The Young Draftee by Monte Howell was written from the standpoint of an 18 year old who goes off to war after being inducted into the Army immediately following graduation from high school. Trained as a combat engineer, he was selected for this specialty on the basis of his mechanical drawing and machine shop high school courses. He served his entire combat tour with the 114th Combat Engineers attached to the 32nd Inf Div and saw action in New Guinea, Leyte, and Luzon. His unit was also part of the occupation force on Kyushu after the war.
The basis for the narrative was an effort to produce an explanatory record for the hundred wartime photographs that Howell took during his tour and which he later rediscovered. In the book only forty-six are utilized with the addition of four more showing post-wartime activities. The quality of the photos (in the copy of the book I had) is generally good, but the printed captions, although readable, are too light. Errors of punctuation, spelling, and grammar are found in many places, but do not really detract from an understanding of the content.
The description of combat engagements from a private's standpoint is absolutely classic. Using a wry humor (“…the biggest change from basic training is they are shooting back at us…That sure takes the fun out of it.” p. 33) and descriptions of assorted non-combat incidents, he gives an outstanding picture, which though personal seems clearly to represent the attitudes and behaviors of men who served in that era. The book also provides an enchanting picture of the information gap in the lower ranks. “They loaded all of us on LSTs and set sail for some place” (p. 60) is the description given for his unit's move from Leyte to Luzon.
Throughout the book Howell intersperses descriptions of campaigns, casualty figures, and provides absolutely fascinating details of the way some weapons were utilized such as the Japanese knee mortars, and 60 mm trigger fired mortars mounted on machine gun tripods and fired pointblank at enemy positions. His dislike of Gen. Douglas MacArthur is apparent at several points, and probably mirrors the feelings of many men who served in the South Pacific Theatre during WWII.
In the last chapter Howell gives a brief description of his post-war activities. While these are interesting, his comments about societal attitudes are probably more significant. The policy he adopted after the war of looking to the future rather than dwelling on the past, his concerns for the present day blatant criticism of our government and for the attitude of “let someone else do it” (p. 134) all strike a resonant cord.
Overall, this is a marvelously interesting and descriptive book. It provides information from a unique standpoint of a little known and inadequately discussed segment of WWII. I would recommend it highly as a picture of the war in the South Pacific from a private's viewpoint, and as a source for information on the Leyte and Luzon campaigns.
The review of this Book prepared by Albert E Breland Jr. M.D.
The unknown is always the frightening component of the war. From basic training to the actual deployment in the theater of action, the reader is apprised of the awful fear that was always prevalent.
This is the kind of a story that is omitted from our history books,and is only when we read first person accounts that can we truly appreciate the suffering of soldiers at war. Monte Howell's penetrating personal perceptions of the war only confirm that war is about people, and we still have not learned that no one wins.
The review of this Book prepared by I. Goldman
Of all of the stories to come out about World War II few are written about the young 18 year old inexperienced soldiers who were thrust into a brutal part of the war. None were professional soldiers, most were draftees or civilians who were allowed to play soldier for the duration of the war. This true story identifies those everday occurrences which a "young soldier" experiences as he goes through army basic training, being sent overseas to an infantry replacement depot in New Guinea, never quite knowing where he was or where he was or wher he was going. Finally experiencing the horrors of combat in Leyte and Luzon, Philippines and wondering if his luck was going to see him through these ordeals.
The war in the South Pacific was beyond being called brutal, savage war or some other words, which can explain what these men went through. The terrain, climate and disease those men had to fight besides the enemy was unbearable. The war in the South Pacific was a war without mercy. This is a descriptive march through history.
The review of this Book prepared by Julie Gooding