Title: Behind the Lines
Author: W. E. B. Griffin
Griffin, W. E. B. (1995). Behind the Lines. New York: Jove Books
- United States. Marine Corps–Fiction.
- World War, 1939-1945–Fiction.
- United States–History, Military–20th century–Fiction.
Date Updated: June 14, 2015
Griffin’s seventh novel in The Corps series (after Close Combat) continues the author’s breezy look at the Marine Corps during WWII. I have enjoyed all the Corps series, becoming a fan of Ken McCoy from the first book. This book’s story line concerns guerrilla warfare activities in the Philippines and the story of Wendell Fertig. Fertig is a historical character, and never received his due from McArthur.
Here, he uses guerrilla action behind the lines in the Philippines as foreground to tell the behind-the-lines tale of the power struggle among Marine General Fleming Pickering, General Douglas MacArthur and Bill Donovan of the fledgling OSS, all of whom are galvanized into action by a radio message from a self-proclaimed general named Wendell Fertig, who has established himself as a guerrilla leader against the Japanese.
Griffin seems to be stuck on a stereotype character in every novel. The stereotype is a wealthy man with an enormous set of skills. He sees things more clearly than almost everyone else. Whatever called on to do, he finds a way to do it. The plutocrat stereotype always drinks Famous Grouse and has a direct connection to the president. McCoy doesn’t fit this model, but Fleming Pickering certainly does. In this novel Pickering has become the central character. It bothers me not a little that in an action book it’s only the rich high-born conservative who saves the day.
Mc Coy is the consummate Marine, the ultimate real fighter, who can carry out the mission whatever the odds. So why isn’t McCoy getting promotions as quickly as the others? “Pluto” went from 1st Lieutenant to major in one page, while with all that Ken is doing he finally gets promoted to Captain. By the way, McCoy’s favorite food seems to be steak and eggs for breakfast.
In the Philippines Fertig is trying to maintain a guerilla operation, hindered by the denial by McArthur that there is any guerilla operation at all, much less a “Fertig.” As far as the Marines are concerned, they go in after having received a message from Fertig. Once the message is verified, a team of men with supplies will be sent in to evacuate any sick or wounded and evaluate Fertig as a potential leader. Complicating matters, however, is MacArthur’s public declaration that guerrilla activity on the Philippines is impossible, and therefore nonexistent, and Bill Donovan’s desire to get the operation under OSS control.
When one reads enough Griffin it is clear what his political views are. One cannot fault him for giving due credit to the bravery and skill of the Marines, and certainly McArthur was an egomaniac. Griffin credits covert operations, particularly run by the OSS, as central to victory in the Pacific. He may be right.
Focusing on a variety of characters involved in the proposed mission, Griffin tells this story with his usual attention to dialogue rather than description, relying frequently on his favored device of moving the plot along through copies of memos, radio messages and telegrams. The boy’s club aura of Griffin’s primarily male world, where everything, even death, seems clear, sunny, bright and uncomplicated, is in full force here; and that should please his fans just fine.