Marine general William H. Rupertus is best known today for writing the Corps’ Rifleman’s Creed, which begins, “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine”—which has been made famous by films such as Full Metal Jacket and Jarhead. Rupertus was one of the outstanding Marines of the twentieth century, standing alongside men such as Smedley Butler, Chesty Puller, and Arthur Vandegrift, but he died in 1945, so his story has never been told.
Rupertus “made his bones” in the USMC’s “savage wars of peace” before World War II: Haiti for three years after World War I, China in 1929 (where he lost his wife and children to the scarlet fever epidemic) and again in 1937 (where he witnessed the beginning of Japan’s war against China that turned into the Pacific War of World War II).
In World War II, Rupertus commanded during four important battles: Tulagi and Henderson Field during the Guadalcanal campaign; the Battle of Cape Gloucester; and Peleliu. It was a series of blistering battles—and ultimately victories—that helped break the back of the Japanese and pave the way for American victory. In the course of these battles, Rupertus became the Patton of the Pacific—ruthless in war, always on the attack, merciless against the enemy, undefeated in battles—even as he proved himself very much like Eisenhower, suavely diplomatic and able to balance war with politics. These skills allowed Rupertus to crush the enemy in the malaria-infested jungles of the Pacific and personally escort Eleanor Roosevelt on her tour of the Pacific.
Old Breed General is the biography of Rupertus and the story of the Marines at war in the Pacific. This is an American story of love, loss, shock, horror, tragedy, and triumph that focuses on Rupertus and the 1st Marine Division in World War II, but which resonates through the 1st, to Chosin in Korea and James Mattis’s command in Iraq.