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.
This year I was lucky enough to receive a Kindle for my birthday (thanks pheebs). I’ve been in love with it since then and have already bought a ton of books. I’ve found myself reading during virtually all my free time now, which I like. The first book I finished was Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite authors and I feel like pretty much everything he does is phenomenal. He is always at his best, however, when he is describing the average man. This book is a compilation of his war correspondence during WWII. It’s a book I’ve always wanted to read but I could never find it in a book store and I’ve always been too lazy to order.
The book follows him as he arrives in England, then to Africa, and finally to Italy. Throughout he describes, in a way only Steinbeck can, the life of a soldier. He doesn’t concern himself with Generals and grand strategies but instead what it’s like living, training and then fighting, throughout the beginning of the war. Steinbeck even throws in some fake humorous stories that would’ve made Mark Twain proud. If you like history, journalism, or Steinbeck then this short book is worth the read.
It has been a long time since I wrote the first great stories post, which can be found here. I didn’t have any ideas for a new one for the longest time until the other day, as I was in the midst of procrastinating by watching TV, a Jericho promo came on the channel I was watching. I’ve never seen the show so I wasn’t really paying attention until in one section of the commercial there was some kind of battle going down, and the villain told Skeet that he was surrounded and there was no hope. Ol’ Skeet put on his best tough guy face, and yelled Nuts into the walkie-talkie. When I heard this I started laughing because here was yet another great real life story that Hollywood was appropriating and ruining.
Our story begins in Europe in December 1944. Five months after D-Day the Allies had been slowly pushing the German forces back. Hitler sought to turn the tide with a counteroffensive in the Ardennes–even though he was advised against it by his Generals–the battle would come be known as the Battle of the Bulge. The plan was for the Germans to slice through the American and British forces–cutting them off from each other and valuable supply lines–and to recapture the port of Antwerp. It was hoped this move would allow the Germans to either negotiate a more favorable peace treaty with each nation separately or it would allow German time to recoup their losses and continue the war with a new generation of military technologies–like jets and rockets. The offensive began on December 16, 1944 and the Germans made swift advances, in part, because bad weather grounded Allied planes which allowed them to move quickly. However, after some quick gains the Germans met stiff resistance and their momentum slowed.
One of those areas of stiff resistance was Bastogne, Belgium. The importance of Bastonge was that it was a crossroads near the German border. These roads would be needed to quickly move tanks and other supplies overland to the front. By December 18 the Germans were outside of Bastogne engaged in a fierce fight with the American troops. For the next three days the Germans were repulsed by the American forces that were defending Bastonge, and the weather continued to worsen. The masterly use of small-arms fire, artillery, and some tanks allowed the American forces to hold their ground. Because of their slow progress two Panzer divisions were told to bypass the town, and were subsequently destroyed near Dinant–making the roads held in Bastogne even more important.
I’ve been meaning to read Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, for years, and I have finally gotten around to it. I just finished it yesterday after reading it obsessively for the last few days. It has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read. I don’t even remember how many times someone stared at me because I was laughing uncontrollably on the subway, coffee shop, or walking down the street (yes this book was so good I often read it whilst walking down the street). There were more laugh out loud moments than most comedies. Besides being hilarious the book was also pretty deep. The book, for those that don’t know, is about bomber pilots in World War II. Invariably when you add war and death to a book it’s going to be deep; but Heller does it in a way that doesn’t get the reader depressed. The book has everything from an anti-war message to hilarious stories about Italian whores. If you are looking for a new book to read make it this one; and if you’re already reading a book make this one a priority to read next. There are a literally tons of great scenes in this book; unfortunately I couldn’t find my favorite online–I’m way too lazy to type it–so instead I will post one of the best that I could find online enjoy.
So the GOP is ramping up their attack machine and one word I’ve been hearing a lot is appeasement. Everyone is all up in arms because Obama wants to meet with Iran and Syria. Usually it comes from buffoons like this guy:
You have to love people who are so adamant about issues that they don’t really have any clue about. Most people don’t get appeasement, because most people try to pigeonhole the term into today’s standards. What they don’t get is that when Chamberlain went to Munich he went there in a position of weakness. The west was still reeling from World War I economically and militarily. Germany was already more powerful militarily than the West. While it is generally considered that giving away half of Czechoslovakia was his big mistake, it was one of the main issues that Churchill used to become PM, there is an argument that it was the right choice. Many historians will say that Chamberlain was right to have done what he did, in order to, give England enough time to ramp up their industrial military complex.
So how does this fit into today’s argument about appeasement. Very simply today America doesn’t have to meet with anyone from any country from a position of weakness. We always have other options, whether that is political, diplomatic, or military options. Invariably we will be meeting on our terms and in a position of strength. If we have someone who understands this then we will never have to capitulate completely on an issue. Instead we can meet with leaders of other nations from a position of strength ie. Ronald Regan during the Cold War with the U.S.S.R. Now watch this video and the next time the GOP starts throwing around appeasement you can just laugh it off.