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The Corps is a series of war novels written by W.E.B. Griffin about the United States Marine Corps before and during the years of World War II and the Korean Conflict. The story features a tightly-knit cast of characters in various positions within the Marine Corps, Navy, and upper levels of the United States Government.


List of books

  • Book I, Semper Fi (1986) - Main action takes place between January 2, 1941 and January 17, 1942.
  • Book II, Call to Arms (1987) - Main action takes place between December 18, 1941 and August 30, 1942.
  • Book III, Counterattack (1990) - Main action takes place between December 7, 1941 and August 9, 1942.
  • Book IV, Battleground (1991) - Main action takes place between June 4, 1942 and August 25, 1942.
  • Book V, Line of Fire (1992) - Main action takes place between Spring 1942 and October 11, 1942.
  • Book VI, Close Combat (1993) - Main action takes place between October 11, 1942 and November 19, 1942.
  • Book VII, Behind the Lines (1996) - Main action takes place between April 7, 1942 and February 8, 1943.
  • Book VIII, In Danger's Path (1999) - Main action takes place between November, 1941 and May 5, 1943.
  • Book IX, Under Fire (2002) - Main action takes place between June 1, 1950 and September 29, 1950.
  • Book X, Retreat, Hell! (2004) - Main action takes place between September 28, 1950 and November 3, 1950.

Primary characters


Major Kenneth J. "(The) Killer" McCoy, USMCR

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Initially known as "The Killer" for killing two Italian marines in self-defense with a baby Fairbairn knife, the introductory character of the saga is Ken McCoy, a Marine private first class stationed in Shanghai, China with the 4th Marines (the primary component of the China Marines) prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Due to his actions in carrying out intelligence missions on Japanese assets, he is transferred back to the United States and enters Officer Candidate School to earn a commission as a second lieutenant. He is assigned as an officer courier for intelligence in the Pacific. While on a courier run, he is caught at Pearl Harbor on December 7 and survives. He manages to make it to the Philippines shortly before the Japanese invasion and reunites with Captain Ed Banning while assisting in the defence of the landing beach. Following an artillery barrage, McCoy carries Banning to a monastery for treatment. He manages to make it through enemy lines and return to the States. He is awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received and a Bronze Star for his performance under fire and his efforts to save Captain Banning. He participates in several other missions under Brigadier General Fleming Pickering, including landing on Japanese-controlled Mindanao, and setting up a weather station in the Gobi Desert.

Colonel Edward C. Banning, USMC

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Introduced as S-2 "Intelligence" Officer, and assigned as McCoy's legal aide after the killing the two Italian marines, Banning quickly becomes an integral part of the book as McCoy is slowly indoctrinated into the world of intelligence gathering. Also a China Marine, his relationship with McCoy changes from superior officer to peer as the story progresses. He is a graduate of The Citadel aka "the Military College of South Carolina." After the 4th Marines are moved from Shanghai to the Philippines, he finds himself defending the Philippines during the Japanese invasion. He is temporarily blinded and transferred off Corregidor by submarine with other seriously wounded US servicemen; fortunately, his sight returns before reaching port. Banning subsequently serves in the Office of Management Analysis and under Brigadier General Pickering in the OSS during World War II. At the beginning of the Korean War in Under Fire, he is near retirement, contemplating a future in real estate.

Master Gunner Ernest Zimmerman, USMC

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Ernest "Ernie" Zimmerman is a China Marine sergeant who serves with McCoy in Shanghai and operates with him in reconnaissance missions. When the 4th Marines are ordered to the Philippines, he is forced to leave his Chinese wife along with Mrs. Ed Banning in China. Later, he serves with McCoy in the Marine Raiders when McCoy is assigned to spy on Evans Carlson, the innovative combat leader who's seen as a threat to the Marine establishment. Following this, Zimmerman serves in a Marine Air Wing in the Pacific, and at McCoy's request is transferred to the OSS to help set up a weather station in the Gobi Desert. During that operation, Zimmerman is reunited with his wife (and Ed Banning with his), after she was forced to flee China. Between the Gobi Desert assignment in 1943 and the beginning of the Korean War, Zimmerman is promoted to Master Gunner. During the Korean Conflict, he serves with Captain/Major McCoy in the CIA.

Major Malcolm "Pick" Pickering, USMCR

First Appearance: Semper Fi

On the train from San Diego to Pennsylvania, McCoy meets a friendly civilian named Malcolm Pickering ("Pick" to his friends). After parting company, McCoy and Pick are reunited as classmates in the Platoon Leaders' Course at Quantico, Virginia. Pick is the son of Fleming Pickering, owner of Pacific and Far East (P&FE) shipping, and Patricia Foster Pickering, heir to the Foster hotel chain (allowing Pick to stay at the exclusive hotels at no cost). While Ken acts as an officer courier, Pick's sets his sights on flight training, and he attends flight school at Pensacola. He was promoted to Major while commanding a reserve squadron just before the Korean war; his squadron was subsequently activated and deployed to Korea. He gained a reputation for firing on enemy trains, to the point of painting locomotive silhouettes on his F4U Corsair for each "kill." Flying combat missions off the escort carrier USS Badoeng Strait, he is shot down over enemy territory, but survives and returns to friendly lines.

Brigadier General Fleming "Flem" Pickering, USMCR

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Pick's father Fleming is the owner and chairman of Pacific and Far Eastern Shipping, a large and successful worldwide shipping conglomerate. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, then-Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox asks him to take a wartime commission as a Navy Captain and act as his plenipotentiary in the Pacific theater. During the First World War, Fleming was a Marine corporal, twice wounded in action and recipient of the Navy Cross (the second-highest award for valour and the equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). He was also commissioned as a Marine Brigadier General and served as the OSS Deputy Director for the Pacific and the CIA's Deputy Director for Asia.

Supporting characters

Ernestine Sage

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Ernestine "Ernie" Sage is the daughter of a pharmaceutical magnate. The Pickering and Sage families are old friends; Ernie and Pick have known each other since childhood. Ernie meets - and falls in love with - Ken McCoy shortly before he and Pick earn their officer commissions. They are married and have one child.

Captain George Hart, USMCR

First Appearance: Line of Fire

George Hart, a St. Louis homicide detective before the war, was conned into the Corps by a zealous (and unscrupulous) recruiter. During boot camp, he was transferred and promoted to Sergeant to act as BrigGen Pickering's personal bodyguard. He was promoted to Captain while in command of a reserve rifle company before Korea erupts, and went back to serve with General Pickering.

Patricia Pickering

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Patricia Pickering has been the Chairman of the Foster Hotel chain since her father, Andrew Foster, died in the years between World War II and the Korean War. She is the wife of Fleming Pickering and mother to Malcolm ("Pick") Pickering. Notably, while her husband was serving in the Pacific during WWII, she also served as the chairman of Pacific & Far East Shipping, her husband's international company.

Brigadier General Jack (NMI) Stecker, USMC

First Appearance: Semper Fi

A Medal of Honor recipient during World War I, Jack (No Middle Initial) Stecker first appears as a seasoned Master Gunnery Sergeant who sees more than a little of himself in Ken McCoy and helps him adjust to life at Quantico. He is commissioned as a Mustang and quickly promoted to Captain, enabling him to stop persecution of McCoy by 1st Lieutenant Macklin, a self-serving (and borderline dishonest) officer McCoy knew in China. Stecker's younger son Dick becomes friends with Pick during aviator training at Pensacola, Florida. By the end of WWII, Stecker has advanced to Brigadier General and is on the staff of General Alexander A. Vandegrift (Marine Corps Commandant).

Other notable characters

  • Capt. Jim Carstairs, USMC - Pick Pickering & Dick Stecker's IP (Instructor Pilot) in Pensacola.
  • Brigadier General (previously Lieutenant Colonel) Clyde Dawkins, USMC - Commanding Officer, MAG-21.
  • Major Jake Dillon, USMCR - former enlisted China Marine; returns to wartime duty as a Major in the Public Affairs office.
  • Major (previously Lieutenant) Hon Son "Pluto" Do, USA - Signals & Cryptographic officer attached to MacArthur's headquarters in Australia.
  • Lieutenant Colonel (previously Lieutenant) William Dunn, USMC - Executive officer, and later CO, of VMF-229.
  • Eric Feldt, Lieutenant Commander, RAN - director of the Coastwatcher organization.
  • Ellen Feller - wife of a Christian missionary in China, then a civilian linguist & analyst attached to MacArthur's Australia headquarters; ultimately "hospitalized" as a result of her sexual appetites and the military secrets she knows.
  • Richardson Fowler - Junior Senator from California
  • Captain (previously Technical Sergeant) Charles Galloway, USMC - Commanding Officer, VMF-229.
  • Captain David Haughton, USN - Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Navy.
  • Lieutenant General (previously Major General) Thomas Holcomb - Commandant of the Marine Corps; later relieved by LtGenVandegrift.
  • Caroline Howell - Ed Banning's love interest after returning from the Philippines.
  • Frank Knox - wartime Secretary of the Navy
  • Major (previously Lieutenant) Robert Macklin, USMC - a "generally slimy creature" and the epitome of everything a good Marine officer shouldn't be.
  • Staff Sergeant Thomas McCoy, USMCR - Ken McCoy's younger brother, awarded the Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal and became known as "Machinegun McCoy."
  • Carolyn McNamara - Girlfriend of Charles Galloway.
  • Major General (previously Brigadier General) D.G. "Doc" McInerney, USMC - Director of Marine Corps Aviation.
  • Lieutenant John Moore, USMCR - cryptographic & analysis officer attached to the Office of Management Analysis.
  • Brigadier General (previously Lieutenant Colonel) Fritz Rickabee, USMC - Commanding Officer, Office of Management Analysis.
  • Major (previously Lieutenant) Edward Sessions, USMC - officer attached to the Office of Management Analysis.
  • First Lieutenant Dick Stecker, USMC - Jack Stecker's son and Pick Pickering's buddy.
  • Major General Alexander Archer Vandegrift - Commanding General, 1st Marine Division; later served as Commandant of the Marine Corps.
  • Captain (previously Lieutenant) James Weston, USMC - pilot who escaped to Mindanao before the fall of Corregidor to fight as a guerrilla.
  • Ludmilla Zhivkov - Ed Banning's "white Russian" wife.
  • Lieutenant (previously Corporal) Robert Easterbrook, USMC - a short, skinny enlisted combat correspondent on Guadalcanal, fresh from Parris Island and forced to grow up fast in the heat of combat. His ears redden with anger or embarrassment, earning him the nickname "Easterbunny" among his peers (much to his irritation). After he returns to the US for a war bond tour, he's identified in a national news story by "Machinegun McCoy" as "the bravest man on Bloody Ridge."
  • Lieutenant General Edward Mallory 'Ned' Almond, USA - Commander of X Corps in Korea.

Inconsistencies in the books

  • Ken McCoy's middle initial starts out as "J." and remains so through most of the series; however, in Retreat, Hell! it seems to have changed to "R."
  • Ken McCoy is originally described in Semper Fi as being a Roman Catholic of Irish descent (his elementary school was run by Dominican nuns, his sister is described as having been kicked out of a convent, and his father was a member of the Knights of Columbus), but later describes himself as being of Scottish extraction, and an Episcopalian, in Behind the Lines.
  • Macklin's first name changes from John (Semper Fi) to Richard (Counterattack), before finally settling on Robert (Battleground).
  • The California senator Fowler's name changes from Richardson to Richmond.
  • Zimmerman's first name was "Ernst" (a German name) in Semper Fi, but changes to "Ernest" by the last book.
  • Ken McCoy was often described in later books as having received his "Baby Fairbairn" (a version of the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife) from William Ewart Fairbairn himself, along with the training to use it properly. In fact, he won the knife in a poker game, and in Call to Arms, he tells Colonel Evans Carlson that he never met Fairbairn.
  • A dedicated reader soon discovers that the series timelines vary from book to book. Character's ages aren't consistent (Macklin is 35 in the first book (1941) and still in his mid-thirties during the Korean war). People are introduced to each other early-on, then meet again (for the first time) two or three books later; for example, Banning meeting Ernie Sage, or Ernie Sage meeting Ernie Zimmerman. Another example is the meeting between Koffler and Macklin in Behind the Lines. The narrative suggests a first meeting, however, encounters between Koffler and Macklin were detailed during their time at the USMC Parachute School and Lakehurst NAS, detailed in Counterattack.
  • Eric Feldt says he doesn't speak a word of Japanese, yet later is described as fluent in Japanese, which partly explains why he and Banning get along so well.
  • In Semper Fi, Zimmerman is described as being on his second hitch with the 4th Marines and is also mentioned to be 26 years old. In the following book, Call to Arms, it says he only served one hitch with the 4th Marines and is suddenly younger.
  • When George Hart gets commissioned as 2ndLt. Moore gets promoted to 1stLt. But in Behind the Lines Moore is still only a 2ndLt. although Hart is also a Lieutenant.
  • In Semper Fi, Then Capt. Stecker comes to the conclusion that since Platoon Leader Candidate (PLC) McCoy had been earning expert pay since boot camp, there was no need for him to reattempt qualification. In Close Combat LtCol Stecker recalls PLC McCoy refiring and personally scoring the shots through a scope. {SF Pg 255; CC Pg 59}
  • Lieutenant General Almond is portrayed in the books as having a good relationship with the USMC whereas this is historically false.
  • In Counterattack, when General Pickering's decorations are mentioned, his highest is the Silver Star, yet in later books it mentions that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross.

External links


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