Book Signing - The Pacific Pt. 2

Yesterday I wrote about my morning at The Mighty Texas Dog Walk in my post, Book Signing - The Pacific Pt. 1. I left all of you hanging with me "speeding" (a relative term in a Prius) to Fredericksburg to get to The Pacific book signing event with author Hugh Ambrose. I really didn't want to be late because military people are well...they are sticklers for time! I figured there would be a lot of military people or military families there so I really didn't want to upset anyone or have anyone pointing at me like I was being disrespectful.

My drive to Fredericksburg was thankfully, uneventful. The rain cleared up and the Central Texas Hill Country showed it's beauty. Despite my stress, I actually enjoyed the ride out there, and I was actually able to make it on time! I walked very briskly into the National Museum of the Pacific War (The Nimitz Museum) with my prepurchased copy of The Pacific and was directed to the room the event was being held. I was one of the last people to get there so I got one of the last seats in the back rows of the room. The event was held in the George W. Bush Gallery West Exhibit Hall, a temporary exhibit gallery (that was featuring Face to Face Exhibit--a series of busts of WWII veterans). I was lucky when I got there because Hugh Ambrose had not yet arrived--his plane was delayed (in what I'm assuming was San Antonio), so I actually got there just in time. I had the opportunity to speak to a few people who had read the book and had also read the other books that the HBO series, The Pacific, was based on. The book that got the most praise was Eugene B. Sledge's war memoir, With the Old Breed. One man in particular talked about how good Hugh Ambrose's book was and also had high praise for Sledge's book. It made me even more excited to be at the event. I hadn't had time to read the book before the event so I felt REALLY unprepared, but still really honored to be able to attend.

Mr. Hugh Ambrose arrived not long after I took my seat, and he began talking about his experience in researching his book. I am going to paraphrase some of the things he talked about (I don't have any direct quotes--just notes from the day):

  • His love for history and war history came from his father, Stephen Ambrose, who would take him around to different historical sites and would tell him stories as a boy.
  • His research career began as an graduate assistant for his father (he was his father's TA while he was in graduate school).
  • Hugh Ambrose started research on The Pacific in 2000 which resulted not only in the publishing of the companion book but also a documentary titled Price for Peace.
  • He felt that storytelling was more important than just exposition and noted that Bruce McKenna liked Robert Leckie's book, Helmet for My Pillow (one of the memoirs used to produce the HBO series of The Pacific) because it connected Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge's story--in the television series and Hugh Ambrose's The Pacific, the two do meet and exchange words).
  • When Ambrose read Eugene Sledge's letters from the war, he felt there was a story to be told in addition to Sledge's book, With the Old Breed. He also said that Sledge's book was arguably one of the best memoirs of WWII.
  • Ambrose also featured Lt. Austin C. "Shifty" Shofner in the book who was imprisoned in a POW camp in the Phillipines during the war. He planned the only successful American team escape from a Japanese POW camp (see Times-Gazette article mentioning this). Shofner's story was not included in the television series.
  • The other soldier featured in the book that was not in the television series was Ensign Vernon "Mike" Micheel who was a Navy pilot in the war. He flew in the Battle of Midway and numerous other missions during the war (see Jax Air News article). Because the Pacific War was largely fought on island in the Pacific Ocean, Ambrose felt a Navy story should be prominently featured in the book to give a more complete picture of the war. 
  • He also said that knowing what the Japanese would have done in WWII had they won was essential to winning the war and referenced the Rape of Nanjing.
  • He also said while he was researching Sgt. John Basilone (one of the five men featured in the book), he found that most of the stories about him were wrong. One in particular was a story about him losing his shoes and running around barefoot through battle on Guadalcanal were not true. 
  • He also told some stories about being involved as a consultant on the production of the HBO series and talked about what pains the entire production crew took to recreate accurate sets of the battles.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book signing. There were probably over 100 people there. Since I was in the back of the hall, I was one of the last people in line and Mr. Ambrose allowed me to take a picture of him. He even showed interest in my blog which I thought was really nice! I felt really honored that he took a few moments to talk to me despite my being horribly unprepared to ask him questions.

I have to admit that I am currently reading The Pacific and I haven't quite finished yet. I did watch the series and am rewatching it to go along with the book. The book is fairly dense, but I like it because I like the details. I am also watching some of the extras that are available to watch on and YouTube (The Pacific: Anatomy of a War features a short Hugh Ambrose interview clip). I hope to be done reading the book in the next week or two and have a review posted soon thereafter. What I have read and seen, I really appreciate. I think it really honors the men and women that serve in our military, and I am thankful for that. 

Thank you Mr. Ambrose, for my first autograph ever!


Sarah said...

Awesome book signing! I haven't ventured to my first signing yet. Next month I am going to one for Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire Series, which is one of my favs.

leeswammes said...

Great post! I don't know the series or the author, but it was still interesting to read about the signing.

What did he write in your book? It looks like underwear but I'm seriously doubting that. :-)

Carin B. said...

@Sarah - Oh I forgot to write that they gave me a piece of paper to write what I wanted Hugh Ambrose to write in my book. Make sure you know what you want Ms. Novik to write in your book--oh, and she is on my TBR list. I will get to her someday!

@leeswammes - Haha! That's what I thought too when I first read it. It says, "Haze Grey and Underway". It is Act IV of the book and it's a U.S. Navy saying. Here's a link to the Wikipedia Article. I know next to nothing about military history so I can't feel very bad about misreading his writing. I also didn't ask him to write that because I had no idea what to ask--so he kindly wrote something more than "To Carin - Hugh Ambrose". Hehe!

Carin said...

sounds like fun! I read an AWESOME book about Guadalcanal about 10 year ago - The Thin Red Line by James Jones. I know, the movie was terrible (and you'll think it's even worse after you read the book) but the book was marvelous. I really loved it, couldn't stop talking about it for week, am still recommending it 10+ years on, as it was amazing. Also, it was a landmark book as it was the first time the f-word appeared in a book, but it is purposefully misspelled to try to circumvent the postal laws about mailing "smut" (there was no such thing as UPS or FedEx when it came out so if the post office wouldn't send your books, you were screwed.)

Carin B. said...

@Other Carin - The book signing was heaps fun! I am definitely going to go to more in the future. I was so excited for The Pacific too, but I have to admit that I felt really uneducated at the event. A lot of people there had read a lot of WWII history. All I've read are books on the Japanese American internment and Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. I will definitely pick up The Thin Red Line and read it. I also want to get the other book that the series was based on.

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