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Wayne C. MacGregor, Jr., served in an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon of the 1st Battalion, 306th Regimental Combat Team, 77th Infantry Division in 1944 and 1945. In Through These Portals he relates his experiences in the invasion and capture of Guam, Leyte, Kerama Retto, Ie Shima, and Okinawa. Although touted as being comparable to such classic war memoirs as E. B. Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, MacGregor's book differs substantially in content and style. Sledge primarily wrote a detailed account of what he and those near at hand did and perceived in combat. Although often inserting relevant historical information on the bigger picture, Sledge and his comrades are the central figures in his narrative. While the first two chapters of MacGregor's book focus on his pre-war life, his narrative covering the war years progressively evolves away from being a personal account. Concerned about conveying his experiences in context with other related events, he often overshadows his own role with narrative concerning the larger forces at play. As a result of this approach, a substantial portion of MacGregor's book is a well-written, balanced, and engaging history of the combat operations of the U.S. Army's 77th Infantry Division as told by a participant serving in the lower ranks.
Through much of his narrative, MacGregor points out the worst of war. He describes the abominable living conditions of the combatants, both American and Japanese—often poorly fed, exposed to inhospitable climatic and weather conditions, and vulnerable to a myriad of diseases; their personal [End Page 1000] hygiene understandably deplorable. His vivid description of the work of the grave registration units in their retrieval of corpses is grisly.
MacGregor's career as a lawyer is evident when he analyzes and renders judgment on subjects that have sparked debate for decades. In describing the unexpected execution of two Japanese soldiers in his platoon's custody, he discusses the treatment of both Allied and Japanese POWs and the attitudes and feelings of their captors. In comparing the American invasion of Peleliu with that of Guam, he contends that the struggle for Guam was probably more difficult; that it exacted far more casualties, both Japanese and American. He compares U.S. Army vis-à-vis Marine units serving in the Pacific, and concludes that they were equal in fighting ability. He laments the heavy loss of infantry replacements ("green recruits"), which he attributes to insufficient training before being sent into combat. In discussing the casualty figures for the Okinawa campaign and the prospect of invading Japan, he states, "Is it any wonder now that practically any veteran who fought on Okinawa feels that the United States was justified in dropping atomic bombs on Japan and bringing this savage war to a sudden end?" (p. 219).