I'll admit right off the bat that I'm biased--I just love these sorts of books. I love it when World War 2 vets share their experiences in a time I can only imagine; I love reading the "inside" stories of deprivation, hardships, camaraderie, and pranks that the Greatest Generation lived through. That said, it wasn't hard for me to fall in love with Sid Phillips' remembrances, originally published for his family; Sid does an outstanding job of bringing a young Marine in the Pacific to life for those of us who can only imagine how brutal the times were.
This is a short book but it's filled with fascinating tales. Sid, only seventeen at enlistment time, trains as a Marine and is assigned to, among other places, Guadalcanal (in a time when very few even knew where/what that was). He never sugarcoats the experiences, and I grew to love all the men he wrote about while marveling at just how young they were. Sid's remarkable memory helped me to feel as though I were sleeping in a hammock in the jungle, riding a transport ship, and hitchhiking through the south to spend a three day furlough with my family. This is amazing stuff.
There are only a couple of things that bothered me about this book. As a casual reader on World War II, I had a hard time following some of the technical jargon when it came to units and weapons (and I am positive it's crystal clear to those who understand both). Sometimes Sid overexplains things such as the word "scuttlebutt" but neglects to remind the reader what an 03 rifle is. I also didn't care for the excerpt of With the Old Breed that Sid included, only because I felt like it was a promotion of his best friend's work (and I doubt that was the true intention of its inclusion). Despite those small issues, this is a strong book that will propel you into the jungle, foxholes, and mess halls of the Pacific theatre. Extraordinary and actually merits a strong 4.5 stars.