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Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific Hardcover – March 2, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 200 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This well-narrated tale of a marine’s Pacific campaigns on New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa inevitably invites comparison with E. B. Sledge’s famed With the Old Breed (1981). Indeed, Sledge was part of Burgin’s mortar platoon in the latter two campaigns. But Burgin’s tale is more plainly told, as he was a Texas farm boy instead of a college student who dropped out of OCS to get into combat. But they were both good marines, who carried their weight through some of the ugliest fighting Americans have ever faced. One reads Burgin’s narrative knowing that he survived and smiles when he comes home to marry his Australian fiancée and settle down to a career in the Postal Service and a retirement of attending First Marine Division reunions. --Roland Green

Review

"R.V. Burgin is one of those American boys who became a Marine-no small feat. He then went across the Pacific, returning home to Jewett, Texas only after helping to save the world. Read his story and marvel at the man... and those like him."
-Tom Hanks

"[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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451229908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451229908
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (200 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
R. V. Burgin is in the last wave of World War II memoirists, and just in time. For 35 years, he says, he never talked about the war. It was only recently, in part driven by his involvement with HBO's dramatic miniseries "The Pacific," which covers the campaigns he fought in, that he and other veterans felt comfortable opening up. This plainspoken, humble personal account is among the results. It is a valuable first-person narrative and belongs in any history reader's library.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was a real pleasure to find another first person account of the Pacific war. As mentioned in other reviews, books like this are far and few between. Especially, since our World War Two veterans are passing away far too quickly.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I was so lucky to to able to pick up aa advanced copy of ISLANDS OF THE DAMNED by R. V. Burin. What a book! It is easy to see why HBO would use it. This is another first hand account of the Pacific Theatre in WWII but don't just throw it in the pile, it is better than that. Now, I don't mean to knock the great WWII memoirs out there, check my reviews, I am a big fan. This is just to say Burgin has put together an exceptional book,filled with the human emotions that make war so insane but interesting. We watch him mature and rise in the ranks but more that rank into a tough seasoned Marine. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED whether you are a history buff, a Marine fan like me or just a reader. Go get this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Burgin was inspired to write his account following a discussion with a tradesman who knew nothing of Peleliu. I imagine though that plans for the HBO TV series, based in large part on the memoirs of his fellow mortar platoon member, Eugene Sledge, helped too. In any case Burgin's memoir is a worthwhile contribution to the genre and at times an interesting commentary on Sledge and the events he related in his very famous book.

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.
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