Marine Corps Veteran Pens
Award-Winning Combat Books of WWII
COL Joseph H. Alexander makes war come alive again in his riveting accounts of battle

Compiled by Brant Burgiss

ASHEVILLE-- Retirement obviously depends upon one's point of view.

When Joseph H. Alexander, '60 retired as a Colonel after serving more than 28 years in the United States Marine Corps, he certainly had earned a respite from the long hours and hardships commonly endured by most professional military men. Instead, he has embarked on a writing career that has won accolades from his peers for his keen depiction of the drama of battle.

In a recent interview via e-mail, Alexander reminisced about his school years at UNC, where he attended with the aid of an NROTC scholarship. Within the unit, he served two years in the drum and bugle corps, went to Washington with a 50-man contingent to march in Eisenhower's second inaugural parade, served as a member of the drill team his junior year, and ended up as battalion executive officer as a senior. Joe was also a member of Scabbard & Blade Society and the Semper Fidelis Society. In other activities, he played lacrosse, served as secretary of the Inter-Fraternity Council Court, and was a member of the Order of the Old Well, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Alpha Phi Omega.

After graduation in 1960, Alexander's active duty career included two combat tours in Vietnam and five years at sea on board amphibious assault ships. He commanded a company in Vietnam, and a battalion in Okinawa. As a colonel, Joe served as Chief of Staff, 3d Marine Division; Director, Marine Corps Research and Development Center; and Military Secretary to the 28th Commandant.

He is the author of several military books and monographs, including:


Joseph Alexander, Class of 1960
Joseph H. Alexander
UNC Class of '60

Photo courtesy of the alumnus

His latest book, Edson's Raiders: The 1st Marine Raider Battalion in World War II, will be published in the fall of 2000. It tells the story of the remarkable men of 1st Marine Raider Battalion, named after its founding commander, the legendary jungle fighter Merritt A. "Red Mike" Edson. Edson's Raiders provided the vanguard of a U.S. Marine Corps experiment with special lightly-armed, mobile "commando" units in the Pacific, and fought in seven crucial engagements from 1942 to 1943.

Aside from writing books, Alexander serves as the chief historian, on-screen authority and scriptwriter of eighteen historic TV documentaries for Lou Reda Productions that are aired on the History Channel ("Our Century") and the "Biography" series of the Arts and Entertainment network. Recent documentaries or those currently underway:

  • A Fellowship of Valor (1997)
  • Chesty Puller (1998)
  • Fire and Ice: The Korean War (1999) Emmy Nomination, 2000
  • War Chronicles: The War Against Japan (1999)
  • Unsung Heroes Series: Red Mike Edson and Roy Geiger (2000)
  • Dateline Tarawa (2000)
  • Two Flags Over Iwo Jima (2000)
  • Gem of the Ocean: The History of the U.S. Navy (2000)

Alexander has written more than 25 magazine essays over the past four years, and serves as a consulting historian for Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic TV, and Time-Life Books. He was awarded the Naval Institute's Author of the Year in 1997.


Joseph Hammond Alexander
At a glance
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Current Address: Asheville, NC
Current Position: Retired COL USMC, 1988; Military Historian and Author
Education: BA American History and Government, UNC-Chapel Hill; Jacksonville (MAT), Georgetown (MA). Distinguished Graduate, Naval War College

Family: Married UNC sweetheart, Gale Page Reeves of Elkin, in 1960; one son, Kenneth; one grandson, Robert Brooks Alexander
Hobbies and Activities: Hiking, jogging, kayaking; Lay Eucharistic Minister, Chalice Bearer, and former Senior Warden, Trinity Episcopal Church; volunteer, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity

This article was provided courtesy of various online resources and a personal e-interview.


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