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Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific
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Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  16,370 ratings  ·  832 reviews
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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 322 pages
Published (first published 1957)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
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
Rob Maynard
Jul 14, 2011 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 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
Michael O'Brien
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wanted a book that would give the story of what it was like being a grunt [that is a ground pounder -- infantry --- the ones who have to close with the enemy on foot and do the worst of the effort to win the ground] fighting in World War 2, and, on this, Robert Leckie's memoir, "Helmet for My Pillow" did not disappoint.

This is not a book on war heroics. Nor is this a history of the South Pacific campaigns. It is Leckie's personal account of his experiences as a Marine assigned to the 1st Mari
David Eppenstein
Those of you that are my GR friends or simply follow my reviews know that I have a fondness for those histories that recount the experiences of the common man that lives through the great events that history memorializes. I especially enjoy reading about the exploits of the common frontline soldier in any history of any battle or war. When I found this book I gladly placed it on my TBR shelf expecting it to add to my knowledge of the ordeal that was WWII in the Pacific. Several years ago I read ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I am not now, have never been previously, and most likely never will be a big fan of the first-person accounts of any war. At higher ranks, there is always the question of what it is that the individual is trying to gloss over to maintain or improve their reputations. At the lower ranks, there is, sometimes, a great deal of immediacy but at the loss of understanding of what is going on in the overall sense. I have never been one to desire to live my life vicariously through another's actual expe ...more
Daniel Villines
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s easy to forget that wars are fought by individuals. Even then, those that are singularly remembered are typically those with sweeping powers and responsibility. Their individuality gets merged with the goals of a battle or the policies of a nation.

But here resides the memoir of Robert Leckie; a private in the US Marine Corps during World War II. Leckie brings forth the perspective of a common soldier. He represents the life of the lowest class of fighter during a time when he and countless
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author,Robert Leckie is a newspaper reporter and in writing books(Hemingway and Ernie Pyle the exceptions), newspaper reporters fall into the trap of stating the who, what, when, where and why in first 2 paragraphs with no heart or emotion in rest of pages. While a few of his pages described the horrors of war that the he was heroically involved in, most of the book described how he stole food from the marines supply cook of how he spent his time in the brig !!
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Helmet for My Pillow

This is probably the best WWII memoir that I’ve read. There is a surprising amount of humor, mostly dark, in this book about a Marine’s experiences in Guadalcanal and Peleliu.

Shore leave and the stint in the brig in Australia were exceptionally well drawn.

4.5 stars.
Sometimes, other readers elaborate my thoughts on a book so well that I can't but link to their review, and for Helmet for my Pillow I think this review sums them up best.

Having also read Eugene B. Sledge's memoir before Leckie's, I pretty much agree with Kenny Kemp's points in comparing both, with the exception that I don't think Leckie writes brilliantly. On the contrary, I think he's a passable writer and writes like a journalist, which might make him easier to read but not necessarily a bett
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military, non-fiction
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
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww11
So many HIGH marks for this book, however - not me. Too many flowery words used in this true WW2 story.
Jul 30, 2014 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
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
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
Shane Walters
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous book! Very soulful insight into the Pacific Theater of WWII from a grunters perspective.
Lawrence Paterson
Suzanne Moore
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Terry Cornell
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir of Leckie's experiences after joining the Marine Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It starts with boot camp at Parris Island and ends on his return to the US at the conclusion of the war. The reader relives the battles in the Pacific islands, shore leave in Australia, and even a stint in the brig. Prior to the war, Leckie was a newspaper sports reporter, and after the war he continued working for various publications and the AP. In addition he wrote history and childre ...more
Nov 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
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
Carlton Phelps
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was a great narrative of Mr Leckie's experiences while fighting the Japanese. You could almost feel the either, the constant heat or the constant wet. The conditions these men, young men, lived, were at times, no better than sleeping on the ground with your poncho over your body to keep the rain from coming straight onto your face. You still got wet but at least you weren't kept awake by rain in your face.
He wrote about his friends and the adventures they had that were fun wh
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Leckie enjoyed a long career as a writer of military history. He came by that interest from his service as a Marine in World War II; this book details his wartime experience. Far from nostalgic, his war left him cynical and a bit sad. Having enlisted in the Marines just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, his account of boot camp at Parris Island is a vivid look at that trial by fire. Once he ships out, he is thrown into battle at Guadalcanal. The young leatherneck makes friends an ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*listened to audiobook*

So my boyfriend is big into history, so am I... But I'm terrible with dates and details and there's a lot I still don't know. He had me watch the show The Pacific, which this book is based on. I learned a lot about the Pacific war that I never knew before. James Badge Dale plays Robert Leckie and he does a great job narrating this book. I learned even more. I thought WW2 was mostly about the Nazis... But now I know. They don't teach you everything in school. This was a gre
Marc Sims
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly moving account of a marine in the Pacific theater during WWII. Was very eye opening to just how severe the brutalities of war are. I was surprised at just how beautiful and contemplative much of the prose was for being written by a battle-hardened soldier.
Helmet for My Pillow is widely praised as a "classic" memoir of the Pacific Theater during World War II. The author, Robert Leckie, was a Marine who saw combat at Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu where he was seriously wounded.

War books are stories of tragedy and suffering but also of valor. I thought this one would be an inspirational and gripping account of heroism in the war against Japan.

What a disappointment.

Leckie's memoir of his experience fighting in the 1st Marine Division contain
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book by Leckie of his experiences as a Marine. Some decades ago I had read his "Delivered from Evil" history of WWII.
It struck me that that book was more concisely and better written and presented than this "Helmet for my Pillow" work however upon some investigation I found that "Helmet" was his first book and the other at least 15 years later and that Leckie was a rather prolific author of war history most heavily from WWII era.

Maybe a better book to understand combat Marines in
Jace Caldwell
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book overall. It has a lot of action and shows the struggles of war
Mark N.
About the realest thing I ever read.
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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

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