This book is the life story of a career Marine officer decorated for valor in three wars. But it is only in part a story of war and battles. Mainly it is a narrative of family life in the first half of the twentieth century, an era of history now rapidly fading from memory. It is to preserve some of those memories that I have chosen to write.
My father, Robert Blake, was not brought up to be a soldier. In 1917 he was a college senior headed for a degree in History. He was going to be a lawyer. But in April 1917 the United States declared war on Germany, so Robert Blake volunteered to serve his country. When the war ended he accepted a regular commission leading to thirty more years of military service. Bayonets and Bouganvilleas is a record of those years and all that followed.
In today’s world of "smart" bombs and long range missiles we tend to avoid thinking of hand-to-hand combat as an element of warfare. Yet in both World Wars I and II the bayonet was an essential tool of the infantry soldier. In Fix Bayonets, John W. Thomson wrote a classic story of the American Marines at Belleau Wood. My father was there.
The Bougainvilleas plant is a showy tropical vine ubiquitous in Central America and the Caribbean, the historic peacetime preserve of the U.S. Marine Corps. So it was for my father, with four tours of tropics duty in the 1920s and 1930s. In Panama in 1935 the Blake family garden was fenced with flowering Bougainvilleas vines.
The plant was named for the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, discoverer of the Pacific island of the same name. I do not know if that vine grows on that island, but the Marine Third Division made a landing there in 1943 in the Solomons campaign of World War II. My father was there also.
Thus, the title of my memoir of war and peace in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Robert Wallace Blake