Hell in the Pacific: A Marine Rifleman's Journey From Guadalcanal to Peleliu
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 16 Jun 2012
Hell in the Pacific, published very recently in 2012, was the memoir of United States Marine Jim McEnery who saw combat at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu during WW2. McEnery was for sure a great storyteller. Throughout the book, I could almost see him sitting in a comfortable chair with children around him, listening to his war stories at the family reunion. He told the stories openly with only little refrain, never hesitating when expressing his personal opinions against Douglas MacArthur, and retaining his racist personal hatred against the "Japs" and "Nips" on the other side of the line (I did not notice even once of him referring to the opposing side as "Japanese" or even "enemy"; he always used derogatory racial slurs). He also supported his personal experiences with additional research in an attempt to expand his personal memoir into one of his company or even his regiment; nice additions to be sure, but at times I did have to think about whether he was speaking of something he witnessed first personal, something he heard of second hand, or something he read about after the war. I felt that his (or Bill Sloan's) writing style did not always immediately illustrate that. Small problem, of course, and did not take away from his telling of the Pacific War.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format, and the reader, Robert Fass, did a wonderful job. Pausing and raising his volume at all the right places, he was as good at the reading as the author was writing it. He read the foreign words with adequate accuracy as well, which as a nice bonus; I was a little surprised how he handled the word "Hiei", for example, since I had definitely heard of audio book readers stumbling over it.
Throughout the book, I did have my share of annoyance with McEnery's unfounded hatred toward MacArthur and his undisguised bias against the Japanese. I would overlook all of those, though, for Hell in the Pacific was a wonderful memoir of an Everyday Joe who rose up to the brutal challenges of war and dutifully served his country with distinction. Sure he was no Robert Leckie, William Manchester, nor Eugene Sledge, but McEnery's would hold a special place among Pacific War memoirs as well.
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944