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Helmet for My Pillow : From Parris Island to the Pacific,9780553593310

Helmet for My Pillow : From Parris Island to the Pacific

by
ISBN13:

9780553593310

ISBN10:
0553593315
Format:
Trade Paper
Pub. Date:
2/2/2010
Publisher(s):
Bantam
List Price: $16.00

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Summary

Here is one of the most riveting first-person accounts ever to come out of World War II. Robert Leckie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In Helmet for My Pillow we follow his odyssey, from basic training on Parris Island, South Carolina, all the way to the raging battles in the Pacific, where some of the war's fiercest fighting took place. Recounting his service with the 1st Marine Division and the brutal action on Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu, Leckie spares no detail of the horrors and sacrifices of war, painting an unvarnished portrait of how real warriors are made, fight, and often die in the defense of their country. From the live-for-today rowdiness of marines on leave to the terrors of jungle warfare against an enemy determined to fight to the last man, Leckie describes what war is really like when victory can only be measured inch by bloody inch. Woven throughout are Leckie's hard-won, eloquent, and thoroughly unsentimental meditations on the meaning of war and why we fight. Unparalleled in its immediacy and accuracy, Helmet for My Pillow will leave no reader untouched. This is a book that brings you as close to the mud, the blood, and the experience of war as it is safe to come. Now producers Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman, the men behind Band of Brothers, have adapted material from Helmet for My Pillow for HBO's epic miniseries The Pacific, which will thrill and edify a whole new generation.

Author Biography

Robert Leckie was the author of more than thirty works of military history as well as Marines, a collection of short stories, and Lord, What a Family!, a memoir. Raised in Rutherford, New Jersey, he started writing professionally at age sixteen, covering sports for The Bergen Evening Record of Hackensack. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor, going on to serve as a machine gunner and as an intelligence scout and participating in all 1st Marine Division campaigns except  Okinawa.  Leckie was awarded five battle stars, the Naval Commendation Medal with Combat V, and the Purple Heart.  Helmet for My Pillow (Random House, 1957) was his first book; it received the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association award upon publication.

Excerpts

Chapter One


Boot


A cutting wind slanted up Church Street in the cheerless dawn of January 5, 1942. That day I departed for the United States Marines.

The war with Japan was not yet four weeks old, Wake Island had fallen. Pearl Harbor was a real tragedy, a burning bitter humiliation. Hastily composed war songs were on the lips of everyone, their heavy patriotism failing to compensate for what they lacked in tune and spirit. Hysteria seemed to crouch behind all eyes.

But none of this meant much to me. I was aware of my father beside me, bending into the wind with me. I could feel the wound in my lower regions, still fresh, still sore. The sutures had been removed a few days earlier.

I had sought to enlist the day after Pearl Harbor, but the Marines had insisted that I be circumcised. It cost me a hundred dollars, although I am not sure to this day whether I paid the doctor or not. But I am certain that few young men went off to war in that fateful time so marked.

We had come across the Jersey meadows, riding the Erie commuter line, and then on the ferry over the Hudson River to downtown New York. Breakfast at home had been subdued. My mother was up and about; she did not cry. It was not a heart-rending leave-taking, nor was it brave, resolute—any of those words that fail to describe the thing.

It was like so much else in this war that was to produce unbounded heroism, yet not a single stirring song: it was resigned. She followed me to the door with sad eyes and said, “God keep you.”

It had been a silent trip across the meadows and it was a wordless good-by in front of the bronze revolving doors at Ninety, Church Street. My father embraced me quickly, and just as quickly averted his face and left. The Irish doorman measured me and smiled.

I went inside and joined the United States Marines.

The captain who swore us in reduced the ceremony to a jumble. We all held up our hands. We put them down when he lowered his. That way we guessed we were marines.

The master gunnery sergeant who became our momentary shepherd made the fact plainer to us. Those rich mellow blasphemous oaths that were to become so familiar to me flowed from his lips with the consummate ease of one who had spent a lifetime in vituperation. I would meet his masters later. Presently, as he herded us across the river to Hoboken and a waiting train, he seemed to be beyond comparison. But he was gentle and kind enough when he said good-by to the thirty or forty of us who boarded the train.

He stood at the head of our railroad car—a man of middle age, slender, and of a grace that was on the verge of being ruined by a pot belly. He wore the Marine dress blues. Over this was the regulation tight-fitting overcoat of forest green. Green and blue has always seemed to me an odd combination of colors, and it seemed especially so then; the gaudy dark and light blue of the Marine dress sheathed in sedate and soothing green.

“Where you are going it will not be easy,” the gunnery sergeant said. “When you get to Parris Island, you’ll find things plenty different from civilian life. You won’t like it! You’ll think they’re overdoing things. You’ll think they’re stupid! You’ll think they’re the cruelest, rottenest bunch of men you ever ran into! I’m going to tell you one thing. You’ll be wrong! If you want to save yourself plenty of heartache you’ll listen to me right now: you’ll do everything they tell you and you’ll keep your big mouths shut!”

He could not help grinning at the end. No group of men ever had a saner counselor, and he knew it; but he could not help grinning. He knew we would ignore his every word.

“Okay, Sarge,” somebody yelled. “Thanks, Sarge.”

He turned and left us.

We called him “Sarge.

Excerpted from Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific--A Young Marine's Stirring Account of Combat in World War II by Robert Leckie
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


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