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The Pacific, Jeremy Podeswa (2010)

You could write a dissertation–someone probably has–on how successive generations of WWII narratives–movies in particular–have shaped the way we remember these events. This vivid and dynamic miniseries succeeds as a story because it has, obviously, the unity of opposites in spades, and also some quite idiosyncratic and well-developed characters to care about. But it also intends to revise or enlarge some of our assumptions about the war in the Pacific, and it succeeds at that too. First, it introduces, among the more familiar locations like Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal, some less familiar but nonetheless devastating and crucial battles, like those at Peleliu and Cape Gloucester on New Britain. Second, the series contrasts–gently, gently, ever so gently–the nonstop hellishness of fighting in the Pacific, which could sort of be like D-Day every day, with the different type (i.e., less hellish) of fighting in Europe. Third, and most notable, the series deeply engages with the fact of the psychological trauma soldiers experienced during and after the war. “Shell shock” here isn’t ignored, mocked, covered up, or glossed over: It’s pretty much front and center the whole way through, which seems as much to reflect our growing contemporary awareness of the ubiquity of war’s invisible wounds as it does the historical reality of the phenomenon.

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