book that help place the action and where the initial American defensive lines were, something missing from some of the other books about this action. While most books about Belleau Wood are decidedly pro-Marine, Catlin ups the ante quite a bit when writing about his and his men's experiences in the battle. Speaking for much as WWI being a grand adventure. He makes the action at Belleau Wood almost seem like a walk in the park from the Marine point of view with the Germans constantly on the run and unwilling to fight the Marines in hand to hand combat. He is very disdainful of the Germans in his writing. Nor does he speak about the army regiment that went into relieve the Marines (although granted it was very brief, the Army units were torn up by the German opponents quite quickly). He does speak about heavy Marine casualties but its almost in passing, definitely a "good way to die" attitude. He does make excellent use of letters that were written home by Marines in the 6th Regiment although again many of these speak of it as a grand adventure with all the hardships being handled very matter of factly. I think the book "His Time in Hell; A Texas Marine in France" by Warren Jackson (probably written in the 20s) helps offset this perspective quite a bit.

While the bulk of the book does focus on Belleau Wood the last third does cover the other actions that the Marines were involved in so it does give a nice overall perspective of Marine participation in WWI.

That being said this is a good book and I think it has held up well considering it was written 98 years ago. It is a good companion volume to go with "The United States Army Second Division Northwest of Chateau Theirry in World War I" (1927) by John Thomason. While the publication date for Thomason's work is much later it was originally written write after the war at the request of the Army. Which the Army then refused to publish because of the emphasis on the US Marines that made up the 4th Brigade in the 2nd Division.

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