This account of a search for a father's past is deftly done, avoiding the pitfalls of self-righteousness and paternal aggrandizement. GQ correspondent Richmond (Ballpark, 1993) set out a few years ago to learn about his father's war experiences. Tom Richmond, who died in a plane crash in 1960 when his son was seven years old, was a Marine officer who fought in three savage battles in the Pacific in WW II. He was one of only 74 Marines in that war who were awarded two silver stars. After starting a family of his own, Richmond felt compelled to find out firsthand what his father went through a half-century ago. ``If I were to die knowing nothing about the battles, the truth and horror and beauty of Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu would have been lost to two generations: mine and my son's.'' So he devoured books on the Pacific war, combed the official Marine records, interviewed many of his father's fellow Marines, and made two trips to the Pacific to visit battlefields. Richmond tells his story well, using an effective mixture of war reporting and personal reflection. His most affecting writing comes in the sections where he describes literally walking in his father's footsteps. This is tricky terrain, but Richmond resists the temptation to idealize his father, offering instead some evocative reporting, spiced with frank, thoughtful ideas about his father's character and legacy and the impact they continue to have on his own life. In the end, Richmond frees himself from the burden of being a hero's son. ``I am relinquishing my father the ideal, and coming to terms with my father the man, and allowing myself, finally—much later than most of the people I know—to let go of him.'' (For a full account of the war in the Pacific, see Eric Bergerud, Touched with Fire, p. XXX.) An accomplished work that recreates the horrors of the Pacific in WW II and honors the Americans who fought there.
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