Helmet for My Pillow

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Ferdinand Foch

Staff Sergeant
Hey, I just finished Helmet for My Pillow, by Robert Leckie. Don't know if anyone else has. That was a great read. It got a little confusing about his time on Cape Glouscester, but other than that I couldn't put it down. It was sad though, to found out that a lot of the regular Marines that Leckie mentioned in his time from Guadalcanal onward where killed at Peleliu. I cannot imagine what it would have been like assaulting that island. Anybody else have the same reaction?
Ironically, the only Leckie that I've read is From Sea to Shining Sea: From the War of 1812 to the Mexican American War, The Saga of America's Expansion. Though I've meant to read 10-11 other titles, I've never gotten around to it....

Sigh....So many books, so little time!
I've read it; unfortunately, it was so long ago that some of the details have escaped my memory. *sigh* Okay. Most of the details have fallen through the gaping Swiss-cheesiness of my braincell. Still...I remember distinctly that I did enjoy reading the book, did get kinda emotional seeing well-known friends and comrades fall in battle (am I the only one who has this running mental image while reading a book? The better the book, the more immersed in the visuals I get....I LOVE finding an author who can get me totally lost inside the pages!), and ended up doing some massive Google and Amazon searching for titles on Pacific island battles that, up until that point, I had never heard of before. Yep. Its got an honored spot on my bookshelves. And will be picked up and read again.
I would strongly reccomend another book he wrote in the early sixties I believe called Strong Men Armed. It is a narrative history of every Marine assault in the Pacific against the Japanese in WW II. Obviously because of his own experiences he really gives you a good idea of the brutality of the battles and the heroism exhibited in their march across the Pacific.
Robert Leckie is an excellent writer. Have read "Strong Men Armed" and "Okinawa, The Last Battle of World War II".

He's written something like 40 books.

I actually have Strong Men Armed (only on page fifty though, but it's still pretty intriguing), and his book on the civil war, None Died in Vain. Now that I know who Leckie was, I was surprised on how many of his books were still being sold.
This book came out in '57 and I discovered it as an early teen in the mid-60s. It was one of the first "soldiers accounts" that I had read, every thing else had been Officer's Tales. His stories really brought home the reality of war to me. Also, his editor allowed some risque material for that time!

It's been years since I read the book, but I too can form mental pictures of him and a buddy crawling along the floor stealing a case of beer during Basic. The other picture that springs to mind is the "Salute" the soldiers gave to the Australians girls when the Marines headed back into action. Funny what young minds remember from books, alcohol and sex, imagine that. :)

I had an Uncle (well, father's cousin) who was one of the guys who went through Cape Glouster, Bouganville, ect only to die on Peliliu. He was 21 (I think) and had been out there for a year an a half before his death, so he was no rookie. Made it to the second day and then disappeared. Nobody knew what really happened to him (I asked a guy who was in his squad about 12 years ago and he said he remembered talking to him on the evening of the second day but his memory was sketchy). Family lore has it (and they got this from other guys who were with him) that he went out on patrol with 5 other guys and never came back. Orders were to come back the same way he went out and everybody knew the Japanese would be waiting. They found one of the guys from the patrol some time later but nobody knew which of the guys he was.

After the war, his remains were sent home.At least what was claimed to be his remains. Nobody knows if there were any remains in the casket or just some sand bags. Nobody checked and I think, but am not sure, that the casket was sealed. Another Uncle was at the funeral and told me that the guys who showed up at the funeral that were from his unit were all screwed up. Missing fingers, arms and legs or in wheel chair/crutches. They'd really taken a pounding. And those were the ones that survived as the same bunch that went through Peliliu later went to Okinawa.

He was an demolitions guy and was attached to Company K. The same Company K that attacked The Point. I read a book written by the CO of that Company about ten years back and the author had named him as one of the guys in the unit and mentions him in the fighting. I think the name of the book was "A Blood Stained Tide".
Thanks for that bit of family history, Tim, it helps to bring the war down to a more personal level. :salute: My respects to your father's cousin, and all of his squad-mates.

Did a search on Amazon for that book, it didn't bring up anything. I'd be interested in finding out the title or author's name, if you can remember (or scrounge them up somewhere).
:salute: Here's to your father's cousin, timshatz.
That was one thing that shocked me too. When I finished reading the book, I realized that a lot of the regulars that Leckie knew of ended up either become KIA or WIA on Peleliu. Even Leckie didn't get out unscathed. I knew that Guadalcanal and Gloucester were bad, but hearing what happened on Peleliu was far worse. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would have been like to have been there, even though I'm almost done reading Sledge's account of Peleliu from "With the Old Breed."
Got the name of the book wrong. "A blood dimmed tide" or something similar was about the Bulge. The book about Peliliu is called "The coral comes high".

Here is a link:

Amazon.com: Coral Comes High (9780451014405): George P. Hunt: Books

The thing about Peliliu and Okinawa is the intensity of the fighting increasing due to the number of troops involved and the increased experience of both sides making it that much more lethal. Both Japan and the US knew how to fight the other by the time this part of the war came. There were few unknowns.

But the numbers at Peliliu were relatively small. Only 10,000 Japanese and two divisions of Army/USMC. By the time Okinawa came around, you were looking at 110,000 Japanese and 183,000 US troops. The casualties went up, the deaths went up and, not often noticed but very significant, the number of non-combat casualties skyrocketed. There were as many battle fatigue casualties (US) as there were wounded during this battle. Also, it was the first battle where significant numbers of Japanese soliders actually surrendered.

To me it shows the lethality of the combat had reached a point where soliders on the ground, on both sides, increasingly saw no chance for survival or understood the definition of success. Winning meant being alive after the battle was over, not so much that the enemy was beaten. The personal goals of the soliders and the Objective of the Nation were diverging.
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Thank you, Tim! They're both added to my wishlist....I remember the cover of "The Coral Comes High", and the name Gerald Astor, so I know I've looked at both books before (or others by Astor...he wrote a lot, IIRC).

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