Troy resident and former ad man sends in the Marines

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 18, 2012

 Troy resident Don Burzynski researched the early years of the U.S. Marine Corps
in military archives at Quantico, Va.

Troy resident Don Burzynski researched the early years of the U.S. Marine Corps in military archives at Quantico, Va.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Although Troy resident Don Burzynski “served” in the British Army for War of 1812 and the 8th Michigan Calvary for the Civil War, he has always had a keen interest in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The re-enactor brought battles to life and visited U.S. Marine battlefields while vacationing from jobs with local advertising agencies, including BBDO and Campbell Ewald, where he picked up three Detroit Emmys and two Cleo awards during his career.

He was drafted into the Marines during the Vietnam War, but was called home almost immediately as sole survivor when his father, a World War II veteran who served in army campaigns in France and Germany, was hurt.

“This is a form of payback,” he said of his research into the institution and a recent book he published about it.

He’s pored through Marine history archives at the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Va., and at the History and Museums Division of the Marine Corps.

The result is “The First Leathernecks: A Combat History of the U.S. Marines From Inception to the Halls of Montezuma (1775-1848),” published by Warriors Publishing Group.

“Most other Marine books are about the later years,” Burzynski said. “I wanted to do an in-depth study of the early Marines. Most people don’t know the Marines fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. They were very instrumental defending the ports.”

He hadn’t planned to be a historian. He earned a master of arts in ad design from Wayne State University.

“History is like doing detective work,” Burzynski said.

Burzynski dedicates the book to his father and the 214,579 Marine casualties since the corps was founded.

“Historically accurate, Don Burzynski’s superbly crafted and very timely narrative of the early years of the corps, ‘The First Leathernecks,’ reads like a fascinating novel,” writes retired U.S. Marine Col. Walt Ford, publisher and editor of “Leatherneck Magazine.” “He grabs and holds your attention with stirring prose, adding a multitude of short, insightful vignettes, well-chosen illustrations … and detailed maps of the period.”

Burzynski plans to sign copies of his book this summer at the U.S.S. Constitution at the Navy Yard in Boston as part of the 200-year commemoration of the War of 1812. “The First Leathernecks” is currently available online on Amazon and for Kindle, and will be available in Barnes & Noble bookstores in the military history section in coming weeks.