- Mission Raise Hell: The U.S. Marines on Choiseul, October-November 1943, and: The Six Marine Divisions in the Pacific: Every Campaign of World War II
Every year, the steady flow of books on Marine Corps history continues. Most of these new publications appeal primarily to a popular audience, and a few books exhibit the critical scholarship and thorough research expected by an academic audience. James F. Christ's Mission Raise Hell falls into the former category. George B. Clark's The Six Marine Divisions in the Pacific straddles both categories. Because these two books have different audiences, purposes, and approaches, they show the wide range of the existing literature on Marine Corps history.
In Mission Raise Hell, James F. Christ narrates the week-long engagement in late 1943 between American and Japanese troops on Choiseul, an island southeast of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. Christ draws his title from the orders given to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, to land on that island and "raise hell." American strategy called for Choiseul to be leapfrogged so a large American force could land directly on Bougainville. Raising hell meant that Lt. Col. Victor H. Krulak's 650 paramarines would cause a diversion on Choiseul, draw Japanese attention away from the full-scale American invasion on Bougainville, and extract themselves before being overwhelmed by Japanese forces. Krulak's paramarines successfully landed on 28 October 1943 and demonstrated for several days. They did not, however, decoy large numbers of Japanese troops to Choiseul because the larger invasion of Bougainville occurred too soon thereafter (on November 1) for the enemy to overreact to the paramarines on Choiseul.
The biggest strength of Christ's book can be found in the vivid prose that places the reader in the thick of combat on a tropical island. This book's flaws, however, are apparent in the research done by the author and the execution of the printed product. Christ purportedly draws on the 2nd Battalion's War Diary, seventy oral history interviews with that unit's veterans, and numerous secondary sources to recount the hour-by-hour operation in nine substantive chapters. But, no detailed bibliography, no index, and no complete interview list appear in the book. Christ apparently did not consult the most basic of sources—History of the U.S. Marine Corps Operations in [End Page 1294] World War II: Invasion of Rabaul, volume 2 (1963). Still more frustrating, no citations differentiate among direct quotes by historical figures, references taken from the War Diary, reminiscences of interviewed marines, historiographical discussions of the Solomons campaign, or the author's own interpretations and opinions. Christ thus pays no attention to provenance, and researchers wishing to expand on his work or explore his sources cannot easily do so. These omissions reduce the value of Mission Raise Hell to scholars.
The Six Marine Divisions in the Pacific is one of several books on Marine Corps history written or edited by George B. Clark in recent years. This particular work stands as a short reference that provides inventories of acronyms, facts, photographs, biographies, campaign summaries, and orders of battle of the Marine Corps divisions in the Pacific during World War II. Clark writes short overviews of famous operations on Guadalcanal in 1942 and Iwo Jima in 1945 and lesser-known ones, e.g., Roi-Namur in 1944. Interspersed in every chapter on the various divisions are compelling stories of marines' courage and sacrifice. Clark does not attempt to break any new ground in this book. Instead, he presents material in a logical, accurate, and competent manner that is easy to follow. His detailed index allows for quick selection of particular people and battles. The index contains page...