Smith’s (Rules & Tools for Leaders, 2013) biography honors a decorated World War II Marine.
Jimmie Dyess was the epitome of an all-American hero: he served as a student cadet leader at military school, excelled on the football field, and received the Carnegie Medal for civilian heroism for saving a drowning woman. During the Depression, he was a young father and served in both the Army and Marine Reserves. As the U.S. built up its military in anticipation of the country’s entrance into WWII, Dyess was called up as an active-duty Marine officer and eventually placed in command of an infantry battalion. Dyess led his men into combat against the Japanese military in the battle for the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. On the island of Roi Nampur, Dyess volunteered to move forward with the advance line, rescued a group of stranded Marines, and ultimately lost his life. These actions posthumously earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Smith provides a vivid account of the Marine’s successful assault on Roi Nampur and of Dyess’ final acts of heroism. Smith’s wife is Dyess’ daughter, and Dyess is clearly a personal hero of Smith’s. That being said, Smith’s book is by no means mere hagiography, and Dyess’ mistakes and shortcomings are noted. What’s more, Smith approaches his subject with a keen historian’s eye. Valuable historical context is provided in the form of black-and-white photographs and fascinating detours into the lives of figures such as Andrew Carnegie, Fiorello La Guardia, and Maj. Earl “Pete” Ellis. In this biography, the Marine Corps figures almost as prominently as Dyess himself; the institutional history of the Corps, from 1775 through to their crucial role in World War II, is thorough and interesting. In some ways, Smith’s book is without nuance: the virtues of the military and patriotism are never questioned, and Smith is a firm believer in the nobility of the “greatest generation.” Luckily, Smith has the research to back up his convictions.
A classic account of service, duty, and sacrifice.