Pacific War Memoirs

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Larso
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 30 Jan 2010 06:35

With the 41st Division in the South West Pacific by Francis B. Catanzaro

Indiana University Press, 2002. Hardcover 196 pages

Catanzaro was sent as a replacement to ‘I’ Co of the 162nd Regt, 41st Infantry Division in early 1944. He is welcomed by the veterans who give him lots of advice on how to prepare for the next operation – Biak, in Dutch New Guinea. Following this campaign, he fights on Mindanao in the Philippines before concluding his service with some occupation duty in Japan.

Regarding Biak, as the blurb says, there are few accounts of combat in this region of the South Pacific, so this was an interesting start. While the landings went well enough, there were some significant reverses and Catanzaro’s battalion suffers quite a bit. In several respects the opposing forces at this time were a little more evenly matched and Catanzaro conveys well a sense of uncertainty as to how things would turn out. There are Japanese air and tank attacks but worse was the assaulting of their strongly prepared positions. Catanzaro isn’t involved in so much of this but he becomes 2nd scout and does patrols. It is more of the same in the Philippines. Even though he doesn’t say it himself, the difference of army and marine procedures were quite evident. The kill ratios he quotes though are in stark contrast to some of those relating to marine actions.

As with others, Catanzaro was enormously frustrated with the inequities of the ‘points’ system and found it hard to believe that the infantry were serviced so poorly while being asked to undertake the biggest risks. Catanzaro was also a religious man and he attended worship whenever he could and greatly appreciated the prayers his family said on his behalf.

This is quite an enjoyable book. Catanzaro intentionally wrote it so it could be read by his grandchildren, so there are no obscenities or excessive gore. He still wanted to convey the awfulness of combat and I think he has struck the right balance, in that it is still quite an interesting read for adults. He is not personally deadly with his rifle but he writes of the times he was responsible for Japanese deaths and his feelings about this. He shared the negative attitudes towards the Japanese of the time and indeed was happy that his war was against them. He was also very proud to have been in the infantry and to have been in the 41st Division. While perfectly adequate and interesting for adult readers, this particular memoir, being not too long or too bloody, would be very apt for younger readers.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 19 Feb 2010 13:20

‘God Isn’t Here’ by Richard Overton

American Legacy Media, Utah, 2006 (first published 2000). Paperback 330 pages.

Time zone calculations correct, I am posting this review on the 65th anniversary of the landing on Iwo Jima. I hope it I got it right as I want to give this book as much recognition as I can. It is extraordinary!

Initially Overton joined the navy, as his mother didn’t want him to join the marines but ironically, after training as a Naval Corpsman, he is posted to D Co 26th Marines, 5th Marine Division and goes to Iwo Jima, a mother’s worst nightmare. He gives an engrossing account of the trip into the beach, under the guns of the battleships and the resulting concussive effect on the landing craft and the men in them. His advance up the beach is told rush by rush capturing the tension and the pace. Overton’s account of battle is incredible. Though his role was not exactly to fight, it saw him in the front lines at all times and his first night on Iwo is astonishing! His foxhole is repeatedly bayonet charged and the way he describes the terror, the brutal hand to hand fighting and the screams from all around is stunning. It is one of the most vivid descriptions of battle I can recall. There are many other occasions too where his description of events is absolutely gripping. While these are mostly about being under fire as he carries out his medic duties, he was doing this at the very point of battle and it is incredible that he survived at all. Many, many men die around him and in front of him, often horribly and Overton provides us with a full picture of the terror and despair. There is confronting material, the impact of projectiles is spelled out very clearly! The torrents of Japanese fire leave eviscerated bodies, leaking brain fluid and lots and lots of blood. Behind the lines wasn’t safe either, Japanese infiltrators ambushed stretcher parties and targeted hospital patients. Overton was pretty bitter about it too and remains so.

Overton’s Iwo occurs about half way through the book. Prior to that he describes in great detail his journey to it, the training, army bureaucracy and the many unforgettable characters he encountered. His account of the claustrophobia and conditions on the troop ship is also fascinating. I learned too that the 5th Division had a cadre of former Para-marines and Raiders and that it was very highly trained by the time it was committed. There is much else, Overton’s account is just so extremely detailed. Though written in a fairly straight-forward manner, the horror of Iwo has never been clearer than in these pages. This is one of those books that comes as close as possible to making you feel like you are there.

‘God Isn’t Here’, is to Iwo Jima what Sledge’s ‘With the Old Breed’, is to Okinawa. Overton matches Sledge in the raw description of men in battle, killing and being killed. Indeed, I think Overton as a man always in the very front line, often in the open, offers an account that surpasses Sledge’s in some ways. It is a searing stuff. Very Highly Recommended!

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 27 Feb 2010 06:52

‘Boy Soldier’ by Russell McLogan

Subtitled: Coming of Age during World War II.

Terrus Press, Reading, MI, 1998. Hardcover, 412 pages.

McLogan is very much the young, naïve man when he is drafted and sent to Texas for training. He is posted to K Co of the 63rd Infantry Regt of the 6th Division and sees combat in the Philippines in mid 1945. While this is a very big book, the combat phase is reasonably brief, with Mclogan writing extensively about his training and finally Korean occupation service into 1946.

McLogan is an infantryman and he writes of being well received by the veterans when he joins his company on page 129 (he is also impressed when air force personal give up their good seats at the movies for him). Just as well too, as he finds himself under mortar fire shortly thereafter. His combat concludes with being wounded on page 213. In between, he goes on patrols and is shelled but he rarely writes of personally firing on the enemy. He does provide a clear sense of what it was like to be in the infantry in this time and place though. He is also clear on what his unit and others were doing and includes quite a few maps to further inform the reader.

The thing that stands out is the incredible level of back-grounding. McLogan has put a life’s worth of research into his story. He writes of the origins of Ft Hood for instance but includes the cost, the speed and the effects on the previous landowners (including suicides). While on the ocean he worries about submarines, then lists the worst sinking’s. He gives detailed service summaries of his commanding officers, describes the differences between the various suburbs of Manila and even the number of patients some of his hospitals processed. Some might find this to be unnecessary padding but I found most of it informative. McLogan is extremely thorough, there was much that was informative to me but this may not sit so well with readers looking for an action story. One thing that McLogan achieves with his approach is to convey a sense of what a major undertaking the Philippines operation was and to bring to light the significant post-war involvement in Korea (and the ongoing betrayal of its people). It does remain McLogan’s story as he generally integrates all this information successfully around his own experiences. It does all make for quite a long read though. (the last 40 pages are endnotes, references, indexes etc)

Though a memoir of his time in the army, McLogan’s story is more about the journey he undertook from youth to man, than about combat. This said, it is still an interesting personal story that is surprisingly informative on many levels. I recommend it generally but not if you’re looking for a combat oriented memoir.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by der alte Landser » 12 Mar 2010 16:16

On Valor's Side by T. Grady Gallant is a personal memoir of that author's service as a Marine recruit in Parris Island during 1941 and service with the 1st Marine Division stateside and in the campaign for Guadalcanal. He covers the period November 1941- December 1943. Mr. Gallant served with Battery M, 4th Bn, 11th Marines.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by der alte Landser » 12 Mar 2010 16:23

Another outstanding little book is Remembering Iwo by Talbot Rain, iUniverse, 2003. The author served with 1st Bn, 27th Marines as the battalion intelligence officer (Bn-2). He recounts many interesting and illustrative details of his service, and of the Marines he served with. This book was especially informative for me, since it had to do with 1/27, a unit that I wrote a long monograph about for my web site. Unfortunately, I didn't find this book until after I was finished with the monograph.

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

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 13 Mar 2010 09:07

Thank you very much! I did find a little bit more Talbot Rain after my earlier mention of him but you've clarified his story nicely. I will try to get hold of both of those now too. I currently have about 10 more on hand or on the way. I'm particularly looking forward to reading the very new 'Islands of the Damned' - which has been published by a man showcased in 'The Pacific' - and Neiman's 'Tanks on the Beaches'.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 20 Mar 2010 13:51

'On The Canal' by Ore Marion

With Thomas Cuddihy and Edward Cuddihy
Subtitled ‘the Marines of L-3-5 on Guadalcanal, 1942’
Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, 2004. Paperback 314 pages.

Marion, of Italian background, joined the Marines in 1940 and was a squad leader when Guadalcanal came around. By the end of the campaign he was a sergeant commanding a platoon of L Co of the 5th Marine Regiment’s 3rd Battalion. He later fought on Iwo Jima and ended up spending 30 years in the Corps but this book is about his time on Guadalcanal. The Cuddihy’s are his nephews and they provide a useful summary of the campaign and a postscript regarding Marion’s death in 2003.

Marion was very much in the thick of things. He is a rifleman and is always in the front line. He is involved in one major battle and several other actions, including a bayonet charge. He makes the reality of battle quite clear in terms of its swirling nature and there is some vivid stuff. He writes of casualties and the tension but for the most part he only writes generally of his personal actions. There is a lot on being bombed and shelled and the ongoing difficulties involving getting sufficient supplies. Indeed, it is amazing that the Marines made it through. Marion is quite critical of the navy for leaving them in such a position but he also saw a lot of US ships sunk too. He notes they were all so young the big picture was lost on them. They put up with things because they didn’t know any better.

One thing that is clear is the small size of the beachhead. He runs into General Vandegrift on several occasions. He is present at the sacking of the 2nd Battalions Col Maxwell and sees the remains of the Goettge patrol – even though officially they were never found. He also comes across islander girls who had been sexually mutilated by the Japanese. This is one of many things that influences his very hard attitude towards the Japanese. There is also some blunt soldier language. So it is not sanitized. You get a good picture of a marine of the times.

Following his Marine service, Marion steered clear of Guadalcanal. It was only much later that he began to reconnect with it and became a bit of a student of the campaign. His book is partly used to set the record straight and is based in part on writing he did for the veteran’s publication ‘Guadalcanal Echoes’. It is also a lot about his comrades and he includes some snippets that some of the survivors contributed. These are fairly brief, it remains Marion’s story but they do flesh the combat action out a little more. Marion includes a few chapters at the end dealing with associated things like Pistol Pete but also his service on Iwo. Here he was with the 5th Division, commanding the demolition section of the 5th Pioneer Battalion. He writes that while Guadalcanal was 4 months of privation and misery, Iwo was a nasty lethal blur. Aside from coming across the dead John Basilone, his friend, he claims to recall little else. Perhaps, like with that bayonet charge on ‘the Canal’ he has managed to forget the truly horrific things.

What he has recalled and committed to paper here is still fairly extensive and interesting. Marion gives a clear picture of the difficulties of the campaign and a clearer one on the magnificence of those who served there with him. Recommended

Note : My review on ‘God Isn’t Here’ was based on the 330 page edition. Overton had been concerned that his original manuscript was too gory and he apparently deleted a lot of stuff out! In the 420 page version it’s all back in. I am almost at a loss to think how it could be more detailed than it was but the extended edition must be one hell of a read!

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 27 Mar 2010 01:29

'Nightmare on Iwo' Jima by Patrick F. Caruso

The University of Alabama Press, 2001. Paperback 2007, 170 pages

Caruso was a Lieutenant in the 9th Marines (K Co, 3rd Bn), 3rd Marine division, which he joined towards the end of its time on Guam. He was involved in only one combat incident here but his two weeks on Iwo saw him exposed to a lot more. Unfortunately these are generally presented in short vignettes, sometimes with minimal detail and a lack of context in terms of when it took place. There are a few occasions where he does go into more detail, like when he is under attack at night, with grenades landing in his foxhole but mostly he is too sparse with the details and it is clear he left a lot out. There are quite a few passages provided by fellow veterans and some of these are quite graphic. They also serve, to an extent, in fleshing Caruso’s story out as little more. Caruso also includes some potted histories for some of the men he knew who were killed. Altogether these certainly convey the horror of the battle but Caruso’s own story is lost at times.

Caruso was clearly the real deal as a soldier. The five officers above him were all first day casualties and he found himself commanding the company – from the front - almost from the start. He does provide some interesting information regarding some of his decisions but mostly he is writing about his interactions with his brother marines. Many of these become casualties and he provides statistics that emphasize the scale of these. By the time he is wounded less than 40 men are left in his company.

This is a short book that can easily be read in a few hours. It is based on some articles Caruso did about the campaign, which were apparently very well received by fellow veterans. Perhaps because of this, it is closer to a memorial to his comrades than a typical personal memoir – it is just not complete enough for me for that. It doesn’t conform to a traditional narrative structure and Caruso doesn’t build his story. Accordingly, in my opinion, it fails to engage the reader. It is informative in a general way though and the tragedy of it all is very clear. But there are other memoirs where it is all revealed in a more complete and compelling manner. Of some interest.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 03 Apr 2010 10:20

Wanna Live Forever? By Don ‘Slim’ Carlton

iUniverse, Inc, New York, 2005. Paperback – 159 pages.

Carlton was posted to D/1/184th Regt of the 7th Division on Leyte before spending three months fighting on Okinawa. Curiously, though it appears he saw combat on Leyte he doesn’t write of any of it. He is also short on details of home and training, so this is a short book but given it is all about combat on Okinawa, it is good value.

Carlton’s unit lands very early in the piece but there is little action as they cross the island. It is only when they turn to work their way up the length of Okinawa that the Japanese are located – in their very extensive fortifications. Carlton is a machine gunner but he spends a lot of time engaging with his carbine. Indeed it was interesting to read that despite his specialized role he is sent into frontal attacks with only his personal weapon. He uses it too, writing of seeing the puffs of dust on Japanese shirts as his bullets strike home. He is quite business like in this regard. By surviving the whole three months of the campaign he experiences a lot of battles. Indeed there seem to have been very few aspects of this war that he didn’t encounter. There are grenade duels and many nights when the Japanese came forward on suicidal raids. One day he uses a captured Japanese rifle to inflict carnage on stragglers being driven by flamethrower tanks. (Tanks didn’t have it all their own way, another day he watches helplessly as three Shermans are ambushed and their crews wiped out when gasoline is poured over them and set on fire.) There are a lot of US casualties and Slim wonders how he managed to survive. Luck was a part of it but soldier ‘smarts’ come through too.

This is an entertaining book without being a masterpiece in any way. There are a few typos and soldier profanities but neither is excessive. It is a reasonably quick read with lots of short chapters. Slim is very open about killing the enemy but thankfully he is active in taking prisoners too when they finally begin to present. I enjoyed Slim’s story and wished it were longer and included his experiences on Leyte.

Recommended. 4 ¼ stars for the amount of combat.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 03 Apr 2010 10:22

More Marine memoirs – including 8 by 1st Marine Div men

A Second Division Marine Remembers by William C Hogue (2nd Marine Div: ???) ?????

From the Battlefield by Dan Levin (Correspondent: Saipan, Tarawa, Iwo) H133, 1995.

Great Men Cry, Too by Dan Darnell (1st Medical Bn, 1st Marine Div: Peleliu) P162p, 2002.

Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond by W. Rogal (A/1/2nd 2nd Marine Div: G/canal,Tarawa,Tinian,Saipan) P???, 2010.

Guadalcanal to Tokyo by Hiram Quillin (5th & 14th Defence Bns: G/canal, Tulagai) ?161p, 1999.

Guadalcanal Remembered by HC Merillat (Correspondent: G/canal) P352p, 2003.

Islands of the Damned by RV Burgin (K/3/5th 1st Maruine Div: Peleliu, Okinawa) H296p, 2010.

Mustang: A Combat Marine by G Averill (2nd Para: Choiseul & ? & post war service) P299p, 87 & 91.

On Valor’s Side by T. Grady Gallant (1st Marine Div: G/canal) P364p, 1980 (1st ed - 1963)

Over My Shoulder by James T. Moore (1st Marine Div: G/canal, Cape G?) H411p, 1998.

Suicide Island by Guy Gabalon (2nd Marine Div: Saipan) P???p, 1990.

Tales of a Feather Merchant by P. Pollins (4th JASCO 1st Marine Div: Peleliu, Okinawa) P212p, 2008.

The Friendly Dead by T. Grady Gallant (4th Marine Div: Iwo) H & P??p 1964, 1981.

The Leatherneck Boys by A.C Farrington (1st Marine Div: G/canal, Cape G, Peleliu) P183p, 1994.

Too Young the Heroes by G. Lince (1st Marine Div: ? & Okinawa) P201p, 1997.

War & Work by Thurman Miller (1st Marine Div: G/canal, Cape G) P260p, 2001.

You'll be Sor-ree by Syd Phillips (H/2/1st, 1st Marine Div: G/Canal, Cape G) H216p, 2010.

Additional information for some of those on the previous list
• Talbot Rains was with 1/27th, 5th Marine Div
• Joseph Friedman served with 21st Marines
• Jack O’Rourke served with 12th AAA Bn but didn’t see combat.
• Robert Neiman was with 4th Tank Bn on Saipan, Tinian & Iwo and the 1st on Okinawa


Pacific Army Memoirs

Above the Cry of Battle by Charles Holsinger (25th Div?: P/P) P240p, 2001.

Across the Dark Islands by F Radike (25th Div: G/canal, N/Georgia, Luzon) P272p, 2004

A Dogface's War by Ed Hogan (H/3/511th / 11th Airborne Div: P/P) P54p, 2007.

Always a Commander by William H. Gill (32ndDiv, Pacific ) P124p, 1974.

A Young Man Goes to War by Arthur F. Adams: (24th Div: ????) P136p, 2004.

Biak - Zambo by L Peters (41st Div: NG? P/P) P228p, 2000.

Boy Soldier by Russell E. McLogan (6th Div: Luzon) H432p, 1998.

Combat Officer by Charles H. Walker (Americal Div, G/canal, B/ville, Leyte) P256p.

Cutthroats: Adventures of tank driver by R Dick (763rd Tank: Leyte, Okinawa) P272p

GI Jive by Frank Mathias (37th Div: P/P) P256p, 2000.

Jungle, Sea & Occupation by P. Veatch (24th Div: P/P) P162p, 2000.

Love Company by Donald Dencher (96th Div: Leyte, Okinawa) P356p, 2002.

Okinawa Odyssey by Bob Green (763rd Tank Bn, 96th Div: Okinawa) H224p, 2004.

Steel Helmet & Mortarboard by F. Heller (24th Div: NG, P/P) H216p, 2009.

Tanker: Boys, Men & Cowards by E. Luzinas (710th Tank Bn: Peleliu,Anguar) P146p, 2004.

The Young Draftee by M. Howell (32nd Div/114th C/En: NG P/P) P160p, 2002.

Through These Portals by Wayne Macgregor (77th Div, Guam, P/P, Okinawa) P243p, 2002.

Unforgetable Journey by Stanley Huff (Germany, 97th Div Japan) H258p, 2001.

Wanna Live Forever? By Don Charlton (7th Div: Leyte, Okinawa) P170p, 2005.

World War II Cavalcade by JL Munschauer (6th Div: P/P) P200p, 1996.

With the 41st Division in the S/W Pacific by F Catanzaro (41st: Biak, P/P) H224p, 2002.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by IvanSR » 04 Apr 2010 11:36

Those are some great reviews and a really impressive list, Larso! Thanks.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 04 Apr 2010 13:53

Thank-you! Though every time I think I've finished, I find another -

'A Marine Remembers' by Harry Shelman (???? : ?????) P143p, 2009 (Revised Ed - up from 126 pages in 2002)

plus Munschauer was with K/3/63rd

As with 'Band of Brothers' other veterans have come forward to add their memoirs to the primary source for the TV show (Websters for that one, Sledge's and Leckie's now). R Burgin was Sledge's Sargeant and his book 'Islands of the Damned' was published last month. I've read it but I haven't finished writing the review. In his bibliography was the details of 'You'll be Sor-ree' by Syd Phillips - who was in Leckie's company. So along with 'Marine at War' by Davis, that's three for K Co. Given the distance to the events now it's unlikely there'll be too many more.

Again, thank you! I'll update my Amazon list soon to show where I think they sit compared with each other.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 10 Apr 2010 02:45

iIslands of the Damned' by R. V. Burgin (with Bill Marvel)

New American Library (Penguin), NY, 2010. Hardcover, 296 pages including indexes.

Burgin was inspired to write his account following a discussion with a tradesman who knew nothing of Peleliu. I imagine though that plans for the HBO TV series, based in large part on the memoirs of his fellow mortar platoon member, Eugene Sledge, helped too. In any case Burgin's memoir is a worthwhile contribution to the genre and at times an interesting commentary on Sledge and the events he related in his very famous book.

Burgin joins the 1st Marine Division in Melbourne after its time on Guadalcanal. He is assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and fights on Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. He is an NCO and is sergeant of the platoon when Sledge joins. His role though was not firing mortars. He taught others how to do so and in battle he was out in front with the infantry, spotting targets. As such, he is very often a target himself and he engages directly, once at the closest of quarters, with Japanese soldiers. This occurs on Cape Gloucester and there is a surprising amount of combat here. He operated for a while with war dogs too, who sniffed out sleeping Japanese, who were then often quietly dispatched. He also witnessed Lane's heroics at Suicide Creek. There is then plenty of action on Peleliu, in particular his role in reducing the major bunker that Sledge wrote about. Burgin's perspective here is fascinating. He approached battle with the intent to kill. On Okinawa most of this is done via his mortars but he is again always in the front line and he has some very close calls.

It is very much a combat narrative. Burgin, though still a very young man, recognized early on the essential truth of the sometimes illogical aspects of military training. He realized it was meant to make him ready to kill and as such, he even saw the sense in denying the division a second stint of leave in Melbourne. It worked. When he enters combat he does not hesitate. There is quite a lot else too. He gives a sobering perspective on some occasions when the confusion and demands of combat saw Marines kill fellow US soldiers. He writes too on the surprisingly poor support they received, in terms of basic food and clothing needs. The impact of this atrocious state of affairs was best illustrated when he turned three prisoners in, to see them issued with fresh clothes, while he and his men stood in rags. They ceased bringing prisoners in after this. It is an amazing example (in a counter-productive sense) of the serious ramifications poor support of front line soldiers could have.

While this book seems with us due to the TV show, it is a legitimate story in its own right. There is insight into Sledge and some disagreements regarding his observations but it is by no means obsessed with him, it is primarily Burgin's own story. While his writing style is not a dramatic one, it is steady and always interesting. In terms of my focus on combat, he does not shy away from writing about killing either. This is a good contribution to the genre. Quite Highly Recommended.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 24 Apr 2010 06:15

'Tanks on the Beaches' by Robert M. Neiman

With Kenneth W. Estes
Texas A & M University Press, 2003. Hardcover, 206 pages.

Neiman had an extensive journey through the Pacific, fighting on Kwajelein (Roi and Namur islands), Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima as commander of ‘C’ company, 4th Marine Tank Battalion before going to Okinawa to join 1st Marine Tank Battalion for the final stage there.

Neiman joined the Marine tank arm as a young officer in mid 1941 with the 1st Scout Co (M3A1 scout cars, motorcycles & a platoon of Marmon-Herrington CTL-3A). He is fit & intelligent, with a military school education & he progresses well. He is involved in a lot of the training that informed the Corps early actions & contributes much to ongoing refinements of combat drills as he encounters Japanese defences. Some of this he picked up on a quick visit to Guadalcanal, where the methods used by the Marine tankers were sometimes very grim – but so to were those of the Japanese. He then commenced to establish and train his own company and there is a lot of interesting detail on this process.

It’s put to the test on Kwajelein where he operates in support of 4th Marine Div. He leads his company to the beach & then in subduing Japanese strong points but while it’s clear he was foremost in the action he doesn’t write in detail on the fighting. Things are a bit more specific on Saipan. He has two tanks disabled under him & other very close calls. His unit causes a lot of carnage & later he witnesses many of the suicides on Tinian. I was particularly fascinated to read how they increased protection of their tanks in the field. There is also quite a bit on devising tactical responses to operating in Pacific conditions, in cane fields, for instance. One of the more startling revelations is the difficulty he had with some Marine regimental commanders (he names name’s too). His recommendation that the ranks of tank company commanders be increased so that they were taken more seriously, was adopted to address this.

In terms of combat, Neiman is at his most detailed regarding Iwo Jima. The difficulties operating in the ash were substantial and it is only through extensive training and preparation that he even gets his tanks off the beach. Some of the damage he sees to tanks is astounding. He is also more explicit about what happens to bodies. There are considerable personnel casualties here and Neiman as a commander has an interesting perspective. At the end his company only has seven running tanks. While no-where was secure on Iwo he is a little more fortunate when he joins the 1st Tank Bn on Okinawa. He is executive officer & would’ve commanded it in the invasion of Japan. As it is he goes briefly to China.

While extensive in terms of campaigns & the training & organization of tank formations, Neiman writes mostly in general terms of his personal actions in combat. He was certainly in the thick of things but his role obviously restricted (& perhaps saved) him. Other things of interest include his social life. He dated extensively & while he’s coy enough he recalls with amazement the enthusiastic availability of the New Zealand girls. There are also some great pictures. You''ll know the ones that feature Neiman himself as be is easily identified by his enormous smile! So, an interesting memoir overall, especially with regards to the technical side of things and the development of the tank arm. Recommended!

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 01 May 2010 03:50

'Okinawa Odyssey' by Bob Green

Bright Sky Press, Texas, 2004. Hardcover, 223 pages.

Bob fought with the 763rd Tank Battalion on Okinawa. He starts of though recounting the story of his family as ranchers in Texas - Confederate ancestors and all. At first I thought this was a bit staid but it grew on me. Interestingly, he attended a military school which offered cavalry training and this saw him assigned to armour training when the war came. Some might find these opening chapters a bit plodding but once he gets to Leyte his delivery warms up considerably.

He starts the Okinawa campaign as a liaison officer with the infantry. He provides some good context on the operations of the 96th Infantry division, which his battalion supported throughout. Interestingly he believes the infantry had a harder time than the marines. He also explains very clearly the difficulties presented by attacking the Japanese on their strongly fortified ridges and particularly the reverse slopes. I learned a lot. His experiences are very dramatic in this role and there are several very close shaves. Once men alongside him are cut in half by a shell and he is crystal clear about what this meant. The horrors of battle are not sanitized. It is a sobering read.

During this phase he demonstrates exceptional shooting skills and even uses infra-red equipment to deal with night-time infiltrators. Then, under extraordinary circumstances he is given command of a tank troop and drives straight into a very vivid and violent battle. He recounts a number of vicious fights from his tank, against suicide squads and anti-tank guns. It is a war of extermination. He writes of this to his parents and his inclusion of complete letters is very useful for modern readers trying to understand the mentality of men in his situation. They are frank and unedited, using the terminology of the time. Green is no racist though. He was a decent young man who wanted no more than to be back on the family farm.

Green is very observant. He notes things about LSTs for instance that no one else has mentioned. He writes interestingly of combat fatigue and the bravery of medics. He conveys very well the tragedy of the war and there are some wrenching stories. As a tank troop commander he is mostly directing the action but there are a few times where he personally performs some incredible deeds, one such earning him the Silver Star. The other Pacific tanker memoirs above are all worthy in various ways but in terms of combat participation, this is the pick of the tanker memoirs so far. Highly Recommended!

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