The 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan and 2001's ten-part Band of Brothers forever changed the way I envisioned battle. Their gritty, realistic depictions of World War II combat in Europe seemed as far removed from earlier portrayals as color movies are from those in black and white. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were heavily involved in both projects, and they, along with Gary Goetzman, are executive producers of The Pacific . Based on my early glimpse of the miniseries, it maintains Band of Brothers ' high standards.
But how do you portray the broad sweep of war in Europe or the Pacific ? HBO's solution is to focus on individuals in a particular military unit. Band of Brothers did it by following the members of E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and The Pacific depicts the stories of 1st Marine Division Leathernecks—specifically Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone; Robert Leckie, author of Helmet for My Pillow ; and Eugene Sledge, who penned With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa . What you won't see much of in the new miniseries, however, is the Navy's war in the Pacific. (According to retired Marine Captain Dale Dye, a military consultant to dozens of war films, the huge expense of accurately depicting World War II sea battles is beyond even Hollywood's big budgets.)
In addition to photos from The Pacific , this issue of Naval History includes actor interviews, a viewer's guide, and an account of the actors' "boot camp" by its "command element," Captain Dye. But most of the magazine is devoted to the absorbing history behind the miniseries—specifically the glorious but grueling experiences of the 1st Marine Division and the Pacific war battles it waged: Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa.
We've gotten some top Marine and Pacific war historians to tell the story: Richard Frank; Colonel Joseph Alexander, USMC (Ret.); and Colonel Jon Hoffman, USMCR (Ret.). Other expert contributors include Edward Drea and Lieutenant Colonel Brendan Greeley, USMC (Ret.). We've also included personal battle accounts by Basilone, Sledge, and Edwin C. Bearss, the colorful Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service. And, of course, there's this issue's gatefold guide, which includes battle maps, weapon profiles, and photos of Eugene Sledge's war mementoes.
Finally, you'll find here a Naval Institute Foundation gift form that includes a postage-paid envelope. Naval History 's publisher, the nonprofit U.S. Naval Institute, relies on gift income to support its educational projects — including this magazine. In fact, our gatefold packages are made possible through donor support. Your tax-deductible gift will be greatly appreciated.