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Not All Were Heroes

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Not All Were Heroes

A Private in the Corps of Engineers in the Pacific During World War II

  • by Herbert L. Martin
    • Merriam Press World War 2 Memoir Series
      • Fourth Edition 2012
      • 294 6x9-inch pages
      • 1 photo
      • 69 drawings by the author
      • 3 documents
  • Herbert passed away on January 9, 2004
The adventures chronicled in this work are those experienced by the man on the bottom. The memoirs of the captains and the generals, whose names were on every tongue, whose deeds were grandiose, whose commands and decisions impacted world history have long since been rushed to print. Now perhaps the voice of the private soldier, the anonymous GI may be heard. Not as a capstone to history, but as a supplement to the documentation of everyday moments lived by hundreds of thousands of unknown Americans.
It is because relatively few close-ups have as yet appeared, particularly in the nature of daily diaries, that this account is offered. I suppose, in a sense, it is unique because of its rarity. What light is shed on history is very limited. The happenstances for the most part are devoid of color and excitement, but honestly present the monotony and dullness that made up so many days of the ordinary private and especially the ordinary private of the service troops. Moments there were when the dramatic occurred to spark interest in the great military venture taking place in the Pacific War. But by and large the true picture of what was happening was almost invisible. The rear echelon private in the Corps of Engineers, even 20 miles from the front, was not as well informed as the civilian back home who had daily access to the newspapers.
There were so many of us in this fix. The vast majority of the millions in the services were supporting the relatively few under the guns of the enemy. We cannot all be heroes. But essential work was accomplished. The war was fought and won by combined efforts. I have attempted to collect and forge into a simple chronology the major portions of my daily writings editing out only the banal and highly personal. In places I have supplemented with excerpts from letters to expand upon the scenes and the shared thoughts with loved ones at home. I trust that many of my fellows who lived and survived those years will find pleasure in reliving moments of their youth spent in the Big One.
The major part of the content consists of the writing done each day in the small pocket-size diaries carried along in my duffle bag as I moved from place to place. No thought of publishing this material ever entered my head. It is simply a candid account of my everyday thoughts and activities as they happened. For this reason I believe it to be perhaps refreshing by its honesty.
The author was a member of the 529th Engineer Light Ponton Co. and the 866th Engineer Aviation Battalion.
All of the drawings reproduced in this book are from the collection of the author, who sketched and colored them on the scene during the war. He then sent them home to his mother and she pasted them into a scrapbook. The author had no formal art training and the drawings have a splendidly amateurish quality about them. They are a unique record of the service of the author and his unit.
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Basic Training
  • Unit Training
  • ASTP (Army Special Training Program)
  • “Repple-Depples”
  • Voyage to New Guinea
  • New Guinea
  • A Visit to Leyte
  • Mindoro
  • Luzon
  • Voyage to Nippon
  • Yokohama, Japan
  • Going Home
  • Epilogue

So this was like sitting and listening to stories from him
For anyone who had a parent in the Pacific in World War II, this book is will put you in touch with their life all those years ago. My father never talked about his time in the Navy, so this was like sitting and listening to stories from him. The author was even on the same ship as my father for part of the narrative.

He enjoyed it, and we were glad to find it
This was an account of WWII from a diary of someone in my dad's unit. He enjoyed it, and we were glad to find it.
—Betsy Collinson

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