Pacific War Memoirs

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Le Page
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Le Page » 29 Nov 2009 12:08

Larso wrote:A fair point, I remember being a little surprised when I read of it being described as an armoured division.
Well that's true in the present era; it's been a heavy armored division in recent years.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 29 Nov 2009 12:37

'Cuttroats' by Robert C. Dick

Subtitled : The adventures of a Sherman tank driver in the Pacific

Robert fought with the 763rd Tank Battalion on Leyte and Okinawa. Originally in the infantry, Robert takes a demotion and transfers to armour when he suffers a training injury. He is a driver at first and later on Okinawa a tank commander. He is a young and adventurous character and the bulk of his combat on Leyte is encountered when he is searching for souvenirs, allowing him to carve notches on his Tommy-gun. Generally though he sits around while his tank conducts fire missions, with the notable exception of the day his troop is swarmed by Japanese armed with satchel charges and Samurai swords! Okinawa is a fairly terrible experience for him and he has some distressing experiences. Even so, the nature of tank fighting is less intense than that experienced by the infantry.

There is a lot to like here. Robert writes a lot about the operation of his tank, the weapons, duties, visibility, even toileting. He reveals that casualties were surprisingly heavy and tank crewmen too had their breaking points. There is a lot on the casualty evacuation process he experienced and finally a lovely, warm homecoming. It is an engaging, modern text and Robert is a regular, likeable guy, easy to identify with. The chapters are short and there is a lot of miniature on army life. There are some harsh combat moments but the general tone is light. This is an enjoyable memoir from a different perspective. Recommended. 3 ½ stars

My searching has uncovered quite a number of additional memoirs, mainly Marine ones. A few are quite affordable and I'll try and get a few more. At some point I'll list the lot by unit incase it's of use for someones reasearch purposes.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 06 Dec 2009 12:42

'Fragments of War' by Bertram Yaffe

Yaffe was an officer with 3rd Marine Tank Battalion, fighting on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima. It is only 157 pages but the font is small and Yaffe manages to fit quite a lot of engrossing stuff in nonetheless. He is an extremely intelligent writer. He is incredibly widely read and spent many a tropical night reflecting on evolution, cosmic unity, mysticism and philosophy. These and chess, were also his coping mechanisms, helping him to process the reality that was his day job – fighting the Japanese.

Yaffe is an officer, firstly a platoon commander, then of B Company and then a Captain at battalion HQ. As such his fighting from a tank is mostly in the early phase. He serves in Stuarts and then Sherman’s and learns lessons that he instituted into more relevant training. He does write about the difficulties of moving and fighting in the oppressive jungle and also of tactics and unit composition but the bulk of his combat is getting his men’s tanks to where they need to be. This said, on Guam and Iwo, he is very much under the enemies guns, is wounded and writes about firing his 45 on charging Japanese at very close quarters. That stuff that ‘Dirty Harry’ went on about is a whole lot clearer now! Other highlights include an engrossing description of assaulting the beach on Guam, the Kamikaze attack on his LST approaching Iwo and the fighting on that island with surprisingly heavy tank losses. There are also the stunning bombardments, the snipers, the infiltrators and units overrun. His descriptions of battle are vivid and tense and convey a great sense of tragedy.

In addition to this is some fascinating family history and a wonderful love story involving his remarkable wife. So while it has less combat than the other memoirs here, it is still a very extensive story, told in a very economical way. This is the thinking mans war memoir. It is very personal and very intelligent. It is very satisfying on many levels. Highly recommended. 3 ¾ stars

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 19 Dec 2009 12:48

'Marine at War' by Russell Davis

Bantam Books,New York, 1961 - This edition 1988. Paperback 176 pages.

Davis served with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division on Peleliu and Okinawa. Apparently he was in the same company as Robert Leckie, who referred to him as the ‘Scholar’. As Davis went on to become a university professor, this seems to have been apt. He himself refers to Leckie as ‘Bob’, so there’s something of note, though they don’t actually do a whole lot together.

Davis’ book is fascinating. He is a very articulate man and he really conjures up the chaos that was battle on a Pacific Island. Generally his roles had him keeping communications open so he is not often involved in seeking out the enemy but he is certainly shot at a lot. Some of his material is very vivid, the landing on Peleliu in particular. Another thing that is apparent is the relentless nature of marine tactics. They are just pushed against the enemy until they are burnt to a crisp. It is harrowing stuff. This is very much the case on Okinawa. The number of casualties and the wear on those who continue is incredible. Revealing this so clearly is the strength of Davis’ story. He does write a little of firing upon the enemy himself but mostly his story is of being caught in a chaotic slaughterhouse.

It is a shortish book but as Davis opens promptly with landing on Peleliu and finishes quite abruptly with Okinawa, there is still much of interest to read. One fascinating element is his account of the rest period between these battles. It is eye opening to read of the post-battle wind down. The reconciling of losses, the stages of grief, the varied methods of coping, the agonizing swapping of casualty’s fates with men from other companies and the many other things that caused distress. It was here in particular that Davis’ quality as a writer was evident. There was fortunately some light relief (and his and Leckie’s books) but also the effect of rumours, including the bizarre story of the ‘Mad Ghoul’ and how he seemingly infected the whole division.

This is a very worthwhile read. Davis writes vividly of what he saw from his foxhole and his frequent forays into the front line. While he writes less of firing his weapon than most others here, I feel he conveys most powerfully the state of utter confusion and horror of the Pacific battles. My edition is a cheapish looking Bantam, I hope that with the release of ‘The Pacific’ next year, this gets a make-over that showcases it for the serious account of war that it is.

Highly Recommended 4 stars

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Peter H
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Peter H » 19 Dec 2009 23:26

Thanks,appreciate these reviews. :)

What was the Mad Ghoul episode?

Peter

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 20 Dec 2009 02:26

Well it was very strange. One man woke and claimed that a large hairy deranged looking man was standing over him with a knife. He yelled out and the stalker went and although his friends told him he'd only had a nightmare, a large slash was found in the tent wall. Then another similar case was reported from another company and then another. The 7th Regt thought it was someone from the 5th and the 5th believed it was someone from the 1st etc. The story/rumour just grew. Even though these men were combat veterans many seemed to believe the ghoul was real and were on edge. Companies posted guards. Shoots were fired in the night and Davis himself was almost bayonetted. It sounds like a case of hysteria, though I'm sure now it'd be written off as a joke by anyone who was there. It concluded when a new rumour did the rounds that divisional MPs had surrounded the 'ghoul' in his swamp and shot him. Davis made it sound like most of the division was caught up by it all, commanders issued orders about it too. At the start it may well have been a man playing a joke - or perhaps someone who was a bit unhinged by Peleliu but it just took on a life of it's own. Given all the circumstances it was a fascinating story.

I've found a lot more Pacific memoirs since I mentioned it last. I think I've got 9 for 1st Marine Div alone now, though there are still a lot less for each of the other divisions. There's another tankers one too as well as 3 or 4 amphib ones. I've also found more from the army. I'm still to finish writing up 'Across the Dark Islands' - which I loved! - I'll probably post it after I get back after Christmas. I've got another 4 on hand ('Boy Soldier' (6th Div), 'God Isn't Here' (5th Marine), 'Okinawa Odyssey' (763rd Tank) and 'With the 41st Division in the Southwest Pacific') with another three on the way from Amazon (and I have my eye on about 4 more too). I hope to get these all read and reviewed by the time 'The Pacific' comes out in March, plus I have my first baby coming in April and apparently I will have less time on my hands then....

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Peter H
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Peter H » 20 Dec 2009 04:26

Thanks,much appreciated.
..have my first baby coming in April and apparently I will have less time on my hands then....
Good news though!

Peter

Larso
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 21 Dec 2009 01:25

Yes, thank you. I'm 43 and a lot of my friends think my life has been too easy for too long. They're rubbing their hands together at the thought of what I have ahead of me in the next few years. My wife is keen for me to spend a year (I'm keener on just a semester 6 - 7 months) at home after she's done the weening (is that a word that people even use anymore?). I'm open to it as I see it as a chance to also do a lot of reading - but again, people laugh.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 02 Jan 2010 14:24

‘Across the Dark Islands’ by Floyd W. Radike

Ballantine Books NY/Presidio Press, 2003, Paperback 261p.

Radike was an officer in the National Guard. Prior to the war he was posted to the 161st Regt, also a Guard unit, which was assigned to the regular 25th Division. He was with the unit throughout it’s time in the Pacific, serving on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and Luzon and also for a time in Japan. Radike was a junior officer, serving firstly as a line company platoon officer, then as commander of the battalion recon platoon and then in various HQ roles.

In terms of combat, Radike sees most of his action on Luzon. In the earlier campaigns his unit is relegated to patrols, though on New Georgia it is used to plug a gap and some light attacks by the Japanese are fended off. On Luzon however he sees quite a bit of action against the Japanese 2nd Armoured Division and later in clearance operations in the mountains. This action is generally described from his perspective as an officer and though he clearly uses it, he doesn’t write specifically of firing his rifle. The nature of combat is clear however. He loses friends and faces the usual risks. His perspective on such things is very interesting. One of his highlights was sharing a position with General Collins as he directed an attack. Radike was very impressed (he liked MacArthur too).

The strength of the book to me though, was his scathing expose of factionalism and incompetence in the army. As a ‘New’ Guard officer, he is an outsider to the longer served ‘Good Old boys’ of the 161st, many of whom seemingly achieved their ranks by their connections and social skills. There’s no bones about it – he was ‘disgusted’ with most of the field grade officers he found. He is appalled at the cronyism and the incompetence he encounters. In addition, the 161st is regarded with suspicion by the regular army soldiers of the rest of the division. On Guadalcanal it is treated like an ‘orphan or an unwanted relative’ and gets only the most basic of assignments. Radike explores the reasons for this. For the regulars, war is their ‘Olympics’, their chance for glory and promotion and his regimental commander is, in Radike’s opinion, a glaring example. So yes, he names names and I imagine this is why this book was only published after his death. There’ll be a few descendents who’ll read uncomfortable things about their relatives. He also opens the lid on the case of a regiment of the 37th Division (it appears to be the 147th*)that failed and ran on New Georgia – something he claims was completely hushed up and struck from all official records.

I learned a lot from this book. Why Henderson Airfield, or at least the plain it was on was so vital. The consequences but also value of rumours. Most revealing though was the extensive critique of aspects of the army at that time – poor logistics, planning and tactics, the absence of good food, maps and suitable jungle equipment – it’s a very eye opening account. Radike’s combat involvement is that as seen (and directed) by a line officer, so there is less direct combat action to be found than in other memoirs on my list but as for sharp, detailed criticism, even ridicule of the army, this is a unique and powerful read. Highly Recommended.

*The 147th was an Ohio National Guard unit. Radike’s claim is supported by the failure of Shelby Stanton in his substantive ‘World War II Order of Battle’ to record its service on New Georgia. Noting only that is was relieved from the division in July. One website quotes a book saying the regiment was withdrawn due to casualties but elsewhere there seems to be silence – including the various Div/Regt associations. An article in ‘World War II’ magazine (Pacific War: Special Collectors Issue 2003) mentions only units of the 145th and 148th regiments in a fairly upbeat account of the campaign. Stanton later notes that the 147th finally returned to action as the garrison on Iwo where it accounted for many Japanese holdouts and stragglers. Interestingly, an article in ‘Military Illustrated’ (No 171) writes of the 43rd Division collapsing under the strain and only two of its regiments are mentioned.

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der alte Landser
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by der alte Landser » 03 Jan 2010 16:29

I'd like to add a few more titles to this list.

First is "Mustang — A Combat Marine," by Gerald Averill, Presidio Press, 1987. Averill joined the Marine Corps in 1941 as a private and retired 25 years later as a LtCol. he served with the 2nd Parachute Battalion in the Solomons, and later with H 3/26, 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima. This book is a great read that gives an overview of Averill's years in the Corps, In addition to his World War II service, he served in Korea and the opening stages of the Vietnam War. About half the book is focused on the World War II era. Averill really maintains a tight focus on what he was doing in the war, and introduces the reader to many great Marines who would've otherwise been effectively lost to history. Among them is Charlie Cona, a son of immigrants from Brooklyn, Averill's best friend, and posthumous Navy Cross recipient. I am privileged and honored to know some of the Marines who served with LtCol Averill when he was in H Co, and they all remember him as a great Marine and a fine man.

Next is "Tanks on the Beaches," by Robert Neiman and Kenneth Estes, Texas A & M University Press, 2003. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to call Neiman a pioneer of the Marine tank forces. He was in on the ground floor, and later commanded Co C, 4th Tank Battalion in four campaigns; Roi-Namur, Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. If that wasn't enough, Neiman served as the XO of the 1st Tank Battalion on Okinawa. Neiman was awarded the Navy Cross, and the Bronze Star with "V" device. This is a fascinating book that not only gives the reader a great deal of information on campaigns and battles, but also details about tanks and their employment that can really only come from someone "who was there."

"This Here Is 'G' Company," by John E. Lane, Brightlights Publications, 1997. I've studied the Pacific War for many years, and this is among the very best books on the part that Marines played in it. I am honored to know and respect retired professor John Lane, who served with G 2/24, 4th Marine Division as a company runner on Iwo Jima. This book, which he worked on for ten years, is not so much a personal narrative (although it is that) but more of a living memory of his outfit's combat service in four campaigns. Professor Lane collected memories of 40-some Marines in his company, and combined them with information from daily unit journal entries, and after-action reports to tell the story of battle in a way that is gripping, informative and well-documented. In his introduction, Lane calls this book a "peon's eye" glimpse of the Pacific War." Not only that, but he researched Marine Corps casualty records to give an accounting of what happened to most of G Co's wounded and dead. The book also has a collection of personal photos, terrain sketches and maps.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 06 Jan 2010 07:32

Thanks Mark! I've found your website to be very useful in my research. Whenever I think I've found all the ones available, another one or two turn up. Below I've listed all the ones I have to this point. As far as I can determine, these are all proper memoirs, intended as such by a veteran. I haven't included others that are diaries, letters or journals that were published postumously. Sometimes it is hard to tell though.

Marine Memoirs (H / P = Hardcover / Paperback)

1st Marine Division
• Coral Comes High by George Hunt (K/3/1st Regt: Peleliu & ?) H172p, 2008.
• Guadalcanal Marine by Kerry Lane (1st Pioneer Bn: G/canal, New Britain) H 358p, 2004.
• Helmet for a Pillow by R. Leckie (2/1st Regt, G/canal, New B, Peleliu) P304p, 1995.
• Long Road of War by J Johnston (2/5th Regt: NG, New B, Peleliu, Okinawa) P174p, 2000.
• Love and War by E Andrusko (I/3/7th Regt: Peleliu) P209p, 2003.
• Marine at War by Russel Davis (2/1st Regt: Peleliu, Okinawa) P176p, 1998
• On the Canal by O. J. Marion (L/3/5th Regt: G/Canal) P350p, 2004.
• The Old Breed by Dana Hughes (!st Div AA: G/canal, B/ville) P400p, 2008.
• The Old Breed of Marine by A Felber (11th Marines: G/Canal, New B) P263p, 2002.
• With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge (3/5th Regt: Peleliu, Okinawa) P384p

2nd Marine Division
• Faithful Warriors by Ladd (1/8th Regt: G/canal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian) H288p, 2009.
• Only a Khaki Shirt by Baine Kerr (6th Regt, G/canal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian) ??, 2006.
• You’ll be Sorry by John Eardley (2nd Regt: Saipan, Tinian) P212p, 2009.

3rd Marine Division
• A Marine from Boston by John Carey (9th Regt?: Bouganville) P364p, 2002
• God Shared my Foxholes J Friedman (??: B/ville, Guam, Iwo)
• Nightmare on Iwo by Patrick Caruso (K 9th Regt: Iwo) H164p, 2001
• Stories from the Pacific by L. Kirby (??: B/ville, Guam, Iwo) P284p, 2004.

4th Marine Division

5th Marine Division
• A Marine Remembers Iwo Jima by Alfred Stone (2/27th Regt: Iwo) H182p, 2000
• God Isn’t Here by Richard E. Overton (2/26th Regt: Iwo) P/back 330pgs 2006
• Trust Truth Evil by B Onstad (& 2nd Raider: G/canal,Makin,B/ville,Iwo Jima) P200p, 2006

6th Marine Division
• Goodbye Darkness by William Manchester (29th Regt: Okinawa) P416p, 2002.


Marine Tank Battalions
• Fragments of War by B. Yaffe (3rd Tank: B/ville, ????, Iwo) H157p, 1999.
• I Remember by L Wagnon (Tanker: G/canal? Tarawa, Saipan/Tinian ½ war) P271p, 2006.
• Tanks on the Beaches by Robert Neiman (Tanker: Iwo & Okinawa) H206p, 2003.

Amphibious
• Journey Among Warriors by V Croizat(Amtrac: G/canal,Kwajalein,Saip/Tin,Iwo) H233p, 1997
• The Quack Corps by Arthur Wells (DUKs: Saipan/Tinian, Okinawa) P288p, 2001.

Other
• One Marine Mustang’s Memoirs by F Seeliq (Defence Bns H187p, 1997

Units unknown
• A Handsome Guy by Phillip Dolan (?? Sniper: Okinawa) P220p, 2004 (authorship is a little unclear)
• Once a Marine by Jack O’Rourke (??: Peleliu, Guam) P142p, 2007.
• Remembering Iwo by Talbot Rain (??: Iwo) P124p, 2003.

Various non-combat
• Combat Surgeon by James Vedder (Doctor: 27th Regt: Iwo) P240p, 1998.
• Marine Chaplain: 1943-46 by G Wickershamm (2nd Marine Div?) P336p, 2008.
• Marine Combat Correspondent by S Stavisky (Correspondent: G/canal, ?????) P344p, 1999
• The Long and the Short and the Tall by A. Josephy (Correspondent: Guam, Iwo) P221p, 2001.

There are two more due out in the next few months too, the first by someone who is portrayed in The Pacific.
- Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific by R. V. Burgin
- Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond: A Mud Marine's Memoir of the Pacific Island War by William W. Rogal

Once I've got my army list completed, I'll post that too.

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der alte Landser
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by der alte Landser » 07 Jan 2010 22:43

Thanks very much Larso. You put together quite a good reference list there. One book you may be interested in but that's not on the list is Iwo Jima: Red Blood, Black Sand by Chuck Tatum,1995, Chuck Tatum Publishing. Chuck is a really nice guy who lives in Stockton, CA and served in C 1/27 under GySgt John Basilone. This book is another of those labors of love that tells a personal story, but is also the voice of Tatum's company as it formed, trained, deployed to combat, and moved on with the after. Chuck packs so many amazing details into this book, it's not just a chronology or battle narrative, but also a social history of what it was like to live in the 40s and serve in the Marine Corps. Chuck provided background information on his unit's role on Iwo Jima for the upcoming HBO miniseries "The Pacific."

Also, for those who may be interested, I wrote a long monograph about 1/27 on Iwo Jima a couple of years ago for my web site. Here's the link:

http://www.ww2gyrene.org/spotlight10_index.htm

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 08 Jan 2010 00:02

Thanks! It's very much the sort of thing I'm looking for. Here's a bit more on it from marineswwii.com Amazon doesn't have many available and they're not cheap but it looks like it's being reprinted to coincide with the TV series, so it should be get-able in a couple of months.

328 pages, 330 photos, maps and illustrations. Order Now!

The capture of Iwo Jima was supposed to have taken three days with relatively minor casualties. More than a month later, 6,821 Americans were dead. The story of Iwo has been told many times before, but this latest account is through the eyes of a Marine PFC. whose experiences, thoughts and feelings are now ours to share. The account focuses not only on the author's experiences but upon those of the men he served with.

An unusual aspect is the inclusion of memoirs of several Japanese officers, offering a different, yet very relevant perspective. This is a contribution to the greater historical account. It is a personalized view of a cataclysmic event, but most of all, it is a tribute to the men who served and who sacrificed under the most arduous of circumstances.
Review From: January/1996 U.S. Naval Proceedings

* Forward by Colonel Justin Gates Duryea
* Has the Japanese battle plans
* Quotes Japanese generals and officers
* Contains the personal recollections of generals, colonels, majors, sergeants, corporals and Pfc.
* Has accurate, and rare historical facts and never before published photographs.

Order Now!

"For someone like myself, an Iwo Jima survivor, it (Iwo Jima: RED BLOOD, BLACK SAND, Pacific Apocalypse) brought back all the bitter memories of our descent through the gates of hell that was Iwo Jima. One word describes the book. TERRIFIC!"
Stan Dobowski, Secretary, Iwo Jima Survivor's Association

Excerpt from the book "Red Blood Black Sand"

What I thought was another mortar shell fell in the same spot as before exploding 75 feet in front of Steve and me. The blast's shock wave whipped up black dirt which pushed its way into my eyes and forced sand into my mouth-gagging me. It was uncomfortable and nasty but my worry wasn't for myself. I hoped it wouldn't foul our weapons.

Basilone ran up, whacked me on the helmet and pointed to the area "mortar" shells had been regularly hitting. Only when sand and dust cleared, could I see Basilone was pointing to the aperture of a reinforced concrete bunker or blockhouse.

The structure probably housed a 75mm or larger cannon whose field of fire was directed down the beach to our right. It was a big ... with incredible killing power. Its shells were stalling the advance by killing men in the Fourth Division. It may have been firing "tree bursts," (Marine-speak for explosions at tree level for anti-personnel destruction.)

Basilone immediately directed Steve and me into action against the hardened concrete emplacement whose walls and roof had withstood our bombardment by 14 and 16 inch shells.

I slapped my machine gun tripod on the deck and Steve snapped our weapon into place. Throwing open the breach, Steve handed me the ammo belt. I slammed the breach over the belt and pulled the bolt back chambering the first round with an authoritative click. I tried to fire the first burst. Nothing happened!

The ... gun wouldn't fire because the breach was full of sand and grit. We had carefully wrapped our weapon in a protective green Marine bath towel intended to prevent crap from jamming the bolt.

It hadn't worked.
"Why in the ... did this have to happen now?"
I threw the breach open again and rolled over on my side while Steve opened my pack and got the cleaning gear out. I used a tooth brush to carefully clear away the sand fouling the breach. This took less than 30 seconds, but seemed like a lifetime.

Lieutenant John A. Dreger, our platoon leader at Camp Tarawa, Hawaii, had drilled us endlessly on this procedure, forcing us to do it blindfolded. Now his training paid rich dividends for us.

I instinctively reloaded, closed the gun, pulled the bolt, and let it slam forward. I was relived when this time it fired and I saw my tracers bouncing harmlessly off the blockhouse.

We weren't penetrating it. My rounds ricocheted impotently off its steel walls. Basilone knelt beside me, looking like he wanted to be the gunner. He watched me in frustration. When my machine gun was finally firing properly, he poked me as a signal to move to the right.

Running 35 feet to the spot picked by Basilone, our field of fire was now oblique to the aperture of the blockhouse cannon. We opened fire again and the tracer rounds were right on target! Now I was pleased with myself!

My bullets forced the ... gunners to close the gun port. With the armored port closed the front of the blockhouse was blind. Even though it was temporarily out of commission, I still wanted to fire at it.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 09 Jan 2010 13:17

There are many books that I've looked at but been unable to get any real information on. T Grady Gallant wrote 'On Valor's Side' and 'The Friendly Dead' which are about Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima respectively. Apparently he served in the 1st Marine Div on the first and the 4th Marine Div for the second. I don't know whether they are memoirs, unit histories or fictionalised stories though. Anyone come across these?

Another which has really exasperated me is 'Great Men Cry Too' by Dan Darnell, it appears to be a memoir of service in the Pacific but although many places have it for sale I can find nothing out about it or the author.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 16 Jan 2010 01:40

'Guadalcanal Marine' by Kerry Lane

University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2004. Hardcover 358p.

Lane managed to get into the Marines at age 16 and was promoted to sergeant in action at 17! Initially with the 5th Marines, he becomes a demolition expert and is a member of the 1st Pioneer Battalion of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal. He then serves at Cape Gloucester on New Britain with the 2nd Bn 17th Maries (Engineers) where he wins the Silver Star. He remained with the Marines beyond WW2, serving in both Korea and Vietnam. This book deals only with his WW2 service.

Lane grew up on a poor farm and joining the Marines was an eye opening experience for him. He provides some very interesting material on the process and also as WW2 progressed, on the formation of 1st Marine Division and it’s honing. He frequently provides informative context, for instance of the number of US ships sunk by U-Boats during this time and how perilous sea journeys were. The war was much closer to the US than is usually appreciated.

This extra information continues once the division departs for the Pacific. There was a lot that was new to me. Lane writes considerably on the experiences of 1st Raider and 1st Para Marine in their support actions for Guadalcanal and of the deployments of the division itself. I’d never quite twigged that only the division’s 1st and 5th regiments landed in the initial phase and that there were many gaps in the defense. One thing Lane makes clear is that a marine is always a rifleman first (he was personally a top notch shot) and a specialist second. So his ‘B’ company is often in the line and asked to conduct combat patrols. He describes the challenges of patrolling the jungle exceedingly well. It is also on these where he writes of his combat experiences (one nightmare inducing), to the greatest degree. There is also a lot on the general conditions on Guadalcanal and he weaves in well the experiences of the navy and air-force into the story of his battle. Following a wonderful leave in Melbourne he goes to Cape Gloucester where the jungle was even worse. It is here that he wins the Silver Star (and Purple Heart) for driving a bulldozer under heavy fire to open a way for vitally needed tanks. He admits to having trouble remembering aspects of this episode, so it is not as detailed as other events. There were a few other events that I really wanted to know more about his actions (like 2nd Battle of Bloody Ridge) but in what he has revealed, we can see that Lane was a fighter and didn’t flinch from killing in battle.

Lane’s memoir is very interesting. He has chosen well the ‘big picture’ events that he has included to give his own participation appropriate context. He is a brave and exceedingly patriotic man and he is enormously proud to have been a marine. This book is informative on many levels. There are good maps and pictures. I recommend it as a starting point to get a clear picture of how dire those first months on Guadalcanal actually were and the utter heroism of the Marines. Highly Recommended!

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