Retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Gerald H. Turley says that his book, The Journey of a Warrior (iUniverse, 513 pp., $41.95, hardcover; $31.95, paper), is not a biography of former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Alfred Mason Gray. Instead, Turley says, the book is “a retrospective of a unique Marine whose impact on his institution was both traditional and perhaps under appreciated.”
Turley served two Vietnam War tours of duty. During his second tour, in 1972, he was instrumental in helping the South Vietnamese repulse the 1972 NVA Easter Offensive. Turley wrote The Easter Offensive: The Last American Advisors, Vietnam, 1972 (1994) about that pivotal event in the Vietnam War.
His new book focuses on the years 1987-91, when Al Gray was the Marine Corps Commandant. But Turley does touch on Gray’s earlier service, beginning in 1950 when he joined the Marines, soon after the outbreak of the Korean War. “Thus began,” Turley writes, “for Al a lifelong adventure and love affair with the tough and unrelenting world of the professional Marine Corps.”
Gray joined as a private, then went to OfficerBasicSchool at Quantico, graduating in 1952. He served in the thick of things in the Korean War beginning early in 1953, extending his tour to become a platoon leader and then a company commander in the 7th Marines. He became one of the first Marine Corps officers to “enter the Southeast Asian theater prior to America’s major military build up for the Vietnam War,” Turley says, noting that Gray received a Bronze Star with V device on November 6, 1964, for actions during a secret mission in Vietnam.
Gray went back to Vietnam in September 1965 with the 12th Marine Artillery Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division. He stayed for three years, extending his tour twice. “He was seemingly ubiquitous in supporting the division’s active deployments and combat operations against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces,” Turley notes. Gray did another Vietnam War tour in 1969, “in conjunction with surveillance and reconnaissance matters,” Turley says.
He calls Al Gray “beyond a doubt the most unforgettable man I have ever known. I have had the unique opportunity to have served under him, been responsible for implementing a couple of his visionary ideas, been his confidant, sometimes his ‘Napoleon’s Corporal,’ at times his personal critic, a friend in time of need, and always an admirer or his vision, drive, and selfless devotion to the Marine Corps.”