Small Wars Journal

Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak (Updated)

Via the Los Angeles Times - Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak dies at 95.

"Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, celebrated for his leadership in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and for his authoritative book on the Marines, "First To Fight," died Monday at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. He was 95 and had been in declining health for several years."

"In a career that spanned three decades Krulak displayed bravery during combat and brilliance as a tactician and organizer of troops..."

More at the International Herald Tribune and San Diego Union Tribune.

Lt. Gen. Krulak's official USMC biography:

Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, a "paramarine" during World War II, was born in Denver, CO, January 7, 1913. He was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy, May 31, 1934. His early Marine Corps service included: sea duty aboard USS ARIZONA, an assignment at the U.S. Naval Academy; duty with the 6th Marines in San Diego and the 4th Marines in China (1937-39); completion of the Junior School, Quantico, VA (1940); and an assignment with the 1st Marine Brigade, FMF, later the 1st Marine Division.

At the outbreak of World War II, he was a captain serving as aide to the Commanding General, Amphibious Corps, Atlantic Fleet, General Holland M. Smith. He volunteered for parachute training and on completing training was ordered to the Pacific area as commander of the 2d Parachute Battalion, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps. He went into action at Vella Lavella with the 2d New Zealand Brigade.

As a lieutenant colonel in the fall of 1943, he earned the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart Medal on Choiseul Island, where his battalion staged a week-long diversionary raid to cover the Bougainville invasion. Later, he joined the newly formed 6th Marine Division and took part in the Okinawa campaign and the surrender of Japanese forces in the China area, earning the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and the Bronze Star Medal.

After the war, he returned to the United States and served as Assistant Director of the Senior School at Quantico, and, later, as Regimental Commander of the 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton. He was serving as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, when the Korean Conflict erupted, and subsequently served in Korea as Chief of Staff, 1st Marine Division, earning a second Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and Air Medal.

From 1951 to 1955, he served at HQMC as Secretary of the General Staff, then rejoined Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, as Chief of Staff. In July 1956, he was promoted to brigadier general and designated Assistant Commander, 3d Marine Division on Okinawa. From 1957 to 1959, he served as Director, Marine Corps Educational Center, Quantico. He was promoted to major general in November 1959, and the following month assumed command of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

General Krulak was presented a third Legion of Merit by General Maxwell D. Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for exceptionally meritorious service from 1962 to 1964 as Special Assistant for Counter Insurgency Activities, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On March 1, 1964, he was designated Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, and promoted to lieutenant general.

For the next four years he was responsible for all Fleet Marine Force units in the Pacific, including some 54 trips to the Vietnam theater. He retired on 1 June 1968, receiving a Distinguished Service Medal for his performance during that period.

Rest in peace General Krulak and our condolences to the family and friends of this great Marine.

Please see A New Kind of War written by Lt. Gen. Krulak.

Serving in the Joint Staff as the focal point in counterinsurgency operations and training, I went to Vietnam eight times between 1962 and 1964. In those early years, I learned something of the complex nature of the conflict there. The problem of seeking out and destroying guerrillas was easy enough to comprehend, but winning the loyalty of the people, why it was so important and how to do it, took longer to understand. Several meetings with Sir Robert Thompson, who contributed so much to the British victory over the guerrillas in Malaya, established a set of basic counterinsurgency principles in my mind. Thompson said, "The peoples' trust is primary. It will come hard because they are fearful and suspicious. Protection is the most important thing you can bring them. After that comes health. And, after that, many things--land, prosperity, education, and privacy to name a few."

Update: Brute Force by Mackubin Thomas Owens, National Review

The country lost a storied Marine when retired Lt. Gen. Victor "Brute" Krulak died in his sleep on December 29 at the age of 95. Krulak was a thinker as well as a fighter, and in both capacities, he left his imprint on the Corps...

In 1962, former PT boat skipper President Kennedy directed the services to emphasize counterinsurgency training, and Krulak played a central role in implementing the president's directive. During this period, Krulak met several times with Sir Robert Thompson, the architect of the British victory over the guerrillas in Malaya. From Thompson he absorbed a set of basic counterinsurgency principles that the Marines subsequently sought to apply in Vietnam. As Krulak observed, "The more [aware I became] of the situation facing the Vietnamese government and the Vietnamese Army, the more convinced I became . . . that our success in the counterinsurgency conflict would depend on a complete and intimate understanding by all ranks from top to bottom of the principles Thompson had articulated."...

Much more at National Review.


Roger DeMik (not verified)

Fri, 08/06/2010 - 4:55pm

Brute Krulak was a neighbor of mine, as a child, in the mid-1950's in northern Arlington,Virginia. His son was also a Marine General who eventually became head of the Corps, something Brute did not accomplish due to his being the type of person who told the truth, as he saw it, and suffered for it as a result of telling President Johnson the truth, not what Johnson wanted.

As noted, he was a Marine's Marine and very few people in today's world can measure up to his standards and devotion to God,mother, and country.

He was one of a kind. May he rest in peace.

Roger DeMik

<a href="">A New Kind of War</a> by Lieutenant General Victor "Brute" Krulak was a seminal article on the Vietnam War. A short excerpt:

... So the Marines, from colonels to private, were mentally prepared and reasonably ready for a counterinsurgency conflict. However, it turned out that the mission of the initial force to land at Danang was greatly different from what they had been practicing. The unit was restricted to protecting the Danang air base from enemy incursion, nothing more. It was not permitted to "engage in day-to-day actions against the Vietcong," nor were the Marines allowed to leave the air base or to be involved directly with the local population--which is what counterinsurgency is all about. Soon the force was enlarged to include the whole of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade of five thousand men, but it remained confined to the airbase area, tied to what the senior U.S. command, "COMUSMACV" termed "protection of the Danang air base from enemy attack."

This was never going to work. We were not going to win any counterinsurgency battles sitting in foxholes around a runway, separated from the very people we wanted to protect. Furthermore, the air base was over-looked by hills to the west and northwest, giving the enemy a clear view of the field. On two sides, the airfield complex was cheek-by-jowl with the city of Danang, only a wire fence separating the base from two hundred thousand people--most of them suspicious of us, some of them hostile. Despite all this, General Nguyen Chan Thi, the Vietnamese commander of the area, termed the I Corps Tactical Zone agreed with General Westmoreland. He did not want the Marines moving outside the airfield area either. Thi, an intense, mercurial personality, had had no experience with Americans. He had, however, been involved with the French--not altogether favorably--and was determined, at the outset, not to allow the Americans to infringe his authority. Ultimately, Thi became totally confident in the Marines, willing to do just about anything they asked...

Anonymous (not verified)

Sat, 08/01/2009 - 7:20pm

^Well said Marine - Semper Fi to you.

William J. Pen… (not verified)

Sat, 08/01/2009 - 7:09pm

I served under General Krulak when he was FMF, PAC.

He sent me to Vietnam, where I learned how to actually be a Marine. My opinion of General Krulak is that he was the finest Marine General ever, a very fair man and one you could learn from. Rest in peace, "Brute", God knows you deserve to, and Semper Fi Marine.