Ten weeks ago when I first started watching The Pacific, I never expected anything big. Never wanted to, actually. I was very much impervious to research then, hence I didn’t read any reports about the show. But episode after episode, I started to enjoy watching The Pacific and my outlooks slowly escalated. Some installments pleased me, other not so. Notwithstanding that, I became a fan and I will always be a fan! And after days of anticipation and watching reruns of the show, Part Ten has finally aired on HBO Asia. This episode definitely presented the expectations that I solely sought for. I’m not only going to commentate about the episode but I will also be somehow evaluating on the whole show. I found the events very much similar to the Bon Jovi lyrics, “Mother, mother, tell your children that their time has just begun. I have suffered for my anger. Some wars just can’t be won. Father, father, please believe: I am laying down my guns. I am broken like an arrow. Forgive me. Forgive your wayward son.” This libretto is also very much applicable to every Marine – Eugene Sledge in particular. The war isn’t over. The aftermath is held within themselves.
In the previous episode, Okinawa, Mac told Sledge and his buddies that a nuclear bomb dropped on the Jap mainland and completely destroyed the city. That bomb must have been the opening that the US has been looking for and the final straw for Japan. In this installment, while a nurse is reading to two wounded Marines – one of which is Robert Leckie (!), who is clearly more engrossed with the comics he was holding – a ward walks into the memorial and merrily proclaims that the Japs have surrendered. In Okinawa meanwhile, Marines also are having a victory party in where Snafu points out his Snafu’s Packer to Sledge and Burgy. With the war over and the rest of the Marines’ lives set ahead of them, one questions draws to the three’s mind: what do we do now?
After finding out that his parents have turned his bedroom into an attic, and with some military lieutenant banging on Vera Keller’s door, Robert Leckie’s homecoming didn’t give him much pleasure. Sure enough, Bob did start working immediately, covering for sports on a local paper. He also made “quite an entrance” back to work, making the room buzz and requesting the editor to demote the guy who replaced him then start hiring him again. James Badge Dale is amusing and deeply delighted me with Leckie’s act of winning over Vera’s heart. He didn’t even have to try so hard! I guess his wittiness got him ahead of life. Like his mother advised him to, Leckie rapped on Vera’s door wearing his blues (in which Mrs. Keller found him unfamiliar, but which Vera found discernible). I remember the first episode again when Bob passed by Vera on the church steps and introduced himself, in which Vera stifled a laugh and said she knows who he is. This time, Leckie is afraid that Vera would really not remember him, much like her mother. Leckie then tells off Mr. Charles Dunworthy, eventually scoring himself a date with the girl of his dreams. Here, leckie reveals his fancy for Vera and the letters he wrote to her during the war. Sadly, even for me, the letters have all been wiped out in Cloucester. But even then, Leckie and Vera still continue their relationship throughout the rest of Bob Leckie’s life. Leckie died in 2001. And even during his life’s journey with his Alzheimer really bad that he has forgotten his children’s names, Robert Leckie never forgot about the war.
Lena Riggi is shown walking across the street to the Basilone household. Mrs. Basilone is easily revealed to be in great distress, her eyes puffy from crying. Mr. Basilone sits in his chair. And aside from George Basilone telling Lena about the praises that his brother John shared about his wife before parting this life, the house is quiet and the silence is awkward. The Congressional Medal of Honor did slip my mind, so like the Basilones I initially had no idea what Lena’s priority was for coming. John Basilone is an unforgettable character, and Jon Seda who plays the part also is featured at the end of the episode in where profiles were briefly told. This scene ended with the women choked up in tears.
Eugene Sledge on the other hand… oh boy. I never really thought that I would like Eugene when I first saw him on the show. But because Joseph Mazzello is a great actor, I do now. Before his arrival back home, Eugene spent his time traveling on board a train with RV Burgin and Snafu Shelton. Snafu of course still manages to be the dirty-humored guy who gets slapped by a woman he’s been trying to hit on. I was bothered when Snafu hopped off the train without saying good-bye to the sleeping Sledge. I don’t think I can ever believe that Merriell Shelton didn’t have contact with any Marine for thirty-five years until he read Eugene Sledge’s With the old Breed.
RV Burgin meanwhile was first to get off the train. Snafu eventually goes on thanking him before they part. And in turn, RV tells his friends that they were “good Marines”. As Burgy reunites with his little brother and the train rolls on, Snafu and Sledge look daintily on, filled with deep wonder regarding their homecoming. RV Burgin went on to marry his sweetheart from Melbourne, Florence, and becoming literally part of The Pacific, in where he is usually seen at the beginning of most episodes narrating stories about the war.
Eugene Sledge received one heck of a homecoming. He’s hesitant as soon as he reaches the front door – as though thinking about how he would show himself; how he would come home. There was a big dinner in the Sledge household with his older brother also back from the war in Europe, and Sidney Phillips’s upcoming marriage with Mary Houston. It was nice seeing Eugene and Sidney with one another again. It seems to me now that they really have grown, whereas when I first saw them in Part One, they looked much more novel. I admire Sidney’s resilience of having the time to talk to the confused Sledge. Sidney Phillips of course continues to live on with his large kin. And like RV Burgin, he continues to be part of the commentaries during the beginning of most Pacific episodes.
In some such way, Sledge still finds himself centering on the thoughts of “why?”. He has managed to be “idle”, according to his mother but has really been thinking about the war; carefully reviewing the “why’s” in his experience. Unlike Burgy and Leckie, when Eugene came back home he didn’t have any particular goals set (“no job, no girls, no plans”). Not having the desire to get laid yet, Sledge makes a break for it during Sidney’s wedding. And clearly not wanting to have a job, he tells his mother that he’s never going to work at a bank like his brother. It was the only thing he had set in his mind. All he ever wanted was to literally “do nothing for a while”. Based on what I’ve watched, Sledge was the most messed-up after the war.
I was deeply distraught when Sledge was getting his application reviewed. The girl on the counter was asking him all sorts of questions about his capabilities and the skills he can continue outside the battlefield. Sledge ends the conversation with an outstanding, “They taught me how to kill Japs. I got pretty damn good at it”. It also was a depressing sight seeing Dr. Sledge sit up by his son’s bedroom door as Eugene receives his constant nightmares regarding the war. This also leads to Eugene divulging to his older brother that he doesn’t want to put on the uniform again. Ever. But the most heartbreaking thing that I have witnessed throughout the whole episode was when Dr. Sledge took Eugene out for a walk to shoot some animals down by the marshes. Before they could get too far, Eugene suddenly breaks down and apologizes to his father, saying he can’t do it anymore. That scene genuinely still reverberates in my mind as I write this (kudos to director Jeremy Podeswa). Eugene Sledge ends the show – the entire program – with himself primarily laid down on the grass, flower in hand. This scene clarifies the love Eugene has for living creatures (in the end, we find out that he has a PHD in Biology). He twirls the flower up to the sun, gets up, and walks away.
Watching The Pacific the other night, I was outright astounded with the events that occurred. I can distinctly remember them since Day One. I can say that The Pacific is a great show. I don’t care what anyone else says. I’m an avid watcher who has neither read any of the books nor watched Band of Brothers. The only basis for my judgment is what comes out of my TV screen, and it is an excellent program. I am glad that I decided to watch this show that night in April. I witnessed the first Jap encounter in Guadalcanal, the respite and start of development in Melbourne, the unbelievable conflict of nature in Cape Gloucester, the forgotten war of Peleliu, the death of John Basilone in Iwo Jima, the unbelievable combats and ultimate breakdowns in Okinawa, and the unanswerable questions queued in a Marine’s mind back home. Twice, thantaphobia kicked in and I got sort of disheartened watching. That, I’ve known, is how the show made an impact on me. The whole show, I suppose, got me. It really did. The guys deserve an award, really. All the Marines. All the actors who played their part. I love The Pacific – is all there is left for me to write. May the US Marines who fought in the war in the Pacific during World War II rest in peace.
Five out of five.
I shall be purchasing a copy of Hugh Ambrose’s The Pacific in a month! 😀