Battling for Saipan

Francis A. O'Brien, Author Presidio Press $23 (400p) ISBN 978-0-89141-804-7
This gripping story of the 27th Infantry Division and the 1944 Battle of Saipan is somewhat less successful as a biography of the author's uncle, who won a posthumous Medal of Honor in the battle. Little space goes to what kept Lt. Col. William J. O'Brien in the New York National Guard for more than 20 years, or what made him the effective and courageous citizen-soldier he obviously was. Instead, the author offers a history of the 27th Division and its mobilization, followed by its baptism of fire on Makin Island in 1943. The narrative becomes more focused when O'Brien gets to Saipan, where the 27th Division was rushed ashore minus a good deal of essential equipment, and eventually had its commanding Army general relieved by a Marine officer. (The 27th Infantry Division got a historical bum rap--a 1944 article in Time had them""froze in their foxholes""--and Lt. O'Brien was a""true hero, "" his nephew maintains.) Still more gripping is the account of the huge banzai charge, in which the Japanese threw in more than 4,000 men to overrun and nearly annihilate Colonel Smith's 1st Battalion of the 105th Infantry Regiment. The author researched the account thoroughly not in only printed sources, but also through interviews with surviving veterans; his book may be both an imperfect unit history and a slightly skimpy biography, but it's also a good war story. 14 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW and 8 maps.
Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-89141-750-7
Open Ebook - 257 pages - 978-0-307-51381-6
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