Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kentucky Marine: Major General Logan Feland
Reviewed by Peter Belmonte

Kentucky Marine: Major General Logan Feland and the Making of the Modern USMC

by David J. Bettez
University Press of Kentucky, 2016

With this book, David J. Bettez, former director of the Office of International Affairs at the University of Kentucky, has given us a well-deserved biography of an important figure in Marine Corps history, Major General Logan Feland. As a complete biography, it covers Feland's entire life, from his humble origins in rural western Kentucky, through his schooling, U.S. Army service, U.S. Marine Corps service, to his final days as a senior Marine Corps officer. The text is enhanced by many fine photographs of Feland and the men with whom he served. Bettez also includes a helpful timeline of Feland's life and thorough endnotes. His bibliography is more than enough to satisfy anyone desiring further reading on these topics.

Feland's military career started as a Kentucky National Guard officer in the 1890s. During the Spanish-American War, his regiment was mobilized and deployed to Georgia. Unfortunately, due to illnesses in the ranks and other systemic problems, Feland's company didn't go to Cuba until after the fighting had ended. He served a short time at Guantanamo before returning to Kentucky. In 1899 Feland sought and was granted a commission as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Fifth Marines Heading for France, 28 June 1917
Logan Feland Would Command These Men in France

Bettez's descriptions of young Feland's early Marine Corps career is a dizzying recitation of numerous expeditionary deployments. The young officer deployed to such places as the Philippines, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. These assignments reflect the United States' role as a hemispheric power and its emergence as a world power. Although Bettez doesn't cover the history of each intervention in depth, one can readily grasp how politicians viewed the Caribbean as vital to U.S. national and economic interests. Interspersed with these deployments, Feland participated in efforts to shape Marine Corps doctrine and training in a variety of assignments.

Feland's World War I experience, although exciting and important, is given only 36 pages of coverage. He was instrumental in the success, albeit costly, of the Marine brigade at Belleau Wood where he earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism. Shortly after the battle he was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the Fifth Regiment of Marines. Colonel Feland then commanded that regiment at several bloody engagements well known to readers of this blog: Soissons, Saint Mihiel, Blanc Mont, and the Meuse-Argonne.

Bettez devotes by far the most space to Feland's life and duties during the 1920s and 1930s. The author covers U.S. involvement in Nicaragua quite thoroughly. Feland served there in the late 1920s; part of the Marines' duties was to hunt down guerilla leader Augustino Sandino and his gang of "bandits." Although Feland's men never brought Sandino to ground, they did keep him on the run and, according to Bettez, allowed for a peaceful Nicaraguan presidential election in 1928.

After his Nicaraguan tours of duty, Feland returned to the U.S. and sought, unsuccessfully, the position of commandant of the Marine Corps. Bettez's account of this, and also of Feland's previous attempts at securing promotions, brings to light the petty bickering and backstabbing that was prevalent among the higher ranks. Although Feland is portrayed mostly, and rightly, in a positive light, his quibbling over fundraising for a Second Division memorial in Washington, D.C., was not his finest hour. Major General Logan Feland died in 1936. He served his country and the Marine Corps faithfully and is deserving of the honor of this biography.

James M. Gallen

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an excellent biography of someone we don't hear a lot about. It's interesting how the higher ranks of pretty much all armies give vent to rivalries, feuds, resentments, intrigues and hostility. Of course, they're not the only ones...