Posted by: Jim E | June 18, 2010

WWII…The Pacific…

The past few months I have been reading a number of books on WWII in the Pacific…probably because of the HBO produced series on the subject…the truth is, I haven’t seen it yet…but no matter…the books I read brought me to the “feeling level” of that conflict…

The best books that I have read (well written and interesting) are With The Old Breed and China Marine by E. B. Sledge and The Pacific by Hugh Ambrose…all three are great books, wonderfully written…for Gene Sledge, who fought in the Pacific, his books are memoirs…and Hugh Ambrose is the son of Stephen Ambrose the author of Band Of Brothers, both historians…the Hugh Ambrose book was written to go along with the five men, including Gene Sledge, who are in the HBO series…

These books are must reading if you have any interest in the things that happened during that time…the Sledge books are especially telling of the life of a young Marine who fought in two horrific battles: Peleliu and Okinawa and served after peace in war torn China (a story in itself) …the Ambrose book covers generally the main battles of the Pacific war…but both cover the war from the very personal stories of these men who fought there…outstanding…

I guess the biggest surprise from these books is effect it had on me personally…in all the books, films and audio I have heard and seen, nothing had the visceral effect these did…I got some of the feelings that they had when they were there…and mostly the effect that the war had on them in their personal lives and on their families, both during and after the war…I never understood how my own Dad, though not in the thick of battle, but serving in the Navy in that same area, could have some of the same results in him and in his family…

Though the Marines wouldn’t allow them to keep records on the battles they fought…yet Gene Sledge kept notes on the margins of his New Testament…and years after the war wrote down these thoughts as a method to bring closure to all his nightmares and explain to his family what he went through…the killing and the constant terror…all these experiences made him who he was and he wanted them to know why…

I always knew my Dad was effected by the war…everything from “never” wanting to eat “Spam” again…to shaving everyday…to what I always attributed to his problems with alcohol…though Sledge never had a problem with alcohol, he referred to his time with the Marines in China before he was sent home…he called it “a civilized alternative to the typical binge-and-boredom cycle of his contemporaries”…”a gradual decompression from some of the most vivid memories of Peleliu’s Bloody Nose Ridge or Okinawa’s Half Moon Hill.”…quite likely, his time there “preserved Sledge’s sanity”…but no doubt, alcohol played a part in the lives of those in the “service”…

I don’t know if my Dad ever got over the habit of the binge and boredom cycle until he got quite old…but I do believe the war was a direct result of many men who returned and were never the same again…all would be different from then on…

In China Marine, Sledge said the following and with that I will end this post: “World War II gave me a convenient measuring stick for duty, courage, terror, friendship, patience, horror, endurance, compassion, discomfort, grief, and pain that has remained with me daily.” and “Anyone who has not suffered the prolonged fear and limitless fatigue that was the combat infantryman’s lot might find this difficult to comprehend.”

“Over fifty years later I look back on the war as though it were some giant killing machine into which we were thrown to endure fear to the brink of insanity…some fell over the brink…and physical fatigue to near collapse.”

“I am still amazed I escaped the killing machine. Why I never fell killed or wounded in that storm of steel thrown at us countless times still astonishes me.”

“Each man who survived, I am certain, was plucked from the mire of death by the Almighty…and in this I feel humble and grateful.”


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Responses

  1. I know I could never survive such a traumatic experience, I’m amazed anyone still has their faculties who did go through it. Interesting article in Japan Times about ‘Tunnel Rats’ trying to map the horror of Okinawa. Not sure I could even do that sort of thing either…

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20100613x1.html


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