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APUSH Movie Review Project : The Pacific

The Pacific is an HBO miniseries which follows the real-life struggles of three U.S
marines - Pfc. Robert Leckie, Pfc. Eugene Sledge, and Sgt. John Basilone - as they endure the
brutality of the U.S. campaign in the Pacific theatre of WW2. It is based in part off the books
Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie, Red Blood, Black Sand by Chuck Tatum, and the books
The Old Breed and China Marine by Eugene Sledge along with firsthand accounts by
servicemen. The series begins with their enlistments and the their families and friends reactions
to their enlistments. It then moves on to their journey by ship to the Pacific island of
Guadalcanal. In which Sgt. John Basilone recieves the medal of honor and is heralded as a hero.
It continues with the harsh fighting they encounter there. It then moves to the leave they
experience in Australia. Where Leckie and Sledge find love and heartbreak, and Basilone is sent
home as a spokesperson for the war. After some time in Australia they then ship out to the rain
forests of Cape Gloucester where they endure crippling disease and endless rain. Leckie then
contracts a harsh disease and is sent to a hospital for treatment. After which they then invade the
coral island Peleliu where many of the marines are annihilated in savage fighting. Leckie is
wounded and sent home and Sledge is drastically changed by the horror he experiences there.
Meanwhile in the US Basilone becomes a drill instructor and gets married. Finally taking Peleliu
they move on to the the volcanic island of Iwo Jima. Where they fight and trudge through the
black volcanic sands to engage the heavily entrenched Japanese. Sgt. Basilone returns with a
platoon of marines he trained in the US. But, he is killed in the fighting there. Then they move on
to their final battle at Okinawa, Sledge being the only remaining of the three main characters. He
and other marines experience heavy and brutal fighting there. After which they return home
triumphant on V-J day. Plagued with uneasiness after their mind-numbing experiences in the
war. Throughout the miniseries a message of “War is hell” is conveyed along with a constant
showing of the brutality of war. But it also displays the valor and heroism of the soldiers
involved int the conflict. Altogether it is a very realistic drama detailing the lives of servicemen
during the Pacific campaign of WW2.
Robert Leckie was born in Philadelphia December 18, 1920 to a family of 8. He enjoyed
books and became a writer. After Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the US marine corps. He served
with the 1st marine corps, where he saw action in Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, and Peleliu.
Throughout the war he was hospitalized 10 times earning him the nickname “Lucky”. He was
sent home after being wounded in the battle for Peleliu. The Atomic bomb was dropped while he
was hospitalized in West Virginia. After the war he married Vera Keller and had three children.
He also resumed writing and published several notable books about the war. By the time of his
death at age 81, in 2001 he had written more then 40 books.
John Basilone was born in Raritan New Jersey November 4, 1916. He was an adventure
seeker. In 1934 he joined the Army and served at a US base at Manila in the Philippines. After 3
years he went home to New Jersey, but he was restless and re-enlisted, except into the marines
instead of the army. In 1942 he departed for Guadalcanal where his name would become legend.
On the night of October 24, the Japanese launched a large attack on the island. During which
Basilone’s heroics helped in the total annihilation of a Japanese regiment of about 3000 men. For
his heroic actions he received the Medal of Honor. Basilone was then sent home in 1943 to go on
a “bond drive”, he was disturbed that he was sent home to enjoy an easy life while his comrades
were still engaged in heavy fighting. He officially requested to be sent back to duty but was
denied. He also turned down an officers commission stating he was a plain soldier. He then took
the post of a drill Sergeant at Camp Pendleton California to train marines departing for action in
the Pacific. On December 27, 1943 he returned to active duty with his newly trained marines.
While at Camp Pendleton he met female Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Riggi they were married on
July 10, 1944. One month later on August 11, 1944 he and his marines departed for Iwo Jima.
Basilone was killed on the fighting on Iwo Jima, and for his valor during the battle he was
awarded the Navy Cross. John Basilone remains the only soldier (non-officer) in US history to
be awarded both The Congressional Medal of Honor and The Navy Cross. He is also the only
Medal of Honor winner to go back into combat and be killed in combat.
Eugene Sledge was born on November 4, 1923 in Mobile, Alabama. He intended to enlist
in the war after Pearl Harbor was delayed by a residual rheumatic heart murmur. He attended
officer training but intentionally fluked out in order to enlist as an ordinary soldier. He saw
action as a mortar-man on Peleliu and Okinawa. He compiled the notes he kept during the war
into a memoir known as With the Old Breed. After the war he was posted in Beijing, China.
After leaving the marines he later became a doctor and a professor of biology. Although he had
difficulty adjusting to civilian life. He died from stomach cancer in 2001. And a second memoir
China Marine about his time serving in china was published posthumously.
America’s entry into World War 2 came with the Japanese surprise attack on the US
Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was characterized by the large naval battles and vicious
island to island fighting that occurred. The sheer brutality and savagery of the conflict were not
seen in the European theatre of the war. After Pearl Harbor the Japanese launched an offensive
throughout the Pacific taking control of a vast swath of territory. They scored numerous victories
against the US in places like the Philippines. The tide began to turn however with the world first
ever great carrier battles at the Coral Sea and Midway. An American counteroffensive began
with landings on Guadalcanal and other islands in the Solomons island chain. Along with a
combined
American/Australian effort to take New Guinea's Papuan peninsula. After which an American
island-hoping campaign began along with counteroffensives to retake the Aleutian Islands. They
attacked the islands of Tarawa and Mankin in the Gilberts. Then the campagin moved on the
Marianas island chain including the islands of Saipan, Guam, and Tinian. The capture of the
Marianas brought Japan within range of American air-power. The remaining campaigns included
efforts to retake the Philippines, and to capture Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
The miniseries The Pacific does an extraordinary job of capturing the historical accuracy
of the Pacific conflict. It shows the battles as they happened and displays all the brutality of war.
Capturing both the horror of war and the varying emotions of the men whom participated. It also
gives a good account of the lives and feelings of the characters who are based off real people.
There are only minor discrepancies, most of which are in the actions of characters, which are
almost impossible to totally recreate. But the major historical events such as the battles and troop
movements and in keeping with what truly happened. So the miniseries does what seems to be
the best job possible in keeping the real historical content while still making an entertaining
series. It’s parts can trace a series of real events through the Pacific war.

Bibliography -

HBO. 2011 <http://www.hbo.com/the-pacific/index.html#/the-pacific/episodes/0/01-part-


1/article/historical-background.html/>

World War 2 History 2010 <http://worldwar2history.info/Pacific/>

AwesomeStories 2011 <http://www.awesomestories.com/assets/robert-leckie>

BasiloneParade <http://www.basiloneparade.com/bio1.htm>