The Pacific (2010)
Some curse words spelled out.
"Exactly eight months after Pearl Harbor, the 1st Marine Division, including Robert Leckie and Sidney Phillips, lands on Guadalcanal in order to secure its strategically vital airfield and prepare for the inevitable counterattack."
[New Guinea is north of Australia. From New Guinea it's east to New Britain and then east from New Britain is the Solomon Islands. In the Solomon Islands near the southeast end of the many islands of the Solomon Islands is Guadalcanal. The island is 90 miles long and 25 miles miles, about the size of Puerto Rico.]
The marines are having their chow before they head out on the boats for Guadalcanal. The men climb down the ropes and get into the landing boats. When the guys land and get off the boats they are greeted by troops that are lazing around the beach. It's the old army way of hurry up, hurry up to wind up sitting and waiting once again.
The men start moving out to go find some Japs. They come upon an area where the Japs had to move out quickly leaving many of their belongings behind. They come across the body of a terribly mutilated marine. They keep on moving. At night the rain pours down on the marines.
Somebody goes to take a piss, somebody thinks it's a Jap and fires. Then everyone starts firing their weapons. A number of marines are killed as a result. The dead are buried.
Now the marines move to the top of the ridge, where they dig in. There they discover that the 5th Marines took the Guadalcanal airfield, later known as Henderson Field. Also from the ridge the men watch as Japanese and American ships do battle in the slot.
When the marines awaken in the morning they are shocked to see that the American Navy is gone. The Americans lost four cruisers and the Admiral moved out of the slot and into the open ocean.
The next day the marines see a lot of Japanese ships in the slot.
Alligator Creek. [The marines were positioned at Alligator Creek (often called the "Ilu River" on U.S. Marine maps) on the east side of the Lunga perimeter near Henderson airfield in the early morning hours of 21 August. The Lugna River is on the west, east of it is Alligator Creek, and east of that is the Tenaru River.]
The battle of the Tenaru River begins. The Japanese on the east side of Alligator Creek open up on the marines on the west side of Alligator Creek. The battle is really intense. The marines keep having to move their machine gun closer to the slot to keep up with the movements of the Japanese. Many Japanese are killed trying to cross the creek. The Japanese take a heavy beating. The next morning the beach and creek banks are covered with the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers.
The marines walk slowly up to an open field. They kneel and check out the field. A man moves his head upward and gets hit by a bullet in the throat via machine gun fire. The marines answer with machine gun fire of their own. After a short while, the Japanese leave. The Americans go back into the jungle vegetation where they are not so vulnerable to attack. A messenger comes to Sgt. Basilone and tells him that Chesty Puller wants the sergeant's squad to hang back with Able Company to see if the Nips follow them. Then they will rejoin the battalion further north.
At night the men talk in their fox holes. A fellow asks Leckie who's he writing to. Then he has him read out loud what he has written. Leckie reads: "Dear Vera". He says he writes that there are 5,000 Japs waiting to kill them.
The next day the marines are served rice with maggots. The officer in charge says that the Army has finally landed on Guadalcanal. The army delivers a lot of supplies and many of the marines steal the contents of the boxes. Leckie grabs a nice pair of moccasins and a box of cigars. When the army fellows come around, the marines take off with their loot.
An marine officer drives up to Leckie to tell him the army captain from the 164th's raising hell about somebody breaking into his trunk and stealing his favorite pair of moccasins and his cigars. Leckie is surrently wearing the moccasins.
At night a barrage of artillery fire starts landing amongst the marines' encampment. The marines have a lot of casualties.
Briggs comes over with a message for Basilone, Manny and JP. Chesty Puller wants Dog Company NCOs at his CP. Chesty tells the NCOs that their battalion will join Hanneken's in their old position south of the airfield. Topside thinks the Japanese are going to attack up by the Mantanikau. [The Matanikau River of Guadalcanal is located near Honiara in the northwest part of the island, west of the Lugna River.] This would allow the Japanese to run their artillery up the coast road right into the airfield.
Hanneken's being pulled up north to the Matanikau River. The marines get their defensive positions set up well. It rains again and when it rains it pours. Briggs in an outpost telephones Chesty to tell him that the whole Jap army is headed his way.
The Japanese attack at night. They take heavy losses because they are attacking well-entrenched marines with lots of fire power. Basilone moves his machine gone over to another position, JP's position, where the Japanese have broken through. He gets there just in time to stop a massive push by the Japanese. Basilone is the hero of the hour. During a lull Basilone goes to get more machine gun ammo. He gets the ammo back to the machine guns just in time to stop another Japanese charge.
Chesty Puller comes along and tells Basilone that he's putting in the sergeant's name for a medal. And they're gonna be moving west toward Lunga, up on the ridge.
Basilone looks for his friend, the runner Manny Rodriguez. He finds him dead in the jungle. He brings in Manny's dead body so his body can be handled with the other bodies.
Back in the USA, Eugene Sledge is finally free of his heart murmur. He's enlisting tomorrow.
On Guadalcanal the guys are finally leaving the island. The men get on the landing boats and climb back up onto the ships. The guys learn that they of the 1st Marine Division are seen as heroes back home.
Leckie, Basilone and thousands of other American marines land in Melbourne, Australia. The Australians greet them as the saviors of Australia.
Leckie becomes deeply attached to an Australian woman and her first-generation family.
Basilone gets the Medal of Honor. He doesn't like it, but he is recruited to return home to help sell US war bonds as a great American hero.
December 1943. Eugene Sledge trains for combat at Camp Elliott.
The 1st Marine Division lands at Cape Gloucester on the Japanese-held island of New Britain. [New Britain is a lot larger than Guadalcanal. It is 323 miles long by 91 miles wide, or about three times the size of Guadalcanal. Cape Glouster is on the western end of the island while Rabaul is on the eastern edge. To its east is Papua New Guinea and to it's northeast is the island of New Ireland. The Bismarck Sea is to the north and the Solomon Sea is on the south.]
Leckie is now with Lt. Larkin in Battalion Intelligence and the lieutenant assigns him to any H company patrols. They've got a new man, a guy from French speaking Quebec named Lebec. He was a commando at Dieppe where the Canadians took heavy casualties.
On patrol Leckie was on point, but now he is put in the rear of the patrol. He hears some voices and hides. As a four man Japanese patrol comes up, Leckie jumps up and mows the four men down with his automatic weapon.
At night the men are in more rain forest rain. As they start to settle in for the night the guards spot the Japanese coming their way. It's a suicide charge and the Japanese get mowed down. Leckie has to wait it out in the intelligence tent, because if the Japs break through, he is to burn the tent down.
The marines figure that the Japanese on this western side of the island are running up to Rabaul on the eastern side. The suicide attack was by 100 Japanese volunteers. One of the Americans comments: "100 against 1,200. They're either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid."
The marines come upon a camp of dead and dying Japanese soldiers. One marine, Gibson, strangles a Japanese soldier too weak to resist. Leckie finds a small Japanese chest with a Lugar pistol in it.
For the next two weeks the marines don't see any Japanese. Now their worse enemy is the jungle and the pouring rain.
Leckie finds that his chest is gone. He goes to his commanding officer, Lt. Larkin, and sees that he has the chest. Leckie tells him that the chest is his. The officer says that enlisted men are not allowed such items to be in their possession. Leckie keeps pushing the point until the officers tells him to get out of his tent. Leckie says he's not in the officer's tent. The officer just stares at Leckie, until Leckie goes away.
Larkin comes after Leckie and puts him on clean-up duty in the officer's mess. He mentions that something's missing from his tent. Leckie verbally chastises Larkin. The officer gets back at Leckie by telling him that Leckie pissed in his pants.
On mess duty, Leckie sees Lebec strip naked, putting all his clothes on a clothes line of sorts. Then he sees Lebec shoot himself while holding his pistol in his mouth.
The men are back on a ship headed to the island of Pavuvu. [Pavuvu is the largest of the Russell Islands in Central Province, Solomon Islands. It is located northwest of Guadalcanal and very close to the island of Banika.]
Leckie starts suffering what they now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is sent to a naval hospital on nearby Banika for psychiatric observation.
Leckie asks the doctor why is he in with guys who need to have their razor blades and belts taken away? The doctor just says the regular ward is overflowing with patients and he always gets all the overflow. Meanwhile, they will be treating his problem of pissing the bed, called enuresis or urinary incontinence of which there are many possible causes, one of which is anxiety.
While in the hospital, Leckie sees Gibson, who has to stay in a locked down cell by himself. He says hello to Gibson.
Leckie wants to go back to his unit before they move on without him. He tells the doctor that he can have his Lugar pistol if he will just sign the papers to let him go back with his friends.
Leckie heads for the boat to take him on the short ride back to Pavuvu.
Basilone continues on his war bond tour. His celebrity grows, but he doesn't like the touring and wants to get back into the action.
Leckie rejoins his company on Pavuvu.
Eugene Sledge is assigned to the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He is briefly reunited with Sidney Phillips.
Sledge sees his first action on the heavily defended coral island of Peleliu.
[Peleliu (or Beliliou) is a small island of only six square miles in the island nation of Palau. Palau is east of Mandano, the Philippines, and north of West Papau. Peleliu is almost the last island of Palau at the southwest end of the nation of islands. Peleliu forms, along with two small islands to its northeast, one of the sixteen states of Palau. It is located northeast of Angaur and southwest of Koror. Most of the island's population lives in the village of Kloulklubed, which is the state capital on the northern coast.]
Peleliu Island was occupied by about 11,000 Japanese of the 14th Infantry Division under the leadership of Colonel Kunio Nakagawa.
The 1st Marine Regiment (under Col. Lewis B. Puller) will land on the northern end of the beaches; the 5th Marine Regiment (under Col. Harold D. Harris) will land in the center; and the 7th Marine Regiment (under Col. Herman H. Hanneken) will land at the southern end.
Peleliu, September, 1944. There's an airfield on Peleliu. The commanding officer tells the marlines that when they hit the beach, they are to keep running. Get off the beach and reach the tree line beyond. Eugene is nervous about getting ashore. The landing vehicle goes right up onto the beach itself. One of the guys getting out of the landing craft just in front of Eugene is hit as he tries to climb over the side of the craft and is knocked back into the craft. He falls on Eugene knocking Eugene onto the floor of the craft. A fellow marine helps him up and Eugene goes over the side of the vehicle, landing on his back on the wet part of the beach.
Eugene hesitates a bit, but he does start crawling up off the beech to get to the tree line. A concussion from an explosion creates a ringing noise in Eugene's head. He takes off his helmet, but soon puts the helmet back on. He reaches the tree line. Philip is hit in the leg and is removed from the battlefield by the corpsmen. Hoosier was wounded.
During a lull in the battle, Eugene is very upset when he sees marine Snafu thrusting his bayonet into the mouth of a Japanese dead body in order to get the gold in the corpse's mouth. The gold hunter acts as if it's no big deal to do this. Afterwards, the fellow just lies don't to take a nap.
September 1944. Mobile, Alabama. Sidney Philips pays a late night visit to the Sledge family. Mrs. Sledge asks Sidney to tell them how Eugene is dong. Philips says Eugene's with a lot of good marines. Plus, Eugene, like Philips himself, is a mortar man. He says he's not worried about Eugene.
The marines attempt to capture the Peleliu airfield. The plan is to move across the airfield at 0900. The men are really thirsty at this point and want some water now. First and Second Platoons move out. The Japanese in the airfield buildings are waiting for the marines. A lot of marines are killed or wounded trying to cross over the airfield. Leckie is half-way across when he's sent back to get a radio that works. They want to call in an air strike on the airfield buildings where most of the fire is coming from. Leckie sees one terrible sight after another as he maneuvers between the dead and wounded bodies and the men who are now just being hit by artillery fire.
Leckie gets wounded from a nearby explosion and is evacuated from the island. He is brought to a medical ship where they place him on a table. Leckie starts coughing up blood.
Mortar fire finally takes out the rest of the Japanese defenders fighting from the buildings. So now more marines can reach the buildings themselves. They stay there overnight.
The thinking now is that the bulk of the Japanese still alive now are dug into the ridges that run up the spine of the valley. So the marines are ordered to move into the hills. On the move, Snafu starts calling Eugene Sledge "sledgehammer". Bill Leyden objects, so Snafu nicknames him "ball-peen hammer" because of his shorter height.
Eugene goes with a scouting party and they run into a heavily fortified position from which they have to pull back. The officer in charge says he's going to go get their orders changed, because trying to take the objective would cause too many casualties.
At night, one of the marines goes crazy with fear. In trying to quiet the man, another marine hits him with an entrenching tool. In the morning, they find the frightened marine dead from being hit too hard with the tool.
K company moves out.
October 1944. The marines continue the battle of Peleliu against the Japanese who are determined to fight to the last man.
The navy Seabees start repairing the damage done to the airfield. The marines don't have to go back to work until 1100. One fellow is so happy, saying they got the morning off. Some American planes land on the airfield.
Heading out to fight, the guys see Col. Chesty Puller coming back with the 1st Marines. A lot of the men have been wounded. Puller says to the men going to work: "You're up, boys! Go get 'em!"
Sgt. John Basilone gets heavy praise at a dinner in his honor given by the Shriners. He continues to have flashbacks to the action he saw while on Guadalcanal.
Bill Leyden gets wounded. The guys take out a bunker that takes awhile, and with one man badly wounded from a Japanese grenade.
Captain Haldane comes over to an upset Eugene and tells him: "You can't dwell on it. You can't dwell on any of it."
Sledgehammer is used as a stretcher bearer for one of the missions. He doesn't like this assignment. He helps carry off a marine named Eddie, but the marine dies on the stretcher. The vertern Gunnery Sgt. Haney is now suffering from battle shock.
At night a marine named Jay tells Sledgehammer: "Haney is the old breed. If a guy like that breaks . . . and Hillbilly's dead." Sledgehammer tells Jay that you can't dwell on it. Jay replies that if he goes back into those hills again, he's going to get hit. He starts crying and Eugene tries to comfort him.
In the morning Jay goes to relieve himself in a cave. A Japanese soldier inside the cave comes running out at him while Jay has his pants around his legs. Jay starts running and turning to look at the enemy soldier. He shoots the man dead. And now comes out another enemy soldier and he chases Jay with his bayonet. Jay starts running and yelling for someone to shoot the guy. It takes awhile but someone does shoot the Japanese soldier just in time to save Jay. Jay asks why did it take them so long to shoot the guy? But the guys are too busy laughing about Jay leaving behind him a trail of shit. Marine Snafu says: "You left a trail, boy. They gonna find us now."
The men move out to their next mission. A shot is heard and someone yells out for the corpsman. A marine comes back to the men and says a sniper got Captain Haldane. Sledge is devastated by the loss of the revered leader and that's on top of having to witness a lot of terrible acts of violence in killing the Japanese in the bunker. Most of the men are shaken by the skipper's death. The marines turn around and go back with their dead commander.
They go through an area with lots of dead marines and Japanese. Sledge decides to take the gold teeth out of a dead Japanese soldier. Snafu tells him not to do it. Sledge answers back that he's seen his buddy do the damn thing. Snafu replies that the doc told him not to do it because these Japs have all kinds of germs from different tropical diseases. So Sledge just cuts off the dead man's insignia and takes that with him.
Sledge comes very close to a complete moral collapse.
The marines return to Pavuvu, but they have been changed fundamentally by their experiences on Peleliu.
Snafu asks Sledgehammer to look at his eyes because he fears he has the yellow jaundice that's going around. Eugene tells him that's hepatitis and Snafu doesn't have it. Jay comes over and tells the two marines that he just got transferred out of K company and to Headquarters company. He's not happy about it.
Basilone finally convinces the marines to let him out of selling war bonds and allow him to train troops headed for combat.
The Medal of Honor winner transfers to Camp Pendleton. While there he gets interested in a reluctant female marine named Lena Riggi. Another woman marine, named Lucy, sees that Lena gives John the brush off and Lucy tells him that every week they take the train to Los Angeles. On the next trip John is on that train. He goes over to her, but again she gives him the brush off.
The next time John sees her is at a cocktail party at the Biltmore. She is a bit more friendly, but is a bit miffed that once again they have had to wait so long for a table that they have given up. John says he can get her and him a table. So Lena challenges him to get them a table. He gets them a table in the Presidential Suite. Lena and John have dinner together, but she eats very little and then leaves. John is a bit discouraged by her rather rude behavior.
John tries to go out on a set date with Lena again, but she says no. He turns around and starts walking off. She stops him by saying she could do it on another day. Then she tells him that if he comes over to the mess hall at 0500 hours when non one else is there, she will make him French toast for breakfast and they can talk. John will be there.
The breakfast goes well. Nothing great, but at least they are talking normally now. Breakfast is over when the other women marines come into the mess hall.
The problem is that Basilone is soon to take part in the Marine landing on Iwo Jima. He breaks the news to Lena. She just asks him: "So, where do we go from here?"
They get married. And then they drive to Sunset Cottage down by the beach with gorgeous views of the California coast. They have sex. (brief nudity)
February 1945/D-Day, Iwo Jima. John hits the beaches. All around him marines are dying or being horribly mutilated by the fire from the Japanese. He and his men take out a bunker and then a machine gun nest. He is constantly shouting orders to direct the marines and he is constantly leading the way which makes him a very good target for the Japanese. Men are dropping around him as he runs forward, until a bullet smashes right into the center of John's chest. He goes down immediately. He is still alive. His stwo machine gunners saw him get hit and go down and they are shaken to their core.
Back home in California, Lena goes down to the beach to look out across the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Okinawa, May 1945.
The 1st Marine Division replaces an army division that has been in combat against the most strongly defended Japanese position on the island.
The conditions are worsened by the presence of civilians in the area. This puts tremendous strain on the physical and psychological endurance of Eugene Sledge and the other marines.
For a month, the 1st Marine Division battles across the island of Okinawa. They are now walking through very wet mud. Snafu says that the marines don't take prisoners because they just kill them. Then the marines see some Japanese POWs sitting on the side of a hill and they start harassing them. When one marine spits on a POW the man gets very angry and stands up. Sledge, Snafu and some others run into the angry man and they point their weapons at him and tell him to sit down. The man's pride has been hurt and he won't sit down. So Sledge pushes the man down. The POW gets up again. At this time an officer in charge of the POWs comes over and yells at the marines that they can't treat POWs like this for they are protected by the Geneva Convention rules. And the officer wants Eugene's rank and serial number.
The officer in charge of Eugene's group comes over and says he will take care of his own men. He also suggests that the intelligence officer use his intelligence and move these POWs away from the road the marines are walking on. The intelligence officer moves the POWs. Eugene's officer tells him that if he ever touches another POW, he will have him court-martialed.
The Japanese open up on the marines again. The order is for the marines to get up there into the surrounding hills. Moving up into the hills, the mortars are set up in an area strewn with the remains of Japanese dead soldiers.
At night the men dig their fox holes in the rain. In some cases, the diggers find the bodies of dead Japanese accompanied by a terrible stench. One of the marines takes the water proof cover off the mortar rounds and substitutes his small poncho. He then dons the waterproof cover. The problem is that the mortar rounds get wet and they won't function right. So they have to go down to get some dry mortar rounds. Coming back with the mortar rounds, a marine known as Dice gets killed. The man behind him grabs his box of shells and keeps moving.
In the morning the commanding officer of the unit sees the Japanese fleeing the area. He tells his men to get up and pursue them. As the men move forward, civilians with children start to come down the hill path. Then the Japanese arrive right behind the civilians and start shooting the fleeing refugees. The Americans try to kill the Japanese soldiers and the civilians get got in the cross-fire. Many are killed. The marines finally knock out the Japanese in the area, but now the American artillery starts raining down on the marines. They have to pull out. More marines and civilians are killed.
Eugene gets some mail and looks very despondent. Snafu inquires about this and Eugene tells him that his dog died. A marine named Hamm gets an upsetting letter too. His brother was on the ship the Bunker Hill and it was hit by two kamikaze planes. 500 sailors died. Hamm wonders why the Japanese refuse to surrender. Eugene says: "I hope they don't. I hope we get to kill every last one of them."
Bill Leyden gets in a fight with a marine named Peck, because Bill has been constantly harassing the new man. Another marine breaks the fight up and tells Bill that they don't need this kind of behavior. Bill starts walking away up a hill, an artillery round lands and Bill gets knocked down. The corpsmen take Bill out.
A small group of Japanese try a suicide charge. They all get mowed down by the marines. The commander calls for a cease fire, but Eugene sees one enemy soldier still alive. He takes out his pistol and fires a number of bullets into the man. The commander gets mad at Eugene for ignoring the cease fire command. He also complains about Eugene using his service pistol. Eugene talks back to the officer saying that they're here to kills Japs, so what does it matter which weapon he uses to kill the Japs? The commander probably notices a bit of madness in Eugene and just walks away from him.
Eugene is really on the edge and when Snafu starts complaining about the conditions they have to fight under, Eugene starts telling him to shut the fuck up. The argument and shouting continues until Peck breaks, pulls off all his rain gear and goes up to start firing at the Japanese. The Japanese return fire. Eugene and Snafu start going up to get Peck down. Hamm beats them to it, but when the marine turns his back to come down the hill, he gets shot in the back and dies. Eugene starts cursing Peck out now and Snafu tries to calm Eugene down. The commander asks what happened? "Hamm's dead and Peck's gone." They take Peck off the line.
The marines move on. They don't take any prisoners. Eugene finds a baby crying with its parents dead beside him. Eugene starts stepping away from killing anything remotely Japanese. He goes to shoot a young Japanese man but then can't pull the trigger. He puts his weapon down. Someone from behind Eugene shoots the young man and is so thrilled to kill his first Jap. Eugene protests that the guy killed a kid, but the man just says what Eugene used to say. We're here to shoot Japs, ain't we?
Eugene says he heard that Bill Leyden made it back to the United States.
Someone says they dropped some new kind of bomb on the Jap mainland. It vaporized an entire city in the blink of an eye.
The Japanese surrender.
A recently healed Leckie returns home.
Eugene Sledge heads back to Alabama.
Lena visits Basilone's home and has an emotional meeting with his family.
Leckie adjusts to post-war life by resuming his old job and starting a new relationship.
Sledge is having trouble adjusting to post-war life. He doesn't know why he survived the war seemingly unscathed and that bothers him.
A terrific movie in the vein of Band of Brothers. The movie does for the Pacific campaign what Band of Brothers did for the European campaign. The two movies are two of the best war movies ever produced. And like Band of Brothers, The Pacific follows a number of marines from being civilians to marines and through the island-hopping campaign of the Pacific Theater. The ugliness and horror of war again is shown in glorious color. The fighting was more brutal in the Pacific Theater because most Japanese soldiers fought to the death. Any survivors usually killed themselves. Of course, as the war went on and on, more Japanese soldiers started surrendering to the American forces. A lot of brutal scenes are shown and and also shown is how this contributed to post-traumatic stress disorder in quite a few marines. A lot of the men who started out together fighting on Guadalcanal together, don't make it to the end of the war. There are lots of replacements that have to be pt in the unit because of the high number of marine casualties.
The ensemble cast was good.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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