Helmet for My Pillow
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Helmet for My Pillow

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  5,640 ratings  ·  318 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...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 1st 2001 by iBooks (first published September 1957)
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Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellFlags of Our Fathers by James D. BradleyThe Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Best Non-fiction War Books
41st out of 754 books — 927 voters
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Best Books on the Pacific War
16th out of 107 books — 136 voters

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Community Reviews

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Rob Maynard
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...more
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...more
John and Kris
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...more
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...more
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)
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...more
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
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...more
Aug 19, 2010 Elena rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
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
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...more
Dan Walker
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...more
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
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...more
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...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
Campbell Mcaulay
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
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...more
John Razor
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...more
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
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...more
Patrick McCoy
I was so impressed by the HBO miniseries, The Pacific, that I sought out the source material for the show. The first book I read was the biography of Robert Leckie, Helmet For My Pillow. It is an entertaining and powerful memoir of a WWII Marine veteran who fought on Guadalcanal, New Britain, and one of the bloodiest battles, Peleliu. Leckie does a great job of describing what it was like to fight in battle and also depicts what their time was like when they spent several months on leave in Melb...more
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
An autobiography about a young man who joined the Marines at the beginning of World War 2 and saw combat in multiple campaigns.

Even though he does not write of the worst details of combat, he does not attempt to hide the truth either. Incompetent and thieving officers; The death of good friends; Screw-ups and stupidity; The silliness that can be manifested in military organizations; The negative he saw is there. Yet he is also soft spoken about the tragedies he has to face, such as his many pla...more
Steven Howes
This book (originally published in 1958)won the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association award in that year. It is one of the best descriptions of combat in the Pacific during World war II that I have read. The author has a real way with words and eventually worked with the Associated Press after the war. This book provided some of the background material for the HBO mini-series "The Pacific" which recently aired on TV. I drank a lot during my time in the military but never once did I drin...more
Duncan Mandel

Here is one of the most riveting first-person accounts ever to come out of World War II. Robert Leckie enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in January 1942, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In **Helmet for My Pillow** we follow his odyssey, from basic training on Parris Island, South Carolina, all the way to the raging battles in the Pacific, where some of the war’s fiercest fighting took place. Recounting his service with the 1st Marine Division and the...more
I was completely disappointed in this book. I think that reading E.B. Sledge's book first really set me up, though, because Leckie seemed to enjoy the telling of the story much more than relating the facts of the campaigns. And I didn't care much for all the extra information about their furloughs and their time in Australia... the actual battles took up less than half the book. If you're interested in this part of WWII history, I would suggest the E.B. Sledge book over this one.
Sifra (brilliant bookshelf)
This is a non-fiction retelling about the war in The Pacific, written by veteran Robert "Bob" Leckie. Robert Leckie was probably one of the most intelligent men among his fellow marines and it shows in his writing. His thoughts are profound and his words poetic, making his book (in my humble opinion) one of the better writings on World War 2.

There are so many reasons why I love Helmet for My Pillow. As I've mentioned above, Leckie has a beautiful and poetic writing style in which he expresses hi...more
Alec Shipley
Fascinating read! Got into this one and 'With the Old Breed' from the HBO miniseries on the war in Japan. Makes you realize how difficult those old 'devil dogs' had it....Even though I had the same training and wore the same uniform- I don’t think I or any Marines I knew could put ourselves even in the same ball park as those guys! True American heroes!
Robert Mitchell
Many of us born in the sixties know very little about the Pacific battles of WWII. Vietnam consumed our attention and even as a history major, I learned little about the Marines who fought on isolated islands and atolls below the equator. I am glad that Robert Leckie’s Helmet For My Pillow, named for the haunting poem he penned, was my introduction. Leckie attempted to join the Marines the day after Pearl Harbor but was turned away and told to get circumcised. On January 5th, the sutures had bee...more
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Nicknames 10 42 Oct 18, 2012 03:50PM  
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  • China Marine: An Infantryman's Life After World War II
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  • Easy Company Soldier: The Legendary Battles of a Sergeant from World War II's "Band of Brothers"
  • Call of Duty: My Life Before, During and After the Band of Brothers
  • Brotherhood of Heroes: The Marines at Peleliu, 1944--The Bloodiest Battle of the Pacific War
  • If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer's Riveting True Story
  • Currahee!: A Screaming Eagle at Normandy
  • I'm Staying With My Boys...: The Heroic Life of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC
  • We Who Are Alive and Remain: Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers
  • Biggest Brother: The Life of Major Dick Winters, the Man Who Led the Band of Brothers
  • Guadalcanal Diary
  • Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
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
More about Robert Leckie...
Okinawa: The Last Battle of World War II Strong Men Armed: The United States Marines Against Japan George Washington's War: The Saga of the American Revolution Delivered from Evil: The Saga of World War II Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War

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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.” 3 likes
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