A Day Which Will Live in Infamy

Nothing says “Holiday Spirit” like watching a mini-series all about war, right? Right. Which is why Denisa had I have been working our way through The Pacific, the HBO produced sequel (of sorts) to Band of Brothers. You’ll recall we watched that back at the beginning of November, and so we wanted to give The Pacific a try as well.

The series is much different than Band of Brothers. I’d thought from the first that we’d seen about everything war had to offer, but The Pacific proved me wrong. Very wrong.

I had never taken the time to really look into what World War II looked like on the Pacific front. I knew about how it started (December 7, Pearl Harbor) and how it ended of course, but all the stuff in the middle? I somehow just glossed over it. It had to be kind of like Europe, except with palm trees and islands, right?


This series is brutal. Flat out painful to watch. Soldiers turning from people into meat on both sides of the battle. Killing through every possible way. The series doesn’t pull any punches, but it seems like it would have been wrong to pull them. To depict it as anything less than what it was. The weather was brutal, the environment hostile. Torrential rainstorms. Deep mud. Disease. Sweltering heat. Lack of potable water. Difficulty supplying the troops. Faulty intelligence. Long, drawn out battles for months. There were invasions just as bad as D-Day, but we hardly hear anything about them.

It’s also so sad to see the way war necessitated a dehumanizing of the enemy. I get why it happened: it’s hard to kill another human, and it becomes much easier when you stop viewing the victims as actually human. I’d like to think we’ve come a long way since then, and that war like this is over, but I know that’s not the case. It’s happening even as we speak over in Syria.

Last night we watched the next-to-last episode. In it, one of the main characters, Sledge, has a key moment. He was introduced to us as a bright eyed young man ready and eager to do his part to defend his country. And over the course of the war, he’s just beaten down. He comes to the Pacific and witnesses troops doing atrocities. Digging through the mouths of dead Japanese soldiers to get gold teeth. (And sometimes, digging through the mouths of live soldiers.) His friends are killed. His orders are sometimes flat out wrong. And over the course of the series, he hardens himself to killing. He starts embracing the idea that the Japanese aren’t human. They’re just things to be killed.

He enters the house of a Japanese family. There’s a baby that had survived a bombing while the rest of the family died, and Sledge and his friend just stand there staring at the baby, listening to it cry and doing nothing about it. Things have gotten bad enough that you’re dreading what might happen next. Could they just shoot the baby to quiet it? But a different soldier shows up and soothes the child.

As Sledge is leaving the house, he hears a noise. He goes to investigate and finds a mortally wounded woman. She’s unable to speak, but she signals that she wants him to shoot her and put her out of her misery. And he has his gun all set to go. But then he hesitates, and finally he puts his gun down. Again, the assumption could be that he’d rather not waste a bullet. That he’d be willing to let her die alone in agony. But instead, he puts his gun down and holds her until she dies, comforting her. He finally rejects the dehumanization of the enemy, and he’s a better man for it.

It’s a touching moment, and very well done. The series is filled with character pieces like that.

Anyway. I’ll let you all resume your holiday cheer now. But on today, the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I wanted to take a moment to pay my respects to the people who fought and died in the war that resulted from that attack. I recommend the series, though be aware that it’s graphic.

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