Gung Ho, Raider! The Philosophy and Methods of Brigadier General Evans F. Carlson, Marine Corps Raider
Author(s)Gomrick, Kathleen M.
Contributor(s)AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLL MAXWELL AFB AL
KeywordsMilitary Forces and Organizations
BATTALION LEVEL ORGANIZATIONS
EVANS F. CARLSON
SECOND MARINE RAIDER BATTALION
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AbstractWhile nearly every great military leader enthusiastically acknowledges the importance of morale and cohesion to any unit's success, few actually make these elements the central focus of their command. It is rarer still to find commanders that employ all-encompassing programs to shape the spirits, as well as the minds and bodies, of their charges. Brig Gen Evans F. Carlson, perhaps more so than any other American military leader, believed that ethical indoctrination was the foundation of a fighting force's success. He cultivated an atmosphere of mutually supported individual effort rooted in righteous and democratic beliefs. A strong sense of duty punctuated by a consistent example of honor led him from small town Vermont to the Pacific beachheads of World War II. His concept of why men fight, and hard-gained knowledge of how men can fight, combined to create the almost fanatical 2d Marine Raider Battalion. Their motto, Gung Ho, lives on in military lore today. Their leader, Carlson, was perhaps unique in the American military experience. By drawing from the numerous books, articles, diaries and notes authored by Carlson himself, his letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as first-hand and historical accounts of the battles he engaged in, I will examine the origin of Carlson's philosophies and how they were translated into Raider training methods. Finally, I will describe the lessons for small team leadership that can be derived from his example. The American military has changed since World War II, but even a well organized, trained and equipped fighting man requires a belief in something greater than himself to muster the physical and moral courage to accomplish the extraordinary in battle. For Carlson's Raiders that something bigger was their team, their country, and their way of life. There is a place today for Gung Ho ethical indoctrination, but individualism will most likely remain the hallmark of America and her military.