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The Pacific by [Ambrose, Hugh]
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The Pacific Kindle Edition

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Length: 513 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews Review

The Pacific: An Opinionated History

The Pacific presents the Pacific War, from America’s first battle with the Japanese to the final shot. It blends eyewitness accounts into a larger perspective on the course of the war. However, this larger perspective is not solely provided by the historian, but also by the veterans. Put another way, instead of layering some oral histories onto a historical framework, I follow the lives of five veterans who, between them, experienced most of the key moments of the war. By walking with these men through their respective wars, the reader comes to see The Pacificas a whole.

The result of this approach is, I think, unusually powerful. The war comes at the reader with speed and power and meaning. The veterans, moreover, were not historians calmly researching and reporting all the facts. Their very definite opinions about people and events, as expressed in the book, must be understood in that light. Although historians may contest some of their judgments, I think they are valuable. It’s not just that veterans have a right to their own opinions—they certainly earned it—it’s that their passion is infectious. Reading this book, you will always care about what happens and why.

A careful reader will of course discern a great many of my conclusions about the war. I choose these particular men out of hundreds of possibilities for a reason. You will notice, for instance, that the US Army receives scant notice. I recognize that there were more army divisions serving in the Pacific than Marine Corps divisions. I admit that in fighting their way through the South Pacific, the soldiers won battles every bit as harrowing as those fought by the Leathernecks. As a historian, though, I believe that the drive through the South Pacific was secondary. Had the US only been able to sustain one drive, it would have been the one through the Central Pacific. In order to keep my book to manageable length, I focused on the US Navy and its Marine Corps.

Although the book focuses on Marines, specifically the story of the First Marine Division, it also includes the life of one aircraft carrier pilot. The Pacific War was a carrier war as no war has ever been. Few men saw as much of the carrier war as Vernon “Mike” Micheel. To see Mike fly a dive bomber at the Battle of Midway and later at the Philippine Sea is to simultaneously appreciate these critical turning points; to understand them within the context of the war; and to witness the profound change in circumstances which occurred between them.

Mike Micheel served with two of the carrier war’s most important figures: Captain Miles Browning and Admiral J.J. “Jocko” Clark. Through Mike, we do not come to understand them in their totality, as their biographies provide. We see them in action and as viewed by someone who served under them. Mike did not care for Browning, who is revered by some historians, because Browning “short decked” his squadrons—as captain of the carrier USS Yorktown, he failed to ensure his pilots had enough open deck and enough headwind with which to take off. Conversely, Admiral Clark, who once accused Mike of skipping work to go drinking in the bars, comes off better than Browning. Clark’s personality could be as abrasive as Browning’s, but his motivations were sound. Mike understood that Clark wanted his ship to be the best. Every sailor on board Yorktown believed that their Admiral worked hard to achieve that goal.

Watching Mike’s experiences with these men, we understand why he judged them so. Part of his information about them came from hearsay or, as its known in the navy, scuttlebutt. Scuttlebutt is notoriously inaccurate. Mike knew that and tried not to be influenced by it, but he still was. The importance of gossip in the life of a man in combat is often stated by historians, but The Pacific endeavors to allow the reader to experience a man’s struggle to understand, to survive.

Each of the millions of men under arms in WWII experienced his own unique war. Each man within a company or a squadron comprehended his reality differently than his comrades. Can five men, with their own set of idiosyncratic experiences, represent this vast and complex war sufficiently to warrant the book’s all-encompassing title? I think so. By choosing these particular five men, I have written a history that simultaneously describes the individual experience and illuminates the general truths of that vast ocean of enmity we call The Pacific.

--Hugh Ambrose

From Publishers Weekly

In this follow-up to his late father's Band of Brothers, which tracked a single army unit from Georgia to the battlefields of Europe, historian Ambrose turns his attention to the Pacific theater, following four individual marines and one Naval Aviator through their time in combat. The book opens with the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the capture of U.S. Forces on the Bataan peninsula and Corregidor Island. First-hand accounts from U.S. combatants describe vividly the horrific conditions of the island-hopping campaign and the ferocity of the fighting, but also the lengths to which young men would go to join up: subject Eugene B. Sledge purposely flunked out of college to enlist in the Marine Corps. Captain Austin Shofner recounts the brutality of his internment in a Japanese prison war camp, his daring escape, fighting alongside Philippine guerillas, and his eventual repatriation with the U.S. Marine Corps. Ambrose also reveals how, at the time, many marines expressed contempt for Gen. MacArthur, receiving accolades back home while they made halting, bloody progress across such islands as Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Doing for the war against Japan what Band of Brothers did for the war against Germany, Ambrose's history effectively immerses readers in the Good War's second front.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2764 KB
  • Print Length: 513 pages
  • Publisher: NAL; 1st edition (February 25, 2010)
  • Publication Date: March 2, 2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0030CVQ3U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,520 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Ginger Man VINE VOICE on March 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The 10 segment HBO mini-series will focus on the Pacific theater as seen through the eyes of Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. Based on the books "With the Old Breed" by Sledge and "Helmet for my Pillow" by Leckie as well as other first person accounts and interviews, the series includes battles in Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Okinawa as well as the marines return after VJ Day. The Pacific is the companion book to the series but differs in some ways. It also features the stories of Ensign "Mike" Micheel who got his first experience as a dive bomber at the Battle of Midway and that of Lieutenant Austin Shofner who was a POW in Manila after being part of the initial unsuccessful attempt to hold the Philippines.

As in HBO's prior WW II series, The Pacific manages to personalize events which have been portrayed on more of an epic level in presentations such as Victory at Sea. In doing so, it succeeds in conveying the larger than life terror that citizen soldiers faced just a few months removed from their everyday lives in their hometowns. Micheel describes the "puckering" he feels while preparing to dive bomb an enemy aircraft carrier. A marine experiencing repeated bombing runs by Japanese airplanes writes in his journal: "We are all nervous wrecks." As Shofner struggles to survive the extremes of deprivation in an enemy POW camp, his friend tells him "Death isn't hard. Death is easy." It is at that point that Shofner knows his friend will not survive the camp.

What is extraordinary is how the men surmount these challenges and fight in the face of fear, doubt, lack of food and water, sleep deprivation and the illness that can result from all of these factors.
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Format: Hardcover
As a huge fan of Band of Brothers I couldn't wait for the series to start so I picked up Ambrose's The Pacific in order to fill the time and give me a back story for when the series starts. The Pacific certainly did that and more as I now want to read a lot more on the war against the "Japs". With The Pacific I think the subject being covered was what triggered this, as Ambrose's style of writing is both a hit and a miss.

The pros are that I oftentimes wonder as I am reading other memoirs/bios of WWII veterans as to where and how they fit in with one another. With The Pacific the mini bios of the marines and naval pilots are all woven together in a linear timeline so you always know where they are and what they are doing in relation to one another. This is fascinating to me because it adds many levels of detail that help to create an overall richer account of The Pacific War. Add to this the different elements of who they are, i.e. officer, dive bomber and so on, and we are treated to a more in depth look at the structure of the US forces battlling the Japanese in the Pacific ocean.

The cons, and I really only have one worth mentioning, is that Ambrose's style of writing can be rather dry and stiff at times, feeling as though we are getting a recitation of facts instead of a narrative that is weaving the facts together. Although this style can work I oftentimes found that the writing style was having troubles catching my interest and I had to draw myself back in order to continue my own narrative of what Ambrose was telling us.
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Format: Hardcover
I just bought this book the other day. I've read a LOT of history on WW2, perhaps 200+ books.

As the author explains in the Introduction, this book is meant not as a detailed military analysis of the battles that are covered within it, nor is it meant to be a biography, per se. The author claims to be striving for an "in the moment" veteran's-eye view, with all misconceptions, errors of fact, and rampant war rumors (which accompany any combat operation) left intact, for affect. Direct quotes from the players...and related players...are intentionally lacking.

So, if you can imagine a book that has minimal dialogue or quotes, erroneous historical facts cited often, and strives on purpose to have all the depth and breadth of a casual conversation, you end up with what seems to me like a book that HAD a lot of potential, but any time it got near any topic of interest, it did its best to get off the subject and move on to the next topic, as fast as possible. I want to know exactly what these guys were thinking, feeling and saying in these moments, in as much detail as the author could have wrested from his subjects via extensive interviews and research. This book reads more like a field report, all too often just too brief and bound by short sentences, consisting of the barest-of-bones facts.

In the end, it's VERY hard to read. Stilted, encumbered by its self-inflicted "style", it is a lost chance to really contribute to our history in the war...and it was done on purpose, all for the sake of conducting what I would call, "A failed experiment in writing". Hugh Ambrose just isn't his father, sorry to say.

I hope the mini-series is better. I'd skip this book, I don't think that you'll find it a page-turner. :-/
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