Fighting the Big War

"What did you do in the big war?" his grandchildren asked. Ralph Walker Willis has answered them in My Life as a Jarhead: USMC 1941-45, a valuable book for anyone interested in the subjects of history and heroism. His is not the memoir of a politician or military officer, nor a polished work of self-promotion penned by a ghostwriter. This is the raw and gripping story of an American boy who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps ten days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and chronicled his experiences during four years of war in the Pacific—including the Battle of Iwo Jima and the U.S. occupation of Japan.

My Life as a Jarhead is the antidote to Tom Brokaw's highly publicized The Greatest Generation, which includes World War II recollections of ordinary and famous Americans as a marketing device. Ignoring standards of scholarly research and even of journalistic integrity, The Greatest Generation portrays Americans who grew up in the Depression and then won World War II—as well as their society and government—as shamefully racist, particularly in regard to Japanese-Americans. Today, more than ever before, the dominant news media do not report the news; they manufacture it, recreating the past—as Brokaw attempted to do—so that history, too, may conform to their prejudices.

Mr. Willis is an excellent observer who uses words as a painter uses paint to...

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