Pacific War Memoirs

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Larso
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 26 Jan 2011 01:25

Given I've added so many new memoirs in the last couple of months, here is the updated list, by unit, below -

1st Marine Division (22)

A Marine In World War II by Robert E. Smith (1st Marine Div: ) P???p, 1993.
• Coral Comes High by George Hunt (K/3/1st Regt: Peleliu & ?) H172p, 2008.
Great Men Cry, Too by Dan Darnell (1st Medical Bn, 1st Marine Div: Peleliu) P162p, 2002.
• 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.
Islands of the Damned by R. V. Burgin (K/3/5th : Peleliu, Okinawa) H296p, 2010.
• 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.
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.
Tales of a Feather Merchant by P. Pollins (4th JASCO 1st Marine Div: Peleliu, Okinawa) P212p, 2008.
The Last Souvenir: Okinawa - 1945 by Jack Caroll (1st Marine Div?: Okinawa) P446p, 2009.
The Leatherneck Boys by A.C Farrington (1st Marine Div: G/canal, Cape G, Peleliu) P183p, 1994.
• The Old Breed by Dana Hughes (1st Div AA: G/canal, B/ville) P400p, 2008.
• The Old Breed of Marine by A Felber (11th Marines: G/Canal, New B) P263p, 2002.
Thunder in Morning by Homer H. Grantham (1st Marine Div: Peleiu, Okinawa) P152p, 2004.
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.
• With the Old Breed by E. B. Sledge (3/5th Regt: Peleliu, Okinawa) P384p
You'll be Sor-ree by Syd Phillips (H/2/1st, 1st Marine Div: G/Canal, Cape G) H216p, 2010.


2nd Marine Division (7)

A Second Division Marine Remembers by William C Hogue (2nd Marine Div: ???) ?????
Dear Harriet by G.F. Jerry Walsh (2nd Div 1/29th: G/Canal, Tarawa, Saipan) P224p, 1995.
• Faithful Warriors by Ladd (1/8th Regt: G/canal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian) H288p, 2009.
-Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Beyond by William W. Rogal (A/1/2: G/canal,Tarawa,Tinian,Saipan) P, 2010.
• Only a Khaki Shirt by Baine Kerr (6th Regt, G/canal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian) ??, 2006.
Suicide Island by Guy Gabalon (2nd Marine Div: Saipan) P???p, 1990.
• You’ll be Sorry by John Eardley (2nd Regt: Saipan, Tinian) P212p, 2009.


3rd Marine Division (5)

• A Marine from Boston by John Carey (9th Regt?: Bouganville) P364p, 2002
Train of Thought by John B. Minnick (I think 3rd Div: Iwo) P164p, 2008.
• God Shared my Foxholes J Friedman (21st Regt: 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

The Assault by Allen R. Matthews (4th Marine Div: Iwo) P234p, 1980 (1st 1947?)
The Friendly Dead by T.Grady Gallant (4th Marine Div: Iwo) H & P??p 1964, 1981. (More a history & novel it seems)


5th Marine Division (6)

A Marine Remembers Iwo Jima by Alfred Stone (2/27th Regt: Iwo) H182p, 2000
D plus Forever by D Davenport (??: Iwo) H302p, 1994.
God Isn’t Here by Richard E. Overton (2/26th Regt: Iwo) P/back 330pgs 2006
Remembering Iwo by Talbot Rain (1/27th, 5th Marine Div: Iwo) P124p, 2003.
Indestructible by Jack Lucas (??: Iwo) 240p, 2007.
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 (4th Tank: Saipan,Tinian,Iwo & 1st: Okinawa) H206p, 2003.

Marine Para
Marine Paratrooper by D Davenport (3rd Para: New Georgia, B/ville) P189p, 1992.
Mustang: A Combat Marine by G Averill (2nd Para: Choiseul & ? & post war service) P299p, 87 & 91.

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
Guadalcanal to Tokyo by Hiram Quillin (5th & 14th Defence Bns: G/canal, Tulagai) ?161p, 1999.
• One Marine Mustang’s Memoirs by F Seeliq (Defence Bns H187p, 1997
Once a Marine by Jack O’Rourke (12thAA: Peleliu Non-combat) P142p, 2007.


Units unknown
A Marine Remembers by Harry Shelman (?? : ??) P143p, 2009 (Revised Ed - up from 126 pages in 2002)
A Handsome Guy by Phillip Dolan (?? Sniper: Okinawa) P220p, 2004 (authorship is a little unclear)
My War Years by Paul W. Smith (Pharmacist Mate (1st Prov/6th?): Guam, Okinawa) P185p, 2009.
Three War Marine by Francis Fox Parry (?Artillery: Guadalcanal, Okinawa) P312p, 1999.

Various Marine non-combat
• Combat Surgeon by James Vedder (Doctor: 27th Regt: Iwo) P240p, 1998.
From the Battlefield by Dan Levin (Correspondent: Saipan, Tarawa, Iwo) H133, 1995.
Guadalcanal Remembered by HC Merillat (Correspondent: G/canal) P352p, 2003.
• 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.


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.

Braun's Battlin' Bastards by Harold Brau (1/158RCT (Ind): NG, Luzon) P290, 2005.

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

Frankel-y Speaking by Stanley. A. Frankel (37th Div: NG, P/P) 231p, 1992.

GI in the Pacific War Memoirs by Nicholas A. Russiello (34RCT 24th Div: ???) P164p, 2005.

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 Hawk and the Dove by Roland Glenn (7th Div: Okinawa) P234, 2009.

The Wonder of it all by Clarence Sheffield (Army?? P/P) P224p, 2005.

They Just Fade Away by Robert Lee Dodge (Army??: N/Guinea, Philippines) P273p, 2001.

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.

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

World War II Cavalcade by JL Munschauer (K/3/63rd 6th Div: P/P) P200p, 1996.

Army – Non Combat
Between Tedium and Terror by Sy M. Kahn (244th Port Company) P400p, 2000.
Common Warfare by Carl M. Becker & Robert G. Thobaben H210p, 1992.
Midnight on Mindanao by DDS, Mel Amler (Dentist: Philippines) P124p, 2009.
Praise the Lord and Pass the Penicillin by Dean W. Andersen (Medic: NG) P236p, 2003.

Larso
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 18 Jun 2011 11:50

The Hawk and the Dove by Roland Glenn

Subtitled : World War 2 at Okinawa and Korea
Smith/Kerr Associates LLC, Kittery Point, ME, 2009. Paperback, 258 pages.

Glenn was as a 2nd Lieutenant and was posted to the 17th Infantry Regt, 7th Division as a replacement during the Battle of Okinawa. He then served occupational duty in Korea.

Glenn is a small town boy and he devotes a few chapters to growing up and to the members of his rather extroadinary family. He is very religious and hard working and somewhat incongruously very open about his adventures with the ladies. He does well as a recruit and elects to undertake officer training (OCS 90 day program) and again does well. He spends a little time processing through replacement facilities but joins his unit in April 1945.

His two months of combat are dealt with in 50 pages. His introduction to the front doesn’t go smoothly. He gets off-side with his commander (and later misses out on a Silver Star as a result) and his first fight is a debacle. He is able to impose more control over later actions and his unit has considerable success. He writes that he killed several enemy but only goes into detail the once. This event, ironically a mercy killing, returns to haunt him in the decades after the war. There is interest in the combat revealed. Glenn losses several close comrades as well as a number of his men. There is considerable detail at times but it is not a gripping account by any means. This is partly because the dialogue reconstructed by the author is a bit trite.

This is a solid memoir. A surprising amount is devoted to duties in Korea, including interactions with surrendered Japanese and Korean prostitutes. Indeed, there is a surprising amount of material of a sexual nature – some of it absolutely bizarre given the type and context. As alluded to above, it conflicts with the persona otherwise revealed by Glenn. While the author is perfectly within his rights to write it and let’s face it, soldiers will be soldiers, it may make more conservative readers uncomfortable. On a less awkward note, Glenn periodically includes copies of letters he wrote and received. Perhaps one of the more noteworthy elements of this book is Glenn’s fascinating revelation of his psychological problems (and treatment) stemming from his battle experiences. So there is certainly material of interest, to the point of being surprising even. Overall though, based on the combat, I give it 3 stars.

Larso
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 23 Jul 2011 03:30

You’ll be Sorry by John M. Eardley

Subtitled: A Marine’s Memoir of the War in the Pacific
Self published 2009. Paperback, 209 pages.

This is a self published affair by the author, a veteran of the 2nd Marine Division who fought on Saipan and Tinian.

Eardley was a radioman and went to the division after Tarawa, being assigned to HQ & S Co, 2nd Marines (Regt). He landed on Saipan on the second day (after spending the night circling on an Amtrac) and fought through the whole campaign. He almost got through Tinian too but his service is curtailed by severe illness and he is evacuated, eventually ending up back in the States. As for combat, he is certainly in the front line but the bulk of his recollections are of what he saw, rather than of what he did. He has several close calls and certainly is exposed to significant horror. He saw a lot of dead and a lot of men die. He shares his attitudes and there are some interesting stories but the combat he actually participated in is limited. If anything it was a bit of a blur, though some passages have more clarity than others. All up, the combat phase occupies about 40 pages.

Eardley’s story commences with basic training, which he does with his twin brother. It is interspersed with recollections of their childhood and frankly, they got a raw deal. Even so, there were some lovely stories of family life during The Depression. He also writes of meeting his wife and dealing with war trauma. For the most part the author does a nice job of integrating these passages into the main text, though towards the end, it is sometimes confusing what is nightmare, flashback or ongoing story.

At the outset the author states that this is a human interest story and he is spot on about that. The war is certainly a part of it but there is much more than that. It covers the sometimes very difficult Depression days before, and the after-effects on individuals and family. Eardley writes in a straightforward manner, he is no literary star, but his story and the man himself, really grew on me. It is amusing in parts and quite sentimental in others, and there is the occasional ‘salty’ word or term. He did not escape the war unscathed but I was really pleased that he ultimately found that being a Marine was one of the best things that ever happened to him. In terms of combat, this memoir is in the 2 ¾ star zone but overall 4 stars is fair for its engaging account of a man of momentous times.

Larso
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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 20 Aug 2011 11:02

The Sunset War by Paul C. Wilson

Copyright 2003, the author. Paperback, 139 pages.

Wilson served with I Co, 162nd Infantry Regt, 41st Division at Biak and then Zamboanga in the Philippines, before occupation duty in Japan. Prior to all that, there is some general material on training experiences and his postings on the way to the Sth Pacific, the illogic and sometimes incompetence of the army and a little on his background. He has a few interesting things to say regarding the draft and acceptance into the ATSP, before its cancellation.

As for combat, Wilson is a rifleman at first but becomes a radioman for the later stages of his service. The most direct action that he sees is at Biak where the Japanese are still in a position to contest things with their air force and navy and even with tanks. Wilson is certainly in the front line but doesn’t write of too much personal action. He is on patrol, conducts assaults and clears caves. He helped rescue casualties, but says very little on firing at the enemy. Perhaps this reflects that he just didn’t see very much to his immediate front. But it doesn’t make for a gripping read. He does add a bit of context on the overall strategic situation, MacArthur’s plans for instance, so this would help readers unfamiliar with the topic. There is some repetition here, so it could have been more tightly edited.

The author goes into a little more detail on some of the interesting details about tropical diseases – including one that cannibals got from eating brains! He also wrote of pranks and unauthorized souvenir trips. He is obviously in danger and has a few close calls but it is overall very much on the gentler end of the spectrum of war memoirs (see my list for reviews on 30plus others). For those specifically interested in the campaigns of the 41st, I would suggest they look at ‘With the 41st in the Southwest Pacific: A foot soldiers story’ by Francis Bernard Catanzaro. He was in the same regiment for the same campaigns but writes a little more forthrightly on combat. So while I am happy enough to have read this book, it is, compared to other memoirs from this theatre, very modest fair. It is a short read and though it conveys some of the horrors of war it is not too grisly. Perhaps best for younger readers. 2 ½ stars

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 25 Sep 2011 12:24

Love Company by Donald O. Dencker

Subtitled : Infantry Combat against the Japanese in World War II
Sunflower University Press, 2002. Paperback, 355 pages.

Dencker started his war in the ATSP and quite enjoyed it. When the program was cancelled he found himself reassigned to the 96th Infantry Division, specifically with L Company of the 382nd Infantry Regt. He chose to become a mortar man and fought in this role on Leyte and Okinawa. There is also a little on his childhood as an only child and training. The importance of letter writing and connections with people at home is also clear.

The author quite openly confesses he chose mortars because he thought it the branch that offered the best chance of survival. Given that he went through both campaigns without being wounded, it seemed a wise decision. He was by no means in a safe position of course and he writes of many occasions where he is under fire and operating in extreme proximity to the front. His landing on Leyte occurs under fire and if there were any places on Okinawa that offered security he wasn’t in them a great deal. This said, he writes with wonder of the quiet first days on Okinawa, when the Japanese sat and waited in their inland strong points.

While this is very much Dencker’s story he writes quite a bit on his comrades. He notes who became casualties and who won medals. Indeed, it was surprising how many seemed to be handed out on Leyte. All seemed totally deserving but it seems that some units went to greater lengths than others to acknowledge their soldiers bravery. Dencker is virtually in continuous combat and there are many casualties and while there is graphic description it is not described as viscerally as Sledge’s ‘with the Old Breed’ or some of the others at the top of my list. It is clear though that the 96th had just as bitter a time of it, as Dencker demonstrates with his own company’s figures. Of 187 who landed on Leyte, he is one of only seven who served every day from there to the end on Okinawa.

After keeping away from the war for a few decades, Dencker got involved in reunions in the 1980s and is now the divisional historian, which has allowed him to supply some interesting details on his service. Aside from information on other personnel, he also writes on the numbers and types of ships involved in transporting his unit for instance. He also goes to lengths to identify the enemy units he was in contact with. This is quite common with writers who served in Europe but is rare in accounts of the Pacific theatre. So aside from his personal story there is a lot of interesting context and background. It is a straightforward account and while lacking the pace and excitement of the top memoirs it has a lot to offer. Recommended 3 ¾ stars.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Schlagermeister » 14 Oct 2011 22:35

Dude!!! Holy cow, you guys are amazing. I'd started a research project over the past winter on the Pacific war, so I wish I had contacted this forum about it earlier. I'm stunned how many you've been able to find--I searched for weeks and never came up with a list even a quarter as big as the one here.

I'm also glad you've listed them by unit. I've been looking into chiefly the 2nd and 4th MarDivs and the 7th I.D. Some of those listed here I have found, but never found reviews, and I certainly have never found the majority listed here. Larso, if you could, would you be able to send me a PM (or you could post it here) about how you've come across all of these? I could use the research tips. I'm also mostly looking for stuff about Operation Flintlock (Kwajalein), from both the Army and Marine perspectives. Any further help would be appreciated. Also, some of these books are really hard to find to purchase. PM me if you have found ways to find some of them (particularly "This Here is G Company"--I've never been able to find that one).

Thanks again, and keep up the list if you come across more. I'll come back to post again soon when I have more time.

Cheers!

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Schlagermeister » 14 Oct 2011 22:39

der alte Landser wrote:I

"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.
I know you've posted this a while ago, but I must ask: do you, by chance, still have contact with John Lane? I've been doing some side research on a project that heavily involves the 4th MarDiv. If you do have contact, would he be willing to add any extra thoughts to me? Or, you could relay some questions or something for me. It's been hard to contact veterans of the 4th--I've only been able to reach two, and lost contact with one of them. Let me know either way! Thank you much.

Oh, also, any suggestions on finding his book? It seems rare--and when I've tried to locate a copy I can't seem to find one...

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Schlagermeister » 15 Oct 2011 01:05

Ah, I've finally been able to find some copies of Lane's book. Thanks though!

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 17 Oct 2011 00:55

Hello,

The research process has been a long and frustrating one. I started by typing in the usual key words on Google and Amazon. I guess I found 20 ish this way but then as I went along more turned up. Some were mentioned by Amazon reviewers, some were on unit associated sites. I found a few in bibliographies too. The rush of books following The Pacific fleshed the number available out a bit as well. Then a friend I made online found more from searching US library catalogues. At this point the list had grown to about 80. Most recently I happened on the worldcat.org site. There were 18,000 + auto-biography style books for US writers alone. Now a lot of these were by Air or Naval men or were POW - all outside my current level of interest. There were also a fair number of unit history type books as well and even interviews, so there's been a lot to wade through.

Anyway, I've been through the first 5,000 and I've found another 30 Pacific theatre books on top of the ones I've listed on this thread. Some are older books and a few are self published but even though a lot use those search words like 'memoir' in the title, they'd never shown up on my earlier searches - the internet makes this whole thing work but it's an inconsistent resource sometimes.

I see you share my interest in units. I've done a lot of searching to try and find such things. The worldcat site lists units a little but I often have to look further. I start with Amazon and if I'm lucky there is a review and even luckier if it mentions the fellow's division and regiment (and ideally battles fought in). Mostly though I have to look at other sites. Failing this, I try looking for obituaries or some such thing. Putting keywords like 'Regiment' or 'battalion' in with just the authors name has sometimes worked. It is very surprising where some info comes from. Battle histories have been useful but even things like online school annuals have helped. It's a bit and miss. One book I've had on my list for a while, with no unit - popped up in the worldcat site. Not realising I'd already tried looking, I searched again and about 20mins later I fluked clicking on another obscure book the fellow had written about his family and his unit - the 754th Tank Battalion - was recorded there. Yet all my deliberate searching using his war memoir as a basis hadn't turned this up!

I've hit a road block with the search as worldcat isn't showing me the next 5,000 titles (I'm also listing memoirs from the ETO as well - there's been 60 odd of those just for the infantry and another 30 odd armor, airborne, engineers etc) but I have a few ways to proceed when I can find the time. I'm happy to send the Pacific Theatre ones I've recently found If you want to put the current finds together on your own list.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Schlagermeister » 17 Oct 2011 19:16

I just found a couple more that are not mentioned here:

Hit the Beach! A Marine on Saipan, by Gary Schreckengost
http://www.amazon.com/Hit-Beach-Marine- ... 044&sr=1-1

Five Feet to the Gates of Hell, by Cpl. Mark Peterik, but actually written by Elimile Luebke.
http://www.amazon.com/FIVE-FEET-GATES-H ... =pd_sim_b2

They both look interesting, but there is little to no information about them specifically. I wonder why the second one is written by someone else--perhaps the Cpl was not physically able to write or someone just did the writing for him while he dictated? Curious--I wish more info was available for them. Could be either 2nd or 4th MarDiv.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 18 Oct 2011 00:30

The first one is a novel, not a memoir - I've been caught out before on those. The second is interesting, I imagine the author has put the veterans thoughts together - often it's explained on the dustcover but we don't have that yet. Usually both names appear as authors though? It's then hard to know if the original story has been embellished by the co-author? I personally don't mind as long as the story gets printed - and I generally trust that truth prevails. When professional co-authors come in it often contributes to a higher quality read too, so a bonus overall I think.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Bart150 » 19 Oct 2011 21:23

Larso, thank you, thank you.
A (very much older) first cousin of mine was killed at Peleliu. Using the results of your diligent research I’ve easily been able to make my own list of 25 memoirs by Marines who fought in the same campaigns as he did, and I’ve sent it to the many people now living who are his relatives. Thank you. Bart.

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 20 Oct 2011 10:51

You are very welcome!

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Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 22 Oct 2011 11:07

Steel Helmet and Mortarboard by Francis H. Heller

Subtitled: An Academic in Uncle Sam’s Army

University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 2009. Hardcover, 190 pages.

Francis Heller was a young Austrian who was forced to flee the Nazi takeover of his country. He went to America and studied law but when the war came to the United States he stepped forward to fight for his adopted land. He did this with the 24th Infantry Division in New Guinea and the Philippines.

Apart from being a very strong student, Heller had served as an Officer cadet in the Austrian artillery and appropriately, it was this arm that he ended up in the American army. Commendably he refused placement in non-combat units (based on his astonishing IQ level), insisting that he serve in a front line capacity. Even so, his assignment to divisional artillery HQ didn’t promise much in the way of a rollicking combat story. It was a major surprise then to see him go from using trigonometry at his HQ desk to a bayonet duel to the death on a narrow New Guinea track! There followed a dramatic landing under fire on Leyte and intense artillery observation duties later in that campaign. So while the combat phase concludes about page 85, Heller fits in some incredible stories. Another of these is the posting of an insane commanding officer (a favourite of MacArthur) to his unit. It just boggles the mind that such a thing could happen! Following the war he continues in the Reserve and again, there are some great stories about preparing a unit for war (Korea) and re-invigorating another that was failing.

After a slightly stolid beginning (lots of commas and brackets, many names) this story blossomed into a truly remarkable read. Heller shows the benefit of an extensive education. He has a lot to say and he says it is a very fluent manner. Aside from WW2 he has a lot of insightful things to say about the Japanese during the Occupation, and the US army across several decades. The connections that can come from army service are amazing. There is also very interesting material on Pre-war Austria and frankly, much else. His perspective as a new American and an academic make this memoir stand out in many ways. Yes, it is a touch indulgent but Heller is entitled to that. I am just grateful that he has published his amazing story.
4 stars

Larso
Member
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Joined: 27 Apr 2003 02:18
Location: Brisbane, Australia

Re: Pacific War Memoirs

Post by Larso » 26 Nov 2011 12:52

Memoirs of an Angel by Colonel Edward H. Lahti

Self published, 1994. Paperback (larger format), 196 pages.

Edward H. Lahti was commander of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division for much of its time in the Pacific theatre of operations in World War 2. He served in New Guinea, and on Leyte and Luzon and participated in the occupation of the Japan.

Lahti, born of Finnish immigrants, was a career soldier. Through hard work he managed to obtain one of the very few positions open to ordinary soldiers to attend West Point. He has some interesting things to say about his time there and the way the Point operates – not all of which he found logical. He excelled in sports and indeed, spent a lot of his army career participating at high levels. Following graduation he served with several regular army regiments but managed to gain acceptance into the airborne at an early stage of its development. As the force was expanded he was given command of the raising 3rd battalion of the 511th and undertook a very rigorous selection process in regard to filling its complement. He and his unit arrived in New Guinea in May 1944 and began adapting to the tropics.

Combat for the 511th first came on Leyte. They landed by ship rather than as paratroopers and took their place in the line, the same as the infantry divisions. Their first combat drop was on Luzon when they took the Tagaytay Ridge, 32 miles from Manila. Resistance was light here but the combat intensified around the capital and latter in the mountains of southern and northern Luzon. The author is promoted to command the whole regiment in February, 1945. He then directs a series of operations, including the Los Banos airborne raid to release POWs follow. The World War 2 phase concludes at the half way point of the book. The remainder details occupation duty and the author’s considerable post-war service.
Unlike in the ETO, memoirs by Pacific paratroopers are very rare! Having read almost 20 of the former, I was very intrigued by what I might find here. Essentially, due to the fact it is written at the command level, it is quite different in tone. Lahti writes a lot about his decision making but of course, generally wasn’t in the front line. Even when he is, he is sparse with the specifics. His account of what he did to earn his second Silver Star covers only a few lines. So this is not a cut and thrust account of combat by any means, though Lahti includes some accounts by members of his unit detailing the combat they experienced carrying out his orders. There are lots of maps and other documents, so it does tell the history but this memoir is not a Pacific ‘Band of Brothers’, or its offshoots (Winters, Malarky etc).

The strength of this book is the story of a determined young man making good in America through hard work and determination. It also reveals the sort of life that young officers lead in the regular army of the time. On my list it rates just 2 stars for the combat but in the broader sense, 3 stars.

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