Rifleman Dodd, written by C. S. Forester, is a 1932 novel written about the Peninsular War during the Napoleonic Wars at that time.
The novel relates the adventures of a British infantryman of the 95th Foot Regiment who becomes separated from his regiment when the allied forces retreat behind the lines of Torres Vedras. Despite being alone and surrounded, he is forced to endure several months out in the wilderness, face starvation, and forced to freeze during the rainy nights in an area that has been desecrated by the Allies and is now in possession of the French. With some help from local Portuguese, Dodd wages guerilla warfare against the French. The novel is told from both Dodd and the Frenchmen he is battling.
The story begins by introducing the main character, Private Dodd, along with a squad of French soldiers lead by sergeant Godinot of the French Forty-Sixth. Dodd was left behind during the retreat and once he knew this he simply realized his situation and, most importantly, carried on with his mission which was solely to kill Frenchmen. Along his treacherous journey through enemy infested territory, constantly struggling to survive while battling starvation and fatigue. He was solely devoted to his fellow English soldiers and the mission that they fought to accomplish. He ends up meeting a young Portuguese soldier who assists him and becomes his guide and translator with his ability to speak the language of the Portuguese rebels. He showed a high level of intelligence for combat as he battled against Frenchmen from groves to skirmishes with his newly found Portuguese allies who assisted him to a final sabotage against the French army’s bridge of the banks of Zezere. After he got back to the 95th foot of the British army, he got separation from his company. After his separation from his company, Dodd then encounters a little Portuguese boy who is handicapped, the little boy was called “idiot”. Dodd ends up taking the little boy with him on his journey as he helps him the best that he could without jeopardizing his mission. In order to reunite with one of his fellow rifleman, he had to leave the little boy behind when he got pneumonia and started getting delirious and served no purpose in helping Dodd. Later on, he finds a company with a group of Portuguese irregulars who were traveling alongside as they happen to recognize the damage and horrors that the French army had inflicted. But it didn’t stop him from making an effort to return to the 95th foot.
C. S. Forester’s mission in writing this novel is to portray the message of individuality and the mindset of never selling yourself short. In the novel, Dodd was alone, struggling against natural battles in order to be reunited with his team. He seemed to keep a clear head throughout the entire novel and kept the mindset of individuality. The novel underscores the importance of never quitting on oneself through the point of view of an infantryman separated from his unit in a combat zone.
Many parts of this book can directly relate to what we do as marines on and off the field of combat. One of the many realistic lessons learned from rifleman Matthew Dodd includes proper concealment, by practicing proper concealment Dodd is able to evade French troops and keep himself alive. Keeping proper concealment ties into the story of the legendary Marine sniper, Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock. Hathcock was one of the deadliest snipers at that time, having 93 confirmed kills but it is expected that he has about 300. Proper concealment is what kept Hathcock alive in the field, he once crawled through a field riddled with enemy forces, while remaining undetected, he shot and killed a vietnamese General, and crawled back through the field to return to his allies. Dodd also kept a safe but observable distance from enemy forces at all times. By doing this, he was able to observe enemy movements and see what they were doing. Absolute military bearing, choosing your targets wisely, as well as, knowing when to engage fire at those said targets were among some more of the traits that we as marines, and this Dodd have in common. Additionally, Dodd was very successful with remaining undetected at appropriate moments, also knowing exactly when to greaten the distance from the enemy. What was most impressive, was his ability to accurately communicate with allied forces who didn’t necessarily speak or understand his language. He used hand and arm signals to indicate and gesture what he was trying to portray to his comrades. This trait would most definitely fall under adaptability.