Top positive review
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Profound and unique insight into the WWII Pacific experience
on February 23, 2010
First, I must admit a particular regard for this book as the granddaughter of Bill Smith (whom Leckie refers to as 'Hoosier'), who served with Leckie in How Company. Leckie offers nuanced insight into the ways in which he and his friends understood national military service, the `enemy', and the war more generally, and how these perspectives or ideas evolved among the men from North Carolina to Guadalcanal, Australia, and New Britain. Leckie steers clear from prototypes or cliches; there is no enblematic enlisted man or officer. Rather, these men are treated as real people coping (or not) with the profound uncertainty of their situation.
Perhaps this appreciation says more about my own lack of experience with combat/warfare. Thinking of Guadalcanal from a macro or military history perspective, it is easy to take for granted that marines' objectives - and the most efficacious means to pursue them - were always apparent to those involved. In this context, Leckie's account of warfare as a learning process was deep, reflexive, and fascinating. For example, he describes: 1) the marines' first reactions to air battle and subsequent adjustment to air battle as a simple process of attrition; and 2) the uncertainty confronted by officers at various stages, against the backdrop of the US' limited military experience in the Pacific or in jungles more generally. In this way, Leckie also makes apparent the need - and efficacy - of severe hierarchy. For this reason, I think that reviewers' arguments positing a lack of regard for officers deserve qualification.
Hoosier was wounded and evacuated early in the Battle of Peleliu; I believe that Chuckler and Runner were wounded later and evacuated with Leckie. Leckie and his friends stayed in touch - in the summer of 1985, my grandfather and his wife, as well as Runner (Juergens) and his wife, went to visit Leckie in New Jersey. There Leckie decidated a park in their honor, in honor of all marines who fought in the Pacific Theater (I uploaded a photo of the dedication plaque in the 'customer image gallery').
Although Hoosier never liked to share his experiences from the war, my father considers the book to be true to his character. And, while the HBO miniseries diverges considerably from the book, Hoosier's sense of humor appears true to form (the book provides far greater nuance and depth, different dialogue, and events unfolded differently). This edition of the book also includes a few photographs of Leckie, Runner, Hoosier, and others - some taken in their dress blues, and others on Guadalcanal.