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Hero of the Pacific: The Life of Marine Legend John Basilone Hardcover – January 1, 2010

3.4 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From New York Times bestselling author James Brady—the story of Marine legend John Basilone, one of three main characters in HBO's The Pacific

Hero of the Pacific tells the dramatic, compelling, and all-but-forgotten life story of a small-town boy who became one of World War II?s greatest and best-known heroes. His bravery on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima earned him the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross, respectively. Once you read this powerful tale, you?ll never forget John Basilone.

  • Profiles one of three main characters in HBO's The Pacific, the sequel scheduled for March 2010 to the incredibly popular 2001 mini-series Band of Brothers
  • Sorts through the differing accounts of Basilone's life and exploits, including what he did on Iwo Jima and how he died
  • The final book by James Brady, the Korean War veteran and well-known columnist and author of books that include Why Marines Fight and his memoir, The Coldest War, a Pulitzer Prize finalist

An incredible story masterfully told, Hero of the Pacific will appeal to anyone with an interest in World War II and military history as well as fans of HBO's The Pacific.

Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Author James Brady’s Daughters

Photo of the late James Brady, courtesy of the author's family

The late James Brady commanded a Marine Corps rifle platoon during the Korean War and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor. For more than two decades, he wrote the "In Step With" column for Parade magazine. He authored eighteen books, among them several on the Marines, and was a New York Times bestselling author.

Read the Amazon-exclusive interview with Brady’s daughters, Susan Konig and Fiona Brady.

Why do you think your father chose to focus on John Basilone for this most recent book? What sets Basilone’s story apart from the thousands of other Marines who fought in WWII?

Our Dad understood first hand how the Marine Corps can shape a person’s character. In this book he explored the question, “can a single night define a man’s life?” John Basilone was an everyman from humble beginnings who found himself in the midst of extraordinary circumstances during World War II. His courageous actions earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, and also—for a short but intense period—resulted in an uncommon degree of public attention and adulation. He wasn’t a poster boy by any means, but a rough and tumble character who became an American idol when the nation was sorely in need of heroes and daring deeds. Our Dad knew that the idea of a regular guy being called upon to do extraordinary things always makes a good story.

Since WWII, there’s been some controversy surrounding Basilone’s legacy as a war hero. How does the book deal with this?

Famous inaccuracies grew up around John Basilone’s legacy, even as he was fading from national memory, except among the Marines and in his hometown of Raritan, New Jersey. Our Dad was a seasoned writer and reporter with nearly seven decades of experience to call on as he tracked down sources who had known John Basilone—people he grew up with or fought along side. He investigated historical documentation, discovered errors, sorted out truth from hyperbole, and ultimately had to make his own determination about Basilone and what happened at Guadalcanal and on Iwo Jima.

Basilone is one of the soldiers profiled in HBO’s new series The Pacific. Why do you think Basilone was chosen as one of the main characters for the show?

John Basilone is a compelling figure, a tragic hero in some ways because of his ultimate fate. There were many young men of valor on the battlefields of the Pacific, but how many of them came home, were paraded around associating with Hollywood stars, and then chose to return to the islands of the Pacific to battle alongside their men?

If it weren’t true, it would make a great story. The fact that it really happened makes readers sit up and take notice. There is also the underlying recognition that our young men and women serving in the United States military right now face these kinds of challenges and defining moments on a daily basis.

Sadly, your father passed away just after completing the manuscript for this book. What do you think he would have thought about all of the attention Basilone is now receiving?

He would have been proud to know that a new generation is learning about a great American hero.

From Booklist

The first serious biography of Medal of Honor winner “Manila John” Basilone is also, sadly, Brady’s last book. He died immediately after completing it, having done his work well. Basilone came from a blue-collar Italian family in New Jersey and had served in the army in the Philippines before the war. For World War II, he joined the marines and won the Medal of Honor as a machine-gunner on Guadalcanal. Sent home as a celebrity for a bond tour, he found his new status a burden and repeatedly tried to get back into combat. Before he did, he married a fellow marine, but what promised to be a highly successful marriage was cut tragically short when Basilone was killed in action on the first day on Iwo Jima. Brady has ferreted out and interviewed practically all the survivors of those who knew Basilone, critiqued most of the previous accounts (sometimes scathingly) on the basis of his own experience as a marine, and generally left us one good marine’s tribute to another. --Roland Green

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470379413
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470379417
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,543,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wooley in PSL VINE VOICE on January 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A hero doesn't have to be famous, a household name, president or go on the lecture circuit. A hero does the extra ordinary because they have the courage, conviction and just plain guts to get the job done at the moment. Pick up this book, HERO OF THE PACIFIC and read about an every man, an American from New Jersey, a marine, John Basilone, hero. The man who would get the Medal of Honor for action at Guadalcanal and the Navy Cross on Iwo Jima. And who better to write about Marines than James Brady, a Marine and author of numerous Marine books. This is a wonderful book about amazing courage and should be read by all of us including the next generation. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased the Kindle version of this book after I saw the hard copy in a local bookstore. The author, a Marine veteran of Korea (I have been told emphatically that there is no such thing as a "former" Marine), knew his subject matter, and provided helpful insights into Basilone, the Marines, and America during the World War II years. I also found that fairly extensive passages of the author's work were well-written, enjoyable, and absorbimg.

Now the tough part: The book needed a good editor to pull all of the author's fine work together. There is a lot of repetition, and the author jumped around too much (he was trying to put the good stuff up front, when he could have told the story better if he had presented it as it played out). An editor would have pointed all of this out, and if so, this would have been a truly outstanding book. As it is, the book has great moments, and then goes sliding off into a confusing jumble of images and interpretations that leaves the reader--even someone who knows a fair amount about military history--somewhat confused.

I understand the author passed away a year before this book was published, and that he was a professional writer. Either (1) he didn't want his work edited (many writers don't), or (2) he wasn't around to make sure the book was edited properly. Either way, that's the main problem with this book.
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Having known Jim Brady personally I found his Hero of the Pacific probably as close to the mark as is possible for an author that did not know Basilone. I am a retired Marine "mustang" having served 16 years enlisted and the final five as an officer. Like Brady, we served in Korea (coincidentally) at the same time in 1951 and 1952. In reality, none of this is germane to the book. Brady takes nothing away from Basilone's heroism. What he does do is debunk Basilone's daughter's assumptions and those umpteen million former Marines "who saw" Basilone die on Iwo Jima. You will note the quotes about those who witnessed his death; probably the same number also saw the flagraising on Iwo a bit later in the campaign. Brady, like me, was a professional reporter. I was a combat correspondent in both Korea and Vietnam and throughout my Marine Corps career. Like Jim, I was trained to look beyond the myth and ask the pertinent questions. As a reporter, Jim did this. His book reflects this. To those of you who have not read Jim's other books, especially those where he writes "fiction to history" give it a try. He was a great writer.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book last week at Barnes and Noble for $25.95 plus tax. I was looking forward to finally reading an excellent biography of John Basilone, but it is a big disappointment.

The editing and fact-checking are very sloppy. The biggest example of this lies in the book's description of which enlisted marine won the Medal of Honor first. On page 9, Brady correctly identifies Sgt Clyde Thomason of the 2nd Raider Battalion as the first enlisted marine to be awarded the Medal. However, on the dust jacket on the back of the book, it describes John Basilone by saying, "As the first enlisted man to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II..." How could such an obvious error occur, except for complete inattention to detail by the editor and fact-checker?

Brady spends a lot of time criticizing the previous works on Basilone, but that does not stop him from using their quotes constantly. He then explains how their statements were wrong, but never tells us what he found that is right! After reading this book, I am still not sure what exactly John Basilone did that fateful night on Guadalcanal. Maybe nobody knows for sure. I am also unsure of just how Basilone died on Iwo Jima even though Brady uses most of the information available. He just did not make things clear enough.

Also, Brady jumps around too much. Pages 1-76 narrates Basilone's arrival on Guadalcanal, the big fight, and how he left and got his orders to go home. Then, we have a few pages about his early life. But, then the author puts himself in the story to talk about his visit to John's hometown of Raritan, New Jersey, and all the people he talked to there while researching the book. It would been much easier to follow if he had written the book in chronological order.
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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Brady's "Hero of the Pacific..." sheds some well-deserved light upon a Marine hero, John Basilone, for those of us who might never heard of his actions in WWII. It was great to read about Basilone's life prior to WWII in small town America, floundering in life until he committed to military service. While reading "Hero" I couldn't help feel like I was a kid again hanging out with my grandfather at my local American Legion/VFW listening in on their tales of life prior to "The War" and their time in service. Those stories, like Basilone's prior two biographies, in hindsight were undoubtedly embellished by family and comrades in arms. People's stories of friends and loved ones who've passed tend to do this. In Basilone's case, as with countless combat vets, his heroism truly didn't need embellishment. I was happily surprised that Mr. Brady took a critical look, albeit sometimes petty, at the previous biographies and the government's desire to create super heroes and not being content with just "regular" everyday heroes like Basilone.
A few of the other reviews have accused Mr. Brady of shoddy writing in this book because of his critical tone of the two prior biographies helmed by Basilone's sister and nephew but, I found this to be a logical approach and not done with any intended spite. Gunny Basilone wasn't exactly a prolific writer, thus any Basilone biographer is heavily reliant upon the prior entries as well as other Basilone family members and acquaintances. Brady's biography wasn't flawless, but I feel that it does a good job at trying to separate the man and the myth of a long gone American hero, Manila John Basilone.
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