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Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis

Guadalcanal Diary (1943)

by Richard Tregaskis

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It was good to finally read this classic memoir of a war correspondent's experiences during the opening weeks of the battle for Guadalcanal. It was very interesting and informative. Tregaskis was often right up on the firing line and describes taking the scantiest of cover as bullets whistled around him. I didn't know, or didn't remember, the rather amazing fact that the Japanese forces on the islands were taken by surprise by the arrival of the Allies' huge invasion armada and so the invading forces essentially walked onto the island and established a beach head unhindered. Obviously, the fighting soon grew fierce, and remained that way for months. Tregaskis describes the conditions for the troops quite well. And yet there is something somehow unsatisfying about the book. Tregaskis' method is definitely more one of "telling" than of "showing," and I often felt a lack of detail that would enable me to see the scenes more fully. Maybe it's because I've grown so used to the more graphic medium of movies and the more "pull no punches" style of modern journalism (such as Michael Herr's excellent Viet Nam War memoir, Dispatches). This book was written, of course, and published while World War II was still raging. The agreement among correspondents (and/or their editors and publishers) seemed to be not to show the horrors of war too graphically, so as not to upset the home front too much. Even the brilliant Ernie Pyle did not focus his lens that harshly on the blood and guts of it all. Also, at times I wondered whether or not there might be a certain amount of propaganda inserted. There are frequent descriptions of Japanese bombing attacks on the American forces on the island. And we are often told of the high percentage of these Japanese planes shot down by American fighters, with no mention of American losses. Were the Japanese pilots really that bad? Maybe that is exactly how it was, but it did make me wonder. I suppose more research is in order.

At any rate, despite the reservations provided above, Guadalcanal Diary is indeed a fascinating account of the first weeks of one of the most horrific and protracted battles of World War Two. ( )
3 vote rocketjk | May 14, 2012 |
This is a very straight forward account of life on Guadalcanal. Not flashy, definitely gritty and looks from the bottom up. If you have an interest in WW2, this is well worth the time. ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Mar 24, 2009 |
Vivid account of the landing of the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal and the first two months of the fighting. The author is an acclaimed, literate journalist who presents one of the most dramatic battles of WWII in a highly readable day-by-day account. ( )
  seoulful | May 23, 2007 |
A classic that is still gripping on re-reading. My copy has no cover. ( )
  wfzimmerman | May 2, 2007 |
The diary of a then well known newspaper correspondent. Somehow this isn't as engaging as the books by Ernie Pyle. Perhaps because it is focusing more on the events than on the men involved. I suppose it truly reflects the attitude of the times, but I find it hard to read because of the author's representation of the Japanese. They are portrayed as dirty, wimpy, primitive and good-for-nothing. Did it take a war for us to understand these people better? I can't help but compare the typical American's idea of the Muslims today. I may keep this book for now, but when I need shelf space, it will go. ( )
2 vote MrsLee | Nov 14, 2006 |
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Sunday, July 26, 1942
This morning, it being Sunday, there were services on the port promenade.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679640231, Paperback)

In the summer and fall of 1942, American Marines landed on the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal and began the slow, bloody work of defeating the Japanese empire. Their landing was significant not only for the outcome of World War II, but also for the conduct of war ever since, for the invasion of Guadalcanal marked the first time that a combined air, sea, and land assault had ever been attempted. It is for that reason that tacticians and military historians study the months-long battle today, and their primary guide to that conflict is Richard Tregaskis's extraordinary Guadalcanal Diary.

A volunteer combat correspondent, Tregaskis braved much danger to bring the story of the fighting to American readers. But he was not one to celebrate his own exploits, and in the pages of his book, he centers on the brave young men from all over the United States who fought and died in appalling numbers. His attention to detail yields arresting descriptions of attacks and counterattacks, of moments of low morale and of exaltation, of moments of quiet behind the lines and of sheer terror at the very point of engagement. Tregaskis's style is unadorned and matter-of-fact, and his present-tense narrative places the reader in the thick of the battle during those "hopeless weeks."

The direct literary ancestor of books of military reportage such as Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down and Michael Herr's Dispatches, Guadalcanal Diary is an exemplary work of journalism, and as vivid a portrait of men under fire as has ever been committed to print. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:02 -0400)

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