The Corps Series

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 War. 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 booksEdit

  • 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 and August 25, 1942.
  • Book V, Line of Fire (1992) - Main action takes place between Spring and October 11, 1942.
  • Book VI, Close Combat (1993) - Main action takes place between October 11 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 and September 29, 1950.
  • Book X, Retreat, Hell! (2004) - Main action takes place between September 28 and November 3, 1950.

Primary charactersEdit

Major Kenneth R. "(The) Killer" McCoy, USMCREdit

First Appearance: Semper Fi

His fellow marines call him "Killer" for killing two Italian Marines in self-defense with a baby Fairbairn knife (to his great embarrassment). His name is Kenneth R. McCoy, the introductory character of the saga, a Marine Corporal stationed in Shanghai, China with the 4th Marines (the primary component of the China Marines) prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ken has a great affinity for languages and in China learns Japanese, Wu, Mandarin, and Cantonese, which leads to his being assigned to intelligence-gathering convoys. Due to his actions in carrying out intelligence missions on Japanese assets, and following an action in which he kills 18 bandits, 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 just after Pearl Harbor, 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 a landing beach. Following an artillery barrage, McCoy carries Banning to a monastery for treatment. He makes 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. During the course of the series he receives a Bronze Star, three Silver Stars, the Distinguished Service Medal, the British Victoria Cross, and the Purple Heart with five stars.[1]

The Victoria Cross is an error on the part of the author. Only British subjects serving in the armed forces are eligible for this medal, the highest British award for combat valor.

Colonel Edward C. Banning, USMCEdit

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Introduced as the S-2 (intelligence) officer of the 4th Marines in China, and assigned as McCoy's legal advisor after Ken's killing of the two Italian marines. Initially he wants to plead McCoy guilty, but McCoy refuses, and to the chagrin of the prosecutor McCoy comes up with members of William E. Fairbairn's "Flying Squad" of the Shanghai Police as witnesses. Banning quickly becomes an integral part of the book as McCoy is slowly indoctrinated into the world of intelligence gathering. After charges are dismissed Banning sends McCoy on convoys to "get him out of sight", and discovers McCoy has great talent as an observer and evaluator of Japanese military readiness. Also a China Marine, his relationship with McCoy changes from superior officer to peer as the story progresses. Unlike the majority of pre-World War II regular Marine Corps officers, Banning is a graduate of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. After the 4th Marines are moved from Shanghai to the Philippines, he finds himself defending the beaches of Lingayen Gulf (Luzon) 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 Office of Strategic Services (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, USMCEdit

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, in November 1941,[2] Zimmermann is forced to leave his Chinese wife. Later, Zimmermann serves with McCoy in the Marine Raiders during the Makin Island raid. Following this, Zimmerman serves in a Marine Air Wing in the Pacific during the first months of the Guadalcanal Campaign. At McCoy's request he assists in landing on the Japanese held Buka Island to resupply a Coastwatcher base; bringing in new personnel, and extracting exhausted personnel. He is then transferred to the OSS to help set up a weather station in the Gobi Desert. During that operation, Zimmerman is reunited with his wife, who had been forced, by the Japanese, to flee into the Gobi Dessert. Between the Gobi Desert assignment in 1943 and the beginning of the Korean War, Zimmerman is promoted to Master Gunner. During the Korean War, he serves with McCoy in the CIA in Korea, directly under the command of General Pickering.

Major Malcolm "Pick" Pickering, USMCREdit

First Appearance: Semper Fi

On the train from Boston to Philadelphia, 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, USMCREdit

First Appearance: Semper Fi

Fleming Pickering, father of Pick Pickering, is the owner and chairman of Pacific and Far Eastern Shipping, a large and successful worldwide shipping conglomerate. During the First World War, he was a Marine corporal, and was twice wounded in action during the Battle of Belleau Wood where he was awarded the Navy Cross, (the second-highest award for valour and the equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross).

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, then-Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox asked him to take a wartime commission as a Navy Captain and act as Knox's plenipotentiary in the Pacific theater. During this period of his World War II service he was awarded the Navy Cross. Later, Pickering was commissioned a Marine Brigadier General, after which he served as OSS Deputy Director for the Pacific and the CIA's Deputy Director for Asia.

Supporting charactersEdit

Ernestine SageEdit

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, USMCREdit

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 PickeringEdit

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 World War II, she also served as the chairman of Pacific & Far East Shipping, her husband's international company.

Brigadier General Jack (NMI) Stecker, USMCEdit

First Appearance: Semper Fi

A Medal of Honor recipient during World War I, Jack (NMI - 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 dishonest; unusual for the USMC) officer McCoy knew in China. Stecker's younger son Dick becomes friends with Pick during aviator training at Pensacola, Florida. By the end of World War II, Stecker has advanced to Brigadier General and is on the staff of General Alexander A. Vandegrift (Marine Corps Commandant).

Other notable charactersEdit

  • Captain Jim ("Captain Moustache") Carstairs, USMC - Pick Pickering & Dick Stecker's IP (Instructor Pilot) in Pensacola.
  • Brigadier General (previously Lieutenant Colonel) Clyde ("The Dawk:) Dawkins, USMC - Commanding Officer, MAG-21.
  • Major Jake Dillon, USMCR - former enlisted China Marine; works for Metro-Magnum Studios and 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. Ellen enters the story when she accompanies McCoy on a convoy sent out to seek intelligence on the Japanese.
  • Richardson Fowler - Junior Senator from California
  • Captain (previously Technical Sergeant) Charles Galloway, USMC - Commanding Officer, VMF-229. Gets into serious trouble when he flies a fighter assembled from scrap at Pearl Harbor to a Navy carrier that is not expecting him.
  • 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 Lieutenant General Alexander Archer Vandegrift.
  • 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.


  1. ^ Under Fire, W.e.b.Griffin, page 101, paperback, The Berkley Publishing Group, mass market edition, 2003, 978-0-151-13437-7
  2. ^ Santelli, James S. (1970). A Brief History of the 4th Marines (PDF). Marine Corps Historical Reference Pamphlet. Washington: Historical Division; Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps. Retrieved 24 July 2015.

External linksEdit