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Helmet for My Pillow

4.12  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,756 Ratings  ·  449 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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Best Non-fiction War Books
64th out of 946 books — 1,370 voters
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11th out of 131 books — 177 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Jun 07, 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 wa
John and Kris
Aug 12, 2009 John and Kris rated it really liked it
Leckie on one of his first horrifying nights in the jungles of Guadalcanal:

"I had not looked into its foliage before the darkness and now I fancied it infested with Japanese. Everything and all the world became my enemy, and soon my very body betrayed me and became my foe. My leg became creeping Japanese, and then the other leg. My arms, too, and then my head.

My heart was alone. It was me. I was my heart.

It lay quivering, I lay quivering, in that rotten hole while the darkness gathered and all c
Jun 03, 2016 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 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
Jul 31, 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
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
Suzanne Moore
Mar 27, 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
Edwin Hook
Mar 03, 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
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
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
Mar 01, 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
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 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
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
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.
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
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.
Abdullah Almuslem
Jul 08, 2015 Abdullah Almuslem rated it really liked it
If you compare this book with Sledge book (With the Old Breed), you can see the differences between a good soldier and undisciplined one. Although, the story in this book is well told, the real horror of war was not well represented as it was in Sledge book.

By reading this book and living with Leckie in those islands through his book, you can see he was not the idle soldier neither the best ethical person. He is a typical American guy who has no limits in his actions ! Looking at him, you start
Mar 20, 2016 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.
Horia Ursu
Aug 08, 2016 Horia Ursu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Raw, personal and filled with humanity, this is a close portrait of the men who fought in the Pacific. Leckie's first hand account is at times a horror story and at times comedie, but all the time you feel immersed în the harsh reality and immediacy of a seemingly endless war. Some passages, the reflective ones, are pure poetry. Having seen the tv series that this memoir (and others) inspired, it was much easier for me to visualise some of the scene and put a face on some of the caractere he des ...more
Juan Hidalgo
Oct 19, 2015 Juan Hidalgo rated it liked it
Se ve que encadeno los temas de lectura y que ahora voy por "bélico y espionaje", ya que llevo varios seguidos de esta materia.

Buen relato de memorias de un marine en la batalla del pacífico. A pesar de la distancia en el espacio, en el tiempo y las circunstancias, el hecho de que el autor fuese un soldado raso me hace recordar inevitablemente mi propio tiempo de servicio militar (con nostalgia). Está claro que hay actitudes, aventurillas, gamberradas y un tipo de camaradería y amistades que son
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
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
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
Aug 24, 2011 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, memoir, a-kindle, atw80
This one of the two memoirs upon which the HBO mini series "The Pacific" was based. It follows the war of Robert Leckie, a young volunteer from New Jersey as he goes from US Marine boot camp in South Carolina, to various Pacific island campaigns to wrest control from the long entrenched Japanese army. It notably encompasses the battles for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and other diverse islands to the north of Australia - notably the brutal and prolonged fight for Peleliu in the Palau Islan ...more
John Nevola
Nov 06, 2011 John Nevola rated it it was amazing
With a newspaper reporter’s eye and the unique perspective of a front-line enlisted Marine, Robert Lecke weaves a cynical and satirical tale of his experiences in three Pacific battles.

As a member of the vaunted First Marine Division, “The Old Breed”, Lecke experienced the grinding battle of Guadalcanal, the filthy, wet, disease-infested campaign of Cape Gloucester and the wanton, and arguably useless, slaughter on the hot, dry island of Peleliu.

His creative nicknames for both his buddies and
Undoubtedly, Leckie is a talented, inspired writer. The way he relates his experience of the Pacific war is both very personal, honest and quite dramatic.

One is left with the impression that the author truly lets us within his very soul in the midst of the terrible struggle for survival that Guadalcanal, New Britain and Peleliu campaigns must have been. This is not something often seem in the military memoirs genre, where authors often refrain from being too honest, perhaps fearing to state wha
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
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
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Nicknames 11 53 Nov 07, 2014 10:52AM  
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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.” 3 likes
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