First in the Griffin's ten-volume series The Corps, Semper Fi sets the stage for WW II as well as well as introducing the reader to the main characters (and many supporting characters) that will appear through out the series.
Semper Fi can be broken up into two parts. The 1st introduces us to to the main characters McCoy, Banning and Sessions as 4th Marines in China before Pearl Harbor. Griffin spends time developing these characters that will explain their actions and feelings later in the series. McCoy's introduction to the field of intelligence is explained here along with his relationship with Banning and Sessions. (A complaint of the series would be that although the books are touted a story of the Marine Corps; 80% of the stories deal with intelligence and special Ops)
This part of the book also introduces two protagonists that will appear throughout the series; John Macklin and Ellen Feller. I did not read this book 1st and therefore did not understand the background of these two characters. Book V is the original book I read in the series and when I read this book next a lot of 'light-bulbs' went off.
Perhaps the most interesting character introduced in the 1st part of this book is Sergeant Ernie Zimmerman. Zimmerman is more of a 'supporting character' who appears in every book in the series. Zimmerman's character is the opposite of McCoy and represents the prototypical Marine… big, grizzled, rock solid, and as comfortable taking apart a M-16 as he is drinking a gallon of beer and playing poker.
The 2nd part of the book moves McCoy farther into the intelligence world and he becomes an officer. (Most of Griffin's main characters are.) He gains a best friend (Pick Pickering… the wild side of McCoy) and an girlfriend. (Ernie Sage… the soft side of McCoy) Another main character, Picks father Fleming Pickering, is also introduced and the stage is set for him to play a major role throughout the series.
The book ends with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the series is ready to take off and follow all these characters throughout the War.
While this is a 'staging' book it still tells a great story. I believe that Griffin wrote this book to stand on it's own and that the characters were so compelling that he just continued their stories throughout WW II. He makes you love and want to root for McCoy and his friends… few negatives appear in the main characters at this stage.
My wife, who has never read a war story in her life, read this book after much prompting from myself and was immediately hooked. I am not a fan of 'series' books where characters continue over many books but Griffin manages to complete enough story lines to satisfy you while leaving several issues unresolved.
Since this book is pre-WW II, military action is light. Griffin hints at the role the United States military played in China before the war but does really detail why we were there and what we were trying to accomplish. It's on my reading list to learn more about the events that took place in China at that time. No mention was made of the events in Germany that were happening at that time. (For some reason that is pretty common of Griffins books. The Brotherhood of War series starts in Germany at the end of WW II. The Badge of Honor deals with The Nazis but takes place in Argentina.)
As I'll say with every review of the Corps series of books, (and almost every book in a Griffin war series) this book is required reading.
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