Courage, Compassion, Marine
The Unique Story of Jimmie Dyess
iUniverse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2015, 220 pages
Book Review published on: January 23, 2017
From start to finish, readers sense the pride and passion of the book’s author, Maj. Gen. Perry W. Smith, U.S. Air Force, retired, who took ten years to research and write Courage, Compassion, Marine: The Unique Story of Jimmie Dyess. The story resonates with the author because Smith is married to Jimmie Dyess’s daughter and only child. Together over the years, the Smiths have represented this American hero’s extraordinary achievements at multiple and various events around the globe.
The book moves effectively in a chronology beginning with Jimmie Dyess’s prewar years, progressing to the Carnegie Medal, the evolution of U.S. Marine Corps, the war in the Pacific, the 4th Marine Division and its role in Operation Flintlock, perspectives on the Medal of Honor and courage, and a litany of Dyess’s honors and events. However, the book needs a more effective ending as Smith spends too much time discussing the anatomy of courage, which detracts from the book’s strengths—Dyess and historical research.
As an Augustan, I reveled in the book’s description of “early Augusta”—the city, its citizens, and the attractions that made it the “before Florida” winter playground for wealthy northerners. Here, readers glimpse a young Jimmie Dyess who willingly risked his life to save two drowning strangers and who later would give his life to save marines on the twin islands of Roi Namur. The firsthand accounts by men who served, trained, and fought alongside Dyess capture the man who embodied the character and presence attributes of the Army Leadership Requirements Model.
Smith’s book is not only a responsible and personal portrait of Dyess, but also a revealing historical account of the Marine Corps. This account examines the strategic contributions made by five men who influenced Marine Corps doctrine, force structure, and training evolutions in the 1930s, and the technological and tactical innovations employed by the Corps (specifically, the 4th Marine Division) in the Pacific during World War II. Examples include massive, sustained air and naval bombardment to weaken dug-in enemy emplacements, fighter planes with air-to-ground rockets against dug-in positions, and underwater demolition teams to reconnoiter defenses and destroy underwater barriers. Readers discover that “in 63 days of combat, the 4th Marine Division (including its subordinate 1/24th Marine Battalion commanded by LTC Jimmie Dyess) saw more close-combat action than any of the six Marine Divisions fighting in the Pacific Theater in WWII, proving the viability of amphibious attack against defended beaches.”
Only one American citizen has earned Eagle Scout status, received the Carnegie Medal for civilian heroism, and been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor—Aquilla James “Jimmie” Dyess. A U.S. Navy destroyer and a Georgia highway bear his name, and an award symposium held annually in his honor salutes Americans who, over a lifetime, have made significant contributions to nation, community, and fellow citizens. Courage, Compassion, Marine: The Unique Story of Jimmie Dyess belongs on bookshelves alongside more recognizable biographies. I highly recommend this story of a unique and original American with remarkable achievements.
Book Review written by: James D. Sharp Jr., Fort Gordon, Georgia