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Book Review: American Commando

By John Wukovitz

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The “Big Yankee” Evans Fordyce Carlson lives again, he converts a battalion of marines volunteers to Marine Raiders, by training, equipping and indoctrinating them with the philosophy of Nicaraguan jungle fighting and the Japanese terrorizing Chinese 8th Route Army.

Follow Carlson from a high school dropout, enlisting in the Army, the Marines, a guerrilla fighter in Nicaragua, to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s personal intelligence officer in China. A predictor of the Japanese war he resigns his commission to warn the nation.

Comes the war, finding a crippled navy and Japan occupying twenty million square miles of the Pacific. FDR demands commandos and a reluctant Marine Corps succumbs. The Marine Raiders are born, the first special force in the United States military.

The 2nd Raiders led by Carlson and Jimmy Roosevelt are trained to a well honed killing machine. The infantry squad is reorganizes into massive fire power by three fire groups each equipped with an M1 rifle a Browning automatic rifle and a Thompson sub machine gun, eventually adapted by the entire Marine Corps. They participated in the defense of Midway; a raid by submarines to Makin Island, where the Raiders can not leave the island as their rubber boats are toppled by the raging surf. Carlson is confronted with 120 men ashore, the wounded, 20 armed raiders all other arms lost in the surf and the Presidents son on the island.

Spearheading a failed airfield site on Guadalcanal the 2nd Raiders are ordered to plunge into the backwaters of the Island. They decimated an enemy force of superior size. After thirty days in a jungle hell they emerge victorious from behind enemy lines having killed 488 Japanese and losing 16 killed in action. Not the darling of the Marine Corps, Carlson looses his command, he die at 51 following wars end.

The Raiders participated in every assault in the Solomon Islands as Raiders and as 4th Marines and individuals in all island hopping events in the Pacific. The Raiders were disbanded in February 1944 after two years of existence. They were the forerunner of the Special Forces now found in every branch of the U.S. military.

I can verify the accuracy of this book as I served as a 2nd Marine Raider for the duration of the battalion and of the 266 who made the original landing was one of the 57 who completed the long patrol. This book is incredible well documented. Many surviving Raiders were interviewed and their 65year old memories stimulated.

The actions of dead raiders was culled from numerous sources. Perhaps this is the best books of many about the Raiders.

Reviewed by
Ervin Kaplan, M. D.
2nd Raider Bn. E&H Companies