instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Ortiz: To Live a Man's Life [hardcover]

When one thinks about the World War II Marine, one immediately thinks about the jungle islands and bloody sands of the Pacific. However, some Marines served in other capacities during the war. They served on ships all around the world, and in rare cases, such as that of Pierre Julian Ortiz, they served in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. Ortiz was a European Theater Marine yet he was training on the Pacific Coast in the summer of 1945, preparing to be inserted into the then French Indo-China when the war ended. His exploits and dare-devil attitude can be likened to something from a James Bond movie, it is that unreal. He is one of the most decorated Marines of WWII and yet arguably one of the least known. He was incredibly handsome, spoke six languages, rubbed elbows with royalty, understood “noblesse oblige”, or the belief that the wealthy and privileged are obliged to help the less fortunate, and cared not for material things. In his life he was a ship’s mate, a race car driver, a légionnaire, a prisoner of war, a Marine, a spy, a movie star, and a philanthropist (he helped initiate Toys for Tots). He was an American and a Frenchman with a Spanish name, and he lived as an expatriate in Mexico—he was perhaps one of the first real global citizens. He lived in remarkable times and did remarkable things.
Pierre’s son, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Pierre “Pete” Ortiz, believes that while his father was proud of his service in the Marine Corps, he would forever identify himself as légionnaire. Perhaps the lessons taught to a young man are the lessons that stay with him throughout life, no matter if they are taught at Parris Island or Sidi-Bel-Abbes. While in the Legion, Pierre was interviewed and asked why he joined the Legion, he said that what he wanted “was to live a man’s life.” He did just that. In part, “a man’s life” can be defined by the code of honor of the French Foreign Legion, the Légionnaire code:

Art. 1—Légionnaire, you are a volunteer serving France with "Honor and Fidelity"
Art. 2—Every légionnaire is your brother-in-arms, regardless of his nationality, race, or religion. You will demonstrate this by strict solidarity which must always unite members of the same family.
Art. 3—Respect of traditions, devotion to your leaders, discipline and comradeship are your strengths, courage and loyalty your virtues.
Art. 4—Proud of your status as Légionnaire, you display this in your uniform, which is always impeccable, your behavior always dignified but modest, your living quarters always clean.
Art. 5—An elite soldier, you will train rigorously, you will maintain your weapon as your most precious possession, you are constantly concerned with your physical form.
Art. 6—A mission is sacred; you will carry it out until the end respecting laws, customs of war, international conventions and, if necessary, at a risk of your life.
Art. 7—In combat, you will act without passion and without hate, you will respect the vanquished enemy, you will never abandon your dead or wounded, nor surrender your arms.

Throughout his life, Pierre lived by that code. While only seven articles, the code was enough to foster a young man, help him to become a hero, and create the foundation for a remarkable and inspiring story.