THIS IS A STORY ABOUT A MAN, a Corps, and a war. The accomplishments of the man and his Corps profoundly influenced the outcome of the war.
The man, of course, is Holland Smith, who; although he was in the public eye continuously throughout the late war, is actually little known to the average reader of this book. I say little known because to most of them he is the nickname "Howlin' Mad" or a tough General who got results at the expense of human life, or perhaps just a typical Marine...For over two years, however, I was privileged, as his aide, to know him as intimately as any man ever did. Perhaps I can explain some of the aspects of the man which would otherwise be lost in the turmoil of this book.
On the surface, of course, he is a famous Marine whose successes against the Japanese enemy are legendary. Recipient of four Distinguished Service Medals, he initiated and supervised the training of our soldiers and Marines in the art of amphibious warfare and then led them across the Pacific in one of the most phenomenal military advances of all times. On many occasions, as the reader will see, he was forced to fight in order to be allowed to fight.
Beneath the surface a different pattern appears. Like that of most men General Smith's personality is complicated...Perhaps few who lay down this book will realize that it was written by a man whose tenderness was scarcely exceeded by his courage. Few will know that he spent hours during this war in hospital wards imparting to the wounded and often the dying some of the courage with which he was possessed...
On the eve of every Pacific battle in which he participated I have heard him say with unutterable sadness but unflinching courage, and with profound regret that the objective required tile sacrifice, "There will be a lot of dead Marines on that beach tomorrow." Much of his greatness lay in his ability to lead so courageously when he felt so deeply.