Across The Dark Islands — The War In The Pacific, By Bg Floyd W. Radike

(Presidio Press, 2003; 272 pp., $24.95 — ISBN 0891417745).

This is one of the clearest to follow, most interesting accounts of a green National Guard unit going into combat early in the war and remaining committed in combat for the duration. The quoted conversations bring the situation alive to the reader.

“The impact was profound and shattering,” says the author of the engagement in which their first casualties occurred. The book goes on to tell of much action.

Of the many personal accounts of wartime combat service this may be the most readable. As an infantry officer, a platoon leader in combat in Europe, I can equate with another similar officer in the Pacific. The accounts ring true, and are vivid and understandable. In the reading you sense the emotions of conflict, particularly when his platoon is tasked to send a patrol to determine the extent of damage to an enemy-held prominent ridge. The Japanese defenders had been pounded severely with an aerial bombardment and an extensive artillery barrage that followed.

Floyd is about to lead the patrol himself when his esteemed platoon sergeant insists that it should be his role. Watching through a telescope the patrol’s advance and tragic annihilation by Japanese who emerge from deep cover, one is faced with the awful truth of infantry warfare.

The author was a friend of mine. We worked closely on committees within our class of the Army War College, graduating in 1970. We members of the group developed a high respect for Floyd Radike as a highly competent officer. In another role as a writer he earns that sort of respect as well, for this book is very readable, of professional quality, highly recommended to anyone interested in the role of infantry in the Pacific Theater of WWII, particularly National Guard units.

I was amused to learn from his widow Lydia how it happened that the lieutenant’s bars were incorrectly placed in the photograph shown as the frontispiece. She had pinned them on. And they were married the same day. Lydia helped with the editing of the book, doing a fine job, I must say.