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Helmet for My Pillow

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  9,903 Ratings  ·  502 Reviews
Now the inspiration behind the HBO series THE PACIFIC

Here is one of the most riveting first-person accounts to ever come out of the Second World War. Robert Leckie was 21 when he enlisted in the US Marine Corps in January 1942. In Helmet for My Pillow we follow his journey, from boot camp on Parris Island, South Carolina, all the way to the raging battles in the Pacific, w
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by iBooks (first published 1957)
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(showing 1-30)
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Rob Maynard
Jul 14, 2011 Rob Maynard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Pacific Theatre in World War II is not as well known to armchair historians for a number of reasons, among them the much larger collection of works about the war in Europe. Toss in the non-linear aspect of campaigns, which hopped from obscure island to island. On top of that, the brutality of the fighting and the racial/racist dynamic of fighting the Japanese versus Germans who looked just like Uncle Joe make the Pacific War a dark, dark topic.

I came across Leckie's book by virtue of watchin
May 03, 2012 Cee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helmet for my Pillow is quite unlike other biographical accounts of war that I have read. It does not delve into the technical nor does it have the staccato-like narration I usually relate with history, specially war. In using nicknames instead of military rankings the author reminds readers that they who fought bravely were just ordinary men. By chronicling their escapades on the islands and in Australia he showed that their needs did not differ from other men who are not at war.

Robert Leckie w
Jun 05, 2013 Frank rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-2
After reading Eugene Sledge's book on his experiences in WWII, I finally picked up Robert Leckie's book as well, these two were a majority of the basis used for the Pacific series that was on HBO several years go.
I have read several of Leckie's other military histories and already enjoyed his writing.
Here, Leckie was writing a first person narrative that truly portrayed the dogie dog days being a Marine in the jungles of the Pacific, fighting, clawing and, surviving each day. His narrative and
Jul 30, 2014 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you watched all ten episodes of HBO’s 2010 special, “The Pacific,” you’re most likely already aware that Robert Leckie’s journal, “Helmet for my Pillow” was one of three soldier memoirs Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and the other producers used to create that epic miniseries. Chuck Tatum’s “Red Blood, Black Sand” and Eugene Sledge’s “With the Old Breed,” were the other two, both of which I’ve personally read and reviewed here previously.

If you saw “The Pacific,” you also know that Leckie is pla
Jul 21, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, military
Wish I'd read this earlier - many, many years ago. It's a wonderful book about one individual Marine's (rifleman's) experience in WWII. The entire book is worthwhile, but I found I was particularly fascinated and enamored by the lengthy passage recalling the Marines' extraordinary efforts during the Guadalcanal campaign. Great stuff!

OK, OK, it's not light reading, and it's a WWII memoir - it's brutal and sad and graphic and poignant and, all too often, frightening and depressing. My guess is the
Nov 17, 2010 Max rated it really liked it
A very interesting book about someone who wouldn't be considered a "model" soldier. He signed up for the marines after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and began combat in the Pacific theater. From the beginning in boot camp you can tell he has a penchant for trouble, but this is the kind of guy who wants to get into trouble -- he's just a boundary tester.

He doesn't discuss World War II in great depth, almost as if he doesn't want you to know the worst details. He rarely mentions names and uses nickn
Apr 29, 2016 Sweetwilliam rated it liked it
I down loaded this as an audio book so that I could learn more about some of the infantry battles on Guadalcanal and some of the other islands. I wanted to hear/read some more first had accounts from members of the front line rifle companies. Other than a fine account of the battle of the Teneru on Guadalcanal, I really didn't get what I expected. The details of the battle are a little more sparse. What I did learn about was Leckie's experience as a private. I thought after what these boys had b ...more
Jan 08, 2013 Charlie rated it liked it
Shelves: ww11
So many HIGH marks for this book, however - not me. Too many flowery words used in this true WW2 story.
Jun 08, 2010 Kenny rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
I recently read the analog to this book, "With the Old Breed" by Eugene Sledge, about many of the same Marine engagements in the South Pacific during WWII. I thought "HFMP" would be a rehash of the same, but its told by a different kind of writer: While Sledge is thoughtful, simple in his prose, and sees most things through a moral lens, Robert Leckie is profane, writes brilliantly, and celebrates situational morality: he and his fellow jarheads carouse callously in Melbourne; steal from each ot ...more
Gary Hoggatt
Okay, I'll admit it - I first heard of Robert Leckie and his 1957 memoir Helmet for My Pillow when I watched HBO's The Pacific. After watching the excellent adaptation, I sought out the original, and am glad I did. Leckie's original description of what he and so many other World War II Marines went through was well worth reading.

Leckie starts out, as you'd guess from the memoirs subtitle "From Parris Island to the Pacific", describing his enlistment and his training in boot camp at Parris Island
Suzanne Moore
Mar 26, 2015 Suzanne Moore rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war, memoirs
I thought Robert Leckie was brave to recall his story when committing it to print. I'm sure the memories must have haunted him terribly.

Collecting war souvenirs from fallen enemies ... gold teeth pulled from mouths of dead men, wading through swampy waters with gun between teeth, to keep it dry .... in search of trophy weapons ... Never minding the dangerous alligator infested waters hungry a salt sandwich was "good eating" ... faking illness to stay in a mental ward and keep from having
Feb 19, 2010 Tung rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Robert Leckie is one of America’s premier military historians, having penned seventeen accounts of US involvement in wars ranging from the French and Indian War to the Civil War to the Korean War. This book is a memoir of his time in the Marines during World War II: from joining the Corps after witnessing the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to his training in Parris Island, to his time fighting in the Pacific in the battles at Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu. Leckie doesn’t set out to glorify or ...more
Edwin Hook
Jan 21, 2015 Edwin Hook rated it it was amazing
Helmet for my pillow
Robert Leckie

Robert Leckie, Chuckler, Runner, Lt. Ivy- League, Sergeant Dandy, Red, General Smedley Butler, Big Ski,Lieutenant Racehores, The Chicken, Hope, Mr. Five by Five, Oakstump, The Commander, Father Straight, Buri, Colonel, Lieutenant Big-Picture, Sergeant Major,

The story is about a man named Robert Leckie who fought in World War Two as us marine in the pacific and the battles he served in is the first battle of Guadalcanal and the last Peleliu.

Robert Leckie has joi
Hamish Davidson
This is one of the books on which Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks based their miniseries The Pacific. I have already read Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed. It is equally as riveting, but the style and content are vastly different. Robert Leckie is a joker and a ratbag. He draws elaborate recollections of events, often where he himself temps trouble, or instigates pranks and evasive operations. Being a journalist, he has a colourful vocabulary and a sharp wit. He gives affectionate nicknames to ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 26, 2013 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
This book is actually more memoir than a history. Mr. Leckie has written some of my favorite histories, especially military history. He served during WWII.

From his entry into the service through each deployment...and leave you get the stories of his life. The book doesn't emphasize military actions (though they are described) but on his day to day life. Living and waiting on Guadalcanal and later deployments along with "more scintillating activities" between deployments.

This is a good insight in
Oct 15, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book that brings the reader into the world of war. It gives one a nose to nose meeting with the most difficult decisions a person will ever have to make, to kill or die. It has been said that if a person fails to study history they are doomed to repeat it. This book gives a great insight into the innocent people that go to war, and what they must endure it. This book was used as part of The Pacific mini series, and the Band of Brothers. A must read, no fiction here, just reality.
Aug 19, 2010 Elena rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in military history
Recommended to Elena by: HBO mini series listed the book from their presentation of "Pacific".
I read this book as a result of watching the HBO series "Pacific". The author of this book wrote movingly and poetically of his experiences as a combatant in the Pacific campaign.

Good read, but it takes time to absorb what the author writes. I didn't sit down and read it cover to cover in one sitting.
Sean Chick
May 20, 2017 Sean Chick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helmet for My Pillow is distinguished by its' humor. Like Sam Watkins, Leckie has an eye for the goofy and the sardonic. Leckie was a good soldier, but he was not made for a life of discipline. He was not a warrior like Junger or Ninh. He was a survivor.

The idea that "war is hell" is less strong here. Oh, it has moments of horror and cruelty and bloodthirsty excitement, but not with the same intensity. For that reason it is an easier read, but also unusual. Leckie is at his best describing the
Campbell Mcaulay
Jul 22, 2012 Campbell Mcaulay rated it really liked it
HBO's epic series "The Pacific" took it's inspiration from the lives of three men, John Basilone, Eugene Sledge and Bob Leckie. Basilone died in action on Iwo Jima but Sledge and Leckie both survived the war to record their experiences on paper and it's interesting to compare Sledge's "With the Old Breed" with this, Leckie's memoir. The former is very rough round the edges, naive and quite intimate but is considered by some to be the better of the two. By contrast, Helmet has clearly been writte ...more
Jul 04, 2011 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Leckie wrote this book over 40 years ago. I was inspired to read it after watching the fine HBO series "The Pacific."

I have read a lot of military history over the years. Much of this genre addresses individual battles, tactics, political and military strategies, and the broad brush roles of leaders such as generals and leaders of countries, but very, very few of them give firsthand accounts of what it meant to be in the marines, in the infantry, during those dark days of land engagement
Bryan Vick
Jun 04, 2014 Bryan Vick rated it really liked it
Helmet for my pillow is an excellent historical and personal account of the pacific theater in World War 2. The author Robert Leckie writes his own account and experiences as a Marine in the war. This book has the personal aspect of the war that you just cant understand from a text book or historic study. It shows what the war was truly like for the men who fought it and gives you a new understanding and appreciation for what the people involved went through.

“I stood among the heaps of dea
Dan Walker
Aug 27, 2011 Dan Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book combines the raw grittiness of war as experienced up close and personal with the introspection of a man who doesn't simply experience the war, but tries to understand it.

This book definitely changed my understanding of WWII. I no longer believe that the US was patriotically united as one, moving in joyous lockstep towards victory. This is partially because Leckie returns repeatedly to the theme that the war inspired no songs from Americans. The songs Leckie and his comrades sang were b
Shane Seman
To me the purpose of this book was to tell of the war in the Pacific to Guadalcanal from the perspective of Robert Leckie. In this book the author tells of his days as a Marine, and during his life as a Marine he witnessed first hand what happened in those brutal days on Guadalcanal. The theme of this book I would have to say is courage and friendship. The courage for doing what is right and fighting for our country and the friendship for those who you are fighting with and fighting for back hom ...more
My interest in the Pacific theater of World War II was heightened after the premier of HBO's miniseries "The Pacific." This book makes up a good portion of that series as Robert Leckie, the author of this work, is one of the three main characters of that series. Having read his war memoir now, I have to say it's pretty good, but can be a little wordy. Unblike other war narratives, Mr. Leckie doesn't avoid the boring or unflattering times he spent in the Marine Corps. Much of the narrative involv ...more
Austin Sarbacker
May 12, 2011 Austin Sarbacker rated it liked it
This is very packed with information about a solders life besides fighting. I defiantly learned a lot from this book and I consider it much different from other war books. There was some great thing about it and also some thing I didn’t like.

This book was about a solders life at war. The main charters name war names is lucky and this stories is his adventures in the book. He meets a lot of friends and gets in a lot of trouble with the MP all the time. I was thinking of more of a war combat and
John Razor
May 12, 2011 John Razor rated it really liked it
In January 1942, in the aftermath of the infamous Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Leckie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. From boot camp in Parris Island to the bloody war in the Pacific, Robert Leckie experienced it all - the booze, the brawling, the loving on sixty-two-hour liberty; the courageous fighting and dying in combat as the U.S. Marines slugged it out, inch by inch, island by island across the Pacific to the shores of Japan

The author signs up for the Marine Corps the
A solid memoir. Leckie describes his experience from the time he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps just after Pearl Harbor to the end of the war. During that time he fought in the battles of Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu, in the last of which he was badly enough wounded that he spent the rest of the war in a hospital.

Writing in a flamboyant style, Leckie is unsparing of himself and others in his account; he fought well, but he was a disciplinary problem and had real trouble deali
Jul 14, 2012 Cordula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only about two years ago I would've never thought I would read this book. It wouldn't even have appeared on my radar of possible reads. But taking a class on War & Film I inevitably watched Steven Spielberg's The Pacific, the follow-up to Band of Brothers, telling not the story of the fight against the Germans, but that against the Japanese.

Based on Robert Leckie and Eugene B Sledge's memoirs, with both taking central roles in the series, I felt obliged to go back to the source material and
May 12, 2011 Wyatt rated it really liked it
Helmet for My Pillow follows the author Robert Leckie's true journey through the pacific during World War II. Written by the man himself, he recalls what it was like to become one with fighting and live in the poorest conditions soldiers knew at the time. The story covers the day he was sworn in as a marine to the day he stopped fighting. He makes friends along the way and passes time by giving everyone around him names like "chuckler", "white-man", and "the gay texan". He also loses friends and ...more
Dec 02, 2008 Gavin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
At first I thought it was all about brawling, drinking, chasing skirts, but the author, whose own experience he writes about, is not all boor. He sometimes writes paragraphs that I deliberately mark down to share with friends. [This book, combined with "With the Old Breed," will be made into an HBO series called The Pacific, like Band of Brothers, but about the Marines' fight against the Japanese.] He's from New Jersey, trained at Parris Island, entrained to San Diego, sailed in a former African ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
  • The Pacific
  • Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific
  • A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us
  • One Square Mile of Hell: The Battle for Tarawa
  • Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich
  • Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
  • Currahee!: A Screaming Eagle at Normandy
  • Brothers In Battle, Best of Friends
  • Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's "Band of Brothers"
  • Brotherhood of Heroes: The Marines at Peleliu, 1944--The Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific War
  • Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers
  • Pegasus Bridge
  • Red Blood, Black Sand: with John Basilone on Iwo Jima
  • Call of Duty: My Life Before, During and After the Band of Brothers
  • Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II
  • I'm Staying With My Boys...: The Heroic Life of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC
  • Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa
Leckie was born on December 18, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in Rutherford, New Jersey. He began his career as a writer in high school, as a sports writer for ''The Bergen Evening Record'' in Hackensack, New Jersey.

On January 18, 1942, Leckie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.He served in combat in the Pacific theater, as a scout and a machine gunner in H Company, 2nd B
More about Robert Leckie...

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“It was a darkness without time. It was an impenetrable darkness. To the right and left of me rose those terrible formless things of my imagination, which I could not see because there was no light. I could not see, but I dared not close my eyes lest the darkness crawl beneath my eyelids and suffocate me. I could only hear. My ears became my being and I could hear the specks of life that crawled beneath my clothing, the rotting of the great tree which rose from its three-cornered trunk above me. I could hear the darkness gathering against me and the silences that lay between the moving things.” 5 likes
“And now to that Victim whose Sign rose above the world two thousand years ago, to be menaced now by that other sign now rising, I say a prayer of contrition. I, whom you have seen as irreverent and irreligious, now pray in the name of Chuckler and Hoosier and Runner, in the name of Smoothface, Gentlemen, Amish, and Oakstump, Ivy-League and Big-Picture, in the name of all those who suffered in the jungles and on the beaches, from Anzio to Normandy--and in the name of the immolated: of Texan, Rutherford, Chicken, Loudmouth, of the Artist and White-Man, Souvenirs and Racehorse, Dreadnought and Commando--of all these and the others, dear Father, forgive us for that awful cloud.” 4 likes
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