A World War II Marine chronicles his time in the service, culminating in the act that won him the Medal of Honor—and how that event changed his life.
Lucas, the youngest Marine to be awarded the medal, grew up in North Carolina; an unruly farm boy, he was sent to a military school when his mother remarried. The school brought out the best in him, believing as he did in honor and duty. When news of Pearl Harbor arrived, he wanted to enlist and fight the Japanese immediately. But at 14 years old, he was too young. In what became a pattern for his Marine career, he persuaded his stepfather to lie about his age and was soon in basic camp. Sent to a stateside assignment, he went AWOL to get to Hawaii, then stowed away on a troopship bound for Iwo Jima, where, on his second day of combat, he threw himself on two grenades to save the other members of his squad—and lived. His post-service career was in general considerably less exciting, other than a murder plot against him. Lucas comes across as a highly patriotic man who was a serious hell-raiser, especially in his youth. It is the story that carries readers through rather than the quality of the writing. Considering that he spent only two days in combat, the author’s escapades before he ever got to Iwo Jima, as well as his various stratagems to get himself into the combat zone, carry the bulk of the interest. There is very little on the battle that readers casually familiar with the war in the Pacific don’t already know, and one suspects that Drum had a good deal to do with getting the memoir into publishable shape. Still, if you were sitting in a bar with a veteran recounting these stories, you would almost certainly stay to hear them—and buy the teller a drink or two to keep them coming.
Colorful war stories told by a man whose patriotism and heroism are sufficient to command our respectful attention.