Al Gray, Marine — The Early Years, 1950-1967, Volume One

by Scott Laidig
Dear family, friends, Marines, veterans, and colleagues,

Many of you know that, for the past 5 or 6 years, much of my time has been devoted to writing a multi-volume biography of General Al Gray, the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps. It has been the honor of my lifetime to have been given the opportunity to undertake this project about the finest Marine I ever knew. It turns out he is an even finer man.

Good biographies start with interesting men or women; no writer ever put pen to paper, or began typing, with a better, more heroic or more worthy subject than I. General Gray deserved a better and far more accomplished biographer, but for reasons known only to him, it was yours truly that he permitted access to his library, his personal papers, but most of all his thoughts and memories. And his memory is, as all who know him can attest, superb.

The primary reasons that, in my opinion, he permitted the project to go forward were twofold. First, we agreed that no one but Marine-related charities would profit from book sales. Consequently, neither the publisher, the Potomac Institute Press, nor I will earn a dime from the book. After printing, shipping and other minor costs are paid, the money raised from book sales and associated dinners or other events will all be donated to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, the General’s favorite charity. Second, the General was finally convinced, and I surely agree, that his story may inspire young Marines in their professional lives. His dedication to lifelong learning, to accomplishing his mission, to being the best professional that he could be, and to hard work really are the stuff of legends. When combined with his humility, his acceptance of any assignment, his devotion to those he led or served with, and his intense curiosity, all of which were evident during his years as a young man and then as a Marine, his life is a lesson in leadership.

Volume 1 begins with Al Gray’s childhood in New Jersey but quickly moves to his service as a Marine. Many remember him as a transformational Commandant of the Marine Corps, but Al Gray was just as impressive as a sergeant, lieutenant, captain or field grade officer as he was as a general – perhaps even more so. Al Gray, Marine: The Early Years, 1950-1967 , the hardback edition, will soon be available at It is currently available from the Marine Corps Association and the Marine Corps League and will soon be at other Marine-related outlets. The ebook will be available at Amazon soon (but not the hardback.)
Leatherneck Magazine, in its online February edition, recently published a review of the book. For those who are not members of the Marine Corps Association, the text of the review is printed below.

We realize the $49.95 single-book tariff for the hardback is high. However, we remind you that at least $35 of that go to the Semper Fi Fund and is tax-deductible. The ebook likely will be $9.95, and as with the hardback most of the price will be donated to the Semper Fi Fund.

Thanks for your support. Enjoy the book!


P.S. Please forward to anyone who may be interested!

Leatherneck Review:

General Alfred M. Gray, Jr., the Corps Greatest Commandant

A Book Review by Don DeNevi

Reading “Al Gray, Marine — The Early Years, 1950-1967, Volume One” (Potomac Institute Press, $49.95) stirs the heart and mind, leading one’s imagination to demand additional volumes with such subtitles as “Nobility While Soldiering” and “Inspiring Creative Leadership.”

In his lucid and masterful biography, author Scott Laidig, a decorated Marine combat veteran in Vietnam, clearly reinforces what every knowledgeable Marine already knows: Alfred Gray, Jr., is the greatest post-Vietnam commandant the Corps has known, a general who has earned the right to march alongside its 64 four-star generals. Like virtually all of them, as well as others in American military history such as Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges, Stilwell, Ridgeway, Patton, Vandegrift, to name just a few, he subordinated his own amazing contributions and achievements to the risk of battle, victory, and his relationships with the officers and the men who served under him.

Combining an astonishing number of interviews with a formidable amount of facts collected from private sources, command chronologies, and public as well as military archives, to say nothing of the endless vignettes from eyewitness accounts of close friends, superiors and subordinates, mentors, and Gray’s family members, Laidig spans the years between June, 1950 (south Korea) and December, 1967 (Charlie Ridge, Da Nang) to portray the fledgling growth and development of a creative military mind that would one day envision a new and advanced type of Marine Corps — one that would put it back in the limelight after the near diasterous post-Vietnam era. Says General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Central Command, “His greatest contribution would be a strategy for how our service would best meet our mission to win our country’s battles. General Gray saw a much more expansive role for us — a role that would not encroach on the roles of other services but complement them because of flexibility, readiness, adaptability, deployment, interoperability, and the expeditionary nature of our organization.”

In short, author Laidig sets the stage in this initial 400 page text for who years later will become the 29th USMC Commandant: i.e., combat service in Korea; Communication Officer School, Quantico; AO2F Staff, Washington, DC; among the first boots in Vietnam; Operation Tiger Tooth Mountain; Da Nang with the 3rd Marine Division; commanding Gio Linh Outpost; and learning of the coming Tet Offense. From such valuable combat and administrative experiences would slowly evolve a belief that the Corps should be a reservoir of combat capability that can shape, organize, and meet aggression in the most effective and efficient manner possible. For the maturing general-to-be, rigid Corps structures and dogmatic organizational designs would no longer be acceptable. If he had his way someday, Gray would insist upon flexible and imaginative organization and inspired leadership. There would be brand new operational concepts.

“Al Gray, Marine — The Early Years, 1950-1967, Volume One” is a wise and winning introduction to a good man and soon to be great leader. The author’s love for his subject is both apparent and deserving, as the respect any reader will have for Scott Laidig himself. By providing us with Gray’s early higher echelon experiences, insights and understandings, coupled with the overall picture of the Vietnam War and America’s role in it, the book is all the more captivating as well as a major contribution to serious military biography.

To no one’s surprise, because it cuts to the core of the humanity of all those involved, proceeds from the book will be donated to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

And, Scott, when can we expect Volume Two? And, possibly, Volume Three, the general’s private letters, military correspondence, and unpublished writings?

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Author: Cpl. Beddoe
Cpl, USMC 1981-1985 MCRDSD Plt 3042, Aug 28, 1981 Work hard. Be kind. Pay it forward. Twitter: @txdevildog
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Joe Sucha
Joe Sucha
2013/04/11 14:03

I had the honor of serving with General Gray in Viet Nam in 1966-1967; attended the same C&SC class as the junior officer,he being the Class President; was the I&I of 4th Tank Battalion when General Gray was CG, 4th Division and my last tie was having General Gray on my selection board and being personnally told of my selection for LtCol.
I can only say,that no matter how high the praise Scott relates to General Gray’s leadership talents, it will fall short. “Al’ is the true embodiment of a Marine Officer: one who always made sure his Marines’ welfare was a priority.

2013/02/03 22:15

The ebook is now available at Amazon and the hard back at, MCA, MHF, and MCL.