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Transcript of Book Report
By Robert Leckie Book Report
By David Wigglesworth Summary Helmet For My Pillow focuses on the author, Robert Leckie, and his experiences as a valiant marine in World War II. The memoir begins just as Leckie enlists in the Marine Corps and is shipped to Parris Island for boot camp, where he will takes on the struggles of adjusting to military life. Because of his poor rifleman’s skills he is assigned to a machine gun company in the Fifth Regiment of the First Marine Division. He is shipped to New River where he meets notable friends such as Hoosier, Runner, and Chuckler and is trained as a gunner’s assistant. During some rest and training in Australia, Leckie’s unit is shipped to Cape Gloucester where the toll of war starts to bother him. The constant rain, artillery bombardments, disease, dead soldiers, and a disturbing image of one his friends, Amish, who randomly walked outside and killed himself by placing a grenade in his teeth and shooting it with his side arm. This causes Leckie to become a nervous wreck and develop noncturnal enuresis partially from his bedwetting caused by nightmares. Leckie is evacuated Pavuvu for treatment, but decides to return to the war despite the fact he never had to go back to the war while he was there. Leckie makes it back to his unit just in time for the invasion of Peleliu. The marines face great resistance on the beach and Peleliu airfield, to the point where the US suffered two hundred dead and nine hundred wounded, Leckie, Chuckler, Runner and Hoosier being a few of the wounded. Leckie is shipped back to the States for medical treatment, where he remains until the war’s end. Character Analysis Robert Leckie is a very complicated character as he comes off as delightful and intelligent person. His sense of humor is uncreative yet humorous. When a shipmate congratulates him on his stunning Purple Heart for being wounded, he replies, “Well I got a purple a** too falling back from that mortar shell, but no one compliments me on that.” (262) He is not one of the Marine Corp’s most disciplined and finest men, but he is one of the most complicated ones. His rebel personality makes him unfit to be a disciplined marine, but his quick thinking made him a great soldier as shown on Guadalcanal and Peleliu. His strong will power made him capable of dealing with the stresses that war imposes upon people and though he suffered through trauma, he did not go completely insane like his fellow marine “Smooth-face… (who) violently thrashing his head up against the coconut tree… in his grief and sorrow.” (136) Though rebellious, Leckie, like so many other of his comrades, dead or alive, is a true American hero. Soon the whole division is moved to the west coast, where they embark on what would become the invasion of Guadalcanal, the first objective of MacArthur’s “island-hopping” campaign. After landing with no resistance on the beach of Guadalcanal, his unit is shipped inland where Leckie battles the anxiety, heat, and thirst in a great march towards Tenaru, where Leckie performs gallantly in a battle with the Japanese. Chuckler is recognized by Lt. Ivy League for holding the line where it was actually Leckie who held the line. This begins a rivalry between Leckie and Ivy League that will lead to many complications between the two. As soon as his unit is relieved from Guadalcanal, Leckie is thrown in the brig for his vengeful antics against Ivy League. Plot: Rising Actions
•Leckie enlists as a marine and begins training at Parris Island.
•Leckie is moved to New Water to be placed into a machine gun company where he meets his squad mates and best friends.
•Leckie is shipped out to California to board ship with his unit.
•The marines storm the beaches of Guadalcanal. Leckie fights valiantly in the Battle of Tenaru.
•Leckie’s unit is put on stanby and eventually relieved to Australia.
•Leckie dates in Melbourne. He is thrown in the brig for Assaulting An Officer and is transferred into Intelligence.
•Leckie’s unit suffers on Cape Gloucester.
•Leckie is evacuated to Pavuvu for medical treatment. Climax:
•Leckie joins back up with his unitn in time to invade Peleliu, where he is wounded by a mortar explosion, on D-Day plus one. Falling Actions:
•Leckie is shipped back the United States for treatment.
The war ends and Leckie is officially discharged from the armed forces The quote, “False is the vaunt of the victor, empty our living pride. For those who fell there is no hell- Not for the brave who died,” sends a powerful message across to the reader. It is important to know that Robert Leckies is referring to the Battle of Tenaru during the Guadalcanal Campaign, but still has relevance to any conflict in history. To vaunt is to boast or praise excessively. Too often in history does the victor of battle vaunt of their accomplishment, after all “history is written by the victor.” Leckie denounces his fellow marines for celebrating in such outrageous ways, such as pulling gold fillings out of the defeated’s teeth and using them to pay for alcohol. They are victorious in but one battle and still have a job to do, hence the use of “false,” and his request to “empty our living pride.” Sooner or later those marines will be back in battle, struggling to keep alive and will revisit the misery of war. However, those who could not stand and cheer to celebrate will never have to face that misery again, for they made the ultimate sacrifice. Leckie also recalls an inscription on a Guadalcanal grave that read, ”And when he gets to heaven, To Saint Peter He Will Tell; One More Marine Reporting Sir, I've Served My Time In Hell,” which does a great justice to the mentioned fallen heroes. Quote With Explanation: Additional Notes:
Material from "Helmtet For My Pillow" was used in the writing of the HBO miniseries, "The Pacific," a ten-part mini-series that features on three heroic marines; John Basilone, Eugene Sledge, and Robert Leckie himself, who is featured in seven of the ten episodes of the series.