I'll try to post all the ones that I know you haven't gotten around to yet because frankly, I've either picked the books I'm gonna read based on your reviews or I think our interests overlap so much. I figured I'd post an original review and one that you've already covered in the same post to save us all some browsing time.Larso wrote:Welcome Joe! It'd be great to see you post reviews here too. A couple of opinions is better than mine alone. I haven't read your post in full because I'm half way through Mace's book myself.
FIVE FEET TO THE GATES OF HELL : WORLD WAR II MEMOIR - EASY COMPANY SAIPAN
4¼ stars. Peterik recounts a brutal slog of Saipan combat in a conversational and sometimes messy but candid account aided by writer Emilie E. Luebke.
Mark E. Peterik was a PFC in the 2d platoon of Easy Company as a part of the 2d Battalion, 2d Marines (E/2/2). Despite his smaller size, he served as a BAR man on Saipan, Tinian, the Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa - though he only saw combat on the first two islands. His combat endeavors earned him four purple hearts and the Silver Star (third highest medal for combat valor) and the first half of this story is a riveting, non-stop account of island fighting in the Second World War.
Nicknamed "Pete," Mark Peterik recounts his participation to Luebke who transcribed their interviews and added further historical research/context. It is thus delivered in the first person perspective, in a conversational manner. Through this literary method, Pete tells us about joining the USMC, joining a unit and landing on Saipan where he sees the most combat. He also fights on Tinian and pulls guard duty on the Philippines and is aboard ship observing both the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions though, IIRC, never setting foot on either of those islands. Roughly a little over half of the account features Pete in combat, with about 30 pages featuring his other service experiences and the remaining pages presenting several autobiographical sub-chapters covering his life pre/postwar.
Several things make this account stand apart from other PTO and Marine WW2 memoirs. Saipan is the main focus of Pete's combat experience, whereas other veterans of the battle (that I have read/am aware of) discuss it as a small portion amongst other battles they participated in. So it is nice to have this battle more fleshed out and revealed through the eyes of a marine grunt. Also, Pete undergoes many, novel combat experiences - several of which I haven't read before in the hundreds of combat accounts I've sifted through over the years. He is a BAR man, receives a Silver Star and is even captured, held prisoner and tortured for a few days AND later he is even abandoned at sea after an invasion! We can also probably conclude Pete was one of the souvenir hunters who took out the gold filings from the mouths of enemy soldiers, something that's at the very least discerning - if not a practice many would omit from an account written well after the experience. He is often in the heat of battle and is open and frank about his own actions as well as the horrors of war that he witnessed.
Several cons bring my rating of this book down to 4¼ stars, however. I've read accounts based on interviews, one of the solid ones being Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific by RV Burgin. This format tends to take away from the more compelling aspects of combat accounts. It also results in a stream-of-thought type delivery: topics are brought up out of nowhere and seem to need more fleshing out but are rushed over. This also means that some things are not discussed chronologically--which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but this drawback is accentuated by the fact that other things in the book are presented kind of anachronistically and/or not on a linear timeline. This is done in a confusing manner, too, for example: Okinawa is mentioned before Iwo Jima and Pete's Silver Star citation gives a date that doesn't jive with the order in which it is discussed in the account. I don't think this brings up credibility issues at all, far from it, but it does make for a slightly perplexing read. And though I mention this is an extensive account of combat, there are some details that were unique to the battle of Saipan that are not mentioned, such as the infamous Banzai attack on July 7th. Finally, the last third of the book is on both his prewar and postwar life. The book probably would have benefited more from presenting his biography in linear order, in my opinion.
The experience Pete relays is revealing and candid, if not compelling in the way that other PTO memoirists have narrated their combat tenure. So because it is frank, unique and intense and considering the already mentioned drawbacks, this memoir gets a 4¼ stars out of 5. It is the best account about Saipan combat that I have read, hands down.
A final note about the book price: I was able to read this book via Interlibrary Loans but couldn't take it out of the special collections library. Otherwise, I would've paid apparently thousands of dollars for it! However, the book ends with a message stating: "To order additional copies of [this book], please send $14.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling to:..." along with a phone number and another address one can purchase the book. Since this is the Internet, I'm hesitant to post the addresses and numbers but if you message me with your email I will gladly give you the information. Just a warning, the book was published in 2006 so I don't know how up-to-date that information is now.
If you're interested in PTO accounts of Saipan, I know that Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond: A Mud Marine's Memoir of the Pacific Island War by William W. Rogal and Faithful Warriors: A Combat Marine Remembers the Pacific War by Dean Ladd both cover the battle, though briefly. For a more polished account transcribed into a memoir, definitely check out the Burgin book mentioned above or you might enjoy GI in the Pacific War Memoirs, 1941-1945 by Nicholas and William Russiello, though it is not anywhere near as combat-focused as FIVE FEET or the other memoirs mentioned. For a marine (though from WW1) account that was transcribed, check out They Called Us Devil Dogs by Byron Scarbrough.
I also have a bunch of listmanias that rate and feature many different combat memoirs that you should check out!
Cutthroats: The Adventures of a Sherman Tank Driver in the Pacific
I listened to the audiobook read by Milton Bagby that's 8 hours and 38 minutes long. The last paragraph of this review focuses on that production specifically.
4 stars. A great, if a tad general/folksy, PTO tanker memoir and a great memoir portraying the overall military experience in the Pacific.
Robert Dick was a tank driver in the 763rd Tank Battalion during World War 2. He saw action on Leyte in 1944 and later on Okinawa in 1945 after an extensive experience in the US Army.
There is a lot on Dick's pre-combat experience in the infantry before he joins an armored unit and ships out to the Pacific. Several anecdotes commonly seen in memoirs from soldiers who were in the army before/just around the attack on Pearl Harbor (poorly organized into bizarre guard duties). Dick finds himself in charge of checkpoints at important spots on the West Coast and details several charming stories of soldier antics on this topic.
Eventually Dick joins the 763rd Tank Battalion and becomes a driver of an American Sherman tank (tank number 60 and in, IIRC, C Company, leading to the Cutthroats nickname coinage). He is extensive in describing his combat role and the functions and tech of the tanks and this is presented in an interesting way. Here Dick does a great job of describing the mechanics and other technical aspects of armored warfare that is easily digestible.
As a tank driver, Dick is more of a spectator when it comes to combat action. He's in several souvenirs hunts where he does explicitly describe firing his Thompson Sub-Machine gun in a skirmish with the Japanese on Leyte and this is described forthrightly, if not in a compelling manner akin to other PTO combat memoirs. However this is a small part of the overall combat experience Dick undergoes. Instead, Dick details the issues with driving a tank in the very different landscapes between Leyte (a jungle-thick mess of muddy roads) and Okinawa (a smorgasbord of Japanese-held hills and valleys) and though eye opening, it's not presented in such a raw or energetic manner.
Another reviewer itemizes this memoir to a sit down with Dick at a bar, hearing him relate his war experience over a couple of a beers. This is a perfect description of the books' flavor - Dick isn't coy on the details, nor is the language (though not at all frequent) sanitized. But the delivery is very laid back and features some good humor throughout. I read lots of war memoirs and rate them mostly based on the author's willingness to detail their own personal experience in combat and writing ability. Dick is willing to divulge his own contribution to the effort, though limited with respect to his combat as a tank driver, and his writing is very approachable.
I can see this book as a primary source to a tanker-version of THE PACIFIC, it touches on all the right topics in an armored combatants' experience. So because of this and all the other positive aspects of the memoir (with the drawbacks mentioned) I give this one a 4-star rating. This is a pretty good rating on my scale and this book is definitely one of the first ones I would mention when describing good all-around PTO memoirs.
Milton Bagby reads this account and does so with the exact delivery I'd imagine Dick was going for (sharing a few beers at the bar, remember). Bagby is an older narrator and narrates in a folksy and approachable manner. I usually think combat accounts should be read by younger narrators (or in a younger-style?) but this works very well with CUTTHROATS, so I have no complaints. I also listened to Fighting with the Filthy Thirteen: The World War II Story of Jack Womer-Ranger and Paratrooper by Jack Womer and Steve Devito, narrated by John Allen Nelson. For the longest time I was ready to write a review with the assumption that these two books shared a narrator, but after doubling checking, they don't! I still think that if you liked this narration then you'd like Nelson's, though.