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January 27th, 2017

My Worst Day on Earth was not Really That Bad

I used to be able to say I barely watched TV. That’s no longer true. I’m putting more hours into tube time. What I can say is that I barely watch bad TV.

I don’t watch the news. The world is manipulated by supernatural forces, so to me, watching the news and getting worked up about things is like watching a Punch and Judy show and getting mad at the puppets. If you focus on the clock’s face, you forget about the gears and springs that actually make it work.

I don’t watch sitcoms or other broadcast-TV shows. I only watch movies on TV, and I always look for classics first. There is a whole generation of movie and TV stars I barely know. I hear names like Ryan Gosling, Lea Michele, and Jared Leto, and they sound familiar, but I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.

Signing up for Amazon Prime has opened up a new world of things I failed to catch the first time around. Over the last few days, I’ve binged on The Pacific, which was released in 2010. It’s a miniseries made by the Band of Brothers people, but obviously, it’s set somewhere else.

The series has been very entertaining, but it also makes me feel like my life has amounted to very little. I suppose that’s true! But generally, it doesn’t bother me. I never had much ambition anyway. Watching The Pacific sharpens the sensation somewhat. The men who served in that theatre went through things I would hesitate to inflict on Nazi death camp guards, and they did it for very little pay, to protect other people from invasion and servitude.

I’ve heard men talk about December 7, 1941. Typically, they tell stories of people who left high school and college classrooms immediately and enlisted in any branch of the service that would take them. I suppose I would have done the same thing. The shame of waiting to be drafted would have been impossible to face. But my draft-age years took place in a slot between Vietnam and Desert Storm. I registered, but since Vietnam, no one has been drafted, and when Desert Storm arrived, I was pretty old, and it was not a war that stimulated men from white-collar families to abandon their lives and enlist in droves.

If I understand things correctly, The Pacific is based on the books of marine privates Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge. Guadalcanal was Leckie’s first battle. Sledge had a heart murmur which delayed his enlistment, and he first fought at Peleliu, an important island where the Japanese had built an airstrip.

I read up on these battles a little. When the US landed on Guadalcanal, the Japanese hadn’t figured out how to defend an island. Their strategy was very stupid. They put their energy into stopping attackers at the beach. They sent lightly armed soldiers in human waves called “banzai charges,” straight into our guns. Guadalcanal was a terrible battle, but the Japanese died in piles, and they lost 15 times as many men as we did. By the time we got to Peleliu, the Japanese had adopted a strategy of building pillboxes and other fortifications inland, with tunnels connecting them, so Americans had to pursue them and dig them out like rats, opening themselves up to fire from guarded positions stocked with plenty of food and water. The kill ratio dropped sharply, and the Japanese continued using their brutal new tactics for the rest of the war.

The Pacific, created by the Saving Private Ryan/Band of Brothers team, features the same grisly realism audiences have come to expect from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. When violence erupts, the screen fills with flying limbs, brains, and blood. I don’t know if the actual battles were as gruesome as the TV series; one scene depicts a fight in which one in six marines died, and to watch, you would think the figure was more like one in two. But whatever the truth is, the young men who fought these battles had to run through small arms and artillery fire, with no protection, over and over. That’s something to think about. If I were in a mall, and a terrorist started shooting one pistol fifty yards away, I would want to find a door, fast. I can’t imagine running through a field with mortars exploding all around me, stepping over the intestines and severed heads of people I knew. How do you make yourself do things like that?

For some reason, America doesn’t seem to think about the Pacific war much. That’s odd, because the Japanese made the Nazis look like Sunday school teachers. They beheaded prisoners of war for fun, not just on the battlefield, but in their camps. They beat, tortured, and starved POW’s as a matter of policy. The atrocities they committed in China are among the vilest acts human beings have ever committed. They brought female slaves from Korea to Japan to serve as prostitutes for the military.

They hated surrender. On the island of Saipan, thousands of Japanese jumped off a cliff to avoid capture, and some jumped with babies in their arms. The astonishing brutality of the Japanese was a major reason for the decision to drop atomic bombs on civilians. It was believed that conquering the Japanese homeland would result in as many as a million pointless Allied casualties.

It’s strange that when we think of World War Two heroism, we generally think about Europe.

Americans shouldn’t forget where we came from, and how easy our lives are. In particular, the “snowflakes” who spend their days vilifying this country and complaining about things like being prohibited from baring their nipples in restaurants should have to learn about our past. They should know about the men and women who gave their lives to buy us the right to demand welfare checks and free contraceptives.

My life has been pretty easy compared to some. That doesn’t bother me at all. I hope my luck holds out until I die. I admire the people who sacrificed everything for me, but I’m not crazy enough to envy them.

I’m going to read the Leckie and Sledge books. Some of the other men featured in the show have also written books. I suppose I’ll read them, too.

If you have Amazon Prime, you might want to take a look at the series. I believe membership also includes Band of Brothers.

Find out what you missed. Be glad.

3 Responses to “Perspective”

  1. JPatterson Says:

    I can’t remember if you like Sci-Fi or not. If you like it, check out The Expanse, also on Amazon Prime. In my opinion, the best show involving space since Firefly. Note I am not saying it’s the same as Firefly. But you will see similar themes if you watch all the way through the first season. Second season starts Feb. 1, on the SyFy channel.

  2. Lee Says:

    Thanks for the reminder about The Pacific; it’s on my list.

    I did read Sledge’s war memoir, “With the Old Breed,” and it was quite sobering, to say the least.

    I do remember in the last episode of BoB, how relieved the Easy Co. men were when the Japanese surrendered. They were preparing to ship off to the Pacific after they’d stormed Fortress Europa. What a hell of a thing that would have been.

    Best wishes,

  3. Heather P Says:

    Sounds like a good series. My grand-daddy that raised me served in the Philippines for WWII. He never talked about it and had night terrors about into old age. That is such a true statement, that the Japanese mentally necessitated the dropping of the bombs-and that is something not taught in any schools today.