Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-05-15 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 693 user ratings

"This is very packed with information about a solders life besides fighting. I defiantly learned a lot from this book and I consider it much different from other war books. There was some great thing about it and also some thing I didn’t like.

This book was about a solders life at war. The main charters name war names is lucky and this stories is his adventures in the book. He meets a lot of friends and gets in a lot of trouble with the MP all the time. I was thinking of more of a war combat and attack book and I was surprised that it was really about how everyday life was for a solder.

It was surprising to me how little fighting all of the people who attack. Also from this book I learne¬¬d that all the people who did ended fighting a lot, wound up being killed. This seemed freaky to me by how many people that he made friends with died. In the book the most exciting part I felt was the first battle they fought in the early stages of pushing near the river. It made me not want to stop reading. I was sad to find out that as the book went on, less and less action took place and I felt like what the author was telling lies because the writing style changed. I felt this because his tone in righting changed compared to his first fighting seen to the last one. The last one had less detail and some of the stuff be was doing didn’t seem human.

Other wise this book was a fun easy book to read. I recommend this to all readers over the age of 21. I feel that having been able to drink alcohol will make u feel closer to this main character. I hope u enjoyed my review.
" said.

"My interest in the Pacific theater of World War II was heightened after the premier of HBO's miniseries "The Pacific." This book makes up a good portion of that series as Robert Leckie, the author of this work, is one of the three main characters of that series. Having read his war memoir now, I have to say it's pretty good, but can be a little wordy. Unblike other war narratives, Mr. Leckie doesn't avoid the boring or unflattering times he spent in the Marine Corps. Much of the narrative involves his downtime in Melbourne after the battle of Guadalcanal and on the islands of Banika and Pavuvu, where he spent time battling enuresis in a psych ward. It can be boring, but his pride in these times, along with his time spent in the brig for various infractions, is somewhat endearing. The real problem I had was with overly flashy narrative style. At times, if feels too poetic and, considering whether he is talking about downtime or brig time, it feels unwarranted. But when the narrative gets to a battle, whether at Guadalcanal or in patrols on New Britain, the poetic use of words not only feels justified, but necessary, exciting, thrilling, and suspensefull all at once. The last 15-20 pages covering his time on Peleliu is some of the best out of the entire work. It isn't With the Old Breed At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. SledgeWith the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, but it is still worthy of the time of any WWII buff." said.

"This book combines the raw grittiness of war as experienced up close and personal with the introspection of a man who doesn't simply experience the war, but tries to understand it.

This book definitely changed my understanding of WWII. I no longer believe that the US was patriotically united as one, moving in joyous lockstep towards victory. This is partially because Leckie returns repeatedly to the theme that the war inspired no songs from Americans. The songs Leckie and his comrades sang were borrowed from either WWI or from the Allies.

Additionally, I understand better why men in combat fight for their comrades - not to defeat the enemy or serve their country. The truth dawns on Leckie on Guadalcanal - he is expendable. A man who knows he is expendable loses his spirit for the fight, and latches on to the support of his comrades - or goes mad.

Leckie shares his full military experience - including that of the tyranny of military officers who have near-total control of a man. In the words of one officer, Leckie was "too smart." He learned the ways that a man could preserve his independence and fight back against the tyranny. Unfortunately, there are only small victories in such a fight; Leckie was a known "brig rat."

Finally, Leckie shares a very deep perspective on the atomic bomb. He was in a unique situation to appreciate what the "mushroom cloud" meant for him as a marine who might be called on to fight more, and as someone who had survived bombings and bombardment.

I believe Robert Leckie was preserved by God so that we could know the truth about WWII. This book will satisfy both the boy or young man who wishes to learn about real combat, along with the more mature reader who demands deeper truth artistically communicated.
" said.

"Robert Leckie wrote this book over 40 years ago. I was inspired to read it after watching the fine HBO series "The Pacific."

I have read a lot of military history over the years. Much of this genre addresses individual battles, tactics, political and military strategies, and the broad brush roles of leaders such as generals and leaders of countries, but very, very few of them give firsthand accounts of what it meant to be in the marines, in the infantry, during those dark days of land engagements in the Pacific in WWII.

Leckie, already a newspaperman when he volunteered for the marines, provides a personal account that is neither self-promoting nor apologetic. He describes the life of a new recruit at Parris Island, post-boot camp training, and the gritty realities of ground war in the Pacific.

He and his comrades fought in the 1st Marine Division during the Battles for Guadalcanal New Britain, and then Peleliu. They fought an enemy unlike any that US forces had faced before, and they fought under conditions unlike any faced before. The fighting was grim, including deadly nighttime hand-to-hand encounters, and their foe typically preferred death to surrender.

This book provides insight into the mind and will of US Marines, as well as the cost of war - physically, emotionally, mentally. It is important to remember that for the most part, these were not professional soldiers, they were American citizen-soldiers.

My admiration soared as I read this account of the men who fought and endured unimaginable conditions.

I appreciated reading not only about the battles, but about the 1st Marine Division's R&R in Australia where they were received as the troops who saved Australia by giving the Japanese forces their first land defeats.

I could go on and on, but I want to close with one quote from the book. It comes near the end, when Leckie is back in the states. It goes like this: "A woman made heavy with the girth of affluence said to me: "What did you get out of it? What were you fighting for?" (A little while later he states) "Now I know. For myself, a memory, a strength of ordeal sustained: for my son, a priceless heritage; for my country sacrifice."

This is a book well worth reading. I recommend it highly.

5 stars
" said.

"I first learned of this book when I read that it was being used as one of the sources for a new miniseries about the Pacific theater in the Second World War. Having enjoyed the other source material being used, E. B. Sledge’s superb memoir, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, I decided to track down a copy of Leckie’s account and read it for myself. Because of this, I found myself comparing the two works as I read it, which influenced my overall opinion of the book.

In many ways, the experiences of the two men were similar. Both were civilians prior to the Second World War; Leckie enlisted in the Marines a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His account of basic training feels incredibly authentic, in part because of his attention to details. Leckie captures much of the mundane minutiae of learning how to be a Marine, from the bureaucratic experience of inoculation to the quest for a good time on leave. This sense of authenticity continues as he describes his deployment to Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division and his engagement with the war there. These experiences form the best part of the book, as his initial encounter with life as a Marine in both training and war reflect his interest in the novelty of it all.

From Guadalcanal, Leckie’s unit was returned to Australia for rest and refitting. This transformation into what he calls a “lotus-eater” also bears a real sense of verisimilitude, as unlike many memoirs of war he does not gloss over the search for release that often characterized breaks from the battles. It is here, though, that his account flags a little, and his return to combat in New Britain as part of Operation Cartwheel was perhaps the least interesting part of the book. The book improves with his subsequent experiences in the hospital in Banika and his final, abbreviated deployment to Peleliu, which ended with his injury and return to the States for the duration of the war.

Reading this book, it is easy to see why it stands out as an account of the Second World War. Leckie’s prose brings alive both the mundane routines of service and the violence of combat. It is when he is between the two that the book suffers, as his efforts at evocative prose about his surroundings in the jungle suffer from being a little overwrought, particularly in comparison to Sledge’s plainer, more straightforward descriptions. Yet both need to be read for a fascinating portrait of what the war was like for the “new boots” who gave up their lives as civilians to fight in the humid jungles and barren islands of the Pacific.
" said.

"HBO's epic series "The Pacific" took it's inspiration from the lives of three men, John Basilone, Eugene Sledge and Bob Leckie. Basilone died in action on Iwo Jima but Sledge and Leckie both survived the war to record their experiences on paper and it's interesting to compare Sledge's "With the Old Breed" with this, Leckie's memoir. The former is very rough round the edges, naive and quite intimate but is considered by some to be the better of the two. By contrast, Helmet has clearly been written by a more accomplished writer (Leckie was an experienced journalist before he ever took up arms). It is a literary account, written in strong prose, which makes it easier on the eye, even if it is rather pretentious and even pompous in places.

While the two biographies differ quite considerably in style, there are very important similarities. They address the same period of the same campaign and many of the same battles. The structure is similar, moving from conscription to training to war, and the authors shared many of the same features; they both served as private soldiers in the Marine Corps, saw little of the war beyond the confines of their foxholes, were not particularly heavily decorated (Sledge avoided even a Purple Heart) and even came from similar, well educated middle class backgrounds. This blend of similarities and differences means that it is instructive and interesting (indeed positively advisable) to read both accounts - an observation that cannot have escaped the producers of the TV series.

I've noted before that the Pacific war was one like no other, an admixture of the worst aspects of so many campaigns of the modern age. The profligate and unthinking waste of human life of Gallipoli, the appalling conditions of the Somme, the tropical hell of the VietNam war, the cultural dislocation of the recent wars in Afghanistan and the sheer dehumanising hatred for the enemy from Stalingrad. It is a testament that any man managed to survive Guadalcanal, Pelelieu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and still be capable of stringing together enough sentences to make a halfway decent book. Yet Leckie achieved just that (as did Sledge) and he conveys the horrors of a foul war fought with no regard for the humanity of the enemy (by either side) well.

For my money, Leckie's bio is the better of the two, if only by a nose. His description of barracks life in the months leading up to his active service deployment provide a good balance and would have been appreciated by Kipling. However, his descriptions of combat, while comprehensive, clear and honest suffer somewhat from that pretentious style, rendering the story curiously sterile, unlike Sledge's unpolished but very engaging account. Nevertheless, Helmet remains an eloquent and profoundly important story, a memorial to the privations suffered by all the men who served in the Pacific Theatre.
" said.

"Helmet for My Pillow is distinguished by its' humor. Like Sam Watkins, Leckie has an eye for the goofy and the sardonic. Leckie was a good soldier, but he was not made for a life of discipline. He was not a warrior like Junger or Ninh. He was a survivor.

The idea that "war is hell" is less strong here. Oh, it has moments of horror and cruelty and bloodthirsty excitement, but not with the same intensity. For that reason it is an easier read, but also unusual. Leckie is at his best describing the quirks of a given situation: his account of the brig, Melbourne, and P-38 is better than his account of battle. Perhaps the fighting was too hard to recall so soon after the fighting had stopped?
" said.

"This book is actually more memoir than a history. Mr. Leckie has written some of my favorite histories, especially military history. He served during WWII.

From his entry into the service through each deployment...and leave you get the stories of his life. The book doesn't emphasize military actions (though they are described) but on his day to day life. Living and waiting on Guadalcanal and later deployments along with "more scintillating activities" between deployments.

This is a good insight into the background of an American Marine and a historical writer.

" said.

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