After the epic struggle of World War II, W.E.B. Griffin’s bestselling chronicle of the Marine Corps enters a new stage of modern warfare—with new weapons, new strategies, and a new breed of warrior—on the battlefields of Korea...
In 1950, Captain Ken McCoy’s report on North Korean hostilities meets with so much bureaucratic displeasure that he is promptly booted out of the Corps—and just as promptly picked up by the fledgling CIA. Soon, his predictions come true: on June 25th the North Koreans invade across the 38th parallel. Immediately veterans scattered throughout military and civilian life are called up, many with only seventy-two hours notice. For these men and their families, names such as Inchon and Pusan will acquire a new, bloody reality—and become their greatest challenge of all...
About the Author
Date of Birth:November 10, 1929
Place of Birth:Newark, New Jersey
Read an Excerpt
Aboard Trans-Global Airways Flight 907
North Latitude 36 Degrees 59 Minutes, East Longitude 143 Degrees 77 Minutes
(Above the Pacific Ocean, near Japan)
1100 1 June 1950
"This is the First Officer speaking," the copilot of Trans-Global Airways Flight 907 said into the public address system microphone. "We are about to begin our descent into Tokyo's Haneda Airport, and have been advised it may get a little bumpy at lower altitudes. So please take your seats and fasten your seat belts, and very shortly we'll have you on the ground."
Trans-Global Flight 907 was a triple-tailed, five-months-old Lockheed L-1049 Constellation, christened Los Angeles.
The navigator, who wore pilot's wings, and who would move up to a copilot's seat when TGA accepted-next week, he hoped-what would be the eighteenth Constellation in the TGA fleet, did some calculations at his desk, then stood up and murmured, "Excuse me, sir," to the man in the jump seat.
The man in the jump seat (a fold-out seat between and immediately behind the pilot's and co-pilot's seats) looked over his shoulder at him in annoyance, finally realized what he wanted, muttered, "Sorry," and made room for the navigator to hand a sheet of paper to the copilot.
The navigator made his way back to his little desk, strapped himself in, and put on his earphones, in time to hear:
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first officer again. I have just been advised by our navigator-this is all subject to official confirmation, of course-that it appears that a very, very favorable tailwind in the last few hours is probably going to permit us to again set a world's record for the fastest regularly scheduled commercial flight time from San Francisco to Tokyo, with intermediate stops at Honolulu and Wake Island.
"The current speed record is held by a TGA Constellation flown by Captain M. S. Pickering, who is our captain today. If our computations are correct, and are confirmed by the appropriate authorities, TGA will be delighted to send each of you a certificate attesting to your presence aboard today. Keep your fingers crossed."
Captain M. S. Pickering turned and looked at the man in the jump seat.
"You'd better get in the back, Dad."
Fleming Pickering-a tall, large, well-tailored, silver-haired, rather handsome man who was, as he privately thought of it, One Year Past The Big Five Zero-nodded his acceptance of the order and moved to comply with it, although he had really hoped he would be permitted to keep the jump seat through the landing.
He wasn't wearing earphones and had not heard a word of either of the copilots' announcements.
He left the cockpit, musing that they were now starting to call it the "flight deck," and then, when he saw his seat and seatmate, musing that while there was a good deal to be said about the benefits of crossing the Pacific Ocean at 325 knots, there were certain drawbacks, high among them that if you found yourself seated beside a horse's ass when you first boarded the aircraft, you were stuck with the sonofabitch for the rest of the flight.
It was different on a ship; you could avoid people on a ship.
Had been different on a ship, he corrected himself. Passenger ships, ocean liners, were as obsolete as buggy whips. There once had been fourteen passenger ships in the Pacific & Far East fleet. Now there was one.
Pickering nodded politely at the horse's ass in the window seat, sat down beside him, and fastened his seat belt.
"Up front, were you?" the horse's ass inquired. "I didn't know they let passengers go in the cockpit."
"My son is the pilot," Pickering said.
"And I guess if you're the pilot, you can break the rules for your old man, right?"
"And I work for the airline," Pickering said.
"No kidding? What do you do?"
"I'm in administration," Pickering said.
That was not the whole truth. Trans-Global Airways was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pacific & Far East Shipping Corporation. When the Wall Street Journal, in a story about Trans-Global, mentioned P&FE, it used the phrase "privately held." The Pickering family owned P&FE, and Fleming Pickering, pater familias, was chairman of the board.
"So you're on a business trip?" the horse's ass asked.
"That's right," Pickering said, smiling with an effort.
That wasn't exactly true, either.
While it was true that he was going to Tokyo to participate in a conference between a dozen shipping companies-both air and what now had become "surface"-serving the Far East, it was also true that he was going to spend as little time as possible actually conferring with anyone. He was instead going to spend some time with a young couple-a Marine captain and his wife-who were stationed in Tokyo. He had never told either of them, but he regarded both of them as his children, although there was no blood connection.
When Pickering had been a young man, being groomed to take over P&FE from his father, Captain Richard Pickering, his father had told him over and over the basic rule of success as a mariner or a businessman: Find capable subordinates, give them a clear mission, and then get out of their way and let them do their jobs.
Fleming Pickering had capable subordinates who knew what he expected of them. And-very likely, he thought, because he did not get in their way and let them do their jobs-they did their jobs very well; in his opinion, far better than their peers elsewhere in the shipping business
They would do the conferring in Tokyo, and he would not get in their way.
What had happened was, the previous Wednesday, Chairman of the Board Pickering had, as was his custom, arrived at his San Francisco office at precisely 9 A.M.
It was an impressive office, occupying the southwest quarter of the upper (tenth) story of the P&FE Building. In some ways, it was museumlike:
There were four glass cases. Two of the four held precisely crafted models of each of the ninety-one vessels of the P&FE fleet, all built to the same scale, and each about two feet in length. There were tankers, bulk-carriers, freighters, and one passenger liner.
The other two glass cases held far larger models. In one was a six-foot-long, exquisitely detailed model of the clipper ship Pacific Princess (Richard Pickering, Master), which had set-and still held-the San Francisco-Shanghai speed record for sailing vessels. The other glass case held a thirteen-foot-long model of the 51,000-ton SS Pacific Princess (Fleming Pickering, Master), a sleek passenger ship that had set-and still held-the San Francisco-Shanghai speed record on her maiden voyage in 1941.
Hanging on nearly invisible wires above the clipper's glass case was a model of a Chance Vought CORSAIR F4U fighter aircraft. It had been built by the same firm of craftsmen who had built the ship models, and, like them, was correct in every detail. The legend "MARINES" was painted in large letters on the fuselage. Below it was lettered VMF-229, and below the cockpit window was the legend "M.S. Pickering, Major, USMCR" and nine small representations of the Japanese battle flag, each signifying an enemy aircraft downed by Major Pickering.
Suspended above the glass case holding the model of the SS Pacific Princess, there was a model of the Trans-Global Airways Lockheed Model L049 Constellation San Francisco, a four-engined triple-tailed airliner, in which TGA Chief Pilot Captain Malcolm S. Pickering had set two world's records, one for fastest commercial aviation flight between San Francisco and Honolulu, and the other for fastest commercial aviation flight time between Honolulu and Shanghai. The latter record was probably going to be on the books for some time, because the Chinese Communists were now in Shanghai, and American airlines were no longer welcome to land.
Behind the chairman's huge, antique mahogany desk, the huge wheel of the clipper ship Pacific Princess and her quarterdeck compass stood guarding an eight-by-twelve foot map of the world
Every morning, at six A.M., just before the night operations manager went off duty, he came up from the third floor, laid a copy of the more important overnight communications-"the overnights"-on the chairman's desk, and then went to the map and moved ninety-one small ship models, on magnetic mounts, from one position to another on the map to correspond with their last reported position.
The previous Wednesday morning, at 9:01 A.M., Chairman of the Board Pickering had taken a look at the map, read the overnights, poured himself a cup of coffee, and with that out of the way was, at 9:09 A.M., where he had been the day before at 9:09 A.M., and would almost certainly be tomorrow, at 9:09 A.M.
That is to say, bored stiff and without a goddamned thing to do for the rest of the day.
Unless one counted the Second Wednesday Luncheon of the Quarterback Club of the Greater San Francisco United Charities, Inc., and he hadn't even wanted to think about that.
Captain Richard Pickering had been right on the money about that sort of thing, too. "Flem," his father had counseled, "the trouble with giving people something is that, since they get it for nothing, they tend to consider it worthless."
Fleming Pickering had long ago painfully come to conclude that what Greater San Francisco United Charities-and at least six other do-gooding or social organizations-wanted of him was his name on the letterhead and his signature on substantial checks, and in exchange they were willing to listen politely to his suggestions at meetings, while reserving and invariably exercising their option to ignore them.
At 9:11 A.M., Mrs. Helen Florian, his secretary for more than two decades, had announced over the intercom, "Boss, Pick's on line three."
Pickering, who had been sitting with his feet on the windowsill, watching the activity-there hadn't been much-in San Francisco Bay, spun around, and grabbed the telephone.
I am, he had realized, in one of my "Boy, do I feel sorry for Poor Ol' Flem Pickering" moods, and I don't want Pick picking up on that.
"Good morning," he said cheerfully. "What's up?"
"Mom still in New York?" Pick asked.
"I think today's Saint Louis," Pickering replied. "You know your mother."
A picture of his wife of thirty years-a tall, shapely, silver-haired woman with startlingly blue eyes-flashed through his mind. He missed her terribly, and not only because she made him feel as if he were still twenty-one.
When Fleming Pickering had heard the sound of trumpets and rushed off to the sound of musketry in World War II, Mrs. Patricia Foster Pickering had "temporarily" taken over for her husband as chairman of the P&FE board. Surprising everybody but her husband, she had not only immediately gathered the reins of authority in her delicate fingers, but pulled on them with consummate skill and artistry.
When he'd come home, there had been some talk of the both of them working at P&FE, but Patricia had known from the start that, if their marriage was to endure, she would have to find something to do other than share the control of P&FE with her husband.
The temporary chairman of the board of P&FE had become the chairman of the board of Foster Hotels, Inc., in part because she was the only daughter of Andrew Foster, majority stockholder of the forty-two-hotel chain, and partly because her father-who had wanted to retire-had made the cold business decision that she was the best-qualified person he could find to run the company.
While Patricia Foster Pickering shared her husband's-and her father's-belief that the best way to run an organization was to select the best possible subordinates and then get out of their way, she also shared her father's belief that the best way to make sure your subordinates were doing what you wanted them to do was to "drop in unannounced and make sure there are no dust balls under the beds and that the liquid in the liquor bottles isn't colored water."
Which meant that she was on the road a good deal, most often from Tuesday morning until Friday evening. Which meant that her husband was most often free to rattle around-alone-in either their penthouse apartment in the Foster San Franciscan or their home on the Pacific Ocean near Carmel from Tuesday morning until Friday evening.
While he frequently reminded himself that he really had nothing to complain about-that in addition to his considerable material possessions, he had a wife who loved him, a son who loved him and of whom he was immensely proud, and his health-the truth was that every once in a while, say once a month, he slipped into one of his "Boy, do I feel sorry for Poor Ol' Flem Pickering" moods and, logic aside, he really felt sorry for Poor Ol' Flem Pickering.
"Let's go to Tokyo," Pick said.
"Why should I go to Tokyo?"
"Because your alternative is watching the waves go up and down in San Francisco Bay until Mom gets home," Pick went on. "Come on, Pop. Let her wait for you for once."
It probably makes me a terrible husband, Fleming Pickering thought, but there would be a certain justice in having Patti rattle around the apartment waiting for me for once.
He had another thought:
"I thought it was decided you weren't going to Tokyo," he said.
He hadn't ordered Pick not to go to the conference, but he had happened to mention what Pick's grandfather had had to say about picking competent subordinates and then getting out of their way.
"Bartram Stevens of Pacific Cathay is going to be there. Charley Ansley called me from Hong Kong last night and told me. Charley doesn't want him pulling rank and taking over the conference; he asked me to go."
Bartram Stevens was president of Pacific Cathay Airways, which was to Trans-Pacific Shipping what Trans-Global was to P&FE. J. Charles Ansley, who had been with P&FE longer than Pick was old, was general manager of Trans-Global.
Charley didn't call me. There's no reason he should have, I suppose; he was asking/telling Pick to go, and that would be Pick's decision, not mine.
But if I needed one more proof that I am now as useless as teats on a boar hog around here, voilà!
"And if I showed up over there, wouldn't that be raising the stakes?" Fleming Pickering thought aloud.
"With all possible respect, General, sir, what I had in mind-and Charley agrees-is to stash you quietly in the Imperial, but let the word get out that you're there. In case, for example, Commodore Ford just happened to be in the neighborhood."
Commodore Hiram Ford was chairman of the board of Trans-Pacific Shipping.
And that sonofabitch is entirely capable of showing up there and trying to take over the conference.
"This your idea or Charley's?"
"Mine, Pop," Pick said. "Come on! What the hell! You could see the Killer and Ernie. And I'll have you back by next Thursday."
"If you and Charley agree that I should."
"We do," Pick said, firmly.
What the hell. The alternative is watching the waves go up and down in San Francisco Bay until Patti gets home. And it'll do her good to have to wait for me for once.
"I'm with the State Department, myself," the asshole in the window seat announced.
Why doesn't that surprise me?
"Are you really?"
"I've just been assigned to General MacArthur's staff."
"That should be an interesting assignment," Pickering said, politely.
"I'm to be his advisor on psychological warfare."
"I'm looking forward to working with him," the asshole said. "From what I understand, he's an incredible man."
"Yes, I would say he is," Pickering agreed.
And the first thing you're going to have to learn, you simpleton, is that no one works with El Supremo, they work for him.
And the second is that the only advice Douglas MacArthur listens to is that advice which completely agrees with his positions in every minute detail.
From Under Fire by W.E.B. Griffin, Copyright © January 2002, The Putnam Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam, used by permission.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
“An insider’s tale of life in the Marine Corps.”—The Orlando Sentinel
“Refreshingly accurate.”—Chicago Tribune
“A storyteller in the grand tradition.”—Tom Clancy
“The best chronicler of the U.S. military ever to put pen to paper.”—Phoenix Gazette
“Terrific reading.”—The San Diego Union-Tribune
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The weaving of facts with fiction is once again seamless. The book is action packed and the characters are believable. I look forward to more of the same
I reccomend this book to military-history-fiction buffs.
Griffin always tell a good story with great detail.
If you are a fan of military fiction, no one does it better than W. E. B. Griffin
This is the second to the last in the Corps series. The history is mostly accurate and the characters mostly believable. The invasion of Inchon is portrayed beautifully. I heard the stories of this operation many times while growing up, and later; from my father who served on a destroyer in that operation. I was also privileged to meet 'The Chosen Few', a remarkable group of Veterans of the battle at the Chosen Reservoir, while I was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Their stories of this forgotten war dovetail well with the author's storyline. If you enjoy military, history, and a good story...you have to read Griffin's works.
Love the Corps series. Have reread them more than I care to admit. Have been very disappointed that the rest of WW II was left out and it took some of the enjoyment out of the Under Fire read. WW II should be finished or my library will never be complete. Besides The 'Greatest Generation' deserves the best and the best is W.E.B Griffin
One of Griffin’s best yet,,, a page turner hard to put down!
Clearly this is a fictionalized account but seems to capture the personalities of the well known figures. The action is believable.