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Marine legend Lt. Gen. Victor Krulak dies

Jan. 2, 2009 - 06:14AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 2, 2009 - 06:14AM  |  
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SAN DIEGO — Lt. Gen. Victor Krulak, who headed all Marine forces in the Pacific during part of the Vietnam War, has died. He was 95.

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SAN DIEGO — Lt. Gen. Victor Krulak, who headed all Marine forces in the Pacific during part of the Vietnam War, has died. He was 95.

Krulak died Monday at the Wesley Palms Retirement Community in San Diego, according to Edith Soderquist, a staff member at the facility. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Krulak commanded about 100,000 Marines in the Pacific from 1964 to 1968 — a span that saw the United States dramatically increase buildup in Vietnam.

Krulak, nicknamed "Brute" for his direct, no-nonsense style, was a decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

After retirement, he often criticized the government's handling of the Vietnam War. He wrote that the war could have been won only if the Vietnamese had been protected and befriended and if enemy supplies from North Vietnam were 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.

Krulak once summed up the U.S. dilemma in Vietnam by saying, "It has no front lines. The battlefield is in the minds of 16 or 17 million people."

Before assuming command of Fleet Marine Force Pacific, Krulak served as principal adviser on counterinsurgency warfare to then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the joint chiefs of staff.

"I never got enthusiasm out of war, and I'm convinced that the true pacifists are the professional soldiers who have actually seen it," Krulak said many years after retiring from the post.

During World War II on the island of Choiseul, Krulak led his outnumbered battalion during an eight-day raid on Japanese forces, diverting the enemy's attention from the U.S. invasion of Bougainville.

Krulak's troops destroyed hundreds of tons of supplies, burning both camps and landing barges. He was wounded on Oct. 13, 1943, and later received the Navy Cross for heroism along with the Purple Heart.

At age 43 he became the youngest brigadier general in Marine Corps history up to that time. Krulak received the second of two Distinguished Service Medals when he retired from the military.

For the next nine years, he worked for Copley Newspapers, serving at various times as director of editorial and news policy and news media president of Copley News Service. He retired as vice president of The Copley Press Inc. in 1977 and contributed columns on international affairs and military matters for Copley News Service.

He also wrote the book "First to Fight," an insider's view of the Marine Corps.

His son Charles Krulak served as commandant — the Marines' top post — from 1995 to 1999.

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