AL GRAY, MARINE—The Early Years, 1950-1967, Volume One
Reading “Al Gray, Marine—The Early Years, 1950-1967, stirs the heart and mind, leading one to imagine additional volumes with such subtitles as “Nobility While Soldiering” and “Inspiring Creative Leadership.”
In his lucid and masterful biography, author Scott Laidig, a decorated Marine combat veteran in Vietnam, clearly reinforces what every knowledgeable Marine already knows: General Alfred M. Gray Jr. is the greatest post-Vietnam Commandant the Corps has known, a general who has earned the right to march at the fore. Like others in American military history such as Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Lejeune, Vandegrift, Puller and Wilson, to name just a few, Gen Gray subordinated his own amazing contributions and achievements to the risk of battle, victory and his relationships with the officers and the men who served under him.
Combining an astonishing number of interviews with a formidable amount of facts collected from private sources, command chronologies, and public as well as military archives, to say nothing of the endless vignettes from close friends, superiors and subordinates, mentors and Gen Gray’s family members, Laidig writes about the years between June 1950 (Korea) and December 1967 (“Charlie” Ridge, Da Nang). The book portrays the fledgling growth and development of a creative military mind that one day would envision a new and advanced Marine Corps—one that would put the Corps back in the limelight after the near disastrous post-Vietnam era.
Said Gen Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret), former Commander, U.S. Central Command, of Gen Gray: “His greatest contribution would be a strategy for how our service would best meet our mission to win our country’s battles. General Gray saw a much more expansive role for us—a role that would not encroach on the roles of other services but complement them because of flexibility, readiness, adaptability, deployment, interoperability, and the expeditionary nature of our organization.”
In short, author Laidig sets the stage in this initial 400-page text for the leader who, years later, will become the 29th Marine Corps Commandant: combat service in Korea; Communications Officer School, Quantico, Va.; Staff, Washington, D.C.; among the first boots on the ground in Vietnam and returning to serve multiple tours in critical positions to include serving in 12th Marines, conducting operations from Tiger Tooth Mountain, commanding the Gio Linh Outpost and learning of the coming North Vietnamese Army’s 1968 Tet offensive.
From such valuable combat and administrative experiences would slowly evolve a belief that the Corps should be a reservoir of combat capability that can shape, organize and meet aggression in the most effective and efficient manner possible. For the maturing general-to-be, rigid Corps structures and dogmatic organizational designs would no longer be acceptable. Gen Gray would insist upon flexible and imaginative organization and inspired leadership. There would be brand new operational concepts.
“Al Gray, Marine—The Early Years, 1950-1967, Volume One” is a wise and winning introduction to a good man and soon-to-be great leader. The author’s admiration for his subject is both apparent and deserving, as is the respect that readers will have for Scott Laidig. By providing us with Gen Gray’s early higher echelon experiences, insights and understandings, coupled with the overall picture of the Vietnam War and America’s role in it, the book is all the more captivating.
Importantly, proceeds from the book will be donated to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
And, Scott, when can we expect Volume Two? And, possibly, Volume Three, the general’s private letters, military correspondence and unpublished writings?