My Corps: Short Stories and Reflections
Author: Gene Rackovitch
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 308 pages
Gene Rackovitch joined Marines in 1944 and mustered out a sergeant in 1947. He worked in dairy industry diriving a milk truck in NYC. “My Corps” is his short stories and he put them in book form.
In 1944 Gene Rackovitch enlisted in the Marine Corps. He had to “fight to get them to take me” because he was “five foot seven, short, skinny for the marines, a physical challenge, one hundred and thirty pounds.” While he mustered out a sergeant in 1947, he thankfully never mustered out in his mind; because if he had readers wouldn’t have the privilege of “My Corps.”
This memoir, written nearly 70 years after Rackovitch enlisted, is filled with details that feel fresh and vibrant. It’s as if Rackovitch is telling his story to a friend over a hot cup of coffee rather than writing it down on pages. Throughout the work Rackovitch paints vivid pictures of what it was like to be scared upon arrival in boot camp to what it was like to sail on a tramp steamer. “Canvas bunks stacked ten high, held by pipes welded ceiling and floor, three hundred in all, an awaking for the men, reality in a harsh form… The berths close to deck of the ship were constantly inundated with seepage were to be avoided. Water layered on the floor sprayed to the second level of the bunks as the ship rolled.” (p. 71)
Readers can follow Rackovitch from boot camp and training to the end of war and beyond. He allows people to get a taste of the camaraderie and esprit de-corps of the US Marine Corps. They see a family of brothers who sometimes bicker but, as the cliché goes, always have each other’s backs.
The author uses words to paint scene upon scene or to describe someone. In one passage he describes a Marine. This passage (100-101) is a perfect example of the author’s imagery: “His fatigues, too large, fell from his arms, stopping crumpled past the elbows, showing thin sinewy muscles... The bones of his skull were accentuated by taut oily yellowish skin. He smiles; an overly big mouth, with thick lips, showing gapped stained teeth; the mouth so full it gave the bearer a look of a clown on a poster above the gateway to the house of fun in a carnival.”
In the years after the war Rackovitch attended several reunions. In September 1992 he traveled to San Antonio, Texas to visit members of 4th Marine Division of WW2. He wanted to find out more about the men of his company and how they “withstood the carnage and tenacity of the foe they encountered.” He persisted – at first no one wanted to talk but eventually they open up and tell him stories and fill him in on details of their service.
The book is arranged chronologically and that contributes to the reader being able to feel the passage of time. Of course it’s hard to know whether the dialogue is accurate, but that seems unimportant for the intent of this memoir.
“I think of the men who went to Okinawa and wonder how many of them died there taking my place and I feel for them,” Rackovitch wrote in 2009. “Of all that has happened to me I wonder why I am still here.” (pp. 292-293)
Reviewed by: Cathryn J. Prince (2013)