[Cross-posted at Military History Blog and Birmingham “On War”]

Here is a trailer for the upcoming mini-series from HBO. It is produced by the same team that brought us Band of Brothers. The key difference, other than being set in a different theatre of war, is that it is not based on one book but two. Making it different again is that these books, With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie, are memoirs and not an operational history like Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. It will be interesting to see how they integrate these two stories in the series. I am looking forward to seeing it as Band of Brothers was a good series that given the limitations of the genre stayed quite faithful to the book. My only concern is how will the series deal with some of the issues raised by combat in the Pacific such as the brutality that was quite unlike what was seen in the European theatre. Also how will it represent the experience of the Japanese soldier. I have these concerns simply because TV/Film is now the key method by how young people consume information and having taught ‘A’ Level history I know that there is lack of proper reading and that many myths are built up by simply consuming TV History. unfortunately, pupils/students of this age take much of what is shown in these programmes as red and fail to understand that there is  more complex narrative to the events than they seemingly care to understand. While I can sit and enjoy it for what it is the question remains can pupils/students who think that by watching it they are gaining an insight into history. I admit to having used elements of Band of Brothers in teaching. Indeed when teaching Leadership to a group of Public Service student on a BTEC course I used elements to illustrate the problems of small unit leadership and unit cohesiveness that grows out of a shared experience. I also used the following scene when teaching the Holocaust to illustrate the reaction to that event:

While of course it was not archival footage it did have a more potent impact on the students I was teaching. Why? I am not sure. To be honest I did not think about it at the time. I just realised that something they might have already watched would be useful in reinforcing an image and understanding that I was trying to give them. I suppose this is the power that TV/Film has on young people and if used properly and in the right context it can be useful pedagogical tool. But the problem is context. Without young people take what is shown as accurate. I suppose this is why as a historian I do get annoyed with Hollywood and its representation of history. Do not get me wrong there are good historical films out there but they lack depth and in a society where information is power and where people want it on tap a lack of depth and context can be a dangerous thing.


4 thoughts on “The Pacific

  1. Having read Sledge’s book, I am anxiously awaiting the first episode of The Pacific. Like you, I am interested to see how the series will depict the violent and racially infused combat that shaped the war in the Pacific theater. Fortunately, HBO is not known for being shy when it comes to controversial topics like violence and race.

  2. 1/28/2010


    Because of the growing interest in HBO’s The Pacific, I thought you might be interest in the following.

    Kenwood Productions’ award-winning documentary film, Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific, is being released in DVD (produced in 1991, it has been long unavailable). Against a backdrop of rare archival film footage and photographs, the story of the Battle of Peleliu is told as never before by E. B. Sledge (author of With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa and featured in Ken Burns’ film The War, seen on PBS, and the upcoming HBO mini-series The Pacific), Bill Leyden, R. V. Burgin, and Jay de l’Eau (who are also characterized in The Pacific.) HBO licensed portions of Kenwoods’ exclusive Eugene Sledge interview to support their production of the The Pacific.

    Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific tells the true story of the men of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment and the ferocious Battle of Peleliu, “an island on fire.” In conditions that tested the sanity of each man, 9,000 Marines attacked 10,000 battle-hardened Japanese soldiers dug into hundreds of fortified and reinforced coral and limestone caves. Twenty-eight days of unrelenting battle with no quarter asked or given.

    The Battle of Peleliu is as harrowing as any in the history of modern warfare. A battle of total annihilation fought in inhuman conditions.

    To see film clips and get more information on this, and other Kenwood Productions’ films, go to http://www.americanherofilm.com.

    After viewing the clips, we hope you’ll agree with the viewers who said the film “should be required viewing by every veteran or enthusiast” and “hearing the veterans speak and tell their stories was so powerful, it was all woven together with excellent narration and footage. Just hearing Eugene Sledge tell his stories is priceless.” Historian Paul Fussel wrote “One of the cassettes [of Peleliu 1944] I’m donating to the Imperial War Museum here so that the British will have some idea of the costs of the Pacific war. The other I’ll treasure forever, and with thanks always to you and to Gene Sledge.”

    If you have questions or would like more information contact us at mail@americanherofilm.com or by phone at (612) 812-9489.

    Thank you.

    Jeff Hohman
    Kenwood Productions, Inc.

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