An academic's largely successful and consistently absorbing effort to convey the varied experience of American fighting men during WW II. Drawing on a host of sources, Linderman (Embattled Courage, 1987) creates a vivid mosaic depicting how US soldiers and marines (albeit not airmen or sailors) dealt with the hard roles they played in bloody campaigns in arenas ranging from Guadalcanal, North Africa, and the Rhineland through Iwo Jima. Observing that most if not all American troops had little sense of personal mortality before enduring their baptism of fire, the author (History/Univ. of Michigan) documents how they adjusted to the grim realities and unrelenting shocks of battle. He goes on to show that rules of a sort governed engagements with German foes; in the Pacific theater, by contrast, both US and Japanese forces waged what another historian, John Dower, has called a ``war without mercy.'' Covered as well are the tacit attractions of combat, the widespread disaffection of American enlisted men with their caste- conscious officers, fierce loyalties to comrades in arms, the average GI's reaction to USO performers and the Red Cross, and the editing of casualty reports, as well as the high cost of rugged individualism among American POWs, the adverse impact on morale caused by news of home-front profiteering, and the emotions of those whose only ticket off the line was a fatal or million-dollar wound. Among the notables (literary and otherwise) whose eyewitness testimony informs Linderman's tellingly detailed overview are Art Buchwald, John Ciardi, Orval Faubus, Tom Lea, William Manchester, Bill Mauldin, Audie Murphy, Ernie Pyle, and Eric Sevareid. A fine contribution to WW II scholarship, one that atypically offers human-scale perspectives on those at the sharp end of the bayonet in a horrific global conflict.