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A Grunt's Eye View
on March 27, 2010
Frankly, this memoir was poorly written, badly organized, and repeatedly repetitive -- and I enjoyed it immensely.
It is not history, certainly not of the Pacific War nor the 41st ID, and barely touches upon operational or tactical actions. Even as a memoir, it is disjointed and tends to head off in random directions, especially when Wilson wants to share the research he has done on locales or geography or units. What it is, and is revealing as, is a personal memoir of a typical Army infantryman swept along in the tide of the South Pacific War during WWII.
Wilson, in his untutored and uncensorsed and naive style, simply tells us about his war. His vision is limited, focused largely on food and physical comfort. Oh, and staying alive when the opportunity to die arises -- combat is one topic that he glosses over and that he really doesn't want to share deeply with his readers. His innocent marvelling at the machines of war, his lack of worldliness, his ignorance of the broader world, and his occupation with the here and now do give us an unequaled insight into the mindset and interests of a kid from Illinois. He is endlessly engaged by the new experiences, sights, and people that war introduces to him. He engages in mischief whenever he can, sometimes at risk to his life and the lives of others. He rubs against authority, frets over the injustices that fill the military experience, happily purloins various comfort items, and keeps himself occupied and active when not actually in combat. Reading his memoir is akin to trailing him around during WWII.
I got the impression that after his combat journey and his occupation duty in Japan
Wilson was one of the many American who easily returned to civilian life and was able to put the war aside. He did become a doctor, but admits that he considered remaining in the Army. And then realized that the Army was simply not for him.
After bearing with the stylistic issues of Wilson's memoir, it was a engrossing and amusing and satisfying read. I hold it unique among the personal military histories I have read.