Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Adopting the format of the diary, Richard Tregaskis records what he hears and sees as he follows the men assigned to wrest from Japanese control the strategically important airfield on Guadalcanal Island. The narrative opens aboard a naval ship steaming toward the island, situated in the Solomon Islands east of New Guinea. As he passes among the officers and enlisted men bound for battle, Tregaskis records scenes of final preparation, troops sharpening their bayonets, cleaning their rifles, making jokes and small talk. With the officers, the correspondent discusses troop morale and military objectives in the coming offensive. Religious services counterpoint lectures on jungle warfare, booby traps, and Japanese snipers.

After almost two weeks of ship-board preparation, the day of the “big event” arrives. Tregaskis is assigned a place on the launch of the assault commander, Colonel LeRoy P. Hunt. The landing is uneventful: The enemy, caught by surprise, has fled into the jungle. At first, the Americans suspect a trap and expect an ambush, but none arrives. Instead, large stores of equipment and supplies are captured by the landing forces, including food, ammunition, gasoline, trucks and automobiles (a Ford V8 sedan), brand-new bicycles, an power plant, and even a fully stocked infirmary.

The Japanese military begins a counterattack immediately, although for several days it consists of only a few planes and small warships that do little...

(The entire section is 600 words.)