Friday, July 29, 2011

Jack and Jill magazine & "Helmet for my Pillow"

(Versions of these two posts originally appeared on Relics in January 2010.)

Detroit longs for the return of these days

Here's a reader letter from the February 1955 issue of Jack and Jill children's magazine. (The cover price was 25 cents and a one-year subscription cost $2.50.)

I'm sure the Ledgerwood family had a much nicer experience flying into the Motor City back in the 1950s than air travelers do today. And I'm sure the days of people traveling to Detroit to pick up a shiny new American automobile and then drive it across half the country to get home are long since over.

Know anyone who ever did that?

By the way, here's an interesting piece of trivia about the history of Detroit: Five people have been awarded the key to the city -- James Earl Jones, Jerome Bettis, neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, businessman Christopher Ilitch and, in 1980, "in recognition of large donations to a church," Saddam Hussein.

"The real combat experience..."

A while back, I came across a 1965 paperback copy of Robert Leckie's "Helmet for My Pillow."

It's Leckie's memoir of the Pacific campaign of World War II. The back-cover description states that it's "the true, agonizing, brutal story of the fighting and the dying, the wild sprees of sex and drinking in Australia, the murderous assaults on island after island. ... A brave, tough, sardonic and beautiful book."

It was Pearl Harbor that catapulted Leckie into the war. As he writes on the opening page:
"I had sought to enlist the day after Pearl Harbor, but the Marines had insisted that I be circumcised. It cost me a hundred dollars, although I am not sure to this day whether I paid the doctor or not. But I am certain that few young men went off to war in that fateful time so marked."
The book -- creased, shelfworn and tanned like any other well-read paperback -- contains another, more personal, stamp of approval. On the first page of the book, someone has scrawled in ink: "Right on for the real combat experience. Have been there also -- WWII. 2nd Marine Div."

That anonymous note-writer wasn't the only one who believed "Helmet for My Pillow" was a great non-fiction book. Leckie's memoir is one of two books (Eugene Sledge's "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa" is the other) that served as the basis for "The Pacific," a 2010 HBO miniseries about the Pacific campaign.

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