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Series / The Pacific

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"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 "Manila 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:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Chesty Puller looks pretty amused by the fact that John Basilone nearly threw up on his Medal of Honor citation.
  • Adapted Out: Sledge's 6 months of Occupation duty in China are left out.
  • Anachronism Stew: When Leckie returns from the war and interviews for a writing job at the local newspaper, he requests covering a high school football game between Don Bosco Preparatory High and Bergen Catholic High School. While Don Bosco existed in 1945, the school didn't field a football team until 1948. Meanwhile, Bergen Catholic didn't open until 1955.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • The first victim is a corpsman (Navy medic attached to the Marines) 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
    • Sledge and Leckie can't die, as the series was based on both of the books that they wrote and published after the war.
    • Chesty Puller can't die. We know from actual history that he lives to fight in the Korean War.
    • Most people know that John Basilone dies at Iwo Jima.
  • Artistic License – History: Some things are changed from historical accounts for dramatic effect.
    • A map in Episode 1 shows Iceland as being under German control. In reality it had been occupied by the British in May of 1940 to prevent just that from happening, and at the time the episode is set had in fact been transferred to American administration.
    • Basilone's actions shown on Guadalcanal are a composite of the real John Basilone and those of Sergeant Mitchell Paige, another machine gunner who also earned the Medal of Honor during the defense of Bloody Ridge. Basilone's actions are actually toned down because of Reality Is Unrealistic as well; he held his position, alone, for three days.
    • 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 numerous 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.
    • Gunnery Sergeant Elmo Haney never suffered a Heroic BSoD as shown in the series. He was still psychologically fit for combat (even if his Marines thought he was batshit insane), but was pushing fifty. He reached a point on Peleliu where, at his age, his body simply could not keep up with the brutal heat and physical strain. Haney voluntarily withdrew himself from combat, recognizing that he was just too old to continue fighting.
    • Basilone's death on Iwo Jima may or may not be a case of this. There are two accounts of exactly how he died. Most agree that he and several other Marines were killed by an artillery round that struck between them. A handful of accounts claim that Basilone was killed by machine gun fire. The producers chose to film the latter version of events.
  • America Won World War II:
    • 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 police officer 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!
      • Although some Australian, New Zealand, and British airmen flew from Henderson Field, and one Australian cruiser was lost in Ironbottom Sound, the majority of naval and air forces in the Guadalcanal campaign were American, and US Marines and Soldiers carried the entire ground effort. Much of Australia's relatively small (but highly professional) army was committed to a grueling campaign in New Guinea's Owen Stanley Mountains. Guadalcanal and the earlier Battle of the Coral Sea (fought entirely by the US Navy) were Japanese attempts to strategically outflank the Australians and cut off their supply lines.
  • 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.
    • Leckie toasts with "Sláinte", the Irish word for "health".
  • Bittersweet Ending: Naturally, this being war. The Allies win World War II, but John is killed at Iwo Jima, leaving Lena a widow. Leckie and Eugene return home, start families, and lead relatively successful and peaceful lives, but the implication is that both of them are affected by their wartime experiences for the rest of their lives.
  • 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.
    • In With The Old Breed, which serves as source material for the series, Eugene Sledge describes how the Japanese would brutally torture captured Marines to death. In contrast, Marines would often take gold teeth and other grisly trophies from Japanese dead, but only once did he ever see a Marine abuse a live Japanese soldier. This incident is shown in the series, albeit with minimal context. The other Marines were disgusted by the man's cruelty, and one of them shot that Japanese soldier in the head rather than allow it to continue.
  • Black Comedy: When Jay narrowly escapes being murdered by a Japanese soldier (as Jay was running away with his pants around his knees), several Marines have a laugh at his expense immediately after. Snafu even suggest Jay was in a sack race, and pantomimes accordingly.
    • Crowning this moment is when Jay, with pathetic chagrin and shame, admits to everyone that he just had an accident. The Marines not already laughing lose it (except Ack-Ack).
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. The first (and only) African-American Marine the viewer sees is lying dead and eviscerated from enemy gunfire on Peleliu's White Beach in Episode 5, but he's certainly not the first Marine to die.
  • 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:
    Eugene "Sledgehammer" Sledge: The Marine Corps taught me how to kill japs. I was pretty good at it, too.
  • 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: Basilone doesn't enjoy his time promoting War Bonds, and would rather be back fighting alongside his comrades. It is pointed out to him that war is expensive, and that by helping to raise the money to pay for all of their equipment, he is directly helping the Marines.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    "No shit!"
  • 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 and MCRD San Diego 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 awarded 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."
  • Comfort the Dying: One of the more emotional moments towards the end of the series has Eugene Sledge stumble onto a dying Okinawan woman in a cabin. He can't do anything more than comfort her, and despite the Language Barrier he stays with her until she dies.
  • 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 there were little emotions involved in both, and he never met their families nor was broken up with over fear of death.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The longer the Marines serve on the frontlines knee-deep in mud and rotting bodies, the more exhausted and apathetic they are about the violence and death surrounding them.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Leckie's first battle with the Japanese on Guadalcanal; the Japanese troops try to rush their strongpoint in Alligator Creek and suffer over 700 dead, to only 44 Marine casualties. When the sun rises after the battle the beaches and sandbars are covered in corpses.
    • The next major battle near Henderson Field is even worse, there are so many dead Japanese that Sgt. Basilone has to run out and push the pile down so his machine guns have a clear line of fire.
  • 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 from Above: Peleliu features both the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair in the fighter-bomber roles, strafing and bombing all targets of opportunity.
  • Death of a Child: Special emphasis for to Part 9, particularly when the desperate Japanese soldiers use an Okinawan woman carrying a crying baby as a living bomb.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • "Frenchie", a French-Canadian Marine in Cape Gloucester. Bonus horror for being stark naked when he shot himself in the head. At least he was clean when he died...
      • This was one of the many oft-criticized bits of Artistic License, with Frenchy being a Composite Character note .
    • Disturbed Marine Ronnie Gibson, who is brought off Pavuvu, wishes Leckie (who wants to return to his men) good luck as best he can:
      "I hope for you it's quick — a sniper shot to the head — so you don't have to worry about ending up like me."
  • 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 of 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.
  • Exact Words: When Snafu tells Kathy that the new rain ponchos are treated with all sorts of chemicals, his tone of voice suggests that the ponchos are dangerous (so that Kathy would trade the new poncho for Snafu's old and full of holes one). However, the new ponchos are indeed treated with all sorts of chemicals, in order to make them considerably more water resistant than the old ones.
  • A Father to His Men:
    • Captain Andrew "Ack-Ack" Haldane 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 company 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.
      • Haney is less "father" and more "crazy uncle."
    • Chesty Puller. Yet another reason why he's still a legend in the Marine Corps.
  • Flashback Nightmare: One of these happens during battle, see Shoot the Dog
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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 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.
    • A few others: Allies won without actually launching assault on the Japanese mainland; both Leckie and Sledge survived and wrote books about their experiences in the Pacific Theater; Chesty Puller also survived the war and stayed in Marine Corps (some other Marine officers resigned after the war because of disillusionment after one of the battles).
  • 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).
  • Gallows Humor: The soldiers have a very grim sense of humor as a result of becoming battle-hardened. Often in the show something absolutely awful will happen (such as Jay's Potty Failure when a Japanese soldier attacks him as he tries to take a dump) and the soldiers will laugh and joke about it, simply because War Is Hell and they're used to it by now.
  • Get It Over With: The last survivor of the ill-fated Japanese assault in episode 1. This marks the definitive end of Leckie's New Meat status.
  • Hell on Earth: Peleliu. The landing is a bloodbath, the assault on the airfield is a meat grinder, and the hills are deathtraps. Not an inch of that island was an easy gain. Sad when you consider the Navy ultimately didn't even use the island at all, so hundreds of men were killed for basically nothing.
    • Iwo Jima definitely qualifies, even though we only see a few minutes of it.
  • 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 in 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!), 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. The real Peck according to Sledge's memoirs is in fact much more competent than in the show, having helped gun down a banzai charge with his aforementioned machine gun.
    • 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.
    • Truth in Television with the Japanese Military. Their no surrender and fight to the last man code of honor cost them a lot of men and supplies when simply falling back and regrouping and reinforcing would’ve been far more strategically sensible.
    • They fortunately came to their senses after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Which is fortunate since the USA was going to need several more months to build another bomb.
  • 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 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.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Incidentally, the same episode with Death of a Child has Sledge and Snafu finding 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 psychos 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 corpsmen come to assist, the soldier detonates the grenade he's concealing, killing him and the two men trying to help him. Unfortunately Truth in Television; it happened so much that Japanese wounded were soon shot on sight. There's a reason why so few became POWs.
  • 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.
    Sledge: Why don't they just surrender?
    Burgin: Because they're Japs.
  • Jungle Warfare: The first half of the series falls under this, as the Marines are shown struggling not only against the Japanese, but also against disease, the elements, and the vast and remote jungles of Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester.
    • Initially, Peleliu also falls under this, particularly during Part 5, which is set in and around the beaches and vegetation surrounding the airfield. Once Episode 6 comes around however, this becomes subverted, as a lot of the vegetation in the mountains of the island has been burned down in repeated air and artillery strikes.
    • Completely averted with both Iwo Jima and Okinawa, with the former being a volcanic island with barely any vegetation in sight and the latter like Peleliu ends up being blasted so hard to the point that it resembles a World War I battlefield, especially when the rain comes pouring in.
  • 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
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: By part 4, the Marines switch from their old WWI-era weapons such as the M1903 Springfield and M1917 Browning to newer ones such as the M1 Carbine, M1 Garand, and M1919 Browning. In addition, they also get new uniforms with camouflage on them. Which actually happened, though some sharpshooters actually liked the old M1903s.
  • Miles Gloriosus: The commanding officer of Leckie's unit on Guadalcanal gives a boisterous Rousing Speech about finally turning the tide against the Japanese before the landings on Guadalcanal. He then completely breaks down the moment they come under heavy fire at Alligator Creek and is promptly replaced.
  • 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).
  • The Millstone: "Kathy" Peck, as depicted in the series, is a moody draftee whose actions get several of his comrades killed on Okinawa. When he freaks out and gets Hamm killed, Sledge has him hauled off the lines in disgrace.
  • Moment Killer: When Sledge's company is coming off the line from Peleliu, they pass a USO station where nurses are handing out lemonade. Sledge is mesmerized by a young nurse's beauty... then a Marine Lieutenant (in a clean, crisp uniform) tells him to get moving. Sledge glares at him, and the Lieutenant flinches from the look in his eye.
  • 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.
  • No Place for a Warrior: When Eugene Sledge returns from the war, he has a lot of trouble readjusting to civilian life. Not only is he a Shell-Shocked Veteran just like his dad feared he would become before he signed up, he also finds normal living to be trivial. When an unemployment officer asks him what his marketable skills are, he can't think of anything other than "killing Japs".
  • 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
  • One-Man Army: John Basilone, using a Browning M1917, manages to wipe out an entire company of advancing Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Bloody Ridge.
  • 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: When "cease fire" is called on the pistol range at Pavuvu, a second lieutenant who's not paying attention flags the other Marines on the firing line with his .45. The Gunny immediately snarls "Stupid son of a bitch!" then throws a handful of loose rounds at him, takes the pistol away from the lieutenant, ejects a round from the chamber, and berates him (including a very explicit Ass Shove threat) for not knowing basic gun safety. When said lieutenant looks at Ack-Ack, the Captain merely responds with "Gunny'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.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted. When one of the Marines arrives home in Mississippi at a train station, there are segregated signs visible due to the Jim Crow laws the state had in the 1940s.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: To Band of Brothers, covering the events in the Pacific theater as opposed to Western Europe.
  • Semper Fi: The series primarily focuses on the exploits of the 1st Marine division, as well as the 5th Marine division during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The fact that "Chesty" Puller gets focus in the first few episodes should cement this.
  • 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.
    • Burgin:If our intel had actually been correct, we would've never hit that island.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Sledge. He's lucky his dad knew what to expect and was extremely sympathetic about it. Hell, every Marine who saw combat in this series counts as one. At 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."
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: In the end, after suffering horrific casualties and losing Captain Ack-Ack, the Marines find out that taking Peleliu was completely pointless. General MacArthur invaded and reconquered the Philippines ahead of schedule, negating the need for Peleliu as a forward operating base. The island was never used for a major operation during the entire war.
  • Shout-Out: During John and Lena's wedding, Lena complains that she feels 'like a Paratrooper' in her long silk dress. Lt. Harry Welsh actually carried his white silk reserve parachute through Normandy for over a month and then sent home to his fiancée Kitty so she could use it to make a wedding dress, as mentioned in Band of Brothers.
  • Shown Their Work: Apart from taking liberties for artistic purposes, played straight.
    • The Marines use appropriate weapons for different times. The Springfield and M1917 on Guadalcanal are replaced by the M1 and M1919 in later episodes.
    • The setting, which made Australia look like the hellish Pacific battlegrounds.
    • And finally, capturing just how hellish the PTO was.
  • Small Reference Pools: Whereas Band Of Brothers left the context of battles like Carentan and Bastogne to a few lines of in-universe dialogue, The Pacific began its episodes with a mini-history lesson explaining both the location and the greater tactical importance of the campaigns in question. It stands that (until the swan song battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa), the 1st Marines' major fights aren't as universally well-known as the 101st Airborne's major fights.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Sledge and Sidney, both Mobile, Alabama natives.
  • Southern Gentleman: Sledge reeks of this. Well-spoken, well-dressed, polite and even smokes the pipe. Until Okinawa at least. Sid as well.
  • The Squad: There are two that are the main focus of the series:
    • H Company - Leckie, Chuckler, Runner, and Hoosier
    • K Company - Sledge, Snafu, Jay, Burgin, and Leyden
  • Stand Your Ground: Most of the Guadalcanal campaign but particularly the night battle during which Basilone earns his Medal of Honor.
  • Talkative Loon: "Captain Midnight", a patient in Part 4, who flies an imaginary plane while pacing around at night in the ward.
  • Tank Goodness: Since Japanese tanks are outdated in design, they are woefully outclassed against American armor, most prominently the Sherman tank. Iwo Jima's a different story, all together: AT guns set up on Mount Surabachi destroyed most of the tanks that hit the shore, much to Basilone's dismay.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: Averted, though in this case the reasonably accurate Japanese tanks had to be created as replicas from scratch due to no original examples in running condition.
  • Tanks for Nothing. Truth in Television for both sides. The Japanese tanks were inferior in just about every way, but the Japanese AT defenses were so strong and fortified that Sherman's going up against them without infantry support is the Pacific equivalent of facing a Tiger Tank. They still do good for our protagonists though.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted. One Marine starts having a panic attack and screams so loud it could have revealed their position. He's hit on the head with a shovel, and dies, either then and there or shortly afterwards.
  • Tragic Mistake: It's Basilone's decision to extend his enlistment that dooms him. He could have lived a happy life with his new bride Lena, selling war-bonds until the war concluded, and as a war hero, nobody could have asked any more of him than he had already done. But he just can't leave his guys, whom he personally trained, to go fight the enemy alone, and so he opts to join them. He ends up KIA in the absolute nightmare that is Iwo Jima.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: Given that this is a series about the Pacific Theater, all of the battles covered in the series count.
  • True Companions: This series basically defines the trope.
  • The Unfavorite: Leckie states outright in Part 3 that he's the least favorite child and his parents never really wanted him. Also, he had an older brother who died at a young age and ever since then, his parents had a hard time showing affection. When he leaves for the army, his father doesn't seem to know how to show emotion about it, and when he finally returns home, it's treated as an inconvenience by his parents, as they've been using his room for storage. Subverted in that Leckie isn't striving for his parent's approval.
  • War Hero: John Basilone is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in the Battle of Guadalcanal. He becomes something of a Propaganda Hero as well, given his importance in selling U.S. war bonds. Much of his subsequent character arc is him trying to deal with the perception that people have developed of him. He ultimately returns to the front, and is killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
  • War Is Hell: The entirety of The Pacific is basically this. Made brutally clear by Eugene Sledge's father, who tries one last attempt to persuade his son from enlisting:
    "The worst thing about treating those combat boys from The Great War wasn't that they had their flesh torn; it was that they had their souls torn out. I don't want to look into your eyes someday...and see no spark, no love, life. That would break my heart."
  • War Was Beginning: Invoked in a "where were you when..." way.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Invoked by a Marine to Sledge and Snafu as they're standing with drawn weapons over a crying baby in a house they bombed, killing or mortally wounding its family, Sledge to a seemingly New Meat who kills a young, helpless Japanese soldier he'd just decided to spare seconds earlier:
    Sledge: He's just a kid!
  • What You Are in the Dark: "You guys are heroes back home" Also the darker side of this trope with the number of Marines who perform brutal atrocities during the campaign.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end of Part 10, almost every character in the series gets one. Their post-war lives are explained, along with fading photos of the actors to wartime photographs of the Marines they played. Also sad because you find out the majority of the characters have already died of old age, since the show debuted in 2010, nearly seventy years after Pearl Harbor.
  • While You Were in Diapers: Basilone tries to make his trainees understand how tough an enemy the Japanese are. "The Jap I know—the Japanese soldier—he has been at war SINCE YOU WERE IN DIAPERS!"
  • Why Am I Ticking?: The poor, poor Okinawan mother and child.
  • Worthy Opponent: Basilone gives a fiery speech to his recruits about why they should never underestimate the Japanese Army.
  • Zerg Rush: A common tactic used by Japanese infantry each time the Marines encounter them. On Guadalcanal, this results in them suffering horrendous casualties, thanks to assaulting heavily fortified positions and them lacking sufficient artillery support to cover themselves.


Video Example(s):


Killing Japs

Having repelled a desperate Japanese bayonet charge, Eugene Sledge, by then increasingly hardened by the brutalities of the battle, mercilessly dispatches an already fatally wounded Japanese soldier.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / WarCrimeSubvertsHeroism

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