“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” So James Brady’s forward to this war novel begins, with Thomas Paine’s words read by George Washington to his fighting troops in 1776. These words resonate throughout this memorable war novel celebrating the United States Marine Corps career of Colonel James (“Ollie”) Cromwell.
Frank honesty fills every page about his part in WWII and the Korean War. Ollie Cromwell “accidentally” becomes a notable boxer at the University of Notre Dame, a skill highlighting the training that will initiate his Marine career and attract the attention of officers who guide his promotions. His true mettle is tested in battles on islands in the Guadalcanal area and later in the first hundred days of the Korean War. Most fascinating are the ways Brady weaves together the plans of military strategists and the actual implementation that yields success but also a heavy loss of life. Readers will be stunned by the failure of equipment intended for different wartime conditions, the paralysis of soldiers’ ability to mourn the dead, weather and tropical conditions trying to the heartiest individual, and the lack of understanding American politicians and military officers demonstrate in the face of ruthless enemy attacks. What resounds louder than any weakness, however, is how Ollie and his peers learn from mistakes, creatively adapt to all conditions with brilliant maneuvers, keep a realistic perspective in the face of those who know “squat” about war, face reeling feelings after losing friends, and accept that war is truly a necessary hell enabling citizens to love and live in security from all tyranny.
Gritty, complex, powerful, and stoic, Ollie Cromwell and these wars will linger long after the last page has been turned.