The Pacific (2010)

I’m not what someone would call a “war buff.” My thoughts on war run along the lines of what someone might call a “bleeding heart hippie liberal.” In general, I don’t think there is a way to portray war (fictionally) that doesn’t in some way glamorize it, even when the media in question is focused on how horrible it is. So, generally, I tend to steer clear of war-themed entertainment.

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The Pacific is a rare exception. The mini-series aired on HBO in 2010 and is based on the books With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie, both veterans of World War Two. It’s apparently a companion piece to Band of Brothers (another HBO WW2 miniseries from 2001), but I never watched that one. I’m considering it, but I’m not sure because I’ve heard it has a different feel than The Pacific.

The Pacific centers around Marine involvement in (obviously) the Asiatic-Pacific Theater in WW2 and the lives of three main characters: Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello), Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), and John Basilone (Jon Seda). These are all real men who really served in the Marines during WW2. From what I’ve heard and read, the series stays fairly true to the source material. Also, Google John Basilone; man was a badass.

I think what sets The Pacific apart from other war stories for me is that it is, at least in some part, based in fact. I’m sure some events are hyperbolized and some characters are more like caricatures and composites, but overall this is the actual story of these men. They were real, they lived through these horrors–and at the end of the series, we find out what happened to most of them.

I will admit, The Pacific is not an easy series to watch. You need a strong stomach for both the physical and emotional brutality, as well as the casual racism towards Japanese people that was heavily present during the war. They kept this script accurate.

On that note, the casual racism become interesting when they get to Okinawa. They make a distinction between the soldiers and the civilians in regards to the disrespectful and racist language, as evident in one particular exchange. While marching alongside some Okinawa civilians, someone asks if they’re “J*p prisoners.” It’s then said that no, “These are Okinawans.” There is a difference to them between “J*ps” (an extremely derogatory term for Japanese people and sorry if the censorship bothers you, but I’m not comfortable writing it even in context) and Okinawans, who are still Japanese.

I found that to be an interesting juxtaposition which makes the viewer wonder how much of that racism is a result of the war itself. How much of it was drilled into these Marine’s heads by superiors during training (we get a glimpse of that multiple times during the series)?

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Eugene Sledge: #FuckThisShitImOut

There’s something raw and crushing about watching these men slowly lose their humanity over the course of ten episodes. It’s a heartbreaking watch. I got attached to some of these characters and it’s rough when I lose one. Even when I know what’s going to happen, I still bawl like the first viewing. There are some episodes I can’t bear to watch, but force my way through them, because to skip them seems like a disrespect to the men who fought these battles.

One thing that The Pacific does which I really liked was touch on what it was like when they returned home. Rather than the image of the happy parades and confetti and the Marine who’s just so happy to be home so he can put the whole ugly mess behind him, Leckie’s and Seldge’s homecomings are… really sad, actually. More realistic. These men, Sledge in particular, are not okay.

I’ve watched this series at least four times since I was turned onto it in late 2016. The fact that I have thus far devoted seven-and-a-half hours of my life (ten episodes at roughly 45 minutes per episode) is something for me. I never buy the DVD/BluRay versions of shows, because I never rewatch things. But, I bought the DVD set of this (I recommend spending the extra couple bucks for the BluRay, though; switching out DVDs every two episodes is a pain).

And then there’s the cast, which is amazing. Admittedly, I didn’t know who a lot of these actors were going in, but I knew Rami Malek was in it, and I was basically obsessing over him at the time, so I figured I’d watch it. And, now I have, like, ten new precious angel babies who I love with all my heart and soul. Seriously, though, this is an incredibly acted series. The emotions these men portray and evoke are so raw and intense I forget sometimes they aren’t actually at war.

The Pacific is hands-down my favorite war-themed media that isn’t a direct documentary (and even then, it may still be on top). I would even go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite television series, regardless of genre, it’s just that good. It makes me hurt, but in a good way.

I suggest checking it out if you have the means. It’s available for streaming through Amazon Prime, as well as on DVD and BluRay.

Enjoy your weekend with some quality viewing, witches.

I love you all.


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5 Comments on “The Pacific (2010)

  1. Nice reflection. The Pacific is currently being rerun on TV over here. It’s a powerful piece of television alright. The dehumanisation and racism go hand in hand. The less a soldier sees his enemy as human, the easier it is to kill him. I found it interesting that some of the veteran soldiers, who had become used to killing, kind of went full circle on it and saw the enemy as human again. It’s an unnatural state of mind, and it has a limited life span that results in either a total inability to fight, or the inability to return to civilian life. The scene where Basilone has a go at the Marine in training who says he want’s to “slap a j*p” was revealing.

    You should give Band of Brothers a try. It is different, as all the main characters are in the same story thread, but it is similar in how it deals with the reality and impact of war. In some ways it’s more emotional, as the bond between the soldiers is explored more deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That scene with Basilone and the enlisted was intense. Even though he’s basically saying, “You need to get serious about killing these people,” there’s also this almost respect there for the Japanese soldiers. Jon Seda did a really good job in that role.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The History Channel and Hollywood do tend to glamorize or romanticize war. History Channel shows an opinionated side of the Pacific War with MOH winners and only showing the Marines. That generation was born out of WWI, survived the Great Depression – only to be rewarded by having a President send them into an even bigger war. It took that whole generation, every branch of service and civilians included to win. There was nothing glamorous or romantic about the world losing 50-70 million people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t watch the History Channel anymore, aside from a few (ironically, non-historical) shows. These days they seem very focused on sensationalism, regardless of whether or not it’s based in fact. My friend Pup and I often joke that it’s not the “history” channel but the “historical fiction and conspiracy theory” channel.

      Liked by 1 person

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