Helmet for My Pillow:

From Parris Island to the Pacific

by Robert Leckie

There are times I ask myself how I’ve never read a writer before this age and Robert Leckie is high on that list. Two amateur historians have been putting on a history lectures at our library the last three winters. I learned about Leckie from them and tagged this book from their bibliography to read. What a great choice. I know have all his books in my GoodReads, want to read list!

You never know when you get a memoir if it’s going to be a simple telling of a personal narrative or a rich, complex story. This is definitely in the second category and a compelling read.

Mr. Leckie is a charismatic writer. I highlighted so many eloquent and evocative passages in the book that if put them in here, you’d be reading a long time.

Notable quotes:

“Compassion is a specialty; it is a hidden talent.”

You know how you watch movies with the fellows climbing up and down the sides of the boats on the rope grid system? This put that action into perspective for me: “Three feet above the rolling Higgins Boats the cargo nets came to an end. One had to jump, weighted with fifty or more pounds of equipment. No time for indecision, for others on the nets above were all but treading your fingers. So there it was—jump—hoping that the Higgins Boat would not roll away and leave only the blue sea to land in. But we made it safely.”

Of the dark Pacific jungle nights, “… know now why men light fires.”

“Courage was a commonplace.” Isn’t that reassuring for all the heroes whose stories we never hear about?

“It is unfortunate that my memory is so miserably unproductive here; I wish I could recall more of that trial.”

 

Reading this book helped me understand HBO’s The Pacific in ways I didn’t comprehend the first time through. Well done, Mr. Leckie, well done.