The Flying Grunt Cover

The Flying Grunt

The Story of Lieutenant General Richard E. Carey United States Marine Corps (Ret)

Alan Mesches

Casemate, Havertown, Pennsylvania, 2023, 240 pages

Book Review published on: August 25, 2023

Sometimes a book’s title can intrigue you just enough to investigate it a bit further. Recently, I was perusing a few stacks of books for potential reading when I came across Alan Mesches’s The Flying Grunt: The Story of Lieutenant General Richard E. Carey United States Marine Corps (Ret). It sparked my interest, so I scanned the book sleeve to get more information on the subject, the author, and read any quick endorsements. I found I was unfamiliar with Lt. Gen. Richard Carey and Alan Mesches, but the book did receive some solid support. I was still unsure, but the title kept pulling me to the book and I decided to pick it up. It was a good decision.

As with many figures in military history, there are those who deserve to be known and admired by far more people for their careers and the lives they have led. Richard Carey is unquestionably one of those select individuals. Carey’s military career spanned thirty-eight years and his accomplishments and service to the Nation are truly impressive. Following his retirement, he has continued to serve the country and give back. I would like to highlight his service to those, like me, who may be unaware.

Carey enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1946 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1948. He soon found himself as a platoon leader in the 1st Marine Division in Korea. His service in the Korean War was highlighted by his participation in the Battles of Inchon and Chosin Reservoir. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart during the war. The injury resulting in the Purple Heart led to Carey’s redeployment back to the United States.

Once back in the States, Carey fulfilled a dream of becoming a naval aviator in 1953. (I now know where the book title came from!) The next fourteen years saw Carey serve in various aviation-related command and staff positions. In 1967, Carey deployed to Vietnam and served in several key billets including commanding Marine Air Base Squadron 13 and subsequently, Fighter Attack Squadron 115. During his Vietnam War service, he flew 204 combat sorties (the vast majority in a F-4B Phantom). He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and sixteen air medals.

In August 1974, Carey was promoted to brigadier general. Upon his promotion, he was assigned to serve as assistant wing commander for the 1st Marine Air Wing that was located in Japan. A few months later, Carey also became the commanding general of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade. These positions would lead him to face one of his most challenging assignments.

In this task, Casey led the efforts in the planning, preparation, and ultimate execution of the evacuation of Saigon prior to the fall of the city. This incredibly complex operation named Operation Frequent Wind was a true joint action and was principally conducted 29–30 April 1975. Although Carey’s leadership during the operation has been lauded, many feel he never received the credit he deserved for his work. James Livingston, a retired Marine Corps major general and Medal of Honor recipient, is one of those. He states, “The efforts of General Carey during the evacuation of Saigon in 1975 have never been fully recognized. His leadership helped bring 100,000 people to the United States safely.”1

Following the evacuation, Carey served on active duty for eight more years. During these years, he served in four key assignments. These were assistant deputy chief of staff for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps; commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (North Carolina); deputy chief of staff, commander in chief, Atlantic, U.S. Naval Station Norfolk (Virginia); and finally, commanding general, Marine Corps Development and Education Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico (Virginia). On 1 March 1983, Carey retired from active duty after serving his country for thirty-eight years.

Upon retirement from active duty, Carey continues to serve his country and the military. This service has come in a variety of ways and has focused primarily on improving the lives of veterans and their families. It includes advocating for their health care, raising funds for lodging (Fisher House), launching a program to assist veterans in traveling for treatment, and assisting in building a veterans cemetery (Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery). Additionally, Carey was deeply engaged in the Dallas Toys for Tots program.

One of the most important and personal actions for Carey was his significant involvement in the creation of a national monument honoring those who served at the Chosin Reservoir. Carey formed the Chosin Few Monument Project and was successful in the endeavor despite many challenges. Through his leadership and dedication, Chosin Few Monuments are now located at the National Museum in Quantico, Virginia, and the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery.

In discussing the importance of the Chosin Reservoir and the need for the monuments, Carey stated, “I thought about the individual heroics of the Marines. I saw examples of it myself. Many did not recognize the importance of that battle [Chosin]. Had we pulled out of Korea as a result of that battle, South Korea would not exist today.”2

With a very brief synopsis of Carey’s service complete, I would like to discuss the author. Mesches started later in his life to become an author at age seventy. After serving in the United States Air Force, he began a long and successful career in sales and marketing. It wasn’t until a friend challenged him to write a book that Mesches got interested in this pursuit. His first book, published in 2020, was a biography of Maj. Gen, James Ulio, who was the U.S. Army’s adjutant general during World War II. It was very well-received, and Mesches now had the “writer’s bug.”

During a recent interview, Mesches reflected on how the idea of a biography on Carey began. He states, “An acquaintance who read my book connected retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General, Richard E. Carey and me. General Carey served in Korea as a ground troop commander and in Vietnam as a fighter pilot. The general contemplated writing a book for several years. He asked me to write his biography.”3

Within The Flying Grunt, Mesches superbly details not only the highlights I addressed, but provides a comprehensive look at Carey’s entire life. Within the volume, I found several areas that were particularly intriguing and extremely well-done. These were his service in the Korean War and his involvement in Operation Frequent Wind. In each case, the author provides readers with substantial discussion by Carey.

Regarding his service in the Korean War, Mesches emphasizes how critical it was in Carey’s development and how important it was throughout his career. The author states, “While he would go on to significant achievements in aviation and senior leadership roles, General Carey always came back to his time in the Korean War. Carey learned from Marine Corps leaders such as O. P. Smith and Chesty Puller. The skill and professionalism of World War II officers and NCOs stayed with him. Carey’s Korean battlefield experiences influenced his decisions and command philosophy throughout his career.”4

Mesches’s treatment of Carey’s role in Operation Frequent Wind is outstanding. He provides readers with an excellent synopsis of the operation. One of the most important things the author does is portray Carey’s personal feelings on conducting the operation. An example of this is a quote by Carey on the operation itself. Carey states, “I had a job to do—it was to get as many people out as possible. It was a humanitarian act, because we know those who worked with Americans, they were going to retraining camps and many of them would have perished. We owed it to them.”5

In telling Carey’s story, Mesches relies on several strengths he displays throughout the volume. The first and the clear foundation for this biography is the research Mesches conducted. I found this to be one of best researched biographies I have read in quite some time. The author addresses his sources and highlights the time he spent with Carey in the book’s preface. He states, “One hundred hours of face-to-face meetings with the General, Carey’s papers, speech copies, oral histories, Marine Corps documents, and interviews with fellow Marines and family members, along with newspaper stories, went into research for this book. The General answered tough and deeply personal questions. No subject was off-limits.”6

The second strong point of the book is its outstanding readability. To say that Mesches writes in a conversant style is a true understatement. This is one of those books in which you feel the author is sitting right next to you telling you about Carey’s life and his impact. As discussed earlier, the author spent over one hundred hours interviewing Carey for the volume. Throughout the volume, Mesches weaves in a many of Carey’s thoughts and reflections. It is an excellent blend and highly personalizes the book.

The final strength of The Flying Grunt is the quality and quantity of visuals Mesches has placed in the volume. The author has included over fifty photographs and a dozen maps/sketches to complement his verbiage. These are extremely effective for three reasons. To begin with, he embeds them throughout the book instead of placing them together in one section. Secondly, the preponderance of the photographs come from the Carey Family Collection vice stock pictures from a museum or official photo collection. Finally, Mesches has crafted pertinent and informative captions under each visual to set the conditions for the reader. These combine to make the visuals a great companion with the book’s verbiage.

In summary, it is unfortunate that the service and life of Carey is not known and respected by more people. As I have highlighted, Carey’s contributions in and out of uniform are remarkable. Mesches has superbly captured these contributions and crafted them into a highly readable biography. In his preface, Mesches states, “The General wanted the book to be right. I hope that I met his standard.”7 After reading The Flying Grunt, I have no doubt he met his standard.


  1. “The Flying Grunt,” Argunners Magazine, accessed 20 March 2023,
  2. Alan Mesches, The Flying Grunt: The Story of Lieutenant General Richard E. Carey, United States Marine Corps (Ret) (Havertown, PA: Casemate, 2023), 215.
  3. Winston Henvey, “From New York to Frisco, See How This Local Author Tell[s] the Stories of Veterans,” Frisco Enterprise, accessed 24 March 2023,
  4. Mesches, The Flying Grunt, 234.
  5. Beryl Chong, “Nevadan Recalls Harrowing Days as Refugee,” Reno Gazette Journal, 30 April 2005.
  6. Mesches, The Flying Grunt, x.
  7. Ibid.

Book Review written by:Frederick A. Baillergeon, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas