Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific

( 41 )

Overview

This is an eyewitness—and eye-opening—account of some of the most savage and brutal fighting in the war against Japan, told from the perspective of a young Texan who volunteered for the Marine Corps to escape a life as a traveling salesman. R. V. Burgin enlisted at the age of twenty and, with his sharp intelligence and earnest work ethic, climbed the ranks from a green private to a seasoned sergeant. Along the way, he shouldered a rifle as a member of a mortar squad. He saw friends die and enemies killed. He saw ...
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Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific

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Overview

This is an eyewitness—and eye-opening—account of some of the most savage and brutal fighting in the war against Japan, told from the perspective of a young Texan who volunteered for the Marine Corps to escape a life as a traveling salesman. R. V. Burgin enlisted at the age of twenty and, with his sharp intelligence and earnest work ethic, climbed the ranks from a green private to a seasoned sergeant. Along the way, he shouldered a rifle as a member of a mortar squad. He saw friends die and enemies killed. He saw scenes he wanted to forget but never did—from enemy snipers who tied themselves to branches in the highest trees, to ambushes along narrow jungle trails, to the abandoned corpses of hara kiri victims, to the final howling banzai attacks as the Japanese embraced their inevitable defeat.

An unforgettable narrative of a young Marine in combat, Islands of the Damned brings to life the hell that was the Pacific War.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sean Runnette uses a voice and rhythm just right for the job. The timing of his phrases fits the prose so aptly that one can easily imagine him to be the Marine recounting the traumatic events still stored in his memory." —-AudioFile
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451232267
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 150,110
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


R. V. Burgin served as a sergeant in the First Marine Division in World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.

William Marvel, now retired, had been writing features for the Dallas Morning News since 1986.

Sean Runnette, a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has produced several Audie Award–winning audiobooks. He is a member of the American Repertory Theater company, and his television and film appearances include Two If by Sea, Copland, Sex and the City, Law & Order, and Third Watch.

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Read an Excerpt

Motors were gunning, pumping out stinking clouds of blue smoke when we climbed down the ladder into the cramped hold. After a morning up top washed by a steady sea breeze, our eyes burned. Below, it was close and hot as hell. We were burdened with combat packs, carbines, sidearms, first aid kits, KA-BAR knives, two canteens each, struggling to keep a foothold on the pitching deck.

I believed I was going to come back in one piece. There were guys I knew, Marines I fought alongside, who got a feeling their time was up. Once they got it you couldn’t talk them out of it. When we had been fighting to hang on to Walt’s Ridge on New Britain, Lonnie Howard said, “Burgin, if anything happens to me, I want you to take my watch.”

“You’re crazy,” I told him. “You’ll be okay. Nothing’s going to happen to you.”

That night one of our artillery shells hit nearby. The shrapnel killed Howard and another Marine, Robert McCarthy.

Me, I was anxious and wary that morning off Peleliu. But I never thought for a minute I wouldn’t make it.

[We were in] one of the older amtracs, the ones without a drop-down back end. When we rolled up on the beach we’d have to scramble over the sides. That’s when the Japs would have a clear shot at us.

There were about twenty of us, plus the driver, probably a Navy man, all jammed together like toes in a shoe. While we waited, sailors topside looked us over, giving us the thumbs-up and shouting encouragement that we couldn’t hear over the noise. Finally the big clamshell doors of that LST—Landing Ship, Tank—cranked open. Number 13 shuddered, and we followed the other amtracs down the ramp, nosed into the water, and floated out into the bright morning sun.

It was a little past eight o’clock.

An amtrac at sea wallows like a buffalo. The flat-bottomed Higgins boats could do twelve knots. We barely managed four and a half, which is about as fast as a man can walk. Think of us walking to shore under fire. We circled for half an hour until the beach master dropped his red flag, the signal to form up and head for shore. Our battleships and cruisers had been working over the island since dawn, guns cracking like thunder. They paused long enough for the Dauntless dive bombers and TBMs to sweep in and dump their bombs. Then they started up again. After our wave got under way, a couple LSTs that were parked out on our flanks sent swarms of rockets screeching over our heads. I’d never heard a sound like that before. Something like cloth ripping. A curtain of black smoke hung over the whole beach. It looked like the island was on fire.

Somewhere along our way in Jap artillery found the range and started working us over. The last thousand yards we were under fire the whole way. Over the general racket I couldn’t hear bullets dinging Number 13, but we kept our heads down anyway. Shells were smacking the water all around us, raising big spikes of foam. Here and there other LSTs and Higgins boats would disappear in a roar of flame. The first bodies floated by. We’d see many more.

About seven hundred yards out, [our amtrac] lurched and halted, pitching us into each other. Treads flailed and something went grinding and scraping beneath our hull. We’d struck a reef. Now the Jap shells were landing closer—left, right and behind us. We sat there churning the water, and minutes seemed to drag by, though I’m sure only seconds were passing.

Our sergeant, Johnny Marmet, leaned forward and stuck his .45 in the driver’s face.

“If you don’t get this son of a bitch moving, I’m going to by God shoot you in the head!” he shouted. “We’re sitting ducks out here!”

The driver was pushing and pulling controls, like a mad man trying to rock a car out of the mud. Treads were spinning, kicking up spray. Then something gently lifted us and we were moving again.

The instant we broke free, an explosion ripped the water right in front of us, dousing us with spray.

I made a quick mental calculation. All that time we’d been moving toward the shore, some Jap gunner was watching us, leading his target. When he figured the trajectory of his shell would intersect our path, he fired. The seconds we’d hung up on that reef were just long enough. If we’d been plowing forward we’d have ended up just where he calculated. That shell would have landed in our laps.

None of us talked about it afterward. We were busy with other things. But I honestly believed it then, and I believe it today. That was a God thing that hung us up on that reef.

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Table of Contents

Prologue Luck 1

Chapter 1 A Marine's Story 19

Chapter 2 Mortarman 33

Chapter 3 Green Hell 63

Chapter 4 First Battle of Pavuvu 95

Chapter 5 The Unnecessary Island 125

Chapter 6 The Perfect Invasion 153

Chapter 7 Second Battle of Pavuvu 187

Chapter 8 April Fools 209

Chapter 9 Flesh Wounds 237

Chapter 10 Home Port 269

Selected Bibliography 287

Index 291

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 41 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2010

    Extremely well done!!!

    R.V. Burgin's book is a must read for those who are interested in a first hand account of some of the hellacious Pacific Battles. Burgin did an excellent job detailing his first hand experiences in some of the Pacific battles. He meshed the battles nicely with the USMC life in between the battles on Pavuvu.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am so glad that I purchased it. This is a definite keeper for my book collection! The book was a very fast paced read that left me with chills at times. I have also read Leckie's, Helmet For My Pillow. With all do respect to Leckie, read Burgin's account if you are looking for more information about the actual battles.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    A must read for an understanding of the tolls of war

    The very real events of Islands of the Damned took place over sixty-five years ago yet it is a timely book relevant to today's war. The chilling effects of hand to hand combat on the individual have not changed in millennia, and as we prosecute our global war on terror it would be wise for us to become aware of the exacting toll it takes on those who fight our wars. Islands of the Damned will charge you with the deeply emotional demands of men faced with killing the enemy in defense of our country.

    You will come to understand why unnecessary battles end up being fought and the physical and mental tolls of such battles. From the joys of watching porpoises and flying fish frolic in the wake of the ships carrying our Marines to the war, to the heartbreak of friendly fire causalities, you will learn how ordinary men can step up and perform extraordinarily valiant acts or make tragic mistakes that have lifelong consequences.

    Historically this is a different view of the battles of New Britain, Peleliu and Okinawa than the traditionally accepted texts. R.V. Burgin will broaden your mind of what happened during these world changing battles. As the ranks of our World War II veterans grow thinner by the day, these first-hand accounts of front line events become more precious.

    Read Islands of the Damned and personally connect with the feelings and expectations of regular guys off the farms and streets who were forced into war to by an enemy who breached the rules of combat and employed terrorist tactics long before September 11, 2001.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    What a great book

    Its amazing to hear all the untold personal stories from older generation marines and the experiences they've had. I love reading books like these. Some of the things talked about in this story i could relate to as i am too a marine currently serving as a mortarman. Semper fidelis and thanks to all those thay have served!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2014

    Good read

    Easy and quick to read. Good read, filled in some holes from "With the Old Breed". Shed some not so good light on Eugene Sledge.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    To the person who made the comment.((( Blatant attempt by Author

    To the person who made the comment.((( Blatant attempt by Authors RV Burgin and Co Author Bill Marvel t))) I didnt give you a 5 star but the book that Mr. Burgin wrote. These men who finally told a story about the hell thatI happen I have very HIGH respect for that, As my grandfather never talked about WWll and with that being said I like when these stories are put into books so we have a look into the lives of these men. So putting down a person who has fought for our country is pretty low. But thats the way i feel about the comment. I dont think he copied and took info to make his book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Blatant attempt by Authors RV Burgin and Co Author Bill Marvel t

    Blatant attempt by Authors RV Burgin and Co Author Bill Marvel to make money from E.B. Sledges book on the same subject. Most of the book seems to be lifted from Sledges Book, what I give Burgin credit for , he doesn't use profanity in the book and he is respectful in his descriptions of others when he uses their full names. I think it's very telling that Burgin and Marvel waited until after E.B.Sledges Death to write their version, since it's for the most part, a weak copy. As a former Marine I can also state Mr. Burgin or Mr. Marvel have inflated Mr. Burgins leadership role verses his rank and experience. One look at Bill Marvel's photograph in the book jacket explained a lot to me. Book simply cannot stand beside "WIth the Old Breed" by Sledge

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    Great read!

    Worth taking a look

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 3, 2014

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    Posted January 25, 2012

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    Posted January 3, 2013

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    Posted May 11, 2011

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    Posted October 22, 2010

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    Posted March 12, 2012

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