Sergeant Major, U.S. Marines
31 October 2005
Doc Norton, BTL Senior Editor, author of FORCE RECON DIARY 1969, FORCE RECON DIARY 1970 and ONE TOUGH MARINE, has done it again. It's getting a little embarrassing, the way I keep having to give rave reviews to friends and colleagues, but I'm not going to complain too much abut the embarrassment as long as I can continue to read such fine books. This time, Doc Norton has helped his old diving partner, retired Sergeant Major Maurice Jacques, turn out one of the finest military autobiographies you're ever likely to read.
Of course, to write a good biography or autobiography, you have to be writing about an interesting life – and Maurice Jacques certainly has had one. There aren't many men who ever find their true calling in life, and very few men find while still in their teens. In 1948, when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, Maurice Jacques was 17 years old, and maybe that first couple of days in boot camp, he might have had some doubts that he'd made the right choice. But by the time he graduated form boot camp, it was probably inevitable that he would make the Marine Corps more than a career – he would make it a calling. This guy was born to be a United Sates Marine, and he sure made the most of his birthright.
Jacques' first posting was supposed to be to China, but since he was only 17, the Corps sent him to Guam instead. From Guam, he went to the Marine Barracks in Hawaii, where he served under the legendary Chesty Puller, who promoted him to Corporal. From Hawaii he went to Quantico, Pendleton, Korea, Vietnam – and damn near everywhere U.S. Marines have been deployed in the second half of the 20th Century. When he was a drill instructor – which is a somewhat loftier position in the Marine Corps than in the other services – he was one of the most accomplished Dis in the history of the Corps. And when he became a Recon Marine, he didn't just become a run-of-the-mill Recon Marine – if there is such a thing. No, Maurice Jacques became something of a legendary figure in Recon – and not just in Recon, or the Marine Corps, either. To this day, he remains one of the Marines that old Army Green Berets and Navy frogmen who knew him remember him with awe. During the course of his thirty year career, Jacques not only managed to survive fifty-three months in combat, but he also led the first Marine Corps combat jump in history.
Of course, the above is just a quick sketch of the Sergeant Major's career, and it hardly does him justice. For the flesh and blood and details, you'll have to read SERGEANT MAJOR, and not this review.
Be warned – this is a book about the Marine Corps, and not just Force Recon. That is one of its best points. The United States Marine Corps is a unique institution, and Sergeant Major Jacques' love for the Corps will move and inspire you. You may not forget all your Jarhead jokes, but you will come away from this book with renewed respect for the Marine Corps.
You would think that a 464 page autobiography of a man with a career like Maurice Jacques' would be full of braggadocio and egotistical chest-thumping. Well, in this case you'd be wrong. What you get from Jacques and Norton is pride, not ego. It is pride in a fine bunch of comrades. With SERGEANT MAJOR, U.S. MARINES
, they also have cause to take pride in a very good book. You'd be foolish to pass this one up.
Buy Sergeant Major, U.S. Marines
This article was originally published in Behind The Lines magazine. VietnamGear.com has reproduced this article with the kind permission of Gary Linderer.
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