Last night the ten part mini-series THE PACIFIC concluded on HBO and I must say it is without question one of the best portrayals of the Second World War I have ever seen.  The $200 million mini series was produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and was in many ways the sequel to the 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers also produced by Hanks and Spielberg.

THE PACIFIC tracks the intertwined real-life journeys of three U.S. Marines across the Pacific Theater during World War II.  The miniseries follows these men and their fellow Marines from their first battle with the Japanese on Guadalcanal, through the rain forests of Cape Gloucester and the strongholds of Peleliu, across the bloody sands of Iwo Jima and through the horror of Okinawa, and finally to their triumphant but uneasy return home after V-J Day[1].

As a huge fan of Band of Brothers I was anticipating much of the same type of story when THE PACIFIC debuted in mid March.  After Part 2 I quickly realized that THE PACIFIC was quite different from Band of Brothers and I thoroughly questioned whether THE PACIFIC had delivered as well as its predecessor.  It was after probably the third or fourth episode that it dawned on me what the fundamental difference was between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers.  The first time I watched Band of Brothers I was overcome with feelings of pride, patriotism and even a desire to enlist in the armed forces.  Band of Brothers’ European setting has a feel of glory, adventure and heroism about it, which left me wishing I were in my twenties in the early 1940s so that I could do my part in the war effort.  THE PACIFIC on the other hand paints a very different picture from that of Band of Brothers.  Like Band of Brothers, THE PACIFIC does not shy away from the graphic nature of the Second World War.  However, those who fought in the Pacific theater battled a much different enemy in a much different environment.  The battles in the Pacific were fought on pieces of land most people had never heard of opposed to romantic and world-class cities like Paris and Rome.  There was a good quote in Part 10 of THE PACIFIC from an American cab driver to one of THE PACIFIC’s main characters Robert Leckie.  The cab driver, that was a veteran of the Normandy invasion waved Leckie’s cab fare upon his return home saying, “I may have jumped into Normandy but I had the assets of London and Paris, all you got was jungle rote and malaria.”  To me that was the primary difference between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers; Band of Brothers left me wishing I were part of the war where THE PACIFIC left me thankful I was not.

The portrayal of war in THE PACIFIC was so real, graphic and violent it left me mesmerized and forgetting to blink for what felt like entire episodes.  I cannot image myself sitting in water filled holes for weeks at a time and sharing my living space with decaying bodies. THE PACIFIC unquestionably shows the efforts and sacrifices of the ‘Greatest Generation’ in the purest of ways.  My generation will never know and never understand the contributions and sacrifices of those who participated in the Second World War.  However, watching THE PACIFIC is a good start to understanding how the Second Great War broke the minds and souls of so many young men.

[1] HBO CANADA. THE PACIFIC  May 17, 2010.


One Response to “THE PACIFIC”

  1. Thank you for writing this. It’s the best review I’ve read about this series. I loved Band of Brothers, but The Pacific had to be told completely differently. The European theater was a little more “romantic” and is easier to film. The Pacific theater, there was no fancy ticker tape parades when they liberate a town, no local women kissing them, no place for R&R, ect. It was just the Marines, the Japanese and the jungle. The Marines invaded an island, killed all the Japanese, then went to sit in a tent until they had to invade another island. There is nothing romantic or glorified about that and doesn’t translate to film as well as Europe.

    I think that this is one of the reasons why there are so many WW2 movies about Europe and the Pacific was largely ignored. Since very very few men of the 1st Marines made it from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, they couldn’t focus on the people and the personal stories as much as BoB. What this series did is showed how horrifying the combat was and showed why there was a much higher casualty rate in “The Old Breed” then “The Screaming Eagles”. I think the episodes about the Battle of Peleliu far outdid Omaha Beach of Saving Private Ryan or D-Day and Bastogne in BoB.

    What BoB enthusiasts forget is that the fighting the in Pacific was far worse. My step dad was in the 2nd Marines in WW2 and he told me all the islands he was on (Guadalcanal and Peleliu were 2 of them). He loved talking about being in the Marines but never mentioned any of the fighting and wouldn’t respond if he was asked about it. I’m an EMT and many of my patients are WW2 vets. I’ve heard so many of them say to me “Thank God I wasn’t in the Pacific” or when I mentioned that my step-dad was a Marine and tell him the islands he was on, they comment “Oh he had it bad then”. I can’t imagine what he went through.

    In closing, you said ” To me that was the primary difference between THE PACIFIC and Band of Brothers; Band of Brothers left me wishing I were part of the war where THE PACIFIC left me thankful I was not.” and you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for this.

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