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Tales of a Feather Merchant

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Tales of a Feather Merchant: A World War II Allegory
  • by Perry Pollins
    • Merriam Press World War 2 Memoir Series
      • Third edition 2006
      • 212 6x9-inch pages
      • 43 B&W photos
Describing his tour of duty with the 1st Marine Division at their base camp on Pavuvu, the assault on Peleliu (Operation Stalemate), their return to Pavuvu for rest and further training, and the final battle of World War II, Okinawa, the book concludes with Perry's posting to North China and confrontation with Chinese Nationalist and Chinese Communist troops, displaying this military involvement that few are aware of. 
     The book consists of a number of vignettes that describe the adventures of a Marine that takes place on an isolated jungle island and in two of the most vicious battles fought in World War II.
     While it covers contact with the enemy, Perry describes their brutality, the climate, the topography, and the loneliness and isolation that the "raggedy ass Marines" suffered and how they withstood an adversary more vicious and unrelenting then those who confronted the Germans in Europe.
     It addresses the marked differences between the fighting that took place in Europe and the vast Pacific Ocean, the major differences being the brutal and cruel behavior of the Japanese and the surroundings in which they fought.  But the most oppressive of all was the severe isolation that these Marines were subjected to, and how they coped with it.
     And finally, it discloses that Marines in the Pacific, and especially those in the 1st Marine Division, were never optimally equipped, and they were understaffed and abandoned until the war in Europe was won, a condition forced upon them by the government’s declaration of "Europe First."
     Perry was a member of the 4th JASCO (Joint Assault Signal Company) of the 1st Marine Division, which was comprised of Marine and Navy personnel radio operators, telephone linemen, and scout-snipers who supplied the Division with communications to control naval gunfire, close air support, and landing supplies, i.e. ammunition, food, water, vehicles and material.
     The book contains photographs never before published. 

Contents
  • Prologue
  • Acknowledgments
  • Glossary
  • The Theme in Retrospect
  • A Naval Engagement
  • Pavuvu: Pediculous Paradise
  • Peleliu
  • Editorial Interlude
  • Return to Pavuvu
  • The Beginning of the End
  • It’s Over
  • Returning to the Marine’s Premier Station—China
  • Homeward Bound
  • Marines Under Stress
  • Afterword
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
Reviews
 
Thank you for your thoughtful letter and the autographed copy of Tales of a Feather Merchant. It is an honor to add your book to my personal library.
  From what I've read so far, it is an extraordinary memoir—a remarkable account of the war in the Pacific from a "grunt" perspective. As a fellow Marine (and former infantry company commander), I can appreciate the tremendous amount of work and emotional energy that went into telling your story… and you told it very well! Although we have never had the pleasure to meet, I feel as if I know you through the memories you have imparted. You can be very proud of the impact you have had on the Corps, not only through your service during World War II, but also by your courageous choice to share your experience with others.
     More than 50 years have passed since you hung up the uniform, but your love for the Corps and for your fellow Marines has clearly been a constant in your life. With that in mind, I salute you and your family for your selfless service to our nation and your continuing contributions top the Corps.
—James L. Jones, General, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps (letter dated 5 April 2002)
 
Many thanks for providing me with a look at the First Marine Division between 1943 and 1946. I received my first pair of Marine boondockers in 1955, not many years behind you. The sounds and smells of our youth are much the same, although I did not see combat until Vietnam. Our war went unrecognized, too.
     Your World War II allegory is an interesting collection of wartime incidents. Thank you for sharing them with me. It is difficult to believe that a Corporal of Marines, with three rows of ribbons, could qualify as a "feather merchant" in the rear rank. "Peleliu" and "The Beginning of the End" were excellent chapters. Having commanded the Third Marine Division and the III Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa, I was very interested in your commentary on the Battle of Okinawa.
     Your vignettes are splendid insights into battles almost 60 years ago. You make the brutality of World War II come alive and certainly make your point on the differences between the European and Pacific Theaters.
     Thank you for your continued love of our Corps and your service to our nation years ago. Marine continue to serve with the same dedication and selfless devotion as your "greatest generation." We remain proud of all Marines.
     A copy of Tales of a Feather Merchant will be presented to the General Alfred M. Gray Marine Corps Research Center. Marines in future years at the Marine Corps University will find it an invaluable research document on Marines in the Pacific War.
—Donald R. Gardner, Maj. Gen., USMC (Ret.), Chief Executive Officer,Marine Corps University Foundation, Inc.
 
I finished your book. All I can say, at this point, is too little... It was a fascinating read. Those Irish friends of yours in your youth must have had a tremendous influence on you. I refer to your Joycean/poetic writing style (i.e.: "and then the fat boy farted."). It's a beautiful story, Perry. Congratulations!
     I have contacted my friend Captain Dale Dye (USMC, Ret.) and recommended he read your book. He will.
—Frank Dermody

Radioman on Peleliu and Okinawa
This is the memoir of a radioman with 4th JASCO, who served in action on Peleliu and Okinawa in WW2, and a stint in China before going home. JASCO stood for Joint Assault Signal Company. It contained radio, linesmen and all the other technicians needed to provide communications. Principally 4th JASCO is in support of the 1st Marine Division in its battles but it was also attached to the 6th Marine Division for the start of Okinawa.
     As a radioman, Pollins is mostly involved with communication activities but he takes part in the combat assault on Peleliu and is subjected to quite a lot of Japanese ordnance. He is in foxholes in the front line at night at times and has to run a lot of risky missions. He sees quite a lot of death and destruction though he is silent about any contribution of his own to it. He loses friends and has close calls, so he is in action, if not to the same degree as the regimental riflemen. Some things of interest he remarks on are mercy killings and taking prisoners. He also sees a lot of kamikazes on Okinawa.
    
This is no With the Old Breed but there is material of interest. The author’s role gives him a different perspective but he suffers his share of terror and deprivation. His exposure to the ‘rest’ area of Pavuvu left him aghast and is one of the experiences that triggers some strong words about U.S. government policy to defeat Germany first. Pollins resents the implications this had for him and his fellows—increased deprivations and death basically. He explores some other issues too, like the differences with the war being fought in Europe against the Germans, often in dedicated chapters. So this is not just a straight linear account of his war but also his considered reflections held decades later. Pollins is also a teetotaller and a pretty decent guy, so there aren’t too many salty stories. There is a little bit of language but nothing excessive—after all, war is one of those things where emotions run high! Pollins is also one of the very few Jewish memoirists from the Pacific but this element is a minor one. So some things of interest but in terms of combat experiences this is a 2.5-star read.
—John E. Larsen

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