Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
Helmet for My Pillow From Parris Island to the Pacific Author:Robert Leckie Here is one of the most riveting first-person accounts ever to come out of World War II. Robert Leckie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In Helmet for My Pillow we follow his odyssey, from basic training on Parris Island, South Carolina, all the way to the raging... more » battles in the Pacific, where some of the war’s fiercest fighting took place. Recounting his service with the 1st Marine Division and the brutal action on Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu, Leckie spares no detail of the horrors and sacrifices of war, painting an unvarnished portrait of how real warriors are made, fight, and often die in the defense of their country.
From the live-for-today rowdiness of marines on leave to the terrors of jungle warfare against an enemy determined to fight to the last man, Leckie describes what war is really like when victory can only be measured inch by bloody inch. Woven throughout are Leckie’s hard-won, eloquent, and thoroughly unsentimental meditations on the meaning of war and why we fight. Unparalleled in its immediacy and accuracy, Helmet for My Pillow will leave no reader untouched. This is a book that brings you as close to the mud, the blood, and the experience of war as it is safe to come.
Now producers Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman, the men behind Band of Brothers, have adapted material from Helmet for My Pillow for HBO’s epic miniseries The Pacific, which will thrill and edify a whole new generation.« less
Heather P. (modtone) reviewed Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific on
This book is said to be a personal account of WWII and perhaps it is. The entire book is Leckie's personal experiences during the war, with some excellent stories and trivia points. But the majority of those stories seem to be either of their training before being shipped out or their times on leave in Australia. I'm not discounting those time periods, but I'm 200 pages into a 300 page book and less than 100 pages have not been stories about various drinking, women or mischevious rule-breaking exploits.
I had a very hard time getting into this book and almost decided not to finish it. However, there are some excellent tidbits about a Marine's life that are generally not found in second-hand accounts and can be rare even in first-hand accounts. Everyday things such as sleeping and eating seem obvious when you don't think about it, but in the course of his stories, Leckie talks about they managed to find sleep in the Pacific rainy season or about various trips to other camps to get food (it's not stealing if you're fighting on the same side). Those tidbits are the reason I'll finish this book, they completely make it worth the read to me.
To be honest, I suppose part of the reason I'm not truly enjoying this book has little to do with the content. Leckie, throughout the entirety of the book, doesn't refer to anyone as their given name. He doesn't even mention anyone's given name, just a nickname. At times, especially with senior officers, it's difficult to tell whether these were nicknames used for them during the war or he just assigned them afterwards. There are perhaps half a dozen photos of individual marines which have both the nickname and given name of the subject, but nothing in the text. Leckie grants them such names as Hoosier, Runner, Chuckler, Lieutenant High-Hips, Smoothface, Oakstump, the Gentleman, the Artist, Lieutenant Racehorse, Straight-Talk, Broadgrin, McCaustic, Big-Picture ... Well, you get the idea. To me, it makes it difficult to feel a connection to the individuals when I partly feel like I'm reading about comic book characters.
All in all, it's not a bad read, provdided the lack of names doesn't bother you as it does me. While Leckie does tend to wax poetic at times, he truly does give an interesting account of the men he fought with and their interactions together, as well as their spirits and survival techniques during their time fighting.