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Old 12-31-2008, 04:01 PM
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LTGEN Victor H. "Brute" KRULAK, 95, San Diego

Obituary: Victor H. Krulak; general devised strategies used during 3 wars
Lt. Gen. Victor H. 'Brute' Krulak, shown during the Vietnam War, at one time commanded all Marine Corps forces in the Pacific. (Union-Tribune file photo)
He entered the U.S. Naval Academy as an undersized teenager, but Victor H. “Brute” Krulak rose to command all Marine Corps forces in the Pacific, helped develop a boat crucial to amphibious landings during World War II and spoke his mind in disagreeing with a president over Vietnam War strategy.
Lt. Gen. Krulak, a decorated veteran of three wars, died of natural causes late Monday night at the Wesley Palms Retirement Community in San Diego. He was 95.
Standing barely 5 feet 5 inches tall, he was jokingly nicknamed Brute by his academy classmates. The moniker stuck, reinforced by his direct, no-nonsense style.
“There was nothing undersized about his brain,” Time magazine later said.
One of Gen. Krulak's three sons – retired Gen. Charles Krulak of Wilmington, Del. – said his father “was proud of just being a Marine . . . He never forgot that at the end of the day, everything he did was in support of them.”
As a major in the years before World War II, the senior Gen. Krulak helped create the amphibious-war doctrine that the Marines used to defeat Japan in the Pacific. He championed the Higgins boat landing craft that was involved in every World War II amphibious assault, as well as the prototype for the Amtrack vehicle still used by Marines today.
Gen. Krulak was known as a master strategist, said Mike Neil, a San Diego lawyer and retired reserve Marine brigadier general.
“He brilliantly orchestrated the 1st Marine Brigade to save the day at Pusan Peninsula (during the Korean War),” Neil said.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Gen. Krulak formulated the counterinsurgency theory that would be tried out in Vietnam. His “inkblot strategy” called for small groups of Marines to go into villages and work with like-minded locals to defend them against guerrilla forces – a plan resurrected with considerable success two years ago in Iraq.
While commanding more than 100,000 Marines in the Pacific from 1964 to 1968, he took part in a critical stage of the U.S. buildup of forces in Vietnam.
Before his retirement from the military after 34 years in 1968, he was considered a strong candidate for commandant, the top Marine post that his son Charles attained in 1995.
“You'd be hard-pressed to name another Marine in modern times who has had as great an impact on the direction of the Marine Corps – or, for that matter, the country,” said Gary Solis, a former Marine historian and now a law professor at Georgetown University. “From the late 1930s to the 1970s, Victor Krulak had his thumbprint on absolutely everything.”
As commander of Fleet Marine Force Pacific, Solis said, Gen. Krulak required every commander from the battalion level and up to pass through his Hawaii-based headquarters as they left Vietnam. Those commanders briefed him and his staff on the latest developments.
“These (meetings) were crucial to his understanding of what was going on in Vietnam,” Solis said.
A tenacious critic of the government's handling of the Vietnam War, Gen. Krulak wrote in the book “First to Fight” that the conflict could have been won only if the Vietnamese people had been protected and befriended and if enemy supplies from North Vietnam had been cut off.
“The destruction of the port of Haiphong would have changed the whole character of the war,” he said two decades after the fall of Saigon.
In a 1995 interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Gen. Krulak said he brought up the port during a meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. The conversation didn't last long after Gen. Krulak said the wrong targets were being hit.
“(Johnson) got to his feet and propelled me to the door, politely. That's the last I ever saw of him,” he said.
Looking back on his combat operations, Gen. Krulak said, “I never got enthusiasm out of war, and I'm convinced that the true pacifists are the professional soldiers who have actually seen it.”
After leaving the military, Gen. Krulak worked for Copley Newspapers, serving at various times as director of editorial and news policy and as news media president of Copley News Service.
He retired as vice president of The Copley Press Inc. in 1977 and then contributed columns on international affairs and military matters for Copley News Service.
Chuck Patrick, former chief operating officer of Copley Press and a director and executive committee member of the Copley board, said: “An airport delay of six hours turned out to be one of my greatest memories. Brute told me all about his experiences in Southeast Asia, about his good relationship with President John F. Kennedy and about how his disagreements with President Johnson probably kept him from becoming (Marine Corps) commandant.”
Patrick said he and Gen. Krulak became close friends while serving on the executive committee of the Ponderay Newsprint Co., a newsprint mill in Usk, Wash.
But it was the general's annual phone calls to Patrick's daughter that touched him the most. “Brute was her Santa Claus. Every year in November, he'd check with me about how she was doing before he'd call her to tell her what she needed to work on (before Christmas arrived). Those calls meant so much . . . ”
Gen. Krulak, a native of Denver, received his appointment to the Naval Academy before finishing high school. He received a waiver to bypass the Marine Corps height requirement of 5 feet 6 inches.
In 1934, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps after graduating from the academy.
In December 1959, Gen. Krulak assumed command of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, a position he held until his appointment in 1962 as an adviser in the Kennedy administration.
In 1963, he was described by his World War II commander, Gen. Holland M. “Howling Mad” Smith, as “the most brilliant officer I've known in my 58 years in the Marine Corps.”
A longtime Point Loma resident, Gen. Krulak was honored in 1968 as San Diego's “Citizen of the Year” by San Diego Uplifters, a group of 400 professional and business leaders.
During his retirement, Gen. Krulak was active in many community organizations. His roles included serving as president and trustee of the Zoological Society of San Diego.
Gen. Krulak and his late wife, Amy, were known for their annual Fish House Punch parties held to celebrate Gen. Krulak's Jan. 7 birthday. They started the tradition in the 1940s while living in Quantico, Va. The beverage included brandy, lime juice and apple brandy.
Besides Charles, Gen. Krulak also is survived by sons, the Rev. Victor “Vic” Krulak of San Diego and the Rev. William Krulak of Baltimore; his four grandchildren; and his 10 great-grandchildren.
Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 8 at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station chapel. Private inurnment is scheduled for Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

By Blanca Gonzalez, staff writer 2:00 a.m. December 31, 2008
Staff writers Steve Liewer and Rick Rogers, librarian Denise Davidson and former staff writer Jack Williams contributed to this report.
This was copied from today's Sand Diego Union-Tribune newspaper's online site.


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Old 01-09-2009, 03:36 PM
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*San Diego Union-Tribune
January 9, 2009

'Brute' Krulak Commemorated

Strong-willed general left his mark on the Marine Corps

By Steve Liewer

MIRAMAR - If not for the steely will of Lt. Gen. Victor "Brute" Krulak, the Marine Corps he loved so deeply might not have survived to honor his passing.

Krulak joined a cadre of Marine officers who fought to keep their service from being folded into the Army after World War II. They faced down powerful opposition from President Harry Truman and Army Gens. Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall.

"The Marine Corps always came first," Robert Coram, a military historian, said yesterday during a eulogy for Krulak. "He always did the right thing, no matter what the cost."

More than 400 people packed Miramar Marine Corps Air Station's Airman Memorial Chapel to remember Krulak, who died Dec. 29 in San Diego at age 95.

The Rev. Victor Krulak Jr., an Episcopal minister and former Navy chaplain, donned robes of amber and red to lead the funeral service. He marched in front of the flag-draped casket into the chapel.

Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commanding officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, followed the casket. Krulak's two other sons, Charles and William, joined him.

The outlines of Krulak's towering military career are well-known. At first rejected as too short for the Marines, he was appointed to the Naval Academy and graduated in 1934.

Krulak earned the Navy Cross for a 1943 battle in which he promised a young Lt. John F. Kennedy a bottle of whiskey for evacuating some of his men. He delivered on his promise nearly two decades later, when Kennedy was in the White House.

Krulak later commanded the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, a place that would remain close to his heart for the rest of his life. He served his final tour, from 1964 to 1968, as commander of Marine forces in the Pacific.

Throughout his career, Krulak's unflinching honesty was legendary.

"Brute never lacked confidence, especially when he was right - and he was always right," Coram joked. "His candor to his superiors bordered on impertinence."

His comments to President Lyndon Johnson criticizing restraints on the military during the Vietnam War cost him a fourth star and the job of Marine Corps commandant, Coram said.

Krulak's retirement brought him back to his adopted home of San Diego. His friend James Copley hired him for a series of leadership positions at Copley Newspapers, where he worked until 1977. Among the mourners yesterday was David Copley, president and CEO of Copley Press and publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Also present were San Diego County Sheriff Bill Kolender and past and current board members for the Zoological Society of San Diego, including Berit Durler, Thompson Fetter and Betty Jo Williams.

Krulak was once president and trustee of the organization.

Yesterday, Krulak Jr. said his father's sternness carried over into his personal life. He collected pocket watches and never hesitated to use them, Krulak Jr. said, imposing a fierce punctuality on his sons.

As a teenager, he said, he was once grounded for a month because he returned the family car three minutes late.

Krulak Jr. predicted that his father's attention to detail would extend from this world into the next.

"The Marines who guard heaven's streets," he said, "had best be squared away."

Krulak will be buried today in a private service at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.*
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