Hell in the Pacific

The war in Europe was an unpleasant sideshow to most Americans until Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet harbored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. declared war on Japan -- and Hitler, responding to treaty obligations with Japan, declared war on the U.S.

America was suddenly engaged in a global conflict against two fascist empires bent on world domination. President Franklin Roosevelt agreed to rank the war in Europe above retaliation against the Japanese under intense pressure from U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As England stood alone after Hitler's conquest of Europe, the situation on the ground and in the skies was grim as London and other British cities were bombarded by the German Luftwaffe in advance of a planned invasion.

The war in Europe may have taken priority in theatre strategy, but the conflict in the Pacific was pursued with vigor against complex obstacles. The Japanese war plan involved the capture of dozens of Pacific islands, requiring complicated U.S. operations and command structures among the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Today in America, the conflict in Europe takes precedent in the public mind for several reasons. There is an organized and effective lobby to remind the world of the Nazi death camps. And veterans and citizens often visit Europe on holiday, where they can take in the grand cemeteries at Normandy and dozens of sites across Europe preserved to commemorate the war.

But very few people visit the Pacific Islands, where savage fighting raged for nearly four years. Yet it was in the tropical, pestilent jungle that U.S. troops engaged in America's War against the Japanese. Certainly the fighting in Europe was rough going, but the war in the Pacific was a hellish and up-close ordeal against a fanatical enemy. While the Germans were efficient in warfare, the Japanese were efficient and suicidal.

The war in the Pacific is worthy of increased interest as our own unique contribution to free the world of fascism. Thus it was with great anticipation that World War II fans tuned into the ten-part HBO docudrama "The Pacific," co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks -- who brought us the "Band of Brothers" series that followed soldiers in Europe after the D-Day landings.

I could stomach only five of the ten episodes. Excellent production values aside, it fast becomes apparent that the intent is to vilify war and to ignore the justness of America's cause. Moral ambivalence rears its ugly head, with America's moral stance equal to the Japanese cause -- probably manufactured for the latter's subsequent suffering at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as evidenced by the latest take by the radical scholars who see the U.S. as the bad guys for ending the war swiftly and decisively.

The series presents a narrow focus on one Marine unit, which obscures the panorama of the far-flung geography involved and the coordination required to orchestrate Navy and Marine operations. But the big flaw in this granular approach is the omission of the role of the Army. It was infantry that played the key role cleaning up after the Marines moved on, yet their role is obscured and even belittled. 

Our protagonists in "The Pacific" weep and whine and emote about the senselessness of war without the writers and producers taking into account the sincere desire for revenge felt by U.S. troops against the empire that attacked their country. Our fighting men were also aware of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against prisoners of war and civilians. The Bataan Death March was well known to our guys. And they held the enemy in contempt based on their own observations of the torture and murder of U.S. soldiers by Japanese units across the battlefields dotting the Pacific.

In the midst of this maudlin and immature melodrama posing as a major contribution to the world's understanding of one the great events in human history, humor was never introduced to break the tedious moral lesson against war. Each scene reeks of angst, including a break in Australia, where our heroes arrive after days on board ship in battle gear, their faces dirty from combat.

It's heartening that Spielberg and Hanks are willing to invest in historical productions. But it is depressing to view the result.

Bernie Reeves is editor and publisher of Raleigh Metro Magazine.
The war in Europe was an unpleasant sideshow to most Americans until Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet harbored at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. declared war on Japan -- and Hitler, responding to treaty obligations with Japan, declared war on the U.S.

America was suddenly engaged in a global conflict against two fascist empires bent on world domination. President Franklin Roosevelt agreed to rank the war in Europe above retaliation against the Japanese under intense pressure from U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As England stood alone after Hitler's conquest of Europe, the situation on the ground and in the skies was grim as London and other British cities were bombarded by the German Luftwaffe in advance of a planned invasion.

The war in Europe may have taken priority in theatre strategy, but the conflict in the Pacific was pursued with vigor against complex obstacles. The Japanese war plan involved the capture of dozens of Pacific islands, requiring complicated U.S. operations and command structures among the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

Today in America, the conflict in Europe takes precedent in the public mind for several reasons. There is an organized and effective lobby to remind the world of the Nazi death camps. And veterans and citizens often visit Europe on holiday, where they can take in the grand cemeteries at Normandy and dozens of sites across Europe preserved to commemorate the war.

But very few people visit the Pacific Islands, where savage fighting raged for nearly four years. Yet it was in the tropical, pestilent jungle that U.S. troops engaged in America's War against the Japanese. Certainly the fighting in Europe was rough going, but the war in the Pacific was a hellish and up-close ordeal against a fanatical enemy. While the Germans were efficient in warfare, the Japanese were efficient and suicidal.

The war in the Pacific is worthy of increased interest as our own unique contribution to free the world of fascism. Thus it was with great anticipation that World War II fans tuned into the ten-part HBO docudrama "The Pacific," co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks -- who brought us the "Band of Brothers" series that followed soldiers in Europe after the D-Day landings.

I could stomach only five of the ten episodes. Excellent production values aside, it fast becomes apparent that the intent is to vilify war and to ignore the justness of America's cause. Moral ambivalence rears its ugly head, with America's moral stance equal to the Japanese cause -- probably manufactured for the latter's subsequent suffering at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, as evidenced by the latest take by the radical scholars who see the U.S. as the bad guys for ending the war swiftly and decisively.

The series presents a narrow focus on one Marine unit, which obscures the panorama of the far-flung geography involved and the coordination required to orchestrate Navy and Marine operations. But the big flaw in this granular approach is the omission of the role of the Army. It was infantry that played the key role cleaning up after the Marines moved on, yet their role is obscured and even belittled. 

Our protagonists in "The Pacific" weep and whine and emote about the senselessness of war without the writers and producers taking into account the sincere desire for revenge felt by U.S. troops against the empire that attacked their country. Our fighting men were also aware of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against prisoners of war and civilians. The Bataan Death March was well known to our guys. And they held the enemy in contempt based on their own observations of the torture and murder of U.S. soldiers by Japanese units across the battlefields dotting the Pacific.

In the midst of this maudlin and immature melodrama posing as a major contribution to the world's understanding of one the great events in human history, humor was never introduced to break the tedious moral lesson against war. Each scene reeks of angst, including a break in Australia, where our heroes arrive after days on board ship in battle gear, their faces dirty from combat.

It's heartening that Spielberg and Hanks are willing to invest in historical productions. But it is depressing to view the result.

Bernie Reeves is editor and publisher of Raleigh Metro Magazine.