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The Pacific

A week or so ago I decided to rewatch HBO’s The Pacific. It is a great companion to Band of Brothers and bookends the war nicely. As so much of the entertainment world is focused on the European theater and Moustache Mad Bad, it was overdue that the Pacific theater got some serious attention so many decades after movies like Midway and Tora! Tora! Tora!.

I was quickly reminded of the brutality of the series. It is hard to watch in many places. The realism is very powerful and explains why it was such an outrageous miniseries….

…and also why it wasn’t nearly as popular. Band of Brothers is very rah rah America. The Pacific shows Americans being pretty ugly toward the Japanese, just as it shows the Japanese as vicious, fanatical opponents. You don’t have to think much watching Band of Brothers, you just sit back and enjoy it. The Pacific isn’t easy to watch and it is very troubling. There are no scenes like this one from BoB that paint the Germans as very human, even honorable opponents.

I doubt any WW II movies or series today would allow such a moment.

It is difficult to remember today what nasty little bastards the Japanese were in WW II. Japanese men today are meek and kinda sissies. Back then they were remorseless killers that considered it an honor to die if they took some enemies with them.

For older generations it seems, looking back to when I was a kid, that Pearl Harbor had a far greater impact on the American people than the Holocaust. I have written before about the visceral hatred my liberal life-long Democrat maternal grandparents had toward the Japanese. My very sweet little grannie would almost spit in anger when she talked about Japs, little nips, slaty-eyed yellow devils. Even decades after the war ended I think grannie would have gutted a Jap if she had the chance. They hated the Japanese. In union autoworker town Toledo where I grew up, driving a Japanese car was a surefire way to get a lot of shit, some genuinely ugly looks and occasionally vandalism.

Conversely I don’t remember anyone talking about the Holocaust. Not ever, not until Schindler’s List came out. No one was racing to the recruitment office to join the war crying “Remember the Jews!”, except maybe for Jews. Those farm kids signing up were all about Pearl Harbor. Hell we are endlessly reminded of the M.S. St. Louis, a ship carrying nearly 1000 passengers, mostly Jews, that tried to disembark in Cuba, were turned away, then tried Miami and were turned away and were finally denied entry even to Canada. In other words, no one wanted to resettle thousands of European Jews. They got Their vengeance later…

After the Holocaust, the St. Louis’ survivors pushed for the remembrance of their ordeal. The United States changed its policy toward refugees in the wake of World War II, and began accepting more refugees than any other country in the world.

I have mentioned a couple of times how the history of World War II has been retconned, especially as it relates to the Holocaust, and particularly in Band of Brothers. In my D-Day post in 2021, I pointed out that while an entire episode of Band of Brothers is titled Why We Fight and focuses on the liberation of a camp, suggesting that the Holocaust was a prime reason for American involvement in the war, the liberation of the camp was barely mentioned in the Stephen Ambrose book:

However in the book, the only mention of concentration camps comes in the very end of a chapter titled “Getting To Know The Enemy”, the same chapter I quoted from above to point out the respect the American paratroopers had for the German people. The camp they liberated warranted about a page of mention.

The actual passages on pages 262-263 make up less than 300 total words and certainly come across as a side-note rather than a significant event. The men of Easy Company had seen all sorts of horror in the war and the Kaufering camp was just another one. War is hell and there was horror to be seen from start to finish. Why would something that warrants almost no mention in the book the miniseries was based on be given a prominent role in the miniseries itself? 

The Pacific theater deserves far more attention than it receives but likely never will as the history of World War II has become so politicized. If you haven’t watched The Pacific, you ought to whether you are a history buff or not. If nothing else it shows just how fanatical and vicious the Japanese were and how thoroughly a warlike people can be pacified and neutered in just a few generations. There are some interesting lessons and parallels to ponder….


  1. LFMayor

    I watched that too for the first time about two months ago. I really like the way it honestly showed the effects of the environment, the remote isolation of the theater and how these broke men down. It sucked, plain and simple and they didn’t sugar coat it. I also liked the part where the father told the harpy mother who was ragging on her son to basically shut up about things she had no understanding of. Something we could get a lot of mileage and good effect from these days.

  2. pyrrhus

    At Miles Mathis’s blog, “Lestrade” is pretty systematically dismantling much of the Pacific war, and showing that it was just propaganda by the War dept…

    • clown car driver

      Beat me to it. When I first came across Mathis, I had serious doubts. However, once you get past the reaction we seem programmed to have to such information, it really does make sense. I mean, they’ve lied to us about everything else, right?

    • Mike_C

      While I have no idea about Miles Mathis nor “Lestrade” I’m now very curious to know what kind of hat Lestrade wears.

      Some of them literally Can Not Help It. Elsewhere I made a comment on what terrible things Jacob Schiff did and his role in the overthrow of Tsarist Russia. Someone jumped in with “Schiff was anti-Bolshevik” (“you anti-Semite” being left out but strongly implied). I wasn’t even referring to that, since I was talking about how the loans financier Schiff arranged allowed the modernization of the Imperial Japanese Navy (which then kicked Russian ass and weakened the prestige/power of the Tsar). The win by the IJN only encouraged the expansionist dreams of the Japanese, leading to millions of deaths and atrocities throughout Asia for decades.

      But none of that matters compared to masturbation machines of death, and stumbling starving through the frozen woods only to be saved by wolves who vomited up partially digested raw meat to save the lives of good innocent boys who were heartlessly masturbated for no reason at all.

  3. Mike_C

    Euro vs Pacific theater, perceptions then vs now: Well, some people “have to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” It’s ALWAYS about them.

    Apart from the entirely practical benefits of propaganda and manipulation, it’s also about their cultural “personality disorders”. If they were a person instead of a people we could diagnose narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder. These come with a total incapability for self-reflection as the cherry on the shit sundae. (Or should that be “shit saturdae”?)


    Had a chance to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War In Fredericksburg, TX a few weeks ago. Admiral Chester Nimitz was born in what used to be their grandparents’ hotel that later became the Nimitz Museum and later expanded to include the Pacific Theater.

    Lots to see there, you can easily spend an entire day.

  5. Boba O'Really

    The Pacific is a great series.
    Watching it I began to understand why my grandfather (USN Pacific WW2 vet) hated the japs. HATED them.

    I remember sitting at the kitchen table telling him I was going to take Aikido, explaining to him it was a Japanese martial art rooted in peace.
    He didn’t say a word, all he did was clench his jaw and nod slowly. It puzzled me at the time.

    Looking back on it now (30 years down the road), I realize that what I had witnessed was an object lesson in self control.
    A combat veteran maintaining his self control in the face of a know it all college punk who had NO clue as to what his grandfather had been through.

    RIP Ted, you are missed.

  6. Reader

    My grandfather flew P51’s in the Pacific till he was shipped back to train more AAC pilots.

    He flew many CAP sorties and on one escort mission we dropped poison food on a nameless island the Japs had stationed a large number, maybe company, of soldiers. No sense in sending US men to their deaths over a small patch of dirt in an ocean that wasn’t a gain in any way, only loss. Have them the death they so eagerly wanted.

    Years after WW2 he operated a flight instruction school in Ann Arbor, MI. A jap wanted lessons. “Not your kind.” and turned him away. My other grandfather was in Europe on the ill-fated anti-tank battalion. He never would eat Italian food, not even pizza. Just meat and potatoes. Both loved their nation, both hated their enemy.

  7. Gryphon

    My Grandfather (Mother’s father) was in the Navy there, from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima. As a Chief (the Cook, actually, on an LST) His Combat Station was commanding an Anti-Aircraft Turret, dual 40-Millimeter Packard Autocannons, open except for a low Armor Plate in front. They went Eyeball-to-Eyeball with IJN Pilots with Bombs and Torpedoes, and eventually “Kamikaze”. He said that really Terrified them – a Hit by a Fighter Plane on a Transport Ship almost always led to Fires that would Sink it – “They were F***in’ Berserkers!” He said, in reference to the Warriors from the North in Europe. He never gave up on Hating the ‘Japs’.

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