Voices of the Pacific Audiobook Review

Voices of the Pacific: Untold Stories from the Marine Heroes of World War II

Author: Adam Makos

Narrator: Tom Weiner

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing, April 2013

Audio Length: 10.75 hours

ISBN: 9781624609848

While I generally favor traditional printed books (preferably in hardback), I do occasionally listen to an audiobook.  The advantage of this format is the book can be enjoyed while engaged in other activities, such as modeling or driving.  In this case I was able to download the audio file from my local library, then link my phone to the car speakers and listen while driving to the MMCL IPMS show in Louisville last month.  It beats listening to the radio and makes the drive informative and enjoyable during what would otherwise be wasted time.

This book lends itself well to the audiobook format, being the personal recollections of fifteen Marines who fought in the Pacific War.  The men all share their stories in short narratives, and often relate different perspectives of the same battles.  The campaigns covered are Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and finally Okinawa.  Each of these operations was unique, with its own set of conditions and environments.  One thing they had in common was the effect on the Regiments and individual Marines.  By the end of each campaign the units had suffered tremendous casualties, and the surviving Marines were in rough shape – exhausted, underfed, diseased, and with their uniforms in tatters.  Assaults which were planned for three days often lasted for thirty days or more.

I recognized two of the Marines as authors of their own books – Sterling Mace and Chuck Tatum.  Many others relate anecdotes of other names well known to students of the Pacific War – authors Robert Lecke and Eugene Sledge, along with Marines famous for their combat exploits such as John Basilone and Lewis “Chesty” Puller.

Overall this is a fine book which offers insights of the war from the perspective of the individual Marines who fought it.  The last two chapters were also interesting, they described the Marines’ discharges from the service and their assimilation back into society.  They were also asked what advice they would give to young people today, and to society in general.  While this podium is continuously mis-used by celebrities, media figures, politicians, and athletes, the Marine veterans have paid for their citizenship in a very real way and earned the opportunity to voice their opinion.  Listening to this audiobook is time well spent, I can recommend it without hesitation.

Battleground Pacific Book Review

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Battleground Pacific: A Marine Rifleman’s Combat Odyssey in K/3/5

By Sterling Mace and Nick Allen

Hardcover in dustjacket, 330 pages, illustrated

Published by St. Martin’s Press, May 2012

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1-250-00505-2

Dimensions:  5.7 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches

Sterling Mace grew up in Queens during the Great Depression.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor he failed the U.S. Navy eye exam but was able to bluff his way through the second time and was accepted into the Marines.  He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division, 5th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company K.  When he joined the 5th Marines they were rebuilding on the island of Pavuvu, after having fought at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester.  His first combat operation was the assault on Peleliu.

Mace was a BAR man on Peleliu, an island which had no natural source of fresh water but an abundance of heat, insects, and Japanese defenders.  Company K was intended to be on the island for three days but due to the ferocity of the Japanese defense they were in combat for thirty.  Mace describes the constant combat as well as the deprivations of fighting in an inhospitable environment with no relief and little support.  Those Marines who survived the campaign emerged emaciated, their uniforms in tatters.

The 5th Marines were rebuilt and redeployed for the assault on Okinawa.  This was a very different campaign in many ways.  The amphibious landing was unopposed, the Japanese defenders withdrawing into prepared positions for a battle of attrition.  There were civilians on Okinawa, and rear areas where there was relatively little chance of encountering the Japanese.  The Marines were much better supported and supplied compared to earlier campaigns in the Pacific, but Kamikaze attacks put the Fleet offshore at much greater risk than previously encountered.

If readers find some aspects of Mace’s account familiar, there is good reason.  Eugene Sledge was a Marine mortarman who was also assigned to K/3/5, the same Company as Mace.  Sledge authored “With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa” which was one of the books used as the basis for the HBO / Tom Hanks production of “The Pacific” miniseries.

This book is well worth a read and goes by quickly.  I did find the writing style a bit distracting, it often wanders from a straight description of events into metaphor, striving for the poetic.  More pages are devoted to Peleliu than Okinawa.  I can recommend this book, but read “With the Old Breed” as well.

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