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

UPDATE TIME: 2017-10-17 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 693 user ratings

"At first I thought it was all about brawling, drinking, chasing skirts, but the author, whose own experience he writes about, is not all boor. He sometimes writes paragraphs that I deliberately mark down to share with friends. [This book, combined with "With the Old Breed," will be made into an HBO series called The Pacific, like Band of Brothers, but about the Marines' fight against the Japanese.] He's from New Jersey, trained at Parris Island, entrained to San Diego, sailed in a former African slaver (supposedly) to Guadalcanal, then spent three months fighting the Japanese with the 1st Marine Division as a 30 cal gunner's aide. After getting attacked by Japanese infantry, bombed by their planes and shelled by their ships, the Japanese give up the island. They're shipped to Melbourne, where he gets into loads of trouble (He earns a reputation as a brig rat, a person always in the brig for misbehaving, going AWOL etc) and has lots of fun with food, booze and broads. He becomes a scout, and fights on Gloucester Island, and finally on Peleliu. There are some good paragraphs on God and men as soldiers. He tends to write more on the typical days of a soldier rather on graphic depictions of combat, but I enjoyed it still." said.

"Only about two years ago I would've never thought I would read this book. It wouldn't even have appeared on my radar of possible reads. But taking a class on War & Film I inevitably watched Steven Spielberg's The Pacific, the follow-up to Band of Brothers, telling not the story of the fight against the Germans, but that against the Japanese.

Based on Robert Leckie and Eugene B Sledge's memoirs, with both taking central roles in the series, I felt obliged to go back to the source material and read both these books, which I did almost back to back.

This is no guts and glory re-telling of the war. Leckie takes the readers from training camp to the small islands of the Pacific, from the horrors of combat, illness, knee-deep mud and near-mental disintegration to the "joys" of boozed-up leave in Melbourne. Camaraderie and the friendship between soldiers that have been to hell and back are told without making this a story about heroes and villains, the good versus evil fight of protecting upright citizens from the bad Japs.

It is unsurprising that Leckie was a journalist. He has a keen eye, observing and analytical. I am honestly happy that I strayed onto unfamiliar territory during my final year of college with a class on war films, a genre that has since fascinated me and will probably stay with me for a long time yet to come. Reading this book was only one of many ways in which this experience made me broaden my horizon. And for anyone who watched The Pacific and wonders whether it is worth reading the books - believe me, it is!
" said.

"A solid memoir. Leckie describes his experience from the time he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps just after Pearl Harbor to the end of the war. During that time he fought in the battles of Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu, in the last of which he was badly enough wounded that he spent the rest of the war in a hospital.

Writing in a flamboyant style, Leckie is unsparing of himself and others in his account; he fought well, but he was a disciplinary problem and had real trouble dealing with authority. Having seen both sides as a former junior Marine and a former officer, my take is that he did have run-ins with some bad leaders, but he generalized that too much - no other account I've read carries near the bitterness toward officers and senior NCOs in general, and based on those accounts and my experiences I can't believe he didn't have a lot more good leaders than he acknowledges.

The problems of military caste and privilege and abuse of rank he portrays exist, but not to the extent he portrays. If they did, Marines and soldiers wouldn't follow their leaders into life-and-death situations or mourn them the way, for example, Eugene Sledge and R.V. Burgin relate in their own memoirs of service as Marines in the same war and sometimes the same battles.

So as a leader, I kept finding myself annoyed at Leckie's attitude, but that didn't make me want to stop reading. If he'd been in my unit, I suspect I'd have been writing him up both for medals and on disciplinary charges at different times.
" said.

"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.

"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.

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