Monday, May 17, 2010

With the Old Breed

The HBO series The Pacific ended this past Sunday. The last show started as the Japanese surrendered, right after the Battle of Okinawa. It concentrated on how the soldiers dealt with the peace. Robert Leckie returned home to a job at the local newspaper. He got a job in the local newspaper and got up the courage to date the girl he had been writing too during his time fighting. (But he never mailed the letters.) In a really sad segment, Lena Basilone, John's widow, goes to New Jersey to meet and console his  parents.

A lot of time was taken up with the return and difficulties of E. B. Sledge. He was tormented by nightmares and had a hard time returning to civilian life. In the past week I read his wartime memoir With the Old Breed. I really enjoyed the book, even though the story was extremely brutal at times. The battles of Pelelieu and Okinawa were terribly difficult battles. Sledge describes the horrors in detail that you don't see in many history books. For example he tries to explain how the odor of dead bodies and human waste in the tropical heat got worse day after day as the battle continued. It's a wonder that any of the soldiers could return to normal life after what they had seen and done. I think our leaders should read something like this before deciding whether or not to go to war.

Now I need to get a copy of Robert Leckie's  A Helmet for My Pillow.