11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A poetic and pungent battlefield memoir,
This review is from: Suddenly We Didn't Want to Die: Memoirs of a World War I Marine (Paperback)"Suddenly We Didn't Want to Die: Memoirs of a World War I Marine," by Elton E. Mackin, has an introduction and annotations by George B. Clark and a foreword by Lieutenant General Victor H. Krulak, USMC (Ret.). Clark's introduction notes that Mackin was born in New York State in 1898 and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1917. This book evokes the combat experiences of Marines in Europe during WW1.
I found this book quite stunning. The sections often read like prose poems or very short stories. Mackin is graphic in describing wartime violence and suffering, but his writing is also at times quite beautiful. The narrative opens with the Marines preparing to advance upon German-held Belleau Wood. Mackin follows in particular the career of "Slim," a Marine who becomes a runner (battlefield messenger).
Mackin covers a number of subjects: encounters with German troops, relations with civilians, relations between "old-timers" and green replacement troops, and the dangers of the runners' job. The book contains many interesting technical details about war in that era: weapons, fortifications, poison gas, etc.
The narrator's voice is often ironic, satiric, sarcastic, and even bitter. But his voice is also humane--he sees moments of kindness and tenderness in the midst of the hell of war. At one point the author cites Walt Whitman. Like Whitman, Mackin is irreverent yet compassionate, with an eye for detail and a knack for rendering humanity in both its tragedy and beauty. This is a valuable addition to the canon of United States war literature.