The Story Behind the Story: “He Walked to War”

Cover of Adventure magazine featuring He Walked to War Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

On October 1, 1935, L. Ron Hubbard was featured in the Letters-to-the-Editor column “The Camp-Fire” in the Adventure magazine. He gave some background for his US Marine Corps tale “He Walked to War.”

The Camp-Fire

L. Ron Hubbard joins our Writers’ Brigade with his leatherneck yarn, “He Walked to War.” Hubbard is a tall red-haired chap with a service background, his father being an officer. He introduces himself at the Camp-Fire.—Howard V. L. Bloomfield, Editor.

Time after time, people accuse me of having been in the Marines. Pushed right up against the wall, I am forced to admit a connection with that very cosmopolitan outfit, however short lived and vague. I was once a top-kicker in the 20th because, they sing in Shin-ho,

I walked down the street
Without a cent in my jeans,
And that is the reason
I joined the Marines.

I am not sure that calling squads east and west fits a man for writing, but it does give him a vocabulary.

One thing I might mention in connection with the leathernecks, most of the fiction written about them is of an intensely dramatic type, all do and die and semper fidelis and the dear old flag.

To me the Marine Corps is a more go-to-hell outfit than the much-lauded French Foreign Legion ever could be. The two are comparable in many ways. God knows what you’ll find in either, from college professors to bellhops. Just why the disappointed lover has to sneak off for North Africa all the time is a riddle. More men have taken refuge in the Corps than in the Legion and, judging from association, leathernecks certainly lead a sufficiently exciting existence.

Trick Soldier book cover

I’ve known the Corps from Quantico to Peiping, from the South Pacific to the West Indies, and I’ve never seen any flag-waving. The most refreshing part of the USMC is that they get their orders and start out and do the job and that’s that. Whether that job was to storm the heights of Chapultepec so that the United States Army could proceed, or to dislodge a crazy gentleman named John Brown from an arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, or to knock off a few Boxers for the glory of England, your Marine went and did the job and then retired to bind up his wounds while everyone else went on parade.

—L. Ron Hubbard

“He Walked to War” is currently available within the book Trick Soldier