I reviewed How the Few Became the Proud, Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918. I think I always took it for granted that Marines called themselves Marines with distinction since the beginning, that the line separating us from Sailors and Soldiers had always been quite clear. To be honest the historical education we receive in boot camp seems to reinforce that belief, that Marines have always been extremely proud to be Marines and nothing less. Calling a Marine a soldier today is borderline insulting, and even though I don’t tend to broadcast my past if someone says it to me I at least have the initial response in my head of “No, I was in the Marines.” This reading taught me that was not exactly how it has always been, that for a very long time Marines often identified themselves as soldiers when explaining their role in the military to family members and friends.

The holes in my historical knowledge may be due to the work of the Recruiting Bureau as covered in this book. It is hard to discern solid truth from proud but colorful historical interpretations of past events when taught Marine Corps history in boot camp. This book does not have that issue, having been written by someone who was not a Marine allowed the author a much more analytical, and honest, approach. Heather Venable has a well established background teaching military history, and I’m certain her father being a former Marine helped give her insight into the historical narrative all Marines are taught from the beginning. I truly believe the author not being a Marine allowed her to write this book with much less bias than someone who had been influenced by service in the Corps.

The struggle of the Marine Corps to both define its purpose and prove it’s worth among the Army and Navy is a consistent theme. Initially Marines were created to provide sharpshooters for the American Navy, in addition to serving as a police force aboard ships against mutiny and other troubles. That much is covered thoroughly in boot camp, but there were many topics of struggle the Marine Corps faced in finding its place among the branches that were not covered as thoroughly. The greatest struggle was defining what a Marine is, even the Marines throughout this book are consistently explaining to their families that being a Marine is like being a soldier, while the recruiting bureau is trying to send the message that Marines are “soldiers and sailors too.”

I initially thought the focus of this book would be on the battles that occurred from 1874-1918, with grand accounts of the actions of a few Marines proving themselves to stand apart from the other branches. That’s not exactly what this book was about, which again proves that I’m already influenced on what history should be due to my past learning.

This book has a strong focus on the actions of the recruiting bureau, how the designs and changes this bureau made influenced and impacted the Corps, and society’s perception of the Corps…. If the history of what gave Marines their distinction from the other branches interests you, and how that distinction was portrayed, this book is worth looking into.

The book retails on Amazon for about $39.95, comes as a hardcover with 352 pages.

Heather Venable is an assistant professor of military and security studies in the Department of Airpower at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College. As a visiting professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, she taught naval and Marine Corps history. She received her Ph.D. in military history from Duke University.

Material Disclosure

I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


By Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson spent six years as a USMC Machine Gunner. He deployed three times to Afghanistan as a gunner, team leader, and section leader and left the Marines in 2015. After leaving the Marines he attended college and earned his Bachelors in Business Administration in 2019. He is currently raising his three small sons with his wife, while continuing to learn as much as he can about firearms, and pass that knowledge on. He also dryfires entirely too much in his basement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.