Book Review: The Measure of a Man: My Father, the Marine Corps, and Saipan


by Kathleen Broome Williams

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2013. Pp. xxiv, 186. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $34.95 paper. ISBN: 1591149762

Kathleen Broome Williams, who holds a doctorate from City University of New York, is an accomplished military historian who has written extensively on the roles of science and on women in World War Two.  In The Measure of a Man, her most recent work, however, Prof. Williams writes about a Marine, the Battle of Saipan, and the journey she took to find her father, Major Roger Broome, U.S.M.C.

So much that has been written about war has to do with the big names and the big battles, but little is written about the forgotten casualties of the war -- those left behind after the smoke has cleared and the treaties signed; the mothers, fathers, wives, and children of the dead and wounded are also casualties.  Williams, like millions of others, grew up knowing of her father but little else.  Fortunately, her mother had kept all the letters that she had exchanged with her husband.  These proved to be the foundation upon which Williams launched her search to find the father that she never had the chance to meet and know.   Her search took her to meet men who had served with her father, and at their yearly reunions they shared with Williams their memories of the man they knew up close, and several accompanied her on a visit to Saipan.  She also met Mary Nelson Kenny, the daughter of Captain Loreen Nelson, Roger Broome’s executive officer in the Weapons Company, 24th Marines of the 2nd Marine Division, wounded on the same occasion as Major Broome, who later also died of his wounds.   The two women corresponded and later met, sharing experiences and ideas.  Using her parents’ letters and other family papers, official documents, the reminiscences of Major Broome’s former comrades, and more, Prof. Williams has put together The Measure of a Man. 

In The Measure of a Man Williams gives us a comprehensive biography of her father, from his origins, his education, his marriage, and on to his enlistment in the Marine Corps.  We get a good look at the training and service of a young Marine officer, and some idea of what it was like to serve under fire in the South Pacific.  She devotes considerable attention to Major Broome's experiences on Saipan, his wounding, and his long decline until his death.  We get a look at how this affected her mother, her older brother, and herself, born just about the time her father had been wounded.   Williams uses a narrative style that stresses short, crisp sentences, making for an easy read, which, combined with her extensive research, helps make The Measure of a Man both a personal and a universal account, and a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the experience and cost of war. 

Our Reviewer:   A native of California, Bruce Petty was born in 1945.  He enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves at Alameda Naval Air Station in 1962, while still in high school.  After graduation from high school, he served two years aboard USS Yorktown (CVS-10) as an aviation ordnanceman during the Vietnam War.  Bruce graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, with a degree in history in 1972.   In 1995 he moved his family to Saipan in the Mariana Islands and spent five years researching and writing his first book, Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War.  Since then he has written three other books on WWII in the Pacific.   Bruce, his wife, and their three children now live in New Plymouth, New Zealand.


Reviewer: Bruce M. Perry   

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