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The Pacific--The Facts Behind the Story

This sweeping ten-part mini-series made for HBO follows the famed 1st Marine Division through some of the bloodiest and most pivotal battles of WW II in the Pacific. The writers drew heavily on two seminal books about Marines in the Pacific as well as Marine Corps lore and legend, particularly concerning the iconic Gunnery Sergeant “Manila John” Basilone who earned a Medal Of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal in 1942. Basilone is one of three primary characters featured in the series. The others are veterans and post-war authors Eugene Sledge (“With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa”) and Robert Leckie (“Helmet for my Pillow” and other lesser known works) who both also served with the 1st Marine Division in some of the most crucial campaigns of war in the Pacific.

Leckie was a machinegunner with the 1st Marines, Sledge a 60mm mortarman with the 5th Marines and Basilone a machinegunner with the 7th Marines, so actions by all three of the division’s rifle regiments are covered in the production. Following some introductory material designed to introduce each of the characters as they decide to join the Marine Corps, the series launches directly into action through the vast reaches of the Pacific. From the initial offensive action against the free-wheeling Japanese forces at Guadalcanal in the Solomons, the production moves to fighting in the brutal jungles of Cape Gloucester to a period of rest and re-fit in Australia where the 1st Marine Division cut a wide and colorful swath through the bars and female population of Melbourne.

Minus Basilone who was eventually transferred to the newly-formed 5th Marine Division for action elsewhere in the Pacific, the series follows Sledge and Leckie through the horrendous campaign to take Peleliu in the Palaus and then picks up with an episode in which the newly-married Basilone is killed on the bloody black sand beaches of Iwo Jima. The final WW II battle fought by the 1st Marine Division at Okinawa in the Ryukyus features Sledge and his fellow mortarmen in some of the foulest weather and most mind-numbing combat of the war.