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The Pacific will begin to air on HBO soon. It is kind of a companion piece to Band of Brothers that tracks soldiers through the other WWII theater (with more than double the budget of the previous series). The linked New Yorker review has some serious problems with this new 10 episode series, but I look forward to nonetheless. Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I'm interested in this because George Pelecanos was on the writing staff, though as the anecdote below reveals, the final version will be a bit different from how he would have done it.

Here's an excerpt from a long Washington Post Magazine profile of Pelecanos from 2008. I met Pelecanos' father (who I believe has since died) at book signing event for his sone many years ago.

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Pelecanos told me a story about a script meeting for "The Pacific," HBO's companion piece to its World War II combat miniseries "Band of Brothers." One reason he accepted the invitation to write for "The Pacific," which is scheduled to air in 2009, was to honor his father's service to his country, but that didn't cause him to shy away from ugly complexity. "Somebody at this meeting brings up the fact that we don't have any black major characters, and then somebody else says that the military was still segregated, and blacks were often forced to do menial jobs instead of fighting. So, I said, how about a scene in which the guys are watching black soldiers clean up the bodies on a landing beach, and they say, 'Look at those niggers. They've got it so easy, they never have to fight'? These are the heroes, characters we care about, and yet they're saying these terrible things, because that's true to what it would have been like." It was too much, even for HBO. "There was this long pause," during which the rest of the creative team considered presenting the heroes of the Greatest Generation as bigots. "Nobody said a word, and after a while they just went on to something else like I'd never spoken."

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Who did The Tuskegee Airmen? I forget which cable net. There was the obvious reason for putting bigotry front and center throughout. Racist colonel in training, shocked and appalled dixie bomber pilot. I wonder though, about the source material. With the Old Breed and Helmet for My Pillow probably don't mention this. The Navy was notoriously inflexible on segregation, much more so than the Army. Marines are part of the Navy. Marines never leave their comrades dead on the field. I'd be surprised if Marines needed such rearguard service, nor could it be spared on much of the island hopping. Still...

I know that Gen. Patton constantly mentioned the graves registration units as soft rearguard units in a derisive tone in in his memoires (only later did I catch the connection to segregation, this would have been more common knowledge in the '40's). He, ironically did much to raise the combat stature of blacks in the European Theater despite his bigotry. He wanted troops on the lines and at the height of the war in '44 and '45 gave almost anyone under his command a rifle and collpsed all sorts of rear units.

Watched first episode tonight. Pretty good. I was surprised that it didn't open with a two hour block. I believe that Band did.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Who did The Tuskegee Airmen? I forget which cable net.

HBO also produced that.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Watched first episode tonight. Pretty good. I was surprised that it didn't open with a two hour block. I believe that Band did.

Saw it last night as well. Only an hour, but based on the first episode I'd venture to guess that looking at (you name it) script, acting, story, production values, cinematography; two hours of this series would go in the top 10 of any 2010 best film list. But, thank God, we're going to get 10 hours.

As I understand it, the series is going to focus on four particular characters throughout the series -

Robert Leckie - the "fight by day, write by night" guy already in Guadalcanal

Sid Phillips - the guy who was given "Barrack Room Ballads" by Rudyard Kipling by his friend (already in Guadalcanal with Leckie)

Eugene Sledge - the kid with the heart murmer whose parents forbade him to enlist

John Basilone - from the Italian immigrant family (who just arrived at Guadalcanal)

I don't know about anyone else, but I've already been struck at the moral authority of the show. There is no question, of course, that these heroes are the good guys. But, for example, Leckie's conscience is already turning into a powerful thing. He says he has no doubt he's doing the right thing, but he's also, unlike many of the guys around him, taking note of what all this means about human nature and what he is personally capable of - and this, by the way, seems to scare the hell out of him. Is it just me, or did HBO purposely make some of these guys still seem like little kids (with all that childlike innocence in their eyes)? I'm already worried about what this is going to do to Sledge.

If you don't have HBO, it's probably worth ordering for two months just to see this show.

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Good article by Richard B. Frank, over at the Naval History Magazine -

Potentially the single-most important and enduring achievement of the new HBO miniseries The Pacific will be to inspire a long-overdue reawakening to the strategic importance, sheer scale, and unsurpassed savagery of the wars unleashed by Japan ... If this portrait of the scale of the Asian-Pacific war constitutes a revelation to contemporary Americans, full grasp of the savagery of that conflict likewise provokes surprise. There are no certain figures for the overall death toll in World War II. Published totals now customarily range from 50 million to 65 million—the fact that even today there is no agreement on deaths to within 10 million to 15 million is stunning. The toll in the Asian-Pacific theaters is generally placed between 17 million and 27 million. Thus, at least a third and possibly closer to half the conflict's worldwide deaths occurred in the Asian and Pacific areas ... For each Japanese soldier, airman, and sailor, battle could only end in victory or extinction. Between 1937 and 1945, there was no organized surrender of any Japanese unit in any skirmish, battle, or campaign. That's a record utterly without historical parallel for a nation-state. Thus, the elemental force propelling the Pacific war into the unsurpassed depths of savagery was not race, but culture ...

The Pacific also excels in another key dimension. Few would suggest that the Japanese were a more menacing battlefield foe than the Germans or that fighting in Europe lacked daunting physical challenges. But virtually all World War II veterans agreed that the physical rigors of fighting in dense, damp, and terrifying jungles in the Pacific and the absence of any trappings of civilization set apart combat against the Japanese. Thus, one of the triumphs of The Pacific is the graphic re-creation of that incredibly alien and depressing environment.

Viewers of The Pacific will note that it's even more relentless than Band of Brothers in maintaining the perspective of front-line infantry. This does, however, produce some regrettable but inevitable consequences. Absent is much context of the larger picture, like strategy, the campaigns fought by the U.S. Army and Australians, or even air and sea battles fought in conjunction with the Marines' struggles ashore. Moreover, some will argue that the Japanese appear stripped of all humanity. It's true that there's no extended treatment of any individual Japanese—nor could there be under the terms of the fighting dictated by Japan. But even within those limits, the sophisticated script harbors a telling collective picture more nuanced than simply a collage of targets or tormentors. And the wrenching sequences on Okinawa, where large numbers of civilians are horrifically caught in the middle of the battle, refute any argument that only the Marines earn sympathy.

The Pacific will be a cultural event on the level with Band of Brothers. It can and should provoke thought and controversy. But even as a committed admirer of Band of Brothers, my ultimate verdict must be that The Pacific is grimmer and greater.

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I'm already worried about what this is going to do to Sledge.

The record is sad and powerful. He was endlessly quoted in Ken Burns' The War and Sledge was by far the most cynical and dark. I own With the Old Breed and have not really read it. Peliliu turned him. I won't say anymore for fear of spoilers.

As to the humanity of the Japanese, I was stunned by the guy sort of doing a Kevin Costner from Dances With Wolves last night. And I was shaken by Leckie's full reaction. His full reaction. I sensed a precipice jumped over.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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"Easy listening patriotism"? The notion that anything after Iraq, Afghanistan (or should I reverse them to fit chronolgy, as opposed to consciousness?), and The Hurtlocker must be cynical of American motives and action, sympathetic of the enemy (eesh, would such a word prejudice the question and debate?), and not do freshfacedglorioskyservingmycountry sincerity.

Read Caryn James of Newsweek here. Comments?

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can't believe they spent a whole episode on shore-leave. Three episodes in and I'm seriously disappointed. I can't help but contrast the raggedness of the soldiers and their treatment after 2 battles at Guadalcanal with the BOB seige at Bastogne. The Pacific guys get to go skirt chasing in Melbourne while Easy Company has to take Foy with an inept commanding officer and then 3 other towns. Sheesh. I'm not saying it happened that way in real life, but spending an entire episode in Melbourne seems to be a wasted opportunity to me. I'd have rather seen more details on their experiences in the jungles of Guadalcanal and their interactions with each other or else get on with the war.

Also, is it me, or are these episodes much shorter. The first 10 minutes of the 56 minute episode is war reel footage, and the opening credits. Are they stretching for content to fill up the time?

Please, bring back Captain Winters!

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I can't believe they spent a whole episode on shore-leave. Three episodes in and I'm seriously disappointed ... I'd have rather seen more details on their experiences in the jungles of Guadalcanal and their interactions with each other or else get on with the war ... Please, bring back Captain Winters!

Alin Sepinwall of the Star-Ledger does a good job summing up the differences in the last episode -

After the intense combat action of the first two episodes, "The Pacific" chapter three comes as something of a jarring change. Like Leckie and the other puzzled Marines trying to make sense of the enthusiastic greetings of the Melbourne women, it's hard to fathom that this place is part of the same planet, or miniseries, as what we saw on Guadalcanal. But if "The Pacific" aims to tell the entire story of the 1st Marine Division's time over there, then a Melbourne stopover is a necessary one - as head writer Bruce McKenna notes, "The 1st Marine Division spent more time in Australia than Easy Company did in Europe" - and one that begins to expand the scope of the series. It's not just about grimy men in foxholes before, during and after combat; it's about the emotional cost of war, not just on the men who fight it, but on those who care for them ...

Leckie took a backseat to Basilone in the second episode, and James Badge Dale did really well with the renewed focus on his character here. I really only knew him as Chase on "24," and he's very impressive throughout this hour, whether he's showing Leckie letting himself fall under the spell of Stella and her family, Leckie starting to go native enough that he begins to resent being back training among the men, and, especially, Leckie's simmering anger after Stella not only dumps him, but does it in a way that amplifies the sense of impending doom that comes with serving in this theater of operation. Leckie's kind of a broken individual to begin with, and what he's witnessing in both war and relative peace is only making him worse. Because we spent so much time on combat in the first two hours, Part Three provides some much-needed characterization not only of Leckie, but of Basilone. Episodes like this one are essential for keeping our investment in the hours that are largely about action, particularly since there are only three characters to zero in on, and one of them's headed back to the States for the forseeable future.

I knew nothing about Basilone going into the miniseries, save that he's from Jersey and beloved in his hometown of Raritan. When Chesty mentioned in Part Two that he felt Basilone's actions deserved a medal, I began wondering what it might be. To bring it back to "Band of Brothers" for a moment, Dick Winters somehow didn't get the Medal of Honor for leading Easy Company's attack on the guns at Brecourt Manor on D-Day, so the bar's pretty high. (The Medal can also be a very political thing; as I understand it, only one was going to be awarded to someone from the parachute infantry on that day.) But if a man like Basilone can't get one for what he did on October 24, who can? As I've said before, I never much liked Jon Seda in previous roles (his arrival on "Homicide" really accelerated that once-great show's decline), but whatever direction he's been given here is really working. It's a very minimalist performance, but when he hears Chesty tell him about the medal, or when he has to receive it, or says goodbye to J.P., his eyes say everything that's needed. And even before the Pentagon sends him home for a war bond drive, we get to see how the responsibility of the Medal is starting to weigh on him. Basilone may have deserved it, but he was also a carouser not prepared to suddenly become a role model, and some of the episode's lightest, most memorable moments, come from seeing what a party-hound he was.

The peaceful time in Australia eventually comes to an end, as the men (and the series) prepare to return to action. It will not be pretty.

The guys stuck over in The Pacific had, of course, a much different war than guys like Easy Company in Band of Brothers. Part of the story seems to include the shock of fighting a brutal enemy on what would be otherwise island paradises, fighting on volcanoe wastlands like Iowa Jima, and then spending time in between battles in the comfort and luxury of different parts of Australia. The night and day difference between the worlds where these guys are going back and forth, was part of what contributed to the mental grind they had to adjust to. While it won't be my favorite, I think episode three developed the characters of Leckie, Basilone and Phillips in ways that battle scenes wouldn't have. So the main impression I got from Part III was just an incredibly bad feeling about where the characters are going to have to go next.

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I can't believe they spent a whole episode on shore-leave. Three episodes in and I'm seriously disappointed. I can't help but contrast the raggedness of the soldiers and their treatment after 2 battles at Guadalcanal with the BOB seige at Bastogne. The Pacific guys get to go skirt chasing in Melbourne while Easy Company has to take Foy with an inept commanding officer and then 3 other towns. Sheesh. I'm not saying it happened that way in real life, but spending an entire episode in Melbourne seems to be a wasted opportunity to me. I'd have rather seen more details on their experiences in the jungles of Guadalcanal and their interactions with each other or else get on with the war.

Also, is it me, or are these episodes much shorter. The first 10 minutes of the 56 minute episode is war reel footage, and the opening credits. Are they stretching for content to fill up the time?

Please, bring back Captain Winters!

I haven't seen #3 yet, however the upcoming battles will be pretty harrowing. Three episodes on Pelieliu (courtesy of the intro doc on HBO OnDemand) alone. Frankly, they seemed to go easy on Guadalcanal. I'm surprised they are done with it (I remeber the Army "taking over" at the end of #2).

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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So it's pretty clear that this isn't Band of Brothers. Some viewers might think last night's episode was too slow, but if you wanted character development, this is it. I didn't realize James Badge Dale was this good of an actor, but his acting from Three into Four is only getting better. Also, come to think of it, from what I've read of the war in the Pacific, it started out slower than the war in Europe. In Europe, the Americans hit the beaches running on D-day into the middle of a full blown World War. On the Pacific, in a couple battles (along with Pearl Harbor) Japan took out the bulk of the U.S. Navy and America's ability to move around the Pacific theater. So in the beginning, it was completely a matter of getting supplies, ships, transports and troops back over to that side of the coast, while the Marines at the end of Japan's empire had to hold the fort so to speak until that happened (this took over a year).

So, Episode Four is primarily about the psychological grind on the men. If Three was contrasting their shore leave with the battles they had finished and were about to start, Four is back with the men off shore leave and on the islands, waiting for the U.S. offensive to get a move on. Todd VanDerWerff praises the show for being different than Band of Brothers - "I love the way the series suggests just how much these guys have gotten used to never knowing just where the next battle's going to come from or when it's going to happen. Their constant on-edge behavior is fantastically portrayed." It's a fine line to say how different the Pacific theater was mentally for the men, but The Pacific is arguing that it was at least a little different. VanDerWerff continues -

As I mentioned back in the review of the first episode of this, Pacific stories are so rarely told because it's harder to understand the enemy and the way they do battle. The differences between cultures are so pronounced that it often requires an entirely different movie to tell these stories in any significant way. The Pacific, so far, hasn't really tried to drop us into the Japanese mindset (probably to its credit), but we're getting a sense of them as something other than a shadowy enemy. They're brave in a way that many would call foolhardy (and, really, the series seems to argue, there isn't a lot of difference between the two, just a thin line that's easy to cross). And when one of the Marines chokes an injured Japanese soldier to death, it's a moment that's horrifying and continues the slow descent into psychological distress many of the Marines - including Leckie - find themselves heading into. I'm not sure there's another way to show just how disorienting the Japanese mentality was to these men, how the general unwillingness to surrender did so much damage and didn't so much win grudging respect as it did outright disbelief.

Episode Four again mostly focuses on Leckie. He becomes an example of a marine on whom the psychological toll of the war is really hurting him, and yet he's overcoming it so that he can go back and fight again with his unit. Alan Sepinwall also comments -

Leckie does, in fact, suffer from enuresis, but the mental hospital isn't an inappropriate place for him to be. As Dale shows throughout the episode, Leckie is struggling to keep it together out in the jungle. He can hold up enough to take out a Japanese squad by himself when he gets separated from his patrol, but the endless rain and fighting and waiting are getting to him, even worse than the other Marines. For Leckie to wind up in the loony bin, even briefly, is a shocking thing to see in a World War II story(*), but it really did happen to Leckie, and could just as easily have happened to anyone else in his company.

(*) As Bruce McKenna points out, "Band" did show Buck Compton cracking, "but you don't see Buck in the mental hospital after."

Ultimately, Leckie just needs a respite from the front, where Gibson appears irreparably broken, but watching this episode, it's not hard to understand how this could have happened to either of them, or so many other men like them.

It's important to point out how different Leckie is from most of his comrades. He's the closest equivalent to Bailey in Band of Brothers, but he's even more of a reader, writer and thinker than Bailey may have been. Knowing this -

Leckie contributed his experience towards the development of The Pacific through his war memoirs, Helmet for My Pillow. This book is but the first of several – more than 40 – on American War History. Leckie wrote about the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the American Civil War and the Korean War – all the way through to Desert Storm. He wrote several books regarding the Second World War in the Pacific theater; aside from Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific, he also wrote specifically about the Battle of Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and Okinawa, among others.

- makes you consider his character in this series in a different light. This guy is a future historian who is going to later write more than 40 history books.

Edited by Persiflage
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  • 4 weeks later...

For anyone who's fallen behind in the series (HBO keeps running reruns), the last two episodes were the best in the series by far.

Sledge's story is pretty much heart-breaking. He's got an innocence about him that's starting to be torn away. The scene where his fellow comrade in arms (the unkind, irreverent, desensitized one) actually tells him that there is something he ought not to do is all the more meaningful because it's something he has regularly engaged in himself (to Sledge's disapproval). The fact it is revealed that Sledge's character and integrity is suddenly valued among his less moral friends is striking. It means that his daily Bible reading, innocence, and stands taken against certain behavior actually was effecting the guys who surround him. Powerful stuff.

Then, in last Sunday's episode, if you hadn't already decided that you absolutely loved Basilone, you decide that he's won you over completely halfway into the episode. Without giving anything else away, let's just say that The Pacific was making me cry like a little girl and develop a reverence for these men who fought so hard for us several decades ago. I'm having a hard time watching this now, but in a good way.

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  • 8 months later...

Merge!

The two threads on The Pacific never got merged? What is happening to this board! ;)

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Merge is right!

I'm revisiting the complete series on DVD after only picking at bits and pieces on tv last year. I'm up to part 8 and I must say my estimation of the series has improved tremendously.

Episodes 1 & 2 remain the weakest and most scattered parts for me so far. It just seems a long time for the characters to gel and in the early goings I found Basilone's story more of a distraction. Still by the end of part 2 things begin to warm up and i found that parts 3 & 4 were fantastic. Leckie himself devoted a sizable portion of Helmet to his time time in Melbourne and the romance (entirely fictional as it is on screen-- Leckie had no such relationship in Australia) allowed for some desperately needed character development.

I'll comment further when I'm done, but I will say that Peliliu is given a harrowing and suitably nightmarish treatment, without going over the top on gore. Sledge's portrayal is still a bit one dimensional for me-- as someone who has read With the Old Breed twice, Sledgehammer was a pretty complicated character. He describes himself wilting and cringing in horror at times, but also writes about fits of psychotic rage and absolute indifference to Japanese suffering and death. Of course, such complexities are difficult to to bring to the screen. The series opts to show him as a terrified, hollow-eyed youth and it it still works fine imo.

Great series. Very impressed thus far.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Sledge basically turns into the main character towards the very end of the series, mostly because he's the one involved in the last couple major battles. In other words, keep watching - he and Snafu get a lot more character development in the second half.

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Of course, there is no definitive narrative of a war, but the solution the producers settled on here is confusing: episodes skip around without explanation and leave the main characters off the screen for long stretches of time, and not enough distinction is drawn between different places—we don’t learn, for instance, the specific difficulties of the terrain, which was either unyielding and rocky, with no way to cover dead bodies or excrement, or too yielding, like the slippery black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima. We’re occasionally shown maps—with the angry red rays of the Japanese imperial flag delineating the ever-decreasing reach of the empire—but these don’t give us a clue to the import of any given victory or loss. More helpful are the micro-documentaries, just a couple of minutes long, at the beginning of each episode, which have period footage and snippets of white-haired veterans (unidentified) giving us some perspective on the war.

As I finish up the series, this has been my biggest complaint as well. The experiences of both Leckie and Sledge were inhabited by such an array of colorful and unforgettable characters (Chesty Puller, Runner, Snafu, Captain "Ack Ack" Haldane, etc...) Their respective memoirs provide vivid recollections and insights into who these people were, but The Pacific gives us no such opportunity. Names or nicknames are spoken quickly, and the characters often appear in such heavily-edited snippets, it's easy to forget who they are-- and this is coming from someone very familiar with the tales in Helmet and Old Breed. I can easily imagine someone who was not familiar with the stories, getting lost in a sea of faces and southern accents.

There are some pivotal scenes that suffer unnecessarily because of this, the most notable being the

the death of Captain Haldane. In Sledge's book, Haldane was a transcendent and rather imposing figure with unique features that set him apart from other officers. In The Pacific, he's played by Scott Gobson, a rather typical-looking SoCal surfer pin-up boy who happens to closely resemble two other actors in the series. In the scene where he's killed he's referred to by his men as Ack-Ack, Skipper and Haldane, further confusing most viewers as to who has actually died and muddling what should otherwise have been a key scene in the episode. The scene is still quite strong, but it ultimately fails to be the onscreen turning point that it was in Sledge's book.

Joe Mazzello is excellent as Sledgehammer, but in episodes 6 & 7 the producers chose to rely far too much on tiresome closeups of him staring off into space after each moment of brutality. We get it, we get it... Eugene is haunted by what he is seeing,... thank you.

Frankly, they seemed to go easy on Guadalcanal. I'm surprised they are done with it (I remeber the Army "taking over" at the end of #2).

I'm in wholehearted agreement. In the early stages, there were Marines on the frontlines for nearly four months without a break, battling not only a nearly maniacal, relentless enemy, but also starvation, dysentery, malaria, the jungle, insanity and feelings of utter abandonment. The Thin Red Line breezes past this as well. I thought The Pacific would finally do justice to that protracted battle-- but it doesn't, imo.

Thankfully, the bloodbath of Peleliu is finally given the treatment and recognition it deserves and the hellish combat depicted in episodes 6 & 7 is suitably horrific and felt very real to me. Sadly though, it's only in the historical background before episode 8 that Hanks tells us in the voiceover that Peleliu had no strategic significance to our forces-- an important and demoralizing fact that Sledge brings up in his book and that I think should've been introduced in the drama of the Peleliu episodes themselves.

I'm not a big fan of Seda as Basilone in the early goings, but he steps it up tremendously in episode 8 and pulls out what may be one of the most emotional moments in the series. Beautiful. Annie Parisse is also excellent as the future Mrs. Basilone.

But James Badge Dale as Leckie is the hands-down star of this series, for me. He channels Leckie amazingly well throughout and the fact that the series belongs essentially to him and Mazzello, makes The Pacific a unique entry among WWII dramas. Neither man was a "hero" in any traditional sense and both expressed tremendous self doubt and occasional disgust with the system. Leckie was a "bad boy" with enurisis, dodging MP's, stealing stuff and disobeying orders, while Sledge was clearly a sensitive kid who far too introspective for the Marines and combat.

I'll be watching the final episode tomorrow night, and despite the criticisms this is still a series worth owning. I've actually enjoyed it much more than Band of Brothers.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Finally finished up the series and the bonus disc material.

The Okinawa episode worked well for me, showing Sledge becoming increasingly hardened to the destruction around him, yet grieving deeply upon hearing news of the death of his beloved dog back home. Nice touch.

Strangely for me, the strongest episodes in the series were the ones spent off the battlefield-- the Leckie/Melbourne episode (#3), Basilone's decision to return to the field (#8) and the finale (#10, which focused mostly on Sledge) all gave us wonderful insights into what made these men tick and held strong emotional payloads. I found that the show struggled with character development during the combat episodes and occasionally felt a little meandering. Too many fight sequences-- while magnificently shot-- were similar to one another and seemed to lack any real strategic/historical perspective. These aren't small complaints, but the things the series did so well-- namely realistic combat, vivid characters/performances and sense of horror over what these men experienced in the Pacific Theater-- trump the shortcomings.

The bonus disc has an hour-long documentary portion, featuring bios on all the main characters and interviews with friends and family, that is outstanding.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Strangely for me, the strongest episodes in the series were the ones spent off the battlefield-- the Leckie/Melbourne episode (#3), Basilone's decision to return to the field (#8) and the finale (#10, which focused mostly on Sledge) all gave us wonderful insights into what made these men tick and held strong emotional payloads. I found that the show struggled with character development during the combat episodes and occasionally felt a little meandering. Too many fight sequences-- while magnificently shot-- were similar to one another and seemed to lack any real strategic/historical perspective. These aren't small complaints, but the things the series did so well-- namely realistic combat, vivid characters/performances and sense of horror over what these men experienced in the Pacific Theater-- trump the shortcomings.

Glad you were able to give this a chance, Greg. Some of my friends insist that Band of Brothers is better, but I just appreciate both without preferring one over the other. The Pacific is a different kind of story, but I like how the series builds slowly around the 3 main characters. Just following one company in the Pacific theater of the war wouldn't get you as broad a picture as it did with Easy Company in Europe. So if you had to pick any 3 guys in order to do that, Leckie, Basilone and Sledge are pretty much perfect for that purpose.

Once you figure out going in that each episode isn't going to be about all 3 equally, you can just relax and let the story develop at its own pace. Each guy is given his own personal 1 or 2 main episodes. And the viewer is left caring pretty deeply about each of them as the series starts nearing its conclusion.

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  • 1 year later...

I just lent my DVD copy of this series to another friend (who grew up listening to tales about the war from his grandfather). He's been telling me that the miniseries is simultaneously one of the most sobering and most inspiring things he has seen on TV for years.

I was also reading recently, and came across an excerpt, that, if I were ever to find the time to write a review of this series, I would use without hesitation. It's from Victor Davis Hanson's Ripples of Battle, (pgs 68-69) at the concluding end of his chapter on the Battle of Okinawa:

... William Manchester's Goodbye, Darkness and E.B. Sledge's With the Old Breed are not merely graphic narratives of combat, but works of literature in their own right comparable to Xenophon's Anabasis, Siegfried Sassoon's Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That.

Unlike most battle narratives of the twentieth century, both Goodbye, Darkness and With the Old Breed achieve transcendence in connecting the absurdity of Okinawa with the not so absurd ideal of fighting for something quite antithetical to and far better than Japanese militarism. More than just graphic, often sickening accounts of the stupidities and senselessness of war - although they are all that and more - both books convey a rare sense that men really do fight for more than just their colleagues on the battlefield. So, for example, E.B. Sledge ends his account of Okinawa with the news of Hiroshima and the war's end. After acknowledging that "War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste," and that "Combat leaves an indelible mark on those who are forced to endure it," he nevertheless ends with, "Until the millennium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one's responsibilities and to be willing to make sacrifices for one's country - as my comrades did." Note his key phrase, "and countries cease trying to enslave others."

William Manchester attempted to explain to a subsequent generation the near-mythical world for which his fellow Marines had once fought so ferociously: "Debt was ignoble. Courage was a virtue. Mothers were beloved. Marriage was a sacrament. Divorce was disgraceful ... All these and 'God Bless America' and Christmas or Hanukkah and the certitude that victory in the war would assure their continuance into perpetuity - all this led you into battle, and sustained you as you fought, and comforted you if you fell, and, if it came to that, justified your death to all who loved you as you had loved them." ...

I'd argue that The Pacific was made in the spirit of these ideas and that, consequently, it is not a coincidence that Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed was one of the inspirations at the heart of the series.

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Great comments. Manchester's Goodbye Darkness is one of my favorite Pacific Theater memoirs as well. Disturbing, revolting and insightful.

I bought The Pacific on Blu Ray earlier this year and watch it regularly. I think I've viewed the series four times, all the way through, and despite my initial reservations a few years ago, I've really come to love and appreciate it more and more.

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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