cover of book

Pogiebait's War: A Son's Quest for His Father's Wartime Life
by Jack H. McCall, Jr.
University of Tennessee Press, 2022
eISBN: 978-1-62190-758-9 | Paper: 978-1-62190-756-5
Library of Congress Classification D767.9.M39 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 940.5426

Jack H. McCall Sr. was a born storyteller, an inveterate practical joker, and a proud Tennessean whose flaws included a considerable taste for candy, or “pogiebait” in Marine parlance. Like so many other able-bodied young people in on the eve of World War II, he decided to enlist in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Much more than a family memoir or nostalgic wartime reminiscence, this painstakingly researched biography presents a rich, engaging study of the U.S. Marine Corps, particularly McCall’s understudied unit, the Ninth Defense Battalion—the “Fighting Ninth.” The author provides a window into the day-to-day service of a Marine during World War II, with important coverage of fighting in the Pacific Theater. McCall also depicts life in wartime Franklin, Tennessee, and offers a poignant and personal tribute to his father.

McCall dramatizes some of the classic themes of the war memoir genre (war is hell, but memories fade!), but he sets riveting descriptions of decisive action against rarely seen views of mundane work and daily life, supported with maps, photographs, and fresh interpretations. Another distinction of this work is its attention to the action on Guam, a very unpleasant late-war “mopping up” that has received relatively little scholarly attention. In his portrait of the bitter island-hopping war in the Pacific, the author shows how both U.S. and Japanese soldiers were often eager innocents drawn to the cauldron of conflict and indoctrinated and trained by their respective governments. Reflecting on the action late in life, Jack (as well as several other Ninth veterans) came to a begrudging respect for the enemy.

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