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Helmet For My Pillow (Military History (Ibooks)) Paperback – April 3, 2001
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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.Read more ›
But most of all this book is remarkable. I have heard men describe their experiences with jungle warfare, both from WWII and Vietnam, but never with the awful clarity that is done in these pages. I grew up in the army and have been with the military all of my life and can agree with so much of what is said here, and said with far more ability than almost any other book I have read.
Leakie pulls no punches, not in the way many of the enlisted were treated by their officers or in his own `mistakes' that landed in him the brig.
Historically there is much in here that I have never read before, and I have read and listened to much. There are stories of the hunger the fighting men felt during battle and how Japanese forces would try to sneak into their camps at night for food. Then there are the descriptions of the `widow makers', trees that were weakened by artillery fire that killed 25 men as they broke and fell on them.
This is truly an incredible account, eye opening and worthy of your time and effort to read.
Leckie's story dovetails quite nicely with another memoir, "With the Old Breed at Peliliu and Okinawa," the account of another First Division rifleman, E.B. Sledge. The First Marine Division's WWII career began in the jungles of Guadalcanal, went through New Britain and on to Peliliu and ended at Okinawa. Leckie was in at the beginning, but his combat career ended when he was wounded in the Hell of Peliliu. Sledge's combat career began at Peliliu and ended on Okinawa. Together the two give you an enlisted man's eye view of all the First Division's campaigns.
Sledge doesn't turn a phrase as well as Leckie, but his description of combat will make your blood run cold in a way that "Helmet" does not. Any 18 year old reading "Old Breed" will want to tear up his enlistment papers. It seems odd that Leckie, obviously the more accomplished wordsmith, does not paint as horrific a picture of combat as Sledge. Could it be that Leckie has shied away from revealing the full extent of the hardship of combat? Or could it be that Peliliu and Okinawa served up privation and hardship on a much grander scale than Guadalcanal and New Britain? Read both books and decide for yourself. For all its stark description, "Old Breed" will engender the same kind of respect for the men of the First Division that the reader takes away from "Helmet."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really liked to hear this story from Lecke's perspective. If you have seen the HBO miniseries "The Pacific" you get to learn a lot of details that they left out, regarding... Read morePublished 1 day ago
Great memoir of a Marine fighting on Guadalcanal and New Britain, and a long 9 month R&R in Australia. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Sam Harman
I did not like this as much as I enjoyed "With Old Breed", another book written by a Marine Veteran of WWII. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Gerald Garrison
This book was a real disappointment after reading "With The Old Breed"!Published 8 days ago by Lance Ward
Great book. I have read it twice. Very well written by somebody that was there.Published 20 days ago by Larry Pierce