Tuesday, June 26, 2012

“The Pacific”: A Regrettable Lack of Common Virtues

After a long hiatus, Apollon Zamp returns with guest-essay reviewing the television series “The Pacific”. In the wake of last night’s discussion of “Bomber” Harris, this post provides a look at the other major theater in World War Two — and the historical revisionism concerning it that has now become dominant in popular culture.

The Pacific

The Pacific: A Regrettable Lack of Common Virtues
by Apollon Zamp

I was fourteen years old when I saw Saving Private Ryan (against the express wishes of my parents). Having long been fascinated by World War Two history — I was perhaps the only twelve-year-old with a subscription to WWII Magazine — I was amazed by what Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg had managed to create. The visceral and horrific nature of war was plainly evident — as were the bonds that form between men who fight alongside each other, and the pain they share and struggle to repress when their buddies get wounded or killed. Spielberg was trying as hard as possible to re-create the realities of war, and many veterans have attested to his success in doing so.

The success of the film was part and parcel of a greater re-awakening of Americans’ interest in their country’s part in World War Two. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and a slew of Second World War-themed video games bear witness to this. (Tycho Brahe, author of the gaming webcomic Penny Arcade, once remarked that “Normandy Beach is the new Hoth,” which indicates the intensity of the cult-like status that World War Two-themed material had gained.)

Spielberg and Hanks continued where they had left off with Saving Private Ryan with the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. The series ties in briefly with Ryan — we see paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division throughout the film, and the titular James Francis Ryan is himself a private in Baker Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment — one of the three regiments that formed the backbone of the 101st. However, whereas Ryan focused on the Normandy invasion as a whole — featuring troops from the 29th Infantry Division, the 2nd Rangers, and the 101st Airborne — Band of Brothers focused on one company — E (“Easy”) Company, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne — for the duration of the war.

One of the things that really stood out about Band of Brothers was the chemistry among the cast. This was not an accident, nor a fluke. Dale Dye, a retired Marine Corps officer, provides technical support for military movies, and is known for his adherence to realism and realistic portrayals of fighting men. He provided the technical direction for Ryan, during which he put the actors involved through a miniature two-week “boot camp.” Part of his method was to exclude Matt Damon, who played Ryan, from the training, thus creating a real element to the other characters’ dislike of Ryan which came through on the screen.

Dye’s methods were similarly applied to Band of Brothers. He put the men who were going to portray actual veterans (in some cases, veterans who were still alive) through a truncated version of parachute infantry school, complete with physical training, battlefield exercises, and simulated indoor jump exercises similar to what current airborne infantry troops go through during training. A chemistry naturally developed among the actors involved — a chemistry that was no doubt enhanced by Dye’s farewell speech at the end of the training period, reminding the men who were going to serve as the avatars of E/506th PIR that they had a responsibility and a privilege to represent those who had fought their way across Europe between June 1944 and May 1945.

This chemistry shone through for the entirety of the series, both in positive senses — the obvious camaraderie and brotherly devotion the men had for each other — as well as the negative — for example, the scenes that take place in Bastogne, which showed the hardships endured as young men barely out of their twenties watched each other get maimed, killed, or suffer nervous breakdowns. The skilled production, beautiful cinematography, and the almost kinetic spark of shared energy among the actors involved combined to make this an excellent series. To top it all off, the producers never aired any of the episodes until the veterans from Easy Company — who served as valuable sources of firsthand information — had watched and approved the content as historically accurate.

All of this served as a rather dramatic backdrop for The Pacific, which aired nine years after Band of Brothers. Once again, Hanks and Spielberg had partnered up, with Dale Dye once again providing technical direction, except this time they were covering a part of the war that had not been featured in either Ryan or Band of Brothers. The Pacific Theater — which, arguably, was a more far-flung and confusing theater than the European one — until that point had only been explored by mind- and posterior-numbing exercises in navel-gazing such as The Thin Red Line. Many people, myself included, couldn’t wait to see the Hanks/Spielberg/Dye take on the Pacific theater, complete with the same rich cinematography and sparkling character performances that their earlier works had showcased.

And then I watched it.

To call The Pacific disappointing is an understatement. It falls short on many levels, so I’m only going to consider three of them — firstly, considered on its own merits as a narrative; secondly, how it compares to Band of Brothers and Ryan in terms of characterization; and finally, the attitudes of the producers, most notably Tom Hanks.

The Pacific is riddled with narrative incoherencies and flaws throughout. First of all, none of the main characters are in the same unit. They’re all Marines, but Robert Leckie is in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, while Eugene Sledge is in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. John Basilone, the third protagonist, serves with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines for part of the series, and the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines for the latter part of the series. The episodes are arranged haphazardly and give the impression that someone dropped a lot of cut film on the floor and put it back together in a hasty fashion.

In one episode, Eugene Sledge appears for a grand total of thirty seconds or so, getting yelled at by his drill instructor. Why was this scene necessary? More to the point, why is that one of the few scenes that shows the rigors of Marine boot camp? There are things the audience knows that it needs to see as well. We know that Marines were well-trained and hardened prior to being shipped out to face the horrors of jungle combat, but we need to see their development from callow, eager youth to seasoned, trained, soldiers. Instead, for instance, we see Leckie telling his apparent love interest, Vera, that he’s joining the Marines. We see him exchanging an awkward farewell with his distant father, and then we see him on a troop transport, getting ready to land on Guadalcanal. (As an aside, this scene features a possible runner-up for the worst pre-combat briefing ever, which I reproduce in its awful entirety:

“Forget all the horse**** you’ve heard about the Japs. They’ve had their turn. Now it’s our turn. The treacherous bastards may have started the war, but I promise you, we will finish it. Those slant-eyed monkeys want to use that **** island and its airfield to kill us! We’ll yank the surviving Japs out of their ****-filled holes by their yellow balls! They’ll go round-eyed when the first American planes land at their airfield! Heads down in the boats. Hit the beach. Keep moving to your rendezvous points and primary objectives. When you see the Japs, kill ’em all!” )

I’m accustomed to this kind of swill from exploitation artists like Stone and Tarantino, but Spielberg and Hanks are two people from whom I expect better. Band of Brothers had many examples of officers treating their men like intelligent human beings who needed to have information at their disposal — terrain, estimates of enemy forces, tactics upon arrival and a set of goals to complete their mission, etc. This post-modernist irony-laden speech has none of that — only a sneering contempt for what it considers to be the prevailing attitude of the typical Marine officer. Granted, the average American felt more antipathy towards the Japanese, and did indulge in more racial slurs towards them (as opposed to the Germans, with whom many Anglo-Saxon Americans shared a common heritage anyway), but my intelligence as a viewer felt sorely insulted by this travesty of a pre-battle speech.

At this point, we have three protagonists in separate units doing vastly different things. John Basilone’s heroism on Guadalcanal — during which he and his unit held off a 3,000-strong Japanese regiment — is rewarded with the Congressional Medal of Honor and he is sent home to for a stateside War Bond tour. Eugene Sledge is sent first to Palau and then to Peleliu. Leckie is also on Peleliu — perhaps the only instance where any of the three are in close physical proximity — but is wounded by an explosion and sent home on a hospital ship. Basilone is promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and helps train the men of the 27th Marines that will eventually land on Iwo Jima. (Oddly, the episode in which he takes up the mantle of drill instructor takes place an episode after the Peleliu, despite the fact that he became a drill instructor in the winter of 1943 and the battle of Peleliu took place in the fall of 1944, which only serves to reinforce the pre-existing narrative inconsistency and lack of cohesion.)

In one of the most baffling stylistic choices of the entire series, we are treated to a ten-minute scene on Iwo Jima — the only mention of the battle that Hanks and Spielberg saw fit to make. In it, we see John Basilone doing what will eventually earn him a posthumous Navy Cross: flanking and destroying a blockhouse, killing the Japanese soldiers inside it, guiding a tank through a minefield, and eventually being killed by enemy fire. Band of Brothers dedicated two episodes each to the Normandy Campaign, the Market-Garden/Holland Campaign, and the siege of Bastogne, but somehow The Pacific manages to devote all of ten minutes to one of the most defining battles in Marine history, the only U.S. Marine battle of the war in which overall American casualties outnumbered those of the Japanese. The battle of Iwo Jima remains as important to the Marine Corps — if not more so — as Bastogne is to the 101st Airborne. Considering the eventual importance of Iwo Jima to the Air Force’s raids on Japan, which culminated in the dropping of the atomic bomb, its omission from the storyline is glaring.

So much for the narrative. I’ve already mentioned in a few asides how The Pacific differs from Band of Brothers, but there are other elements missing as well. Band of Brothers managed to walk a fine line by pointing out men worthy of respect and admiration (Richard Winters, Carwood Lipton, medic Eugene “Doc” Roe, and many others) and holding them up as paragons of gentlemanly virtues and honorable characteristics. Other characters, such as Bill Guarnere, Ronald Speirs, and Roy Cobb, displayed baser tendencies but remained sympathetic characters — Ronald Speirs’ ascendance from a shadowy figure rumored to have murdered POWs to the capable, if stern, commander of Easy Company remains one of my favorite character arcs of the series. We understand Bill Guarnere’s hatred of Germans — he discovers that his brother was killed in Monte Cassino, Italy, hours before dropping into Normandy on D-Day — even if we don’t condone it.

The men in The Pacific lack such identity. Leckie seems eager enough to join up, but once he’s there, he becomes a sardonic figure, imbued with the kind of irony that seems unlikely to have existed in the 1940s. His friends are two-dimensional stereotypes, and I find it hard to describe them, because I honestly don’t have much of a memory of who they are or what makes them unique as characters — this despite having seen the series in the past month. By comparison, in Band of Brothers, the men of Easy Company stand out as individuals. Richard Winters is an obvious protagonist, but the show doesn’t focus on just him — one episode is devoted entirely to the hardships suffered by the company’s medic, who is forced to scrounge and make do with the scant medical supplies of a besieged division. Repeated viewings have made the characters stand out more, but I get the uneasy feeling that I could watch The Pacific on repeat and never get a sense of the personalities of Leckie’s supposed buddies.

Basilone has two best friends on Guadalcanal, one of whom dies and one of whom survives (and is never heard from again after Basilone leaves for the United States). Afterwards, though, he doesn’t really have comrades as such — just a string of adulating family members, friends, and groupies. His love interest (and, eventually, wife), Lena Riggi, is one of the few characters — female or otherwise — in the series who seems to be her own person. Her interactions with Basilone are actually somewhat painful to watch — he’s supposed to be (and is) a hero, and yet her qualities are much more what we as viewers would associate with heroism. It would have been refreshing and interesting if the directors and producers had examined that kind of characterization and interaction more closely, but darn it, there was a timetable, and that interminable slow-motion shot of John Basilone exhaling his dying breath on a bloody Iwo Jima beach just couldn’t wait.

Sledge has the dubious distinction of being the most fleshed-out of any of the characters. He defies his father’s wishes to join the Marine Corps, despite a pre-existing heart condition, and we see his transition from idealistic, eager youth into a hardened, battle-weary Marine. The episodes with Sledge come the closest to Band of Brothers — the camaraderie among the soldiers, the idealization of their commanding officer (who, unlike his counterpart Richard Winters, dies a hero’s death at the hands of a Japanese sniper), and the examination of the psychological “breaking point” of men involved in prolonged combat situations. However, it still falls short of what Band of Brothers created — as much as we might empathize with Sledge, we don’t really connect with him.

Most of these criticisms are probably due to the lack of involvement on the part of the veterans portrayed. Several veterans who show up in the series did offer first-hand accounts of the battles, but none of the three protagonists were alive for filming — Basilone obviously died in 1945, and Sledge and Leckie both passed away in 2001. A large part of what made Band of Brothers great was the fact that it focused on one unit, and using the stories of the men who made it up to create a holistic narrative structure. That type of structure is sadly lacking in The Pacific.

Finally, it’s worth noting the attitudes of the people — or, in this case, one person — involved. Tom Hanks notoriously referred to the war in The Pacific as “America’s racist war:”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on March 5, Hanks said that The Pacific depicts a war of “racism and terror” and asked the interviewer if that sounded “familiar to what we might be going through today.”

Band of Brothers made no political statements. It showed frankly the experiences of a combat unit in Europe — good and bad, redemptive and traumatic. The Pacific — in Tom Hanks’ mind, apparently — is meant to make a political statement, and this may explain even more about why it fails as a series. The war with Japan was racially charged, to be sure, but to call it “racist” is to take an extreme leap. It’s also rather appalling, given that Germany was itself perpetrating a racist war against Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities throughout Europe at the same time. I’d like to think that Hanks was merely oblivious in his cognitive moral dissonance, but at this point I’m honestly not sure.

It’s also telling that little mention is made of Japanese atrocities towards Americans, as well as the vast majority of the Asian populations of countries occupied by Japan. American citizens were not unaware of Japan’s behavior in cases such as the Rape of Nanking or the conquest of the Philippines. However, scenes in which Americans loot Japanese corpses for their gold teeth or murder wounded Japanese prisoners remain contextless — there is no mention that a motive besides racism and hatred might underlie the attitude of the average American Marine.

It’s obvious that a great deal of effort and care went into The Pacific. It’s also apparent that Hanks and Spielberg really did mean to create a stylistic sequel of sorts to Band of Brothers, which makes their failure all the more poignant.

As someone who has interviewed veterans of World War Two for a journalism project, and as a fan of historical accuracy in general, I cannot in good faith recommend The Pacific — its essence falls disappointingly short of both its ambition and the truth.


Anonymous said...

PC/MC Hollywood could never do the Pacific War justice. First off it would mean exposing all of Japanese war crimes against other Asians and Allied troops. This goes against PC/MC doctrine which states that only Whites and particularly White Americans are racist.

Also Spielberg is a haphazard director, he can do good but he has had his share of flops and duds both on TV and on the big screen. Sometimes I suspect he phones it in.

And Hanks is well a darling of Hollywood so you know where his politics and views lay.

Nemesis said...

I have watched all three mentioned war stories and must largely agree with the author of this article, indeed, it is more a critique, on the views as expressed. The Pacific, although historically informative to a point, also omits certain historical facts around the time of Guadalcanal that is a let down for this Australian who knows only too well the huge effort and sacrifice made at that time by Australia and its people during the early days of the Pacific War.

Australian Infantry and the American 53rd Engineers were elements of the first allied Army to defeat the Japanese in a land battle at Milne Bay, New Guinea, in 1942. Raw Australian Militia, eventually reinforced by returning Middle East veterans, also caused the retreat of the main invading Japanese forces and denied them from capturing Port Morseby, New Guinea, which if captured would have seriously affected the allied war effort. Yet no mention of those war changing actions in the series The Pacific, which occurred well before the final victory at Guadalcanal?

Instead, what the audience hears while the main characters are in Melbourne after being evacuated from Guadalcanal, is that the Australian soldier was still fighting the Germans in Africa!

By the time of Guadalcanal Australian troops were already on their way home to bolster the mainly militia forces in New Guinea. And to anyone unfamiliar with the term 'militia' it means in this historical context, that those forces then opposing battle hardened Japanese troops in New Guinea were citizen soldiers, and in some cases, just civilians swept off the streets and given a gun and a uniform to fill in numbers.

As an ex-soldier, I find the authors criticism of a commanding officers pep talk to his troops, as portrayed in The Pacific, as being 'swill' to be a little naive, as I can remember such pep talks on topical subjects by my own commanding officers. It was just part of the training.

The Pacific was disappointing and could have been a much better series than that which was produced.

Mr.Tom Hanks, who has never been to war, and in all likelyhood will never find himself in a position of having to defend his own life, is just typical of those who believe that moralizing on such historical events somehow erases the true nature of war.

'War is Hell', an American Civil War General once stated, and hating the enemy is the price of going to war. No amount of historical handwringing or revisionist history writing will ever erase that simple fact.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago there was a reissue of "E.T.," anniversary edition. Responding to a request of Drew Barrymore, who had a memorable child role in this film, Spielberg erased digitally all the guns of the FBI agents that may be seen in the original version. Spielberg is one of BHO's main supporters in Hollywood, but 95% of Hollywood is insane, which coexists with talent and charisma.
As to Japan, the WWII atrocities are well known (outside of Japan). What is not known is how brave these people were (and are no longer). That goes for the civilian population too, that would have defended the mainland against a U.S. invasion to the last geezer, woman and child. With swords and halberds, for they had no guns, and for the guns they had there was no ammo. Hiroshima/Nagasaki saved not only many lives of American soldiers, but also many Japanese lives.
Takuan Seiyo

Vortac said...

Saving Private Ryan - good
Band of Brothers - average
The Pacific - bad

I am also predicting that Spielberg/Hanks are not done yet and that their next project will be an unwatchable PC/MC lemonade, according to the trend set out above.

Supertradmum said...

Hollywood has been in charge of educating our youth for too long. At least since the early 1980s, many state schools in America actually dropped World History and American History as required courses, leaving extra course taught from individual teacher viewpoints, and frequently along Marxist and anti-democratic lines.

My father's generation fought in the War and this new series is an affront to their memory. My dad was in the Western Front, but one of his good friends fought against the Japanese, ended up being captures and was severely tortured, even as a POW,to the point that as an adult man returning to the States, his weight was that of an adolescent. His experience was not unique. One of the greatest novelist, Nevil C
Shute, reveals some of the same.

To state that the Pacific War was racist denies the entire militaristic history of Japan. We have two generations of extremely uninformed people in the States who cannot be bothered to study history, as their radical teachers undermined their faith in the Western point of view.

Hollywood actors and directors ignore the real heroes in exchange for ideology. If we had a war, would anyone come,now, as such ideas also undermine the common virtue of patriotism? Do these people really love America?

Apollon Zamp said...


"As an ex-soldier, I find the authors criticism of a commanding officers pep talk to his troops, as portrayed in The Pacific, as being 'swill' to be a little naive, as I can remember such pep talks on topical subjects by my own commanding officers. It was just part of the training."

It was billed as a "pre-landing briefing." As a briefing, it was terrible. As a pep talk, it would have been acceptable. The pre-invasion briefings on Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan stand in stark contrast to the Marine officer's racial slur- and profanity-ridden tirade.

@Takuan Seiyo:

"What is not known is how brave these people were (and are no longer)."

I don't think the bravery of the Japanese soldier is disputed in The Pacific. On the contrary, it's showcased, often in speeches by American drill sergeants, who explain to their men just how dangerous the foe is.

Honestly, though, I would have to say that the bravery of the Japanese people is irrelevant to the series. The Pacific makes a rather big deal comparing the moral shortcomings of the American and Japanese soldiers and despite some brief scenes of Japanese soldiers mutilating American troops and using human shields, the viewer is guided towards the thought process that the Marines were morally equivalent to the Japanese.

Let me just ask this: the Japanese soldiers raped, murdered and tortured civilians as a natural matter of course. The Americans did such things when their discipline broke down. Which of those is the more chilling and indicative statements?

Anonymous said...

POSTED im Memory of MITCHELL PAIGE(Paijic) the American of Serbian heritage, Hero of Guadacanal and Medal of Honor winner.

THE REAL G.I.JOE! Yes, he was the model for G.I.Joe. He retired from the US Marine Corp in 1964.

Rest in Peace, Mitchell.

Tom Hanks and that Speilberg jerk are dog spit compared to the REAL HEROES of WWII.

Dymphna said...

The book below contains, among many other interesting tales, some relatively unknown information on the very very young - as in 19 years old - George H.W. Bush's career in the Pacific, including his plane being shot down and his eventual rescue by a passing sub.

It's hard to remember all the details now, but one Japanese fellow (interviewed many years later) watched that pick-up from Chichi Jima. He said he knew then and there that the US would prevail because it cared about those who served.

Japan's cruel & cavalier treatment of its own men was almost unbearable to read.

Flyboys: A True Story of Courage

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments, the Japanese seem to have developed selective and collective amnesia in regard to the atrocities committed by their armed forces in WW2. They were, in fact, the Nazis of the Asia pacific, however, since the Japanese aren't European the multi-culti cadres aren't interested. I'm sure that the Chinese haven't forgotten.

In regard to the assumption that Japan's surrender was caused by the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki--there are some historians with a different opinion.They claim that the surrender was actually prompted by a fear of Soviet invasion. More civilian casualties had been caused by fire bombing than nuclear attacks,so, to the Japanese militarists, there was no significant strategic difference. They didn't care how many of their own civilians were incinerated.

The real fear of the war lords was Communism and the threat the doctrine presented to Japanese fantasies of racial and cultural superiority.

Nemesis said...

Appollon Zamp...thank you for your response. The Japanese were often just referred to as japs or nips. Some had other special names for them, but the racial aspect of the Japanese was always there and always out front. They were hated for what they did to those they captured or invaded, and to the point where the saying 'the only good jap is a dead one' was often uttered as prisoners were seldom taken by both sides. Yes the briefings for landing in Private Ryan and Band of Brothers were more realistic than that as presented in The Pacific, but it was the racial aspect of the Pacific war that was being loosely conveyed in that 'pep' talk, which to me was more in keeping with the time.

Apollon Zamp said...


The reason not many Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner is because they tended to kill themselves in banzai charges or, if wounded and approached by Americans, to blow themselves up with grenades in order to take out a few of the enemy.

It's safe--if not banal--to say that Japanese prisoners, when they were taken, were treated much more humanely than American prisoners.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading George McDonald Fraser's autobiography "Quartered Safe Out Here" - and he had no love for "Jap" at all.

My mother worked in an office when she left school, and one of the guys who worked there had been a prisoner of "Jap" and told her once that when they were rescued, all he could eat was half a square of chocolate - that was him full.

Because "Jap" had starved him and his pals.

They were brutal - and you can't defeat such an enemy by pussyfooting around or by observing the dictates of political correctness.

You have to eliminate them by any and all means necessary. If you don't, then they'll do it to you.

Anonymous said...

As for the TV series, I watched a few episodes then gave up on it - I gave it to someone at work to try but they've never got back to me about it - so I assume they didn't enjoy it either.

Nemesis said...

Appollon Zamp....you are correct about why the Japanese soldier was not taken prisoner. However, some did give themselves up and, as you are aware, receive treatment totally contrary to what they would have meted out if the roles had been reversed.

Many Japanese taken prisoner were sent back to Australia to a POW camp just outside the town of Cowra, in my home state of New South Wales.

At about 2:am, on the morning of August 5, 1944, over 1000 thousand of them attempted a mass breakout, now known as the Cowra Breakout, many were killed and wounded,including four 22nd Garrison Guards, who gave their lives trying to contain them.

Even when captured and treated humanely, the Jap was just too indoctrinated by the Japanese military code of Bushido to be anything other than fanatics to the end.

Judenlieber said...

Did you ever see THE GREAT ESCAPE(1962)? It wasn't a terribly accurate portrayal of life in a German POW camp...(even at the age of 14 I knew that the Steve McQueen character didn't really jump his motorcycle over a barbed-wire barricade)but it did point out that all American troops and British officers were REQUIRED to attempt to escape from captivity. We were reminded of this obligation when I went through basic training in 1970. I never thought that obligation made me a fanatic.

Nemesis said...

Judenlieber....and I must say that is a strange choice of name. Why not put it up in English?

It is one thing to be expected to escape from captivity when captured, but it is another if when you are defeated militarily you are then expected to commit suicide. If you knew anything at all about the Japanese military code of Bushido, and I suggest you look it up, you would realize the difference between the duty to escape and the duty to commit Hari Kari or Sepuku.

The Cowra Breakout was not done to give the POW's a chance to escape, as they knew, just like the Italian and German POW's who were in another camp, that there was no where for them to go. The breakout was done so that those who took part - and those who chose not to take part were murdered by other Japanese prior to the breakout - could regain their honor by being killed.

Those who managed to get away from the camp committed suicide at a number of places and through various means, including laying on the main rail line while the Western Mail Train ran over them. These were not soldiers doing their duty to escape back to their own lines, these were men who were so indoctrinated into radical militarism through the concept of Samurai, that they had become fanatical in carrying out their required duty of ritual suicide.

Please read up on what I suggest if you so doubt what I write.

Anonymous said...

Not to ruin "Saving private Ryan", but I always get irritated over a couple of scenes.
One, where the panzer commander wearing a German Cross in Gold (A very high ranking badge, rankingright under the knights cross to the iron cross) drives into the city with his roof hatch open! This is somthing that noone would actually do!
Second, the germans fighting in the city was skinheads. I have gone through perhaps hundreds of thousands german ww2 photos, many from private collections and photoalbums, not one german soldier was skinhead! I urge you all to go look for skinhead german soldiers. I found one man, but he was a very high ranking officer, not in the fighting units.
The reason was simple; back in those days, the only skinheads in germany where kids with lice and prisoners. It was the ultimate shame to cut off all of your hair, because it meant that you had lice and was unclean. The irony was that on the eastern front, almost every soldier had lice, but still refused to remove any hair.

That is why they cut all the hair on german friendly women all over europe after the war.

The only one I know who cut their hair in skinhead style in a greater scale was the soviet troops and the japanese.

There are also images of some us marines shaving off their hair and left some hair to form letters. (Together a group of four menn would spell "Hell" with their new hair-do!) Other than this, the lice factor also apply among the allied troops.

Ps. The fashion was often very short hair in the neck and around ears, while full lenght was mantained at top. Soldiers wearing helmets or caps might look like skinheads, but never is.
Himmler could perhaps be taken as a skinhead too, but he actually had some lenght on top.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but the war in the Pacific *was* a war of racism and terror. From both sides. I think the Japanese atrocities towards American POWs are depicted very well in the first scenes on Guadalcanal, where an American patrol finds mutilated American prisoners tied to a tree. My impression is that the producers convey that such displays of Japanese savagery was what made the American soldiers hate tha Japanese and what reduced the Americans almost to the Japanese level. I think that is very realistic and truthful and I also think that is what has been happening to allied soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq where they have watched unspeakable atrocities by the taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. That could in fact be what Hanks meant: The lowest level of conduct will inevitably set the tone of a war, like in the Pacific.

Note also how Hanks and Spielberg doesn't hesitate to show Japanese suicide attacks and attacks with human shields involving babies.

Couldn't it in fact be so that Hanks and Spielberg actually wanted to show how brutal our next war might be without actually naming the enemy right out?

Nemesis said...

Anonymous 11:36 wrote...'Yes but the Pacific war was a war of racism and terror. From both sides.'

I would agree with that assessment and add that ALL the wars that have ever been fought have had an element of race and terror in them. Even civil wars between the same people, such as the English Civil War or the American Civil War have used those elements as motivating and intimidating tactics.

Mr. Hanks 'armchair' proclamation that the Pacific War was a racist war, is therefore only partly correct. Although the Japanese believed in their own racial superiority, race was not the defining issue that caused Japan to first attack China and Manchuria in the late 1930's. It was their militarism and a perceived need to be the dominant nation in their part of the world that could control the South East Asian oilfields, and those conquered nations natural resources, that put Japan on the warpath.

Did the allies become racist after hearing of, and then witnessing first hand the atrocities carried out by the Japanese in the lands they invaded?

I would say fear and hate for the Japanese would be the emotions that comes to mind here, especially in those who knew of such things. The racial characteristics of the Japanese only became a factor in Western propaganda after atrocities by the Japanese committed in China and Manchuria came to light.

After Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong and Singapore, and their swift advance into the South Pacific, the Japanese were feared and hated first while the racial aspects of the Japanese came a very distant second.

Sure, the Japanese were given certain racial epithets, but in my opinion, it was hate for the enemy that was the single biggest motivator that drove the allies in that war.