As many readers of the Dispatches Newsletter might be aware, “Make Peace or Die” is the motto of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. For Charles Daly, it became a regular choice he would have to make, time and again, over the course of his entire life.
“Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares” is everything the name promises it to be. At times terrifying, the book is always engrossing and descriptive. It’s one of the finest personal recollections of the Korean War today.
It’s also a joint collaboration the author co-wrote with the help of his son, Charlie Daly.
About the Author of Make Peace or Die
Daly grew up in a family of Anglo-Irish immigrants. They became American citizens when little Charles was just eight years old. Their story, as Daly admits from the start, was not the typical picture of huddled masses yearning to breathe free. His father was a Shell Oil Company Executive, and they came to the United States on a luxury liner in first class.
When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, his father shipped over to serve as an officer in the 4th battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Daly’s uncle served in the Great War. His father came home; his uncle did not. A few years after the war’s end, Charles Daly was born in 1927.
When it came time to fight in World War II, Daly would join the Navy as an enlisted man. It was the spring of 1945, so Daly wouldn’t make it to any front of World War II. Instead, his aptitude led him to a program designed to train naval aviators. Once accepted, he was on his way to college. Half of his class went to Yale; the other half went to Union College in Schenectady, New York. Daly ended up at Yale because his last name began with the letter “D.”
He studied at Yale as a service member and later used the GI Bill to continue his studies. It was there that he first learned about a program that would turn him into a Marine Corps officer.
“At some point, I got to thinking that all of this was one hell of a deal for an immigrant,” Daly writes. “I couldn’t get over the idea that I owed my country everything. I was possessed by the restless and romantic feeling that I ought to pay my country back through further service.”
And serve he did. He was a Marine Corps reserve officer when North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th Parallel in June 1950. Anxious to get into the war, he went into training immediately. By the time he arrived in Korea, his Marines were there to bolster the number of troops and prepare for a counteroffensive.
“Make Peace or Die” begins with a brief but fascinating introduction to the author’s youth and family life before joining the U.S. military. His stories as a Marine not only cover the fighting during the Korean War but also the everyday life of a Marine officer. Daly is honest and blunt with his recollections, thoughts, and feelings during his time in Korea. He talks about losing friends, fighting the war, and even a chance encounter with one Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller.
The book also covers the action that resulted in Charles Daly being awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat during the war. It came as Daly led his Marines up a heavily defended hill near Inje, blazing a trail through small arms fire and automatic machine guns nests.
But Korea was just the beginning of a life of service for Daly. He returned to the United States wounded, traumatized, and decorated. After the war, he went to work for President John F. Kennedy as a congressional liaison, Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and a South African township devastated by the AIDS epidemic.
Whenever presented with the epic choice of “make peace or die,” Daly always chose peace – and it resulted in a fascinating life of public service around the world. “Make Peace or Die: A Life of Service, Leadership, and Nightmares” is a must-read for any Korean War buff, Marine Corps history fan, and anyone who’s looking for personal guidance after service.
“Make Peace or Die” is available at Amazon on Kindle Reader for $6.99 or hardcover for $14.53.