"History is full of war, fought for a hundred different reasons. But this war,
our war, I want to believe... I
have to believe... that every step across that airfield, every man that's wounded, every man that I lose... that it's all worthwhile because our cause is just.
—Captain Andrew "Ack Ack" Haldane
Produced by Steven Spielberg
and Tom Hanks
as the Spiritual Successor
to Band of Brothers
and/or The Thin Red Linenote
, The Pacific
is a ten-part miniseries that premiered on HBO
beginning on March 14, 2010. It tells the story of the 1st Marines in the Pacific Theater of World War II
through the eyes of three men: Robert "Lucky" Leckie, Eugene "Sledgehammer" Sledge, and John Basilone. From Guadalcanal, to Peleliu, to Okinawa, they experienced a war vastly different from the war their fellow countrymen fought in Europe.
Has a character page
Since The Pacific
is mostly based on historical and personal recollections of these Marines, almost all of the tropes below are automatically an example of Truth in Television
Provides Examples Of:
- American Accents: New Yorkers Joe Mazzello (Sledge) and Ashton Holmes (Sid) put on Alabama twangs; L.A. native Rami Malek (Snafu) adopts a Cajun drawl; Irish actor Martin McCann (Burgin) puts on a Texas accent (see also Fake American)
- Anyone Can Die:
- The first victim is a Marine medic who went to take a leak and failed to present himself with the daily password and was killed by friendly fire.
- In Part 5, Bill "Hoosier" Smith is shot in the leg, and begins bleeding out. His last words to Leckie were "Bob, I'm sorry..." Lew "Chuckler" Juergens is also hit and presumed dead. Thankfully, both recover from their wounds.
- In Part 7, Lieutenant Edward "Hillbilly" Jones is killed in action; Captain Ack Ack dies later that episode
- Chesty Puller can't die. We know from actual history that he lives to fight in the Korean War.
- Artistic License – History: Some things are changed from historical accounts for dramatic effect.
- Leckie and Sledge never met, though they're shown discussing religion in Part 5
- A lot of the minor things that happened in the memoirs are shifted to different people than who really said/did them, or happen at a different time in the campaign. It's (arguably) an understandable move on the writers' part, considering the Loads and Loads of Characters, since they wanted to flesh them out as much as possible
- Stella never existed, and her entire story was fabricated by the writers. Leckie actually spent most of his time in Australia dating a number of women.
- America Wins the War:
- In Australia, the network that airs the series advertised it heavily as "The Fight for Australia". This annoyed many patriotic Australians. Particularly those who knew their history and know that Australia was never in any real danger anyway —- in fact, the diversion of scarce resources and the further stretching of dangerously over-extended and over-taxed supply lines required for a doomed-to-fail invasion of Australia could have sped the war up a little.
- Basilone's friend J.P. Morgan plays this straight: an Australian soldier tries to start a fight with him and Basilone about the fact the Marines are on liberty in Melbourne, dating Australian women and occupying the city, while disrespecting their recently deceased comrade Manny Rodriguez:
J.P. Morgan: If it wasn't for us, you'd be chugging sake with a pair of chopsticks up your ass, you stupid fuck!
- Badass: Pretty much everyone.
- Basilone, in particular, stands out: the man led a squad of 15 men and held off a regiment of 3,000 Japanese soldiers, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
- The grizzled veteran Sergeant Elmo "Gunny" Haney in the Peleliu episodes. In one, he takes out a Japanese soldier by stomping on his guy, knocks him out with his gun, before pulling out a knife and stabbing the guy in the back of the head
- Basilone proves in Part 8 that badassery is not dependent on circumstances: it is just something that you are.
- Based on a True Story: Not just the series itself, but Basilone gets his own comic book to help sell war bonds. Lampshaded in the series by Hoosier when a replacement asks if they did anything in Guadalcanal that Basilone did in the comic:
"We all did stuff like that, but with less grimacing."
- Beach Episode: Not necessarily the entire episode, but at the end of nearly every battle the Marines return to the beach for a little "R n' R". Subverted with episode three, wherein they relax and do everything BUT go to the beach.
- Bedlam House: A very benign one, filled with shell-shocked Marines.
- BFG: Basilone's Browning heavy machine gun. Which he lugs around and fires from the hip. He even melees a few guys with it. Yep, he's that badass. Completely Truth in Television. Both Leckie and Basilone were in machine gun companies. Basilone didn't just pluck that gun out of thin air, he's well-trained in it. Later, the Marines swap their M1917's for the M1919, smaller but no less lethal, as we see when Basilone turns it into a BFG during the fighting on Iwo.
- Bilingual Bonus: The Japanese soldier that the Marines taunt in episode 1 after the Banzai charge is begging them to kill him.
- Black and Gray Morality: The Marines are the protagonists, but the series doesn't shy away from showing some of the heinous acts some of them did and racial epithets are used liberally. Brutal battlegrounds don't exactly encourage the best behavior from people. The only thing keeping the Japanese on the "black" side of the equation are acts like using civilians as suicide bombers and human shields, as well as historical knowledge that Imperial Japan performed atrocities which were much, much worse.
- Blood Knight: A lot of characters act like this the closer they get to an irredeemable act. In Part 10, Sledge is asked what sort of things he learned as a Marine that could be used in civilian life. He says the only thing he knows how to do is kill the enemy
- Book Ends: The relatively "peaceful" landing on Guadalcanal in Part One where everyone lands safely is contrasted sharply with the hellish landing in Part 5 where Marines are being shot and blown up left and right
- Boy Meets Girl:
- Breather Episode: The Marines rest in Australia in Part 3, but it's not restful for everyone
- Bring My Brown Pants:
- Jay comes down with an urgent need to take a bathroom break and rushes over to a cave to do his business, completely unaware that there are two Japanese hiding in it. He ends up shooting the first Japanese and getting chased by the second one with his pants down... all the while holding his M1 carbine and crapping himself scared.
"Oh shit...! I SHIT myself!"
- In Sledge and Eugene's books, the man who shot the guy chasing Jay was a B.A.R. gunner who was trying to shoot the Jap in the right spot so that his bullets would literally cause him to be cut in half.
- California Doubling: Australia doubles for all the locations in the series, including California.
- Captain Obvious: After the first wave of Japanese attackers is repelled on Guadalcanal, someone shouts that they have contact on their left. Considering the entire line was attacked the response he gets from another unseen Marine is fitting:
- Cluster F-Bomb: On The Colbert Report, Tom Hanks warned viewers there would be a lot of objectionable words. He also said you'll feel like a big pussy while watching this.
- Colonel Badass: Lieutenant Colonel Lewis "Chesty" Puller. Yes, that guy actually existed. Chesty Puller is still considered a badass by today's Marines, and at Parris Island they end their day by saying, "Good night Chesty Puller, wherever you are!" He's also the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps. He had five Navy Crosses, more than anyone has received ever (something the Marines like to remind the Navy every now and then). The only medal for valor that he was not awareded is the Medal of Honor, and some speculate that's he didn't receive this award because he didn't kiss ass and refused to play political games. Though pretty much everything that came out of his mouth proved he was a badass, he famously said this about being surrounded during the Korean War:
"We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them."
- Composite Character: Stella in Episode 3 is a mixture of two girls Leckie had affairs with in Australia. In Real Life, however, Leckie admits that their was little emotions involved in both, and he never met their families nor was broken up with over fear of death.
- Crowning Moment of Funny: "Woof." In-show, as well.
- Darker and Edgier: Many people have noted that The Pacific is much more brutal and less romantic than its predecessor Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers wasn't a picnic but The Pacific went much more into the horrific conditions of the Pacific Theater and the mental and emotional scarring afterwards. Given that the Pacific Theater was more brutal overall, this is justified. Originally, one of the veterans interviewed for the series was to be Bill Guarnere from BoB, though this was later cut. Guarnere has said in no uncertain terms that as bad as the War in Europe was, the Marines in the Pacific had it even worse.
- Deadpan Snarker: Leckie is one of these, being a writer. Also, Lena Riggs (Later Basilone).
- Death World:
- Pavuvu in the rainy season, which Leckie fake-translates as "Death of Hope"
- Okinawa makes Pavuvu look like a fun place to be. All you had to worry about were crabs in your boot, not bodies floating to the surface. Or finding a corpse in the foxhole you've spent hours digging.
- The literal desert island of Peleliu was also pretty much death incarnate. Always fun to have no local drinking water at all!
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: The black servants that the elder Sledges have are definitely not politically correct in 2010... but it's also pretty much historical fact for the time period (not to mention straight up historical fact for Sledge's family) so they were included for the sake of authenticity.
- Dissonant Serenity:
- Snafu's usually deadpan calm whether he's just shooting the breeze or prying gold teeth out of a dead Japanese soldier's mouth. When Sledge admits he's scared and Captain Ack Ack states "We're all afraid; all of us. A man who isn't scared out here is either a liar or dead", a quick shot of Snafu makes you wonder what that makes him.
- He also manages to sound calm about things when it's apparent that he really isn't. When Snafu talks Sledge out of taking up his own habit of prospecting for gold teeth among dead Japanese soldiers, his warning about "diseases that'll make you sick" is less his worrying about hygiene and more a cover to let him express his concern about the comparatively idealistic Sledge starting down the same road he's traveled
- Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The show generally manages to keep this to a minimum, at the very least. Everything is so brutal, so muddy and shitty, and just so goddamned miserable that it is in no way glorious or jingoistic. The only real exception are scenes involving John Basilone, and, well, the guy was inspiring to his own in in real life, so it's hard for him to not come across as completely amazing. Even he gets unceremoniously cut down at the end of episode 8, though, to the horror of just about everyone, his men included.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Subverted with Basilone back at Camp Pendleton. His men didn't hate him, and instead most were in awe of him because of what he had done on Guadalcanal, and understood that everything he was drilling into them was for their own good. And we can't forget him telling his men it's okay to be afraid, something most DSN wouldn't do.
- Driven to Suicide:
- During the War
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Basilone at Iwo Jima, where his actions helped get the men off the beach and saved many lives
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Arguably Leckie, who promised to write to Vera. While he didn't send any written letters, believing he wasn't going to make it through, he returned home and married her.
- Empathy Doll Shot: When Leckie goes through the pouch of a Japanese soldier and finds mementos of the man's family. He also gets an Empathy Wedding Band Shot.
- Everybody Smokes: Although Sledge only starts after he'd seen combat. Interestingly, he opts out from cigarettes to using an old-fashioned pipe by Part 9. Sledge's family was so impressed with Mazello's portrayal that they gave him the pipe Sledge carried during the war.
- A Father to His Men:
- Captain Ack Ack has proven to be this more than once. Unfortunately, he's killed off-screen by a Japanese sniper in Part 7. While they're lowering his body out on a stretcher, most of the men in his platoon can be seen crying and/or saluting. Even Merriell "Snafu" Shelton's seen holding back tears
- R.V. Burgin to the Mortar section. Truth in Television once again. Not to mention "Hillbilly" Jones, and Gunny Haney.
- Flashback Nightmare: Possibly the first war "film" this troper's seen where people have these during battle (see Shoot the Dog)
- You just know that when Sledge's father makes his final plea to stop his son from enlisting, every one of the poor old man's fears would come to pass (see War Is Hell)
- During the Peleliu Landing, the Marine manning the .50 Caliber gun on Leckie's landing craft has his one of his hands shot off. Later in the episode, Leckie steps on a severed human hand.
- Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who knows anything Basilone knows he dies on Iwo Jima. Doesn't make his death less tragic.
- Four Philosophy Ensemble: Leckie's group of friends (Runner is the Cynic, Hoosier is the Apathetic, Chuckler is the Optimist and Leckie is the Realist).
- Get It Over With: The last survivor of the ill-fated Japanese assault in episode 1. This marks the definitive end of Sledge's New Meat status.
- Heroic BSOD:
- What, in addition to nocturnal enuresis, gets Leckie off Pavuvu, where he meets some other shell-shocked Marines.
- The Marines' commander during their first battle on Guadalcanal
- In Part 7, Gunny Haney goes through one after Lt. Hillbilly is killed, and later on Sledge's platoon when they learn Captain Ack Ack is dead. Hell, Part 7's basically one long, drawn-out BSOD for Sledge as he goes through Peleliu
- Basilone's platoon when he's killed by machine gun fire in Part 8
- After returning home, Sledge breaks down crying while dove hunting with his father, presumably because of the memories it brings back. The Real Life Sledge states he told his father he could no longer tolerate seeing any form of suffering, be it a wounded dove he had to kill during a hunt
- He Who Fights Monsters: Sledge falls into this after fighting the Japanese through Peleliu and Okinawa, but by the end of Part 9, when he runs into a group of New Meat Marines with the same 'Kill Em All' attitude he had at the beginning, he starts to recover.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Lt. Mac from Episode 9. In his introduction in Episode 7, he chides Sledge for his thousand-yard-stare, then when he gets to Okinawa, he stupidly chews out Sledge for "giving away their position". (Sledge had just shot down Japanese soldiers who were running directly at them with bayonets!" Other then that he's shown to be fairly reasonable. But:
Mac is based on two officers who joined Company K for the Peleliu campaign, Lt. Robert "Mac" MacKenzie, the new mortar section commander, and 1st Lt. George "Shadow" Loveday, the Company XO and later CO. Shadow was the one who chewed out Sledge, and had a notorious habit of temper tantrums when he became displeased with his Marines (in one incident in the book, he chewed out a Marine who showed bravery in an attempt to knock out a machine gun!). Mac had a reputation for being utterly juvenile, shooting the teeth of a dead animal (on patrol, no less!) and shooting the penis off of a dead Japanese soldier and pissing in another one's mouth. He also bragged about how brave he would act under fire (before actually coming under fire). A far cry from the "Mac" in Episode 9.
- Historical Villain Upgrade:
- A mild case with Snafu. In real life, there's no evidence he committed any of the "questionable" acts we see on screen. A mild case because he's ultimately more of an anti-hero, has numerous Pet the Dog and Plucky Comic Relief moments and, for all his gruesomeness, is never seen killing prisoners or unarmed civilians.
- Also "Kathy" Peck from Okinawa: he is responsible for Hamm's death. The only similarity to the real-life Kathy, who was actually a machine gunner, is that he has both a wife and a mistress back home.
- Sledge also is given one in Episode 9, where he seems to go off the deep end in Okinawa. While there can be no doubt Okinawa was a profoundly traumatic experience for Sledge (and the Marines and soldiers involved) there is no evidence he became a Blood Knight with a deep desire to kill all Japanese during the campaign
- Honor Before Reason: Lampshaded in Part 4, following an attack:
Runner: 100 [Japanese] against 1,200 [Marines]. They're either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.
Leckie: Or just really fucking hate us.
- Idealized Sex:
- Averted with Leckie and Stella's first sex scene.
- Basilone has the literal kind on his war bond tour, with Virginia Grey.
- Imperial Japan: Natch. it's the Pacific Theater.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted.
- Improvised Weapon: Basilone using his 33-pound crew served machine gun as a melee weapon against a Japanese soldier he runs into unexpectedly in Part 2.
- Infant Immortality: Averted, with special emphasis going to Part 9, particularly when the desperate Japanese soldiers use an Okinawan woman carrying a crying baby as a living bomb. Played straight in the same episode, when Sledge and Snafu find the baby in the hut they shelled earlier.
- The Insomniac: Nighttime bombings by the Japanese took a toll. As Gibson puts it: "They murdered sleep."
- It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Inverted between Leckie and his Australian fling Stella.
Leckie: You're breaking up with me because you think I'm going to get killed?
- It Will Never Catch On: A dinner guest at Leckie's house scoffs at the thought of buying a television.
- Insult Backfire: In the second episode, the Marines manage to capture some propaganda papers from the Japanese. They portray the Marines as pscyhos recruited from prisons and asylums for their savagery and brutality, which causes them to break out in cheers.
- Ironic Echo: A cruel one. In episode nine, Sledge says that they're here to kill Japanese, so what does it matter how they do it or why? This is thrown right back in his face at the end of the episode after he comforts a dying wounded civilian who is then brutally killed by replacement Marines, who unwittingly give him the same line.
- I Surrender, Suckers: After the first exchange on Guadalcanal, a Japanese soldier lays badly wounded and seems to want people to help him. Once two medics come to assist, the soldier detonates the grenade he's concealing, killing him and the two men trying to help him.
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Any frigging time it's quiet is too quiet. This even includes "safe" areas like hospitals and back home, where it's only a matter of time before the Flashback Nightmares start.
- It Gets Easier: Lampshaded all around. However...
- It Never Gets Any Easier: The opposite still holds; Real Life Marines state they never got over their shellshocked experiences in the Pacific Theater. Played straight in-series with Sledge getting a nightmare the first night he returns home
- I Will Fight Some More Forever: The Japanese army. Sadly, this is quite historically accurate; surrender was a nonexistent word in the IJA doctrine and retreat wouldn't get you any nods either, never mind the battlefield situation.
- Kill 'em All: Frighteningly invoked by Sledge in Part 9. These very words come back to haunt him at the end of the episode.
Sledge: We were all sent here to kill Japs, weren't we?! What the hell difference does it make what weapon we use?!
- Manipulative Bastard: Snafu tricks Peck into trading his new poncho for his old, holey one by claiming the new ones are "covered in chemicals". This comes back to haunt them when Peck switches his busted-up poncho for the one covering the mortar rounds, getting them wet and then getting a guy killed when they get more ammo.
- Man on Fire: A number of Japanese soldiers are seen on fire after being attacked with flamethrowers.
- Mercy Kill:
- Leckie gives a Japanese soldier who's going through a major breakdown one, upsetting the Marines who were toying and taking potshots at him.
- The sick Japanese soldiers in Part 4, one of whom is strangled to death by Gibson, who then starts grinning; awkwardly, but still...
- Snafu does this when another Marine's trying to pry the teeth out of a still living Japanese soldier's mouth in Part 7. Although he claims it's not so much this trope as making things easier for the Marine because the teeth are easier to get out if they're dead.
- Sledge, teetering on the edge of committing a war crime (again) after witnessing the Japanese soldiers using civilians as human shields and living bombs, opts not to mercy kill a dying Okinawan woman (who was wounded when he ordered a mortar round into her house) by shooting her in the head like she wants; instead, he cradles her until she dies.
- Macho Masochism: Semi-invoked by Basilone's brother George in Part 5. When pestered by George for any advice on the battlefield, John simply tells his brother not to play this trope straight...for a reason.
- Male Frontal Nudity
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Subverted with Sledge, who is unashamed that he retained his virginity all through the war.
- Mordor: Okinawa, which Sledge explicitly compares to the Western Front of World War One. All the islands get this treatment in one way or another (except Australia).
- Narrator: Tom Hanks in the prologues.
- The Nicknamer: Snafu nicknames Eugene "Sledgehammer". When Leyden speaks up about this, Snafu dubs him the following:
Snafu: "Don't worry; we have a nickname for you, too, Bill Leyden: we call you "Ball-Peen Hammer". Like a little hammer... for a little man."
Leyden: "Alright, Snafu..."Shit 'n Ass"..."Fuck Up"..."
Snafu: "Little jokes from the little man."
- New Meat:
- In Part 9, two new privates join the platoon's mortar squad after Jay's mysteriously transferred out to a different company. Sledge and Snafu are initially hostile towards them, mainly due to their inexperience when it comes to fighting the enemy and dealing with the elements
- Though Hamm's very competent, after witnessing the horrors of what happened with the civilians he is emotionally distraught about it, yet capable to handle himself. In fact, Snafu tries to befriend him but when draftee Peck cracks while Snafu and Sledge are arguing and starts firing at the Japanese, Hamm is killed after dragging Peck to safety. Snafu takes it really hard emotionally and Sledge tells the MPs to get the now broken Peck out of his sight in so many words.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Surprisingly, the series is not particularly Anvilicious in this regard. Most of the really bad stuff that goes down happens by accident. However, chalk one up for the Japanese by using booby-trapped civilians and one up for the Americans for shooting a defenseless kid who may have been a soldier but was certainly unarmed.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: New York native Joseph Mazzello puts on a solid Alabama drawl for Sledge most of the time, but in a few scenes where he's screaming at the top of his lungs, it slips away. The intensity of his performance more than compensates, though.
- The Oner: Used in effect by following Sledge through the Peleliu beach landing in Part 5
- Only Known by Their Nickname:
- Merriell "Snafu" Shelton. His real name is only said twice in the series: once by Sledge, who was fighting with him at the time, and once by Snafu himself, while trying to pick up a girl.
- Leckie's friends Chuckler, Hoosier and Runner qualify as well, since they almost never get their real names used.
- Ack-Ack, Hillbilly, Gunny. In fact, it would be easier to list the characters who actually go by their first and/or last names.
- Reckless Gun Usage: A second lieutenant during firing practice points his pistol other than the direction of downrange. Gunny immediately takes the pistol away from the lieutenant and berates him for not knowing basic gun safety. When said lieutenant looks at Ack-Ack, he merely responds with "He's right".
- Parental Substitute; Stella's family for Leckie, who has little bond with his real parents. Stella even breaks up with Leckie because she's worried how her mother would take it if Leckie was killed in combat.
- Rare Guns: Basilone's seen with a Reising submachine gun in Part 2. The gun is rarely seen in most WW2 fiction, usually for fairly good reason as the marines in the pacific theater were the only operators of the gun, and it was rapidly discarded from service after Guadalcanal in favor of the M1 Carbine owing to its near-uselessness in frontline conditions when exposed to moisture, sand, mud, and hard knocks,which is probably why we don't see any more for the rest of the series.
- Senseless Sacrifice: The narrator and the Real Life Marines state after General MacArthur decided not to use Peleliu as a forward base to retake the Philippines, the Marines feel their fight, where they suffered from thirst and took horrendous casualties, was cruelly wasted
- Shellshocked Veteran: Sledge. He's lucky his father knew what to expect and was extremely sympathetic about it. Hell, every Marine who saw combat in this series counts as one. In the beginning of Part 10 when they're interviewing the Marines' families, their wives and children state they dealt with what happened to them in the Pacific for their entire life. One daughter even admits to having vivid memories of waking up to her father's screams in the middle of the night when she was a kid.
- Shoot the Dog:
- Not the actual dog on Peleliu, but one shellshocked Marine has a nightmare/freakout that could've alerted the Japanese to their positions, and is accidentally killed by his comrades (they only wanted to knock him out). The rest of the platoon's mortified at their actions, but Sledge states it was "better him than all of us."