FFB: Helmet for My Pillow

this is the 90th in my series of seldom read or forgotten books

Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie © 1957, this edition: Bantam 2010 trade paperback, non-fiction, WWII autobiographical

A war “classic” I’d not read. This one takes Leckie from his induction in the Marines and training through his time fighting in the Pacific.

As a result of a July 3, 2012 post by James Reasoner on his blog Rough Edges. , I decided to read this. James has been posting older war films for the “forgotten films” blog meme hosted by Todd Mason. A couple of James’s posts have mentioned the books on which they were based, and I decided to seek them out. this being the first of the two I got that I’ve read.

When I was in college, lo those many years ago, I did read several WWII but most of what I read were overview histories of both the European and Pacific Theaters. I got this copy for cheap on the net. It’s a first printing, though in only fair condition. Who cares? I bought it to read, not put in a case to awe visitors.

This book is subtitled From Parris Island to the Pacific but it in fact covers a larger portion of the author’s life, through the war and into, just barely, his years with the Associated Press. It begins with a young Leckie signing up for the Marines just days after Pearl Harbor, his experiences in boot camp, then advanced training to be a machine gunner. Leckie was among the first wave of Marines to land on Guadalcanal, and it was tough fighting from the landing all the way into the interior.

The book follows the author’s throughout his time on Guadalcanal, through a furlough in Australia, and back into the war on New Brittan, which was by far the ugliest period of his war experience. Leckie pulls no punches in his descriptions of his own and other’s problems, wounds, sicknesses and desire just to be out of the war. The fighting for and taking of the Pacific island groups was some of the most unpleasant (disease, lack of supplies) and bloodiest of the war. This book takes us through Leckie’s share of it.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinaise

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Friday Forgotten Book, Non-fiction, Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to FFB: Helmet for My Pillow

  1. The most memorable WWII book I’ve read is THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer. Many people like Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22 ironic view of the war, but Mailer’s book is the one that will stay with you.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Some more memorable WWII non fiction:

    Cornelius Ryan, A BRIDGE TOO FAR
    Studs Terkel, THE GOOD WAR: AN ORAL HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II
    David Brinkley, WASHINGTON GOES TO WAR
    Stephen Ambrose, BAND OF BROTHERS

  3. John says:

    I’ve only read two war books that I recall liking. Oddly, both are about WWI and both are novels. The classic All Quiet on the Western Front and Midnight Clear by William Wharton. The second is a contemporary novel from the 1980s (I think) and is based on the factual temporary truce in the war on Christmas Day. Two days later the fighting started up again. Wharton’s novel is a poignant elegy to those lost soldiers.

  4. I used to read a lot of military books. Been a while since I’ve been on that kick, although I have a few around here I’d like to get to.

  5. Richard says:

    George, Jeff, John – all good picks. I’ve read about half of them, though not the Terkel or Brinkley. I read NAKED AND DEAD and CATCH-22 a long time ago. I remember liking CATCH the best of those two.

  6. Todd Mason says:

    Well, CATCH *is* better, from what I’ve read of NAKED. And, fwiw, it’s Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V…that “forgotten” on the books always bothered me.

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