book response: Hell in the Pacific (2012)

I had too many books in my hands from the new book shelf at my local library. Since I only get them for two weeks, I needed to make hard choices. I'm happy I kept Hell in the Pacific: A Marine Rifleman's Journey From Guadalcanal to Peleliu, the story of Marine Jim McEnery written with Bill Sloan. Sloan has written several books on the Pacific Theater of World War 2. I had to warm up to this book though. This is not With the Old Breed by Sledge, which I recently read, but McEnery had met Sledge and fought with him in theater. Sledge is quoted several times, as well as several other writers on the war.

As friends were made by McEnery, only to have them die, I realized that this was a different kind of story than Sledge's. This book was not about the big picture, although he did take frequent swipes at "Dugout" Douglas MacArthur, but the small picture of one soldier, who survived Gaudalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu without earning a Purple Heart. His worst physical injury was popping some ligaments in his leg as he was under fire while sliding down a steep creek bank. Emotionally and spiritually though he was desperately wounded. It seems his Catholic faith helped him keep his sanity. Under continual fire, watching good soldiers and good friends die randomly, engaging in hand to hand combat with Japanese who would only fight to the death, he returns over and over again to the Lord's Prayer just like Sledge. He prayed for his friends' souls. He prayed it to make peace in his soul as he watched in the middle of the night for the Japanese who would slip into foxholes to kill Americans in the dark. He prayed as shells fell all around him.

He had the terrible experience to be one of few soldiers who watched the greatly loved officer "Ack-Ack" Andrew Haldane, also honored by Sledge, killed by a Japanese sniper with a bullet to the head. In the midst of his shock, he was pulled back from the edge of his sanity by his responsibility as the replacement senior Marine on that patrol.

McEnery was able to return to the U. S. mainland after Peleliu. He doesn't tell, like Sledge, if he suffered from years of nightmares. He mostly speaks of the good things in his life when he came home. His wife, his daughter, his jobs in the Marines and after the marines, his pride in the Marines and the affinity he still feels for his group that is now in Afghanistan. This is his story, with the view from the ground, and he keeps it grounded there, which makes it worth reading.
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