Pacific War Memoirs

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Dan W.
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Dan W. » 02 Aug 2019 02:24

Well, I finished Rescued By Mao and I have to say, reading that book about his experiences was simply unforgettable. I imagine that I'll remember parts of his story for the rest of my life. I don't want to give away too much, such as his experiences in captivity (suffice to say that he did not suffer as much as those fliers shot down over Japan, or nearly as much as anyone sent to Japan) but his bold escape from captivity in China, and his experiences with the Paluchun (Communist Chinese) are fascinating. He was treated like a dignitary as he was shuttled across northern China, the only American POW to do so in WWII. Because of this the communists considered him one of their own, and went to great lengths to both protect and care for him. They faced both the Japanese and their puppet Chinese troops as they moved at night from one safe house to another.

Before he was finally flown out he was stopped from boarding the plane by a couple jeep loads of Chinese soldiers, because Mao wanted to meet him for the first time before leaving. It was there that the communist leader met him and posed for the cover photo. As he flew off to an American outpost, a Korean was seated across from him, his name was Kim Il Sung. When being debriefed by the Americans, they would often ask "who do you think will win the fight, Chiang Kai-Shek or Mao Tse Tung"? and without hesitation Taylor would say "their fight will be over within weeks, maybe a few months. The people hate Chiang Kai-Shek and his soldiers. Their officers wear gaudy uniforms and the troops steal whatever they want from the peasants. The communists all dress alike, no one can take a chicken from someone without full payment, and no one can enter someones home without permission. The people love the communists." The American interrogators did not like his answers, and some even scoffed. Taylor, of course, was right.


Now I'm back with K/3/5 again, reading Battleground- Pacific by Sterling Mace (see Larso's great review here) and I can tell already that this is going to be a great read. Not only well written, but it is unvarnished, gritty, and Mace pulls no punches. He is not afraid of hurting anyones feelings in his retelling of events. I'm certainly looking forward to reading this one, and it probably won't take long.

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Dan W.
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Dan W. » 02 Nov 2019 00:11

I was hesitant to review Mace's book, because at times the story was great, and at times the story veered off course and you'd have to slog through a few pages of unrelated musings on his childhood or something in that vein before returning to the combat zone. The book is readable, however, and I'm glad I read it, there are some truly graphic experiences he shares, but unfortunately, most memoirs simply cannot be compared to Sledge's, and they all fall miserably short in their efforts. Mace would convey some hellish experiences, and these were scattered throughout the book. When he did stay on track and write in detail about one of his fellow K/3/5 compatriots, he usually would not hesitate to name names.

Reading about the loss of life and all the wounds suffered in combat, Mace was much like Sledge: He won the lottery in the way of avoiding being seriously wounded when the air was heavy with ordnance flying in all directions, to include a couple occasions of short rounds almost killing him (and doing that to his fellow Marines.) Some experiences, such as holding a ridge on Okinawa, got to the heart of this hellish experience, Marines unable to leave the line for fear of a counterattack that could break thru their thin ranks, the line depleted by wounded Marines evacuated to the rear, and often times, by comrades KIA. Imagine being stuck on this ridge and the coral is so hard there is almost nothing to dig into, any tiny depression in the ground has to be utilized for cover. There is also no latrine, and no way to dig one, and men have no where to shit or dispose of their toilet paper, which has now blown away and attached itself to the bloated corpses of dead Japanese soldiers littering the ground all around them. Mace relays such experiences throughout, but he had a tendency to veer off course and it meant that it was (sometimes) hard to stay focused and finish this book. However, if you're looking for another first person account, I can't help but recommend this one, because it does have its moments of vivid and descriptive storytelling.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 14 Jan 2020 04:31

Grown Gray in War by Len Maffioli

Maffioli liked the look of the marines and joined before he could be conscripted by another service. He was probably lucky that his brother-in-law pulled some strings and got him assigned to the 4th Marine transport battalion. He was at the invasions of Saipan and Iwo Jima but his role did not see him engage in combat. Though he was subject to air attack a few times. He did contribute by assisting with the wounded and as a stretcher bearer. Following WW2 he ended up as a reserve in the 11th Tank Battalion.

When the Korean War broke out he was assigned to the 1st Marine Tank Battalion. Despite his efforts to join a tank crew he continues to drive trucks and it was as part of Task Force Drysdale that he is captured. Essentially a long convoy, Maffioli’s segment is cut off and destroyed. There is a day or so of very bitter fighting, where marines like Maffioli exhibited their training as ‘riflemen first’. It is very brutal stuff and the 300(!) extra rounds Maffioli carried under his truck seat are used to strong effect. In the end though they are forced to surrender.

Maffiloi’s six months as a prisoner are very hard. He is somewhat fortunate to be held by the Chinese but food and conditions are absolutely minimal. The winter is bitterly cold and there is never enough to eat. Hygiene and medical care are almost non-existent. This begins to kill the weakened captives. They are also subjected to indoctrination by their captors. Maffioli and a handful of others are then very fortunate to escape when they are taken too close to the front in a bizarre Chinese plan to integrate expected additional marine prisoners. This whole section of the book was quite interesting.

After a time in civi land, Maffiloi reenlists and after a variety of roles finally gets himself into tanks. He proceeds to have quite a range of interesting assignments and postings. This includes embassy postings, recruiting and a host of logistics and administration roles. While this is his main role in Vietnam (again with 1st Tank Battalion), he also goes on some patrols and operates a mortar in unusual circumstances. Mines and rocket attacks are his main danger. He continues in the Marines until retirement in 1979.

While not a dramatic combat narrative, Maffioli’s story is a very interesting look at life for a professional marine. There was a lot of variety to his service and he loved it. His story also shows the value of long served, experienced NCOs to the military.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 26 Mar 2020 11:35

'Star Shells Condoms & KaBars' by Harry A. Pearce

To say that Harry Pearce had an eventful war is quite the understatement. He fought in the very front of the line on Roi-Namor, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima – where he was shot and BAYONETED! He was present – in fact on - the exploding LSTs in West Loch in Pearl Harbor in 1944 and later, near the end of the war responded to the mutiny of black stevedores after the munitions explosion at Port Chicago. He also managed to regain the use of his arm in remarkable fashion.

Pearce is a member of E/2/23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division. He is an explosives expert and is engaged in demolitions but also in many patrols and holding the line actions. Several incidents he describes are just bizarre. He has an eye for detail and by surviving sees a lot. He even mentions marine corps terms I’ve never heard before (‘buddy pongo?). There’s also the first mention of the Island of Rota in the Marianas that I’ve ever heard.

While the events he relates about on Saipan take on a bit of a repetitive nature, mostly regarding numerous failures by the 27th Division, there are some astonishing accounts of combat. There are some very brutal doings. There is relentless action against highly committed Japanese. One of the most notable is during a Japanese night attack on Tinian. He fired until he ran out of bullets. Then used his bayonet until the morning, noting it was useful to be a 6 foot 2 man against the often shorter Japanese. He wins the Silver Star for grenading a number of Japanese machine-gun nests. At the end of that campaign he is one of only 20 left of the original 246 man company. Then he gets to go to Iwo.

It is interesting to read of how the stress of combat could addle the mind to the point of forgetting logical or obvious things. It was more confronting to read of the several instances of fratricide he relates. There is much more combat blood-n-guts here than usual. Pearce is no great writer but his blunt style, suits the very grim material. There are a few errors or typoes here and there but it’s usually clear what he meant. I’m glad he wrote it all down. If I was recommending a top six Marine accounts, this would be one of them. 4 1/3 stars

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Dan W.
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Dan W. » 27 Mar 2020 19:41

I'm going to have to find that book by Pearce, that sounds riveting.

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Chris Maggos
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Chris Maggos » 22 Apr 2020 01:22

I am currently again reading "With The Old Breed : At Peleliu & Okinawa", written by Eugene Sledge. I just finished reading the Peleliu Portion, but now reading the Okinawa Portion. But I read the book back in 2010, when the HBO TV Show "The Pacific", I read the Sledge memoir so I can understand whats it like fighting in Peleliu, I can imagine how bad it was like, pure hell, and watched "The Pacific Episode 5, 6, 7, 9s" I think it was accurate of fighting at Peleliu, and Okinawa. But the author's memoir is a masterpiece because it shows that war is bad and a terrible thing because it was bad that I will never imagine anything like that. But again I am reading the same book, it was so painful to read it again because the TV Show was so realistic that I have to put the book down because it was like a nightmare dream of fighting in hell. But again on the TV Show it was clear so I began to understand why the Pacific War has to be fought because I resent the Japanese for being so mean towards the white people, for example "The Great Raid', the 2005 WW2 movie about the Japanese Camp in the Philliphines, but it helps me understand why we, the Americans, fight in the Pacific War, and deny the Japanese, and won the war in 1945 when we nuked the Japanese in the atomic bombings that ended the war short smartly because it prevents more American soldiers losing their lives in combat if the Invasion of Japan happened alternately, which I would never imagine it to be a slaughterhouse because it will repeat the battles of Peleliu, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima, more brutally more terrible than the battles fought for 3 years.

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