Robert Dick’s CUTTHROATS is another WW2 tank memoir, this one by a tanker who fought in the Pacific against Imperial Japan, specifically on the islands of Leyte and Okinawa.
With an excellent memory, Dick starts with the attack on Pearl Harbor and resulting training. His stories of Army life in the infantry on the home front are quite funny. Soon, he goes to Hawaii to train to become a tank driver, and then he’s shipped off to fight in the invasion of the Philippines in Tank 60, Company C, which the crew names CUTTHROATS.
On Leyte, the mud bogs down the 30-ton tanks, which struggle to support the infantry in chaotic jungle fighting. More often than not, the tanks served as indirect artillery. On Okinawa, the tanks took a stronger role, blasting enemy infantry out of caves and bunkers while suffering incredible losses from mines, suicidal soldiers with satchel charges, and very effective anti-tank guns. Dick’s tank is equipped with a flamethrower, which during its first attack against a cave ended up nearly setting fire to itself.
While John Irwin’s ANOTHER RIVER, ANOTHER TOWN is a very focused narrative about the savage town-to-town fighting in Germany at the end of WW2 from a tanker’s perspective, Dick’s account is more anecdotal and often action-packed, absurdly humorous, and tragic by turns. A wounded civilian woman with a baby, abandoned out of fear she was being used as bait for enemy fire, a tanker shattered because he couldn’t pull his wounded lieutenant through the escape hatch and had to leave him, harrowing misses by AT guns, souvenir shopping in enemy camps, a Japanese casualty collection hut filled with corpses–Dick’s account is filled with small stories that tell the big story of one man’s war and the war itself.
Overall, CUTTHROATS is an excellent memoir about the life of a tanker in the Pacific in WW2. Recommended for history buffs.