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Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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"[A] well-written, excellently detailed personal narrative....A taut, engrossing, haunting book."
-The Dallas Morning News
"An honest, straightforward memoir by an honest, straightforward man. Burgin has written an unforgettable, moving description of his experiences as an infantry Marine, from New Britain to Okinawa. The result is a classic combat account. I highly recommend this book."
-John C. McManus, author of Alamo in the Ardennes and The Deadly Brotherhood
Top Customer Reviews
Burgin doesn't opine about grand strategy or second-guess commanders. He focuses on what he knew: life as a grunt in a 60mm mortar platoon that saw some of the worst fighting of the war, from Cape Gloucester to Peleliu to Okinawa. The perspective is immediate: "We were fighting uphill now, advancing in a wide arc through the jungle. It was raining, always raining. Every stream was swollen and the ground was gumbo. Moving forward was like trying to walk through oatmeal. I was still carrying around that mortar base plate, but we couldn't use it much because of the trees, so 90 percent of the time I took my place up front with the riflemen." Every Marine is a rifleman, including the mortarmen.
Burgin wasn't spared anything, and doesn't spare anything in this touching book. Read it during the week, and immerse yourself in HBO's miniseries on Sunday nights. You'll learn something important about the humble men who won the War in the Pacific.
This book was easy to read, flows very nicely, and isn't burdened by large amounts of historical data. It's personal account from the ground by a Marine who was really there. It does however, put into place the importance of the battles the author fought in.
In particular, I enjoyed the descriptions of living and fighting on the South Pacific islands. The book also contains the only example of a man using a bayonet in combat on any book I've ever read. Most importantly I think the book puts in perspective ghastly nature of the war in the Pacific, in particular the cave-to-cave fighting common among the campaigns.
Ironically, one of the major themes of the book is a love story. While I don't normally seek out this type of theme in a history book (or any other book for that matter), the author does a fine job of making his place in history far more personal by doing so. The best part is, it only amplifies this situation, without it distracting from the historical narration.
This book makes for an excellent companion to the classic With the Old Breed by EB Sledge. If you enjoyed this book you would this book and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie...books I understand the mini-series The Pacific are heavily based on.
Burgin joins the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne after its time on Guadalcanal. He is assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and fights on Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. He is an NCO and is sergeant of the platoon when Sledge joins. His role though was not firing mortars. He taught others how to do so and in battle he was out in front with the infantry, spotting targets. As such, he is very often a target himself and he engages directly, once at the closest of quarters, with Japanese soldiers. This occurs on Cape Gloucester and there is a surprising amount of combat here. He operated for a while with war dogs too, who sniffed out sleeping Japanese, who were then often quietly dispatched. He also witnessed Lane's heroics at Suicide Creek. There is then plenty of action on Peleliu, in particular his role in reducing the major bunker that Sledge wrote about. Burgin's perspective here is fascinating. He approached battle with the intent to kill. On Okinawa most of this is done via his mortars but he is again always in the front line and he has some very close calls.
It is very much a combat narrative. Burgin, though still a very young man, recognized early on the essential truth of the sometimes illogical aspects of military training.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is more upbeat, despite the title, than "With the Old Breed" by Eugene Sledge. The author and Sledge were in the same company on Peleliu and Okinawa. Read morePublished 29 days ago by K. Manizade
Save yourself the time & read Eugene Sledge's book instead for a more gripping account of combat & the psychological toll it takes on the participants. It appears to me that Mr. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dr. Doug
Only E.B. Sledge's "With The Old Breed" surpasses this book in it's frank and riveting description of the horrors of war in the pacific during WWII. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Henry Bowman
Expectations met - used paperback in excellent condition and book arrived well ahead of expected date. Very pleased!Published 2 months ago by Jane Barroso
War is HELL no matter what the date is or where it takes place. R. V. Burgin's story of the war in the Pacific clearly shows that. "Islands.... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Larry D Caudill
I've had the privilege of meeting this man and having this copy signed, but you want to learn about a true American Hero- get. this. book!Published 3 months ago by HEATHER WILLIAMSON