Monday, April 26, 2010

The Pacific

I've been watching the HBO series, The Pacific, which follows the WWII battles through the experiences of US Marines. At the same time I found the companion book in my local library. I have just finished the book. The series has just broadcast its seventh of ten episodes.

The book is written by Hugh Ambrose, the son of the late historian Stephen Ambrose. I highly recommend it as an excellent read all by itself, even without seeing the TV series. It adds two new voices: Vernon "Mike" Micheel was a navy pilot who flew bombers at Midway and continued in several subsequent battles; and Austin C. "Shifty" Shofner who served in the Phillipines, was imprisoned, escaped, served as a guerilla leader, and then returned as a combat commander with the Marines. I can see why the TV series left out the officers to concentrate on the infantry soldiers. It would have needed five more episodes, at least. Their story, however, adds tremendously to the book.

The book leaves out Robert "Lucky"Leckie, for the most part. As Ambrose says, he wrote his own book which told his story very well. I did find an old interview of his on Booknotes on C-Span. I will be adding his titles to my reading list.

I did wonder about Eugene Sledge, from Mobile, Al. Throughout the story Ambrose emphasizes his conservatism and love of the old South. I kept wondering how he did in subsequent years, and especially through the Civil Rights struggle in the south. How did he adapt to all the changes in the world he loved? He did eventually become a biology professor in a college. I really want to read his books to see more about his war experience and his life afterwards.

The Pacific really debunks the Greatest Generation idea. These soldiers were no better or worse than other people. They were forced by circumstances to fight and did the best they could. It diminishes what they did to put them on a pedestal.