With more than 100 years of combined service, retired Marine Corps Cols. H. Avery Chenoweth of Landsdowne and F. Brooke Nihart of Springfield have seen their share of life in the trenches, from World War II and Korea through the first Persian Gulf War. Soon, they will be recognized for their work, not behind battle line, but behind desks.
The two men worked together on the book “Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated History of the U.S. Marine,” which Chenoweth described as a “seven-and-a-half pound, 480 page” anthology of the Marine Corps from 1775 through the second battle of Fallujah, and on Friday, they will be recognized by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
“I was in the same class at Quantico with John Warner, Frank Capiello and Pat Robertson,” said Chenoweth, who graduated from college in 1950 from Princeton and immediately went into the Marine Corps.
Shortly after that, Chenoweth was sent to Korea, where he spent a year. When he returned, he took a job in television advertising in New York City, a self-styled pioneer of the black and white TV era.
His other passion was for art, and he tried to combine the two whenever possible.
“Here I was, a blood-thirsty Marine with an interest in the arts,” he said. “There are a lot of Marines who go out and shoot people and then can turn around and sit at a piano or paint a picture.”
AFTER RETIRING from the Marine Corps, Chenoweth began working on his first book, “Art of War,” published by Barnes and Noble, which included “paintings of war.” He was later asked to write a second book, telling the story of his career in the Marine Corps.
“I wrote this book to educate the general public who doesn’t know much about the military any more,” he said. “I sat down to write ‘Semper Fi,’ which came out in October last year and follows the Marine Corps from a rag-tag group of boys with their own muskets through the evolution of the elite armed forces of the U.S.,” Chenoweth said.
The book has already sold out its first printing, he said, and is on pace to sell out the second printing while waiting for the third shipment to arrive.
Chenoweth teamed up with Nihart, a Springfield native who first enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1935, to write the book.
“There’s lots of history in the text of the book, but Col. Chenoweth did most of the work,” said Nihart, who served in WWII and Korea before taking a position of working for the Marine Corps museums for the last 19 years of his career. “The first two years I spent at sea and on aircraft carriers, then I came back to the States in 1945 and helped create some divisions on the West Coast,” he said.
Nihart was awarded the Navy Cross, the second most prestigious award the Marine Corps gives out for his heroism in battle in Korea. He also worked for the Marine Corps Gazette for over 60 years and served as the president of the Marine Corps Historians.
FOR THE BOOK, Nihart said he “looked over the manuscript” Chenoweth wrote, adding a few sidebars to fill in some gaps in Chenoweth’s text that would have distracted from the history.
Still, he would prefer to allow his partner to take the credit for the book.
“I was just his helper,” Nihart said. “There are so many other Marines that have accomplished so much. It embarrasses me to be singled out like this.”
Both men will be honored at a dinner Friday night at the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, said Susan Hodges, vice president for administration and finance for the foundation.
“Col. Nihart was one of the founders of the Foundation, his name is on the articles of incorporation. He has worked for the history division for a long, long time,” Hodges said.
The men will receive the General O.P. Smith Award for their book, named in honor of a division commander during the Korean War.
Guests for the dinner include Gen. Pete Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Marshall Carter, chairman of the Board for the New York Stock Exchange, Hodges said, along with actor Wilford Brimley, all Marine Corps members.
“Brook is one of the foremost Marine Corps historians and the two of them have put together a great storyline,” she said. “This is a unique book, it's probably one of the best and most complete histories out there on the Marine Corps.”
This is a big year for the Marine Corps, as they prepare for the opening of the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico later this year, Hodges said.
“We both worked hard on this book,” Chenoweth said. “The tremendous sidebars Brooke wrote for the book on the Marine Corps history make this book come alive.”