The Pacific - Hugh Ambrose (Part 2)

Author: Hugh Ambrose
Publisher: New American Library (A division of The Penguin Group)
My Rating: 4.0 of 5 stars

Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge

Yesterday, I reviewed Hugh Ambrose's book, The Pacific, on my blog. The book was so dense, and the mini-series so long (10 episodes) that I decided to do a separate post for C.B. James' Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge.

So far, a lot of comments I've been seeing have been critical of The Pacific saying that it cannot compare to Band of Brothers. To me, I think Spielberg and Hanks showed the brotherhood created in war in Band of Brothers and were trying to convey the hell of war in The Pacific. It was meant to show the struggle to keep one's humanity when you are called upon to do the unthinkable. 

That is not to say that this didn't occur in the war in Europe. To me, the producers wanted to tell a different story this time and they found their inspiration in stories from Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge with their memoirs, Helmet for My Pillow and With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. From what I have been told, the memoirs are a more personal and internal account of war and the hell of it. With that in mind, The Pacific mini-series was extremely well executed. There was dialogue in the episodes that initially I didn't appreciate, but after reading the book, I appreciated conversations like those between Leckie and the doctor in Episode 4 where he tells the doctor about how the Japanese murdered sleep by sending bombers every night to drop bombs just to keep the soldiers from being able to sleep, or when Leckie writes a letter to Vera in Episode 1 saying, "There are things men can do to one another that are sobering to the soul. It is one thing to reconcile these things with God but another to square it with yourself." 

At the book signing of The Pacific, Hugh Ambrose stated (I'm paraphrasing) that Eugene Sledge's book, With the Old Breed was arguably one of the best memoirs of WWII. Sledge's journey from a teenage boy who wanted nothing more than to serve his country to a man that came home from the war profoundly changed. His struggle to keep his humanity when the world around him had none was difficult to watch to say the least. I think that so often we look at the men who served as being untouchable heroes, but we forget that that their heroic acts often came at a great cost to them personally. I have watched the series two times now (some episodes I've watched three times) and each time, I feel I appreciate their sacrifice even more.

The actors in the series were amazing. I was particularly impressed with Joseph Mazzello who played Eugene Sledge. He had these moments that with just a facial expression had me completely lost in the moment. In one episode on Peleliu, there is this one moment where he looks at Snafu Shelton (played by Rami Malek) and the look on his face just said, "What did I do? Why did I sign up for this," before he turns around and looks like he is about to break down emotionally. When I saw that, I got it. I really got the sacrifice of self that soldiers make for their country.

The book definitely enhanced the series. There were so many details that were given just a line or two in the series that the book explained in detail. The timeline of the war in the television series was much clearer to me after I read the book. I also had a much greater appreciation for the extent of the soldiers' hatred for the Japanese soldiers after reading the book (although I did know some of the reasons beforehand -- The Bataan Death March included many men from my home state of New Mexico so I grew up knowing a little about that). I will continue reading more books about the war in the Pacific because the series and book were so interesting. I haven't read Sledge's or Leckie's memoirs yet, but I will and hopefully it will be sooner than later.

For people who think that The Pacific was confusing, I would urge them to watch it more than once. It will make more sense the more you watch it because you will pick up on small details that you may have missed the first time around.

This is an extended trailer that I think sums up the series perfectly.
**Note: There is strong language in this video
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