I was given this book by a veteran named Robert Brutinel who had served in the Marine paratroops. He joined in 1942 and arrived on Guadalcanal after the climactic fighting. However, he served on Vella La Vella and Choiseul and then fought in the 5th Division and was wounded on Iwo. When he handed me the book he said, "If you want to know what it was like, this is it." He thought the humor of the book and the camaraderie of the Marines was exactly like what he experienced. So I read the book. To this day, it is my all-time favorite Pacific theater book. And it's right up there, in my opinion, with the Forgotten Soldier on the "all-time best WWII book" shelf (with a handful of others.)
I couldn't help but read some of the critical reviews. I completely disagreed with them. Often they accused the author, Robert Leckie, of having a great resentment toward leadership and authority. I did not find that the case at all. In fact, Leckie often praised officers and had great respect for the good ones. What he couldn't stand, and it shows in his book, is unfair use of power in leadership positions -- also called theft. In almost every instance, be it the cigars LT Ivy-League stole, or the Japanese footlocker stolen by LT Big Picture, Leckie had every right to be angry and I wonder if any of the people who criticized him would have acted any differently.
Another criticized Leckie for drinking and womanizing when he was not in combat. Apparently that reader did not realize that Leckie (just like the thousands of other Marines who took liberty Down Under) had been on Guadalcanal for 5 months, with nothing but death staring him in the face and not a single woman to lay eyes on, and was now on liberty in the very country he had helped save from invasion, knowing he would be going back into combat soon. Leckie was no different than many of the other Marines, just more honest about it. I laughed at the part when a Marine was coming back from a rendezvous with a young Australian girl and commented to Leckie that the Australian girls had no morals. Leckie's comment to that hypocrisy made me laugh.
Helmet for my pillow is the type of book you simply can't put down. And you will be reading it and people in the other room will ask you "What's so funny?" because you often laugh out-loud at the wonderfully entertaining style Leckie uses. But at other times you will be riveted and saddened by the loss of great heroes like LT Racehorse and many others. (May they rest in peace.)
Robert Leckie was truly a gifted writer and it's no wonder he made his career writing for newspapers and then writing best sellers. Fantastic book.
- Paperback: 250 pages
- Publisher: Independently published
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1977052304
- ISBN-13: 978-1977052308
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.6 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Customer reviews: 1,766 customer ratings