Ever since HBO’s The Pacific came out last year I’ve wanted to read the memoirs that the show was based on. I started with E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. If you know anything about the Pacific Theater or you’ve seen the show then you know that Peleliu and Okinawa, along with Iwo Jima, were some of the most brutal battles of WWII. To make things worse Peleliu was never really used during the war for any purpose during the war so it was a battle that was unnecessary.
Sledge begins the book as he is in college preparing to become a Marine officer. Early on, however, he decides that he does not want to finish college and then become an officer. So he and some others in the program quit and join up as enlisted Marines. He then goes on to describe his boot camp experiences and his training to become a mortar man. Throughout his narrative Sledge sprinkles in his personal insights as an older man looking back on the experience. These insights help foreshadow events setting up the reader for what is to come. More often than not though the insights tend to be a bit contradictory. He definitely sees war differently than he did as a fresh faced young kid. These contradictions are a good thing as it allows him to speak frankly about his experience but to also comment on his actions, other Marines actions, or the war in general from the perspective of time.
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a manga comic written by Shigeru Mizuki. Mizuki is a veteran of World War II and this manga serves as the memoir of his experiences in World War II. He states that it is 90% true. I believe that this is the only one of his works that has been translated into English, which based off of my experience reading this, is a shame.
This manga follows one particular battalion that is stationed on Rabaul. As one of the earlier battles in the war the Japanese were not as proficient as they would become with their suicide attacks and the guerrilla warfare tactics that would make Peleliu, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima so bloody for both sides. (A quick aside on this. The Battle of Peleliu solidified what would become typical for Japanese fighting afterwards. Long battles of attrition with high numbers of casualties because the Japanese would fight to the death and refuse to surrender. When defeat was imminent the Japanese would go on Banzai charges or suicide attacks ensuring that almost all of them died. The casualties for the Japanese on Peleliu is estimated at 10,900 soldiers killed and 3o2 taken prisoner. Of those 302 only 7 were soldiers and 12 sailors, the rest were non-Japanese laborers. These types of casualty totals became standard for the Japanese. On Iwo Jima 21,844 soldiers were killed or committed suicide out of 22,060.) Mizuki confronts this directly in his memoir. He is a survivor of a suicide attack on Rabaul, along with around 80 soldiers.
Apparently, this is the thing to do now with the anniversary so close. So I will jump in and add my two-cents to the cacophony of 9/11 essays (two particularly good ones are Andrew Sullivan’s and Christopher Hitchens‘ love ‘em or hate ‘em they will make you think). However, in order to properly formulate 9/11 I have to go back a few more years to set the stage for where I was personally at that time. In 1999 I was working at a television studio, doing something that I thought I liked. I hoped that it would turn into something more. Well surprise, surprise things didn’t quite go as a I wanted. Being that I was young and dumb I only exacerbated the situation and proceeded to burn some of the first bridges in my young professional career. I didn’t give a fuck though. I was young and feeling cooped up and I badly needed a change–or so I told myself. So towards the end of 1999 I moved on to a construction supplies delivery job which I half-heartedly worked at (sometimes when I was tired I’d just pull over in a housing community and take a nap). When I got bored with that job I quit. Then my brother started talking about going into the Marine Corps. As he discussed it with me it planted the idea in my head which over the course of the next few months sat dormant in my head but just percolated subconsciously biding its time. About mid-2000 my brother was accepted to Naval flight school in Pensacola, Fl. A fairly difficult school to get into especially when your grades aren’t the best and you’re not a legacy kid. It was about that time that he decided he didn’t want to join up anymore. It was also about that time when I decided I did and I voiced my desire to my family.
I think it’s too harsh to say it was met with outright derision but there was a large amount of skepticism from my father and brother. I mean I was the less athletic brother, I was lazier, and avoided hard work like the plague. But their jokes just strengthened my resolve. I wanted to join not only to prove them wrong (and my ‘friends’ weren’t any more supportive, their mockery was even more infuriating) but because this burgeoning desire to serve my country. I’m not exactly sure where this all came from but I have my suspicions, and I think a large portion of this desire came from my reading list as an adolescent, which ran heavy on titles with Epic poems like Beowulf, The Illiad, The Odyssey and with a different kind of epic like The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. It was definitely a confluence of events though as all these ideas and feelings came together at the same time. Add to that the mockery from a lot of the people close to me and my resolution was set. If there is anything about me that’s true it’s that I a stubborn son of a b.
So I quit my job and went to work at UPS part-time and the rest of my time was spent running and working out. I quit drinking (seriously I’m not lying) and even though I didn’t eat a lot of junk food I quit eating the little that I did. My singular focus was to continue my regiment throughout the winter and go to boot camp in March. But alas, the best laid plans…, as it turned out I never made it to March. Instead, after some poking and prodding from my recruiter, and finally being given some more financial incentives I left at the end of January 2001.
The other day Colbert had Kissinger on and treated him with kid gloves. He lobbed a bunch of softballs at him and didn’t press him on his checkered history. What the video if you want to see something with very little substance at all or….
…you can head over to the Nixon Library’s new online exhibit. There you can learn about some of the truth behind Vietnam and the December Bombings without all the spin. It’s your call but only one place is going to give you the straight dope.
It’s hard to believe that 8 years ago today I was chilling in Baghdad watching a bunch of Iraqis looting and setting shit on fire. Seriously, time flies and days like today make me feel really old. Good thing I got my boy Jim Beam to keep me company.
As an aside, wars suck. Now that I’ve seen one I’m not in a hurry to see another or to send others to fight in stupid meaningless wars. If only more of our politicians felt the same way.
As part of his re-election bid Obama is doing a facebook town hall. I’d encourage people to send in good questions maybe we can actually get some straight answers from this administration. Here is my question:
How do you justify starting a war in Libya without the consent of the people or Congress, which is in violation of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution?
I’m not holding my breath though I’m sure they will pick a bunch of softballs for him to answer.
(pic via newsone)
McCain and Bush contend that we can’t leave Iraq, and that if we do it means dishonor and defeat for America. What if Iraq is ready to start taking control of their own security and doesn’t need or want our help. This would, of course, ruin their warmongering but it would be good for troops. According the the Washington Post this may be happening.
Top Iraqi officials are calling for a radical reduction of the U.S. military’s role here after the U.N. mandate authorizing its presence expires at the end of this year. Encouraged by recent Iraqi military successes, government officials have said that the United States should agree to confine American troops to military bases unless the Iraqis ask for their assistance, with some saying Iraq might be better off without them.
“The Americans are making demands that would lead to the colonization of Iraq,” said Sami al-Askari, a senior Shiite politician on parliament’s foreign relations committee who is close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “If we can’t reach a fair agreement, many people think we should say, ‘Goodbye, U.S. troops. We don’t need you here anymore.”
This is inline with the calls from Congress and others who advocate pulling out of Iraq in a responsible matter. King George, however, doesn’t listen to anyone, and I doubt that his Court Jester will be any better if elected. More commentary at Mother Jones.
I love Legos and history, and this is one of the coolest moments in military history. Almost makes me want to sign up for a tour with the Marines…almost. Anyways check out the rest of Balakov’s lego–and other non-lego–pictures here.