That Time A U.S. Marine General Was Right, The President Was Wrong, And It Resulted In Needless Death

By Ethan Cole on
 November 24, 2023

U.S. Marine General Victor "Brute" Krulak may have been almost too short to attend U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, but he knew how to fight for his goals. In fact, an upperclassman gave him the nickname "Brute" and instead of seeing the insult in the name, he owned it.

Career Trajectory of a U.S. Marine General

Krulak was a Marine and fought in World War II. He led a raid at Bougainville island and fought at Okinawa. He also fought in the Korean War in Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir. But, he was even an asset off the battlefield.

Before the U.S. joined World War II, Krulak was checking out the amphibious landing craft, which never really worked and could potentially harm the Marines.

While in China in 1937, he saw a Japanese landing craft invade. As they landed in Shanghai, he watched them closely and found solutions to the American's problems.

His solutions led to the creation of the Higgins Boats. While he fought the enemy plenty, they were not his biggest adversary. Gen. William Westmoreland was.

Army vs. Marines

The Army and the Marines rarely saw eye to eye, especially after the Battle of Belleau in World War I. The Marines pushed the Germans back, and the Army never truly gave them credit until 1955.

U.S. Army General Westmoreland and U.S. Marine General Krulak could not agree on how to approach Vietnam. Westmoreland wanted to take a similar approach to World War II and Korea and throw as many troops at the Viet Cong as possible.

However, Krulak wanted to employ counterinsurgency strategies. He wanted the Marines to protest the South Vietnamese and teach the villagers to defend themselves. Westmoreland wanted the Marines to go out on search and destroy missions.

Choosing Strategies: U.S. Marine General vs U.S. Army General

Westmoreland told President Lyndon B. Johnson that the war would be over quickly, using all of America's firepower. Krulak said it would take longer with his strategy but with fewer troops.

Johnson, of course, wanted the war over quickly, so he went with Westmoreland's plan. In 1967, Krulak got his chance to tell Johnson he was wrong and that Marines were dying. Johnson responded by kicking Krulak out of his office.

As a result of the uncomfortable confrontation, Krulak was passed over for Commandant of the Marine Corps. As a result, he was forced to retire.

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14 comments on “That Time A U.S. Marine General Was Right, The President Was Wrong, And It Resulted In Needless Death”

        1. Yes, how many? Do you know for sure? I certainly don't. What if the Soviets or China had gottgen actively involved?

          Monday morning quarterbacking is all well and good for the NEXT war, but not for the quagmire that was Vietnam with generals wanting to fight with WW2 tactics.

          I was lucky to be flying in KC-135s at the time, but we almost had a mutiny by the B-52 crews we were refueling due to losses due to using WW2 bombing tactics. Fortunately someone listened to the crews and losses went way down.

          Surely you don't agree with the Soviet and Chinese approach to failure?

        1. So you're saying it was intentional rather then a strategic mistake? What of the practice of rotating very junior officers into and out of theater so they could get "combat experience" for promotion that led to so many dead? What about wet behind the ears intel officers?

      1. Now that is a good response. We had brass trying to fight with WW2 tactics, social engineering, and a hostile press bringing the gore into the American living room.

      1. Even in Saigon itself. When my aircraft commander was temporarily assigned to MAC V in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, he remembers watching the fighting in the streets while sipping a beer from the safety of a hotel rooftop owned by a VC madam.

  1. Seems a little history is missing... Eisenhower left Presidency to Kennedy.. said do not put anything but advisors ..also S Vietname pres said only advistors... US economy in toilet and the Kennedy boys overroad... and Viegtnam Pres was assinated and the pilot was put in his place... LBJ followed Kennedy sending thousands of US troops in.... What is sad is the deaths and billions$$$$$$$$$ lost. The US politICIANS WOULD NNO allow the US serviceman win...With the media against the US too... what were successes were not represented as such... Keep the politicians out of decisions of winning in wars they got us into...

  2. LBJ was the VP who made sure JFK was killed to then send the military to Nam for a war. All the Generals and troops under them and LBJ who were killed were killed for drugs and that is a fact. So if anyone is to be blamed blame LBJ.

  3. LBJ was an arrogant, ignorant SOB and even more; when we look back, or talk about JFK's assassination, LBJ should have been convicted of collusion and conspiracy, but then, we had the faux Warren Commission - -you know, another example of WASTED taxpayer monies!

  4. What a wonderful human being. Thank God We had him to teach others the virtues and selflessness that we all should strive for. What a role model. f we had today more people like him, America wouldnt ee facng so many challenges.! God bless you Gral. Krulak! Thank you for your many services Sir!

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