I read Robert Coram’s portrait of a brilliant man, Marine Lt. Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, with intense personal interest. That is because Brute men...moreI read Robert Coram’s portrait of a brilliant man, Marine Lt. Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak, with intense personal interest. That is because Brute mentions the late B. Gen. Edward C. Dyer, who with others helped make helicopters an enduring part of the Marine Corps. Gen. Dyer is my father. Coram gives readers a story of great breadth: Beyond the complexities of Lt. Gen. Krulak, his flaws and remarkable accomplishments, the author describes the Marine Corps, its relationship with other branches of the military, its history, failures, and triumphs. I have benefited from reading the historian’s clear prose describing how the “A” bomb made amphibious landings outmoded after WWII, how the helicopter created a whole new dimension to waging war and revitalized the Corps’ mission.
I wish to share with readers the following small amount of historical information. Gen. Dyer’s official Marine Corps biography describes him as “a pioneer in the night fighter, air warning and helicopter phases of Marine aviation.” An obituary in a Washington, D.C., newspaper describes him as “one of the first Marine aviators to be trained as a helicopter pilot.” (Washington Star-News, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 1975). In 1931 he made among the first night landings (fixed-wing) at sea (Scouting Squadron 15-M with the USS Lexington and the USS Saratoga). Later he trained as a helicopter pilot at Sikorsky Aircraft in 1947. He flew among the earliest helicopters. He understood and loved them. He understood their potential.
In an Oral History Transcript for the Marine Corps Historical Division (1973), Gen. Dyer describes the attitude when the first Marine helicopter squadron was approved. “A lot of my contemporaries were unhappy with the idea” since helicopters meant less funding for fixed-wing aircraft. In addition there was “a sincere belief on the part of many Marine aviators . . . that a helicopter was nothing but an aeronautical monstrosity, just a collection of nuts and bolts that would probably never amount to anything . . . they had no belief in its future whatever.”(Oral Transcript 201)
Gen. Dyer volunteered for the job of organizing the unloved fledgling squadron based in Quantico. He commandeered desks and file cabinets, acquired a hangar and barracks, and recruited pilots, mechanics, electronics specialists and clerks. These few brave and adventurous souls set the rag-tag squadron on its way to later success.
Gen. Dyer told his interviewer that the men who volunteered for the squadron “were a good group of people, and I think they all did a splendid job, as we would see later.” (Oral Transcript 210). He was the organizer and he was the first commander of HMX-1 (H for helicopter, M for Marine, X for experimental, and 1 for the first). It got off the ground with just five Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopters. Today HMX-1 has the honor of flying the U.S. president to and from his engagements.
Coram’s writing is detailed, and this fascinating story of Lt. Gen. Krulak is altogether accessible to those coming to the subject of military history, helicopters and the Marine Corps for the first time. Readers will find it hard to put this book down whether they are new to or long familiar with all the compelling subjects it tackles. (less)