08 March 2010


When this man gets to heaven
To St. Peter he will tell:
“Another Marine reporting, Sir.
I’ve served my time in hell.”

Epitaph scribbled by a shipmate on the cross over a grave of a Marine on Guadalcanal

Starting this Sunday, March 14, HBO will present its 10 part series, The Pacific. It is the second part of the story that began with Band of Brothers in 2001. Spielberg and Hanks did a wonderful job in translating Steven Ambroses’ marvelous retelling of the feats of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry to the screen. However, there has been some concern among WWII vets and others that that, considering the sorry state of education in America today, many folks might forget that at the same time, there was also a little ruckus going on in the Pacific in WWII. Disclaimer: my Dad made 5 opposed landings in WWII—Tarawa, Kwajalien, Saipan, Tinian, and Pelelieu, and I’m a Marine, so I may be over-sensitive. Nonetheless, it is an historical fact that D-Day on Iwo Jima was more deadly than D-Day in Normandy, and it is great that the rest of the story will now be told.

Following Ambrose’s model, the story will focus on three real Marines: Gunnery Sergeant John (“Manila John”) Basilone, Robert Leckie, and Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge. Gunny Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal with the First Marine Division and was sent home. He insisted on returning to combat and was killed in action on D-Day on Iwo while serving with 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division. He received the Navy Cross posthumously. He is a legend in the First Marine Division (“The Old Breed”), my Division in Vietnam. Leckie, the author of Helmet For My Pillow, and Sledge, author of With The Old Breed at Pelelieu and Okinawa, also served with the First Marine Division. Both died in 2001.

The presentation of the story appears to have the same attention to detail that was so apparent in Band of Brothers. Watching the work they did to portray the effects of the Spring monsoon on Okinawa made me long for my old poncho. I suspect that anyone who watches The Pacific will quickly realize that Semper Fidelis is legitimately the motto of the Corps and that “the Hymn” isn’t kidding about Marines having the natural responsibility of guarding the streets of Heaven.

Finally, I hope the Spielberg and Hanks will find appropriate vehicles to portray the "Mighty Eighth" Air Force's air war in Europe, although the classic 12 O’Clock High will be a tough act to follow. Then I would like to see the gallantry of our Navy brethren depicted, perhaps through a recounting of the action in San Bernadino Strait (Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors) and off Okinawa (Brave Ship, Brave Men). I once met one of the Aaron Ward sailors and the story of their 30 minutes of hell deserves retelling

At any rate, I think Band of Brothers and The Pacific will reveal to today’s America just how much we owe those men who won WWII. In a documentary about Pelelieu, Peter Graves summed it up by reading a letter from a wounded Marine aboard a hospital ship to his mother back in West Virginia.

He wrote “They say I’ll be coming home soon. Give my love to Dad, sisters, brothers, and kin folk. And if you see Parson Brown, tell him I’d like to talk to him when I get home. I want to talk about heaven. Tell him there is no need to talk about hell—I’ve been there.”

Semper Fi.

© 2010 Michael R. McCarty. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Marlene said...

Glad you are back on the blog...missed you.