The Long and the Short and the Tall

Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.
WITH a degree of objectivity rarely found in eyewitness accounts of battles, a thirty-year-old Marine combat correspondent has written the unofficial history of the Third Marine Division in action on Guam and Iwo Jima. Alvin Josephy does not pose as a GI philosopher or a military tactician; he has recorded what he saw and heard in two decisive victories over the Japanese, and he gives it to the reader straight, without attempting to be significant or to draw any conclusions.
While the story of Iwo Jima can stand retelling, it is perhaps fortunate that the bulk of The Long and the Short and the Tall deals with the recapture of Guam, because the reports of that campaign were overshadowed in the newspapers by more headline-worthy events which took place simultaneously in Normandy. The invasion of Guam was typical of many other frontal assaults on a fortified position, and Mr. Josephy describes graphically the demands made upon men who had to go in against pillboxes and hidden machine guns with rifles and hand grenades. The campaign was high-lighted by a midnight banzai attack which nearly drove the center of the Marine line back into the sea, and Josephy describes it so vividly that the reader can almost smell the sake on the breaths of the screaming at taekers.
Guam was declared secure on D plus 20, but an estimated ten thousand or more Japanese remained in the unexplored jungles. While the Seabees were building the largest port between Pearl Harbor and Manila, and the Army Engineers were clearing the underbrush to make landing strips for Superfortresses, the Marines were deep in the “boondocks” killing the recalcitrant enemy. In less than three months of mopping-up operations they killed more than five thousand cave-bound Japanese, and they captured several hundred additional ones in the first determined effort made in the Pacific to convince the Japanese that surrender was preferable to continued hostility’.
Sergeant Josephy drew a tough assignment for his first time under fire. He waded ashore on Guam in one of the first waves of assault troops and carried with him recording apparatus to make a running commentary of what happened to him and to the men close to him. A transcript of his unrehearsed remarks is included in the appendix of his book and makes the best reading of all. In the disjointed, often explosive chatter of a green soldier facing death knowingly and without hesitation, the civilian home front can find a ready clue to what the war was like for many of our American youth.