Putting James Bond to Shame

Legendary Marine Pierre Ortiz led a life of intrigue. He was a decorated French Foreign legionnaire, the recipient of two Navy Crosses during World War II, escaped a German prison, spoke five languages and appeared in Hollywood films.

Legendary Marine Pierre Ortiz led a life of intrigue. He was a decorated French Foreign legionnaire, the recipient of two Navy Crosses during World War II, escaped a German prison, spoke five languages and appeared in Hollywood films.

But his story was relatively unknown until author and historian Laura Homan Lacey started digging.

“I think he’s such a fascinating character and one of those Marine Corps legends that has been missed along the way,” Lacey said. “I thought his story was important to tell.”

Lacey’s book, “Ortiz – To Live a Man’s Life” was published just weeks ago and she was at The MARINE Shop on Marine Corps Base Quantico Jan. 24 to sign copies of the biography.

She spent just four months writing the book, but four years researching the foggy details of Ortiz’s life.

“As a historian it’s difficult to tell a story when you can’t necessarily get documentation that supports all of the story,” Lacey said. “For example, in his application to be a Marine, he puts down he had been a race car driver and the family story is he drove in the Grand Prix in North Africa, and although I’ve found documentation that it happened I could not put him in a car at a certain race. I could tell about the document I found, but I could not say with all certainty that that’s what he did.”

Lacey traveled multiple times to Arizona to interview Ortiz’s wife and son. She confirmed her data through the interviews and documentation.

Ortiz’s larger-than-life escapades sometimes seemed fiction, Lacey said, and she wrote carefully to craft the book into a fact-based biography rather than a novel.

“It was very challenging in that his story is so complex it’s hard to make it come to life without it sounding like an exaggeration,” Lacey said. “He puts James Bond to shame.”

Lacey said Marines should read about the life of Pierre Ortiz because he is one of this century’s greatest legends in the Corps.

“He’s one of those Marines who is audacious and we need to be reminded that it’s part of the character of being a Marine,” Lacey said. “Marines of today need to hear those stories.”

Ortiz also had a global mindset. For war or pleasure, he traveled frequently around the world to Europe, Africa and multiple parts of the United States.

“We in this century tend to see ourselves as the first global citizens but in researching people we find that we’ve been interconnected with other parts of the world for a long time,” Lacey said.

Lacey said she enjoyed the book signing at The MARINE Shop and looks forward to the success of the book and for more people to be inspired by the legendary Pierre Ortiz.

“I hope the book will be as enjoyable to read as it was to research,” Lacey said. “It’s such an exciting story.”

About the Author: Laura Homan Lacey lives in Stafford, Virginia. She teaches at Brooke Point High School and Germanna Community College and was recognized as Stafford County’s 2009 Teacher of the Year. Lacey published her first book in 2005 called “Stay off the Skyline: The Sixth Marine Division Okinawa – An Oral History.”

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