Like most baby boomers, I have been glued every Sunday night to HBO's The Pacific, the ten-part mini series that chronicles the Pacific Theater operations. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the drama features the battles of Okinawa, Guadalcanal, Peleliu and Iwo Jima.
And like most baby boomers, I had family who served in the Pacific. My father, James Whitlock, was a navigator on the first medic plane to land at Iwo Jima (he was also at Peleliu) and my uncle, Wil Cordell, was a pilot on a torpedo bomber at Iwo Jima. I heard precious little of their time over there -- sanitized tidbits and tales of money sent home from poker winnings or homesick love letters mailed to a young bride and son. Or the time my uncle landed after a mission, kissed the ground and looked up to see my father standing there. Apparently the Japanese came in the night before, decapitated the pilots and my father feared my uncle was dead.
Shortly before my father passed away, I gave him a journal to write his exploits. Sadly, it was misplaced and most likely filled with blank pages. My uncle passed way a month later, and my eighty-five-year-old aunt has notebooks of every letter he sent from overseas. I suspect some of their grim stories were taken to the grave.
As with Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, the audience literally feels the fear, frustration, anticipation and general nightmarish conditions of the jungle. Thanks to the producers and HBO for shedding light and paying tribute to the men of the Pacific and to the unimaginable hell they must have endured.