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Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  2,541 ratings  ·  104 reviews

Watch author RV Burgin discuss Islands of the Damned and The Pacific.

See R.V. Burgin in the award winning documentary film Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific. Click here for more information.

This is an eyewitness-and eye-opening-account of some of the most savage and brutal fighting in the war against Japan, told from the perspective of a young Texan who volunteered fo
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by NAL
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Jun 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

It sounds horrible, but I didn’t set out to read Islands of the Damned. Truth is it was one of those right time right place selections, the kind of thing that more or less falls into one’s lap. I’d just watched The Pacific for the umpteenth time and got it into my head to do a little background reading. With the Old Breed and Helmet for My Pillow were first on my list, but unfortunately neither was available at my local libr
Bon Tom
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm starting to realize why I like these war testimonials so much. In short, it's condensed human experience. It's the worst of us, it's the best of us. It's all in there. And it always makes me wonder, what would I do in their place? Would I go "asiatic", as they say in this book (hilarious:), crapping my pants at the very thought of showing my nose out of a foxhole, or would I go stoically, methodically completing my duty like the author of this book? The bravery of those people is beyond the ...more
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-ii
Reads like a grandfather telling a story ..., July 14, 2010

The HBO miniseries "The Pacific" has stoked interest in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, but more importantly, it has introduced many to some of the finest accounts of combat ever put on paper (E.B. Sledge's "With the Old Breed" and Robert Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow"). R.V. Burgin's "Islands of the Damned" is a fine companion to the above-mentioned books. What makes Burgin's book worth the read is simple ... he's one of the dwind
I found this book facinating. A ninety year old ex-marine tells the story of his combat experience in the Pacific and interweaves a pleasant story of meeting his future wife in Australia. It is different in that it also spares no words about combat and some of the truth about how soldiers from each side were engaged in activities that would be outside the lines in our current politically correct world. The story is simple told, but gives a fascinating account of the day to day endurance and comm ...more
R.V. Burgin was the squad leader of Eugene Sledge, the Marine infantryman who wrote "With the Old Breed' and 'China Marine' - when I read Sledge's memoir, his admiration for Burgin was striking. Reading Burgin's account of the same history, it's clear that respect was mutual.
At the same time, Burgin was a very different kind of person. While Sledge fought with courage and distinction but was deeply disturbed by having to kill people and by seeing others killed around him, Burgin, while a good a
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not quite as intense as Eugene Sledge's testimony -though maybe I might be biased because I got my hands on that one first, so I knew what to expect this time- but still a very powerful read. A bit more "individualistic", more like an autobiography of sorts than a war memorial; as in it doesn't just drop you on the scene of war, and it doesn't stop at the war.
Also, it's fuzzier on the details and a bit more "mitigated" on some things, in comparison... possibly because of a difference on views an
Philip Hollenback
Well, Mr. Burgin certainly seems to have a high opinion of himself. This book is not as good as With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, and it doesn't help that Burgin kind of dismisses Sledge (the author of that book) in his writing.

Also, either Burgin took extremely comprehensive notes 70 years ago, or he has an amazing memory... or he just made up a lot of the interactions in the book.

This book is worth reading for another perspective on being a Marine in the Pacific in WWII, but I wouldn
Janine Spendlove
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military, non-fiction
I picked this book up at the WWII Museum in NOLA, and I extremely glad I did. Really, this thing was a page turner & made me truly in awe of my Marine predecessors. I could never have done what they did. If you want to read pretty much the BEST personal account of a war, this is it. He speaks plainly, doesn't try to airbrush anything at all. Amazing book. Amazing man. ...more
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2
I read this while reading E.B. Sledge's With the Old Breed and watching the HBO miniseries The Pacific. The author of this book is featured in both, and his experiences are worth the read. The before, during, and after of joining the Marines, training, fighting, and going home will be familiar to anyone who has read any of the memoirs dealing with this area and time, but it's the details and unique point of view of the same events that will reward the reader.

Burgin basically wants to tell his st
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book about combat against the Japanese in World War II. The author fought on New Britain, Peleliu and Okinawa as a member of the First Marine Division and was one of the fortunate few to make it through virtually unscathed. He doesn't go into every little detail about combat, but there is certainly plenty to read about. The part of the book dealing with New Britain was really interesting because this campaign seems to get almost no mention or publication anyplace. If you've read ...more
Charlie Newfell
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
A good personal recollection. Reads like someone telling a story, with the personal details, but without the bigger picture. Most of the WWII books are either historical, written at some distance by professionals or the personal recollections like this written by non-professional writers. Really makes you appreciate the really exceptional books by Eugene Sledge, a soldier who lived through these battles and then wrote about them wonderfully as a professional author.
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
My biggest take away from this was to avoid friendly fire.
Mike Harbert
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Solid Memoir of WWII in the Pacific

RV Burgin gives a unique perspective on the U.S. Marine campaigns on New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa. Most of the book focuses on the Fifth Marines and their fight on Peleliu - a truly horrific battle that is frequently only mentioned in passing, taking a secondary position behind the more famous battles of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

For those who have read E.B. Sledge's "With the Old Breed" - Burgin was Sledge's squad/section leader. Burgin is no
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“The big famous battles— Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa.” Everybody’s heard about them. Nobody’s heard of Peleliu. They don’t teach history anymore. So I made up my mind to teach it.”

I’m so thankful that R.V. Burgin was willing and able to share his story with those of us willing to read it. It seems most history classes, if they even get to WWII, focus on the European theater for the war, and not the South Pacific. My grandfather was a SeaBee during the war and I knew he built things and always
Miko Wollner
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Island of the Damned once again provides a harrowing yet gruesomely interesting look at war. The book is like an abridged human experience spotlighting the very worst of us and the very best of us. It may seem like a fiction novel when it describes rivers of rotting bodies but its not. People really crapped their pants at the idea of leaving their fox holes and harvested the gold teeth of corpses. It really begs the question of what would you do if caught in the same situation. Would you sink as ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
There is, somewhere, a whole library filled with memoirs of Marines in the Pacific island campaigns of WWII. R. V. Burgin’s 2010 contribution Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific is a late entry. Burgin, a corporal, was a fire team leader in the mortar section of K/5/3—K Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division; His ammo carrier was E.B. Sledge, author of the 1981 With the Old Breed at Peleilu and Okinawa, one of the earliest and best of the genre. ...more
Edward Linstrom
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pacific campaigns of the USMC.

I originally read The Pacific because I appreciate history and it was the campaign my Dad fought as a Marine in WW2. I liked R.V. Burgin and a few other men from that book and wanted to know more. So when I saw he had written a book, I had to give it a shot.
The Pacific is a good read, skip the tv show read the book instead , but Islands of the Damned is more personal. Like R.V. Burgin, my Dad didn't talk of the war either, at least not the nitty gritty of it.
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Really an excellent book. A true picture of what war really is like, in all it's hideous glory. Makes you appreciate in a visceral way, the sacrifice those men made, fighting, being wounded, and dying. It's both sad but triumphant. Those were real men, not the half-baked politicians that are currently running the country. Stories like these should be required reading in high school. Kids need to know the cost of freedom and that it isn't cheap. The young men in these pages are close to the ages ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good descriptive account. Absolutely captures all of the humanity and insanity of war to include the downtime and boredom. Fighting the elements and each other sometimes. RV Burgin adds one more to the kaleidoscope of perspectives during this war. His is a little more straightforward and matter of fact. And that’s what you’d expect from a Texan. Compared to Leckie’s “Helmet for my Pillow”, it is less poetic and philosophical, but equally important to deepening your understanding of war.
Gail Hedlund
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book! So very well-written! I felt like I got to know Burgin & all the men he fought with and saw through their eyes what they went through.
What sticks with me most comes at the very end of the book...
"....Only a few of us are left who remember. We have to tell the stories, so this & future generations will know what happened. So it doesn't get forgotten..." AMEN!!!
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
The narrative is plain and honest. No bluster, no grand statements. I couldn't put it down. This is a story of a Marine by a Marine doing what needed to be done in conditions beyond imagining. There is a reason they call it the Greatest Generation and this is it. Made better by the story of his sweetheart and wife throughout.
David Lubin
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the Old Breed

R.V. Burgin is mentioned in several other books about the war in the Pacific during WW 2. This is the only book that he wrote about those years. He was a fine leader, a solid comrade and a “good Marine.” His book is factual, authentic and heart breaking. He was one of the “old breed” and his kind are rare and precious.
Jennifer Moore
I found Burgin's personal narrative really informative. I had previously heard of Peleliu, but learned a lot reading his account. I hadn't realized how often Australian wartime brides occurred, mainly because I don't think I knew how much training occurred in Australia. This weekend I drove through Jewett on a trip and thought of Burgin's childhood.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, history, biography
I listened to With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge. This guy was with him as they fought their way from island to island in the Pacific during WWII. Both describe war in a way that satisfies General Sherman's description. "Some of you young men think that war is all glamour and glory, but let me tell you, boys, it is all Hell!"
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read. Writing makes you feel like you're actually there experiencing and witnessing the horrors of the war. Found it very compelling and hard to put down. Highly recommend.

I want to say thank two all those brave men for their service and their sacrifice. The greatest generation in history.
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Read

Having served in the USMC I knew of these battles and the significance the played, but after reading this first hand account it out it in a whole new light.
I have this on Kindle but I will be buying a paper or hardback copy in the hopes to show it to my children one day.
Jon Koebrick
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Islands of the Damned was a good soldier memoir of his time in WW II in the Pacific. Burgin tells the story simply and captures the critical life and death close combat moments well. I wanted to read a book appropriate for Memorial Day weekend and this scratched the itch well. Recommended for anyone who enjoys WW II history.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An easy read. Burgin kept each area short and precise. A lot of the problems to overcome with weapons, equipment and coordination with the navy for each landing. I thought it was an enjoyable read.
Wynn Netherland
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dramatic first-hand account of one Marine's experiences in the Pacific theatre from boot camp to Okinawa. Slightly self-aggrandizing, as you might expect from a Texan, it's a gripping story of courage and hardship amidst some of the toughest battles between New Britain and Japan.
Russell Cornwell
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Read About The Marines In The Pacific In WWIi

First person experiences of one of the brave Marines that fought, bled and served proudly. Semper Fidelis.. Excellent book and well written.
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