Thursday, December 6, 2007

Battle Cry (1953): By Leon Uris

Leon Uris wrote a number of books in his lifetime (1924 - 2003). Leon Uris fought in the Second World War in the United States Marine Corps, and his experience formed the basis of his first book, Battle Cry, released in 1953. The book chronicled the adventures of a group of young men who join the United States Marines after the Pearl Harbour attack, and take part in the fierce fighting with the Japanese in the Islands of the Pacific. Names such as Wake, Guadalcanal, etc were famous milestones in this fighting (these were also incidentally some of the places where Leon Uris had toured in).
And for a book written so far back (1953), there is a fair amount of representation of different cultures shown. Though the book skips over the African-American community, there are soldiers from Native Indian (Navajo), Italian-American, Swedish, Yankee, and other backgrounds. The narrating is done by a crusty old sergeant (with a lot of experience) called Mac. The whole group is led by a Colonel, Sam Huxley, who wants glory for his team.
The book is well-written, taking the story in more detail of the All-American boy, Danny Forester, and his urge to join the Marines and the effect this has on his personal life. These impacts are supposed to represent the problems faced by other soldiers, and the impact on their families who see young boys (barely out of their teens), young men, and family men going off to a war from whom many may never come back.
The book makes for some gripping reading, with their adventures in a war that is destined to take them to a place with fierce fighting between the Americans and the Japanese (not depicted in any great detail - just as fierce fighters who will fight to the end rather than commit suicide). The book starts with boot camp, with a hint of seriousness starting to emerge, and then becomes more serious as the narrative proceeds. Times where there is no actual fighting going show the life of the Marines at these forward and war zones, and is able to keep reader attention. But it is the scenes of battle that do not hesitate from actual gore and death, and there are members of the squad and friend who end up dead or very wounded.
The book shows the motive behind people heading to war, to fight for the country; and at the same time does not hesitate in showing the actual death and destruction that can emerge from such a battle. Read it if you can find it, it's a very good book.

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