“The Formative Years” is the first of sixty-six unnumbered chapters, or episodes, in retired Marine Corps Gen. Lawrence F. Snowden’s memoir, One Marine’s Indebtedness to the Corps (Turtle Cove Press, 262 pp., $19.95, paper). In it we learn that Lawrence Fontaine Snoddy, Jr., the only son of Lawrence and Beatrice, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, on April 14, 1921. He later changed his name to Snowden.
The memoir is often not presented in chronological order. Why? Because, Gen. Snowden writes, his stories were “recorded here as I happen to think of them.” Additionally, the lack of an index and a glossary of acronyms is challenging.
Larry Snoddy graduated from The University of Virginia in 1942. He had been involved with glee clubs and sang professionally with local bands such as the Tin Can Quartet. He was rehearsing with the Tin Can Quartet when the Pearl Harbor attack was announced. He joined the Marine Corps soon thereafter, explaining that his “family dentist, Dr. Sims, baited me with the challenge that I probably was not tough enough to serve as a Marine.”
He was sworn into the Marine Corps Reserves at the Charlottesville Post Office on February 21, 1942. Three months later when he stepped off the train at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, he heard a Master Sergeant say, “Welcome to Quantico and to the Marine Corps.” With “that simple greeting,” Snowden writes, “I was in my new world, which was to become my Universe for the next thirty-seven and a half years.”
2nd Lt. Snoddy joined the newly created 4th Marine Division in Hawaii, and then fought on Iwo Jima. He describes Iwo as “the bloodiest battle in the Pacific Ocean Area and probably in our national history of war.” He received his first two Purple Hearts after seven days on Iwo and was evacuated to a Guam hospital. He later hitched a ride on a postal flight back his unit on Iwo Jima. Two days later the young lieutenant was wounded again and evacuated.
Many chapters deal with what happened after Snoddy was promoted to Brigadier General in 1968 and changed his name to Lawrence F. Snowden.
Snowden was awarded the Legion of Merit for his work clearing ordnance out of the Korean DMZ after the Armistice ending the fighting was signed. He then held several administrative positions, including at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in New York City, before his six-month tour in Vietnam as the CO of the 7th Marine Div. at Chu Lai.
He went on to serve as Chief of Staff of U.S forces in Japan and Chief of Staff at U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, before retiring in 1979. In his second career, Snowden served as president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and as a Hughes Aircraft vice president.
He accepted Gen. Colin Powell’s offer to serve on the commission that investigated the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon.
Gen. Snowden died on February 18, 2017, at age 95, a year after this book was published.