(USMC Leckie Photo)
The Emmy winning HBO series “The Pacific”, the World War II drama, is based on the biographies of Robert Leckie (1920 to 2001) and Eugene Sledge. Leckie”s book, “Helmet for My Pillow” is emotionally charged and compelling. In the miniseries, actor James Badge Dale portrayed Leckie, known as Lucky.
Leckie was very lucky to survive jungle rot, malaria, madness, scorpions, snakes and time in the brig while too many of his Marine comrades were sidelined by determined Japanese and suicide. His war resume includes Guadalcanal, New Britain and the Pelelu holocuast where he suffered a concussion that ended this sickening nightmare.
Private Leckie, a newspaper reporter, reaches deep into his soul, sharing his inner most thoughts in 1957, 12 years after the war. “I stood among the heaps of dead. They lay crumpled, useless, defunct” (in New Britain). His summation on the follies of war is profound: “Father forgive us for the awful cloud . . . rising over Hiroshima . . . burst a bomb, shatter a people, explode the world.” The war for Leckie was a “strength of ordeal" and was his “sacrifice ”.
One of the lighter moments in the book and miniseries is the “great debauch” --- wine women and song in Melbourne with very little singing. This memorable but gaudy scene was recreated in the miniseries: As the ship pulls out of the harbor to the shrieking din of thousands of girls, the Marines and sailors let loose a dramatic aerial display of inflated condoms. For the women of the west and Australia, Leckie observes: “We who are about to die insult you.” Many Australian ladies were generous in their appreciation to the “bloody Yanks” for keeping a stubborn enemy from their shores.