Monday, March 15, 2010

Watching The Pacific

Last night El Jefe and I made a point of watching the first episode of the new HBO mini-series The Pacific. We don't watch much TV together, actually we aren't really big TV watchers except for the sports he enjoys which would be everything played with a ball, basically.

But The Pacific interested us because (1) we are history buffs and (2) all the men in my father's generation in his family were in the Navy in the Pacific theater in WWII.

My dad was the navigator of a sub-chaser in the Pacific which dodged a couple of kamikaze planes. Towards the end of the war he was stationed in China. His brother-in-law was also in China while El Jefe's uncle was in the Navy in Australia.

The mini-series has some interviews with surviving vets of the era, who must have been teenagers at that time. That generation is quickly fading away so I think it is great that this was included here. With our nephew now in active service in the Navy as a surgeon, preparing for deployment later this year to Afghanistan accompanying a group of Marines, the series is not only historic but timely.

We thought the first installment was very well done and look forward to the rest of them. If you caught it, what did you think?


John Edward Harris said...

I have watched every episode of Band of Brothers, some more than once. I hope The Pacific measures up to it. I have not done a lot of research, but I understand that Band of Brothers had available to it more primary and living sources. The primary sources for the Pacific is not as plentiful and even a few years after Band of Brothers was filmed, there are fewer veterans of the Pacific Theater still living. The Pacific might therefore be giving us more of a composite sketch drawn from several companies and men that did not know each other rather than following one company and several men through the war.
I was impressed by the first episode even though there was less back story than in Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers gave us the training camp background before deployment. That background was the only thing I missed.

RevDi said...

If the story format had been exactly the same we might have gotten bored. Clearly the music is by the same arranger/conductor, which is for me a plus. My father was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, so this story is of interest to me, too. But, as my husband said after the episode was over, it probably won't be as popular as BofB because the Pacific war was so ugly, by comparison. We'll see....

Mac said...

I did a pre-review of The Pacific on 8 March over at Around The Scuttlebutt. I can guarantee you that any Marine who could get to HBO last night was watching The Pacific. We have been waiting for a long time—as Spielberg admits, after BOB (a wonderful series), he got a lot of mail from vets of the Pacific War reminding him that in addition to the dust up in Europe, there was also a little fracas going on in the Pacific.

I also have a couple of parochial interests. Because it centers on Manila John Basilone, Robert Leckie, and Sledgehammer Sledge, it focuses primarily on the 1st Marine Division (The Old Breed). I have to believe they chose those three so that all 3 regiments of the Division were represented. Sledge was in 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, Leckie in 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, and Basilone was in 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, although he was in the 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division when he was killed in action on Iwo Jima. I was in 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in RVN and the familiar blue diamond and red numeral 1 with “Guadalcanal” imprinted thereon, surrounded by the Southern Cross, can be found all through my house.

So central to the Division’s identity is Guadalcanal that the annual reunion is almost always scheduled for the week of 7 August. When they ask for any who were at Guadalcanal on 7 August to stand it makes for goosebumps!

So, the men portrayed really lived and those who “outlived this day” wrote in the first person about their experiences. I first read Leckie’s Helmet For My Pillow in 6th grade and then Strong Men Armed (cf Luke 11:21)in high school. Along with John Thomason’s Fix Bayonets! And T. Grady Gallant’s On Valor’s Side, Leckie is one reason I am a Marine. I met Sledge at a reunion shortly after he wrote With The Old Breed in the early 1980s—he was a hard man amidst hard men—and it was a privilege to get to meet him.

And, my Dad, a Chief Pharmacist’s Mate (“Corpsman”) made five landings, starting with Tarawa and ending with Peleliu.

To answer Brother Harris—they followed Easy Company, 506th PIR through training because that was where they came together. And it should be remembered that their war lasted only 11 months. Other than The Big Red One (1st Infantry Division), the Divisions that landed at Normandy on 6 June 1944 were seeing combat for the first time. The 1st Marine Division, on the other hand, was the first American unit to engage in ground combat, forming en route and landing exactly 8 months after Pearl Harbor. They bonded in the crucible of war.

I saw one glaring discrepancy last night and wonder if anyone else saw it? Other than that, the first episode was historically accurate, and it was a joy to see the Division get its due.

For RevDi: In what ship was your Dad serving? I had a high school buddy whose Dad was on California and remembered the white hats cheering like they were at a football game when Nevada attempted her sortie. I hope Hanks and Spielberg can do a Navy series—perhaps based on The Franklin Comes Home, Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors and Brave Ship, Brave Men

Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks for a fascinating comment! Yes its true that the Pacific war was very ugly. We have visited the War in the Pacific Museum in Fredricksburg, Texas (home of Admiral Nimitz) twice and plan another trip soon to see the new exhibits. It is a very moving experience. There is a "Peace Garden" dedicated to Japanese-American friendship. Reminds me that we did succeed in nation building then and so gives hope for Iran and Afghanistan.

If you haven't visited that museum, you should plan to do so next time you are down in Texas.

John Edward Harris said...

I greatly appreciate Mac's first and second hand accounts. Thanks for explaining that these Marines formed in the crucible of battle rather than in training camp. My sole connection to the Pacific theater has been an older gentleman in the church of my church of my childhood. He rarely talked about it, but he was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.

RevDi said...

Mac, I wish I knew which ship. My parents were divorced when I was 8 months old and he disappeared from my life. My mother knew that he had been there, though, and passed on some of his ribbons to me (although not his purple heart -- he kept that).

Mac said...

PS: The glaring error (at least to a Marine)? When Chesty Puller (who is still remembered in evening prayers at Parris Island every night) was addressing the NCOs of 1/7 just before Christmas 1941, he was wearing the ribbon bar for the Presidential Unit Citation with one star (denoting a second award). However, President Roosevelt did not creat the PUC until early 1942 in response to the gallant stand of 1st Defense Battalion at Wake Island. I know. Picky, Picky.

QG; I plan to visit the WWII Museum next time we are "down south." (Hoping my nephew pops the question soon--weddings are a great excuse for my Yankee wife and in-laws to travel.) If any of you are in the DC area, be sure to drive down to Quantico (35 miles south on I-95) and visit the Marine Corps Museum.

RevDi: If you have some basic infor re: your Dad, you can get his records from DOD or the VA. It is worth the effort. I have met many Pearl harbor vets. The movie Tora, Tora, Tora depicts the attack pretty closely.

RevDi said...

Mac, I know he is deceased (my daughter did some research), but we haven't looked for info about his presence at PH. Thanks for the tip.