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Helmet for My Pillow

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  12,706 ratings  ·  631 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
Paperback, 309 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Bantam Books (first published 1957)
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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
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
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Jul 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
the epilogue 😭
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
Feb 19, 2010 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
Dan Walker
Aug 27, 2011 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
Edwin Hook
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rodney Harvill
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Robert Leckie was in the First Marine Division during World War 2 and saw action on Guadalcanal, New Britain and Peleliu; this book is his memoir. Not mentioned in the book is his motivation for writing it. As noted in other sources, he decided to write about the war while watching a performance of South Pacific with his wife. The war as he had experienced it was not a musical, and he wanted people to know what really happened. Ironically enough, Leckie’s book has something in common with James ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war, favorites
Years ago, a family friend told my parents that I would not like a certain movie because it was a 'war movie'. Little did they know or understand that as war is part of the terrible human condition it's one I find both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure and was driven to read some of the personal memoirs after watching the excellent HBO series 'The Pacific'. I found here in the comfort of my home - at peace time and never been close to war - I never really knew or understood what the wa ...more
Sean Chick
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
If you are looking for a book about WWII in the Pacific from the point of view of an enlisted Marine this book is an easy read. It lays out the realities of day to day life in the jungle with all the perils and limitations of war. An average middle student reader should be able to read and comprehend this book. It does more than hint at the sexually exploits of U.S. Marines while in Australia along with the violence connected with combat but in context with war and makes sense.
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Leckie's personal story of his experiences as a marine during WW2. There are no big picture views of the war in this book. (See Lickie's other books for that.) It is strictly grunts-eye view all the way. Brutal, poignant, and at times hilarious, Leckie pulled no punches in this narrative and didn't spare himself. 3.5 stars rounded up.
Francis Linardo
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great first hand account of life on the front lines during World War II. Doesn't hurt that Robert Leckie is from my home state of New Jersey.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
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  • The Pacific
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  • A Company of Heroes: Personal Memories about the Real Band of Brothers and the Legacy They Left Us
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  • 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
“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.” 7 likes
“It is an American weakness. The success becomes the sage. Scientists counsel on civil liberty; comedians and actresses lead political rallies; athletes tell us what brand of cigarette to smoke.” 7 likes
More quotes…