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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leckie conveys the experience of war with authenticity
I first learned of this book when I read that it was being used as one of the sources for a new miniseries about the Pacific theater in the Second World War. Having enjoyed the other source material being used, E. B. Sledge's superb memoir, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, I decided to track down a copy of Leckie's account and read it for myself. Because of...
Published on 5 Sep 2009 by Mark Klobas

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it but...........
Enjoyed the book but it was spoilt for me by the way it was written. It was too literary, it seemed written as fiction which it clearly wasn't. I suppose it was because Robert Leckie was a skilled writer so it didn't have the rawness. By contrast, The Old Breed by Eugene Sledge was totally different. A great read, from the heart. Same battle experiences but seemed more...
Published on 27 Sep 2011 by Will


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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leckie conveys the experience of war with authenticity, 5 Sep 2009
By 
Mark Klobas (Tempe, AZ, USA) - See all my reviews
I first learned of this book when I read that it was being used as one of the sources for a new miniseries about the Pacific theater in the Second World War. Having enjoyed the other source material being used, E. B. Sledge's superb memoir, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, I decided to track down a copy of Leckie's account and read it for myself. Because of this, I found myself comparing the two works as I read it, which influenced my overall opinion of the book.

In many ways, the experiences of the two men were similar. Both were civilians prior to the Second World War; Leckie enlisted in the Marines a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His account of basic training feels incredibly authentic, in part because of his attention to details. Leckie captures much of the mundane minutiae of learning how to be a Marine, from the bureaucratic experience of inoculation to the quest for a good time on leave. This sense of authenticity continues as he describes his deployment to Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division and his engagement with the war there. These experiences form the best part of the book, as his initial encounter with life as a Marine in both training and war reflect his interest in the novelty of it all.

From Guadalcanal, Leckie's unit was returned to Australia for rest and refitting. This transformation into what he calls a "lotus-eater" also bears a real sense of verisimilitude, as unlike many memoirs of war he does not gloss over the search for release that often characterized breaks from the battles. It is here, though, that his account flags a little, and his return to combat in New Britain as part of Operation Cartwheel was perhaps the least interesting part of the book. The book improves with his subsequent experiences in the hospital in Banika and his final, abbreviated deployment to Peleliu, which ended with his injury and return to the States for the duration of the war.

Reading this book, it is easy to see why it stands out as an account of the Second World War. Leckie's prose brings alive both the mundane routines of service and the violence of combat. It is when he is between the two that the book suffers, as his efforts at evocative prose about his surroundings in the jungle suffer from being a little overwrought, particularly in comparison to Sledge's plainer, more straightforward descriptions. Yet both need to be read for a fascinating portrait of what the war was like for the "new boots" who gave up their lives as civilians to fight in the humid jungles and barren islands of the Pacific.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid WW2 read, 26 April 2011
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Ben Kane (Nr Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
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I first heard of this book, and its sister volume, With the Old Breed, by fellow U.S. Marine Eugene Sledge, after watching the outstanding HBO miniseries The Pacific. It's a very different read to Sledge's book, which details in unremitting detail the unbelievable horrors of combat in the Pacific theatre in WW2. Robert Leckie was a journalist before the war, and this must have instructed his writing style, which is far more lyrical than Sledge's simple but well-written approach. Sometimes his style felt like overwriting, to be honest; dressing up something (his experiences in the war) that couldn't or didn't need to be dressed up in florid sentences.

Leckie spends far more time detailing the friendship and camaraderie between him and his fellow Marines than Sledge did. Often describing periods between combat, these were very interesting; so too was the long section about the wild times the exhausted soldiers had when they arrived in Melbourne for some R & R after the terrors of Guadalcanal. It's amazing and heart-warming to read about how for months discipline went out the window. I suppose that the Marine commanders must have decided just to let their men have a good time rather than worrying about spit and polish and parades.

The last section of the book concerns Leckie's return to the war - it speeds through the campaigns at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and Pelelieu. The book comes to a snappy conclusion, and I was a little sorry that it didn't give more details of his return home.

Overall, this is a book that is well worth reading, but it doesn't quite match up to Sledge's memoir.

Ben Kane, author of The Forgotten Legion.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucky to be born in my generation!, 22 Nov 2010
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M. N. Stewart (Barcelona,Spain) - See all my reviews
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After reading this book I can almost certainly say how lucky I was to be born outside that period of our history. The book is very well written and by far one of the best historical books that I have read. It strikes a perfect balance between war details and friendship amongst men. It left me feeling very humble.
Not many books have that effect, it should be compulsory reading for children at school--forget catcher in the rye!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best, 10 July 2010
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One of the best WWII biography's I have read, bringing to life the personal and political issues of everyday people. I don't think the commitment of the Marines and all the allied troops should be lost or forgotten. Hopefully the recent HBO series and others like it will inspire people to read more and help retain the memory of those who gave everything.

Duncan
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb read, 30 Jun 2011
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JRA (Stafford, UK) - See all my reviews
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I have just finished reading this book and it is one that is hard to put down. I watched the box set of the Pacific and had to get the two books on which the series was based. The TV series is good but you have to read Eugene Sledge's account to even begin to understand what these brave marines had to endure. It is by far the most compelling account of warfare and the effect it has on ordinary men like Sledge that I have ever read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down., 3 July 2010
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P. J. Reeves "Reevesy view" (B'ham England) - See all my reviews
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Have read many war memoirs but this was different - it was just written in a very moving and special way. It doesn't glory, it doesn't brag. It just quietly puts you in the picture of what must have been a hellish experience. An amazing read and I just wish I had heard of his work earlier. In my opinion one of the best war memoirs around.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view from the beach, 11 May 2010
By 
Stewart M (Victoria, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This account of the Pacific campaign of the 1st Marine Division during WWII will probably become much more widely read as a result of it being used as a major source text for the HBO series The Pacific, than would have been the case without the TV exposure.

This is a heartfelt account of a volunteer's life in the USMC. Much of the material and structure of the book is actually rather familiar, not because so much has been written about the Pacific campaign, but because it seems little changed in the `corps` from WWII to Vietnam. If you have watched "Full Metal Jacket", the training stages will be familiar, as will the crazy brave, fatalistic attitude of many of the marines. This is a book that reinforces the idea that the experience of war for the "boots on the ground" solider is not that different between wars, even if the public perception of the war may vary.

The book itself consists of four major sections, training, first combat, R and R in Melbourne and a return to the front. Each section is important, but the section based in Melbourne did seem to occupy more pages than I would have thought necessary.

In this section there are descriptions of locations around Melbourne that are disjointed, and the geography described is imprecise. If this occurs during sections recalled from the relaxed position of R and R, you have to wonder about some of the detail in the combat sections.

If, like me, you came to the book via the TV series you will recognize many scenes, although it is interesting what seems to have been omitted or reordered, and to wonder why this has happened.

It is clear that the author had huge respect for the people he fought alongside, and grudging respect for the tenacity of his foe.

If nothing else, this book really does show that the more things change, the more they stay the same and that the brutality of war does not end on the battle field. From this experience, Leckie was able to write a book that is brutal, honest and at times a little poetic.

Recommended.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book review, 5 July 2010
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An eye opening account of life on the front line during WW2. This book, unlike other WW2 books, provides the reader with a clear and unequivacal insight into life and death on the battle field from the veterans view point. This is a recommended book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it but..........., 27 Sep 2011
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This review is from: Helmet for my Pillow: The World War Two Pacific Classic (Kindle Edition)
Enjoyed the book but it was spoilt for me by the way it was written. It was too literary, it seemed written as fiction which it clearly wasn't. I suppose it was because Robert Leckie was a skilled writer so it didn't have the rawness. By contrast, The Old Breed by Eugene Sledge was totally different. A great read, from the heart. Same battle experiences but seemed more real.
Proud of what he did though. Always grateful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally absorbing, 28 April 2013
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This review is from: Helmet for my Pillow: The World War Two Pacific Classic (Kindle Edition)
Totally absorbing read. Tells the horrors of war graphically and in great detail. A great addition to the book pacific
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