Today we’re kicking off a three-part series on the HBO miniseries The Pacific by looking at the first four episodes.
Episodes we’re covering today:
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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.
Dan LeFebvre 02:18
The first episode, we see what it’s like for the young men volunteering for service in the US military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was one in particular that stood out to me in that episode. It’s when Lieutenant Colonel Poehler addresses the marine saying, those of you lucky enough to go home for Christmas, hold your loved ones, dear, and join them in prayers for peace on earth and goodwill towards men, then report back here ready to sail across God’s vast ocean where we will meet our enemy and kill them all. The contrast of prayer for peace, and then going to war a striking to me and it makes for an interesting topic. When the US was entering the war right around Christmas. What was the American mentality like after the attack on Pearl Harbor, were they eager to rush into war like we see in the show.
Marty Morgan 03:04
The American nation was eager for war, but it took Pearl Harbor to get the United States there. The United States had been largely content with staying out of both the war in Europe and the war in Asia, both of which had been going on at this point for years. And the United States had been contented to remain isolated from it. Of course, the word that almost everyone uses, and I think overuses is isolationist and the United States was to some degree, an isolationist nation that wanted nothing to do with it with either war, either the war in the Pacific or the war in Europe. But there were then also pragmatists in the United States that understood that American intervention in either war or potentially even both was inevitable. The American people though we’re, we’re unconvinced.
Marty Morgan 03:59
I’m trying to figure out very diplomatic ways of putting it the American people were, first of all, and an economically not entirely stable time period. The Great Depression still existed, it wasn’t quite, it wasn’t bad, like it was back in 1932. But it was still pretty bad. And the United States did not feel that it would be the right time for another basically biblical release of money to go into another world war. And so most american people sort of a rank and file overall consensus was we don’t have any business being involved in those wars. Up to December 6 1941, those wars had come alarmingly close. But they had not crossed the line. They’re not crossed the line to where American lives were lost. And indeed, the policy of the Roosevelt administration up until the attack on Pearl Harbor was that the United States would do everything and I’m using air quotes Short of war, literally the declared policy of the administration was that the United States would do everything to support its allies. And this included nationalist China, short of entering open warfare, meaning that we would continue to supply them with war material in addition to humanitarian aid, and that we would continue to do that. But we would not cross the line into warfare. Of course, those that are inclined toward economic interpretations of the Second World War, they tend to indicate that the United States and involved itself in embargoes that the United States had in the years prior to the war, I should say, in the decades prior to the war, the United States had been behaved almost as a colonial power, I shouldn’t even say almost the United States functioned as a colonial power, although late to the colonial game, and that had led American interests from the west coast, all the way to Manila. And the result was that the United States was after 1898, on a bit of a collision course with the Empire of Japan. In fact, there’s even a moment in 1898, at about the time of the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands right before annexation, that the Japanese had sent a naval Squadron alarmingly close to the Hawaiian Islands. And this is what propelled the United States Congress to vote in favor of an annexation of those islands out of fear that the Japanese would annex them themselves. And the United States was seeking to maintain this balance of power, with its interests in the Pacific that had stretched all the way back to Seward falling in 1867. And although we could stretch all the way back into the mid 19th century, it’s really at 98. That is sort of this important breaking point when the United States and its interests begin to project across the Pacific Ocean. At a time when the Japanese were becoming more and more bold in the way that they were asserting their their powers in the Pacific as well as the era of the First World War made the Japanese and oceanic Empire because one element of the Versailles Treaty was that Japan as one of the allied nations that fought the First World War, although they weren’t really involved in fighting in World War One, they were nevertheless an allied nation that received some of the land that was divided up in the aftermath of Versailles, that included former German holdings in places like the Solomon Islands,
Marty Morgan 07:27
in the Palau Island group, and even in what is now designated the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. So the United States and the Empire of Japan were on a bit of a collision course, most american people were not entirely tuned into that Collision Course. And most American people, therefore, imagine that the United States could just sort of cruise continue on cruise control during the late 1930s. And that if war was going to come, it was going to have to become, it’s going to have to come as a result of the bellicosity of the Empire of Japan. And then the Empire of Japan, provided that the Empire of Japan in coming up with a centrifugal offensive to secure resources in what the Japanese designated the resource zone, which is basically Indonesia, what is today Indonesia, that Dutch East Indies, the Japanese designated this resources zone that it would need in order to continue to fuel military operations against the Chinese. The Japanese planned an offensive operation that then also included a preemptive strike against American interests. And this preemptive strike was a multifaceted preemptive strike. And one little aspect of that preemptive strike was an attack on American installations on the island of Oahu, in the territory of Hawaii. This is what snaps us out of isolationism, and forces us to confront something that we had largely been ignoring. And that was the collision course, the collision course that we have been on with the Empire of Japan for over four decades at that point, and the US in the aftermath of the attack on December 7, which everyone calls Pearl Harbor. But I like to throw in the pedantic qualification of saying it was an attack on every American military installation on the island of Oahu in the territory of white, because that’s what it was. Pearl Harbor was only a small part of the bigger picture. And after that attack the American nation wanted war. That’s how you have the peculiar Christmas message that you hear there that’s both invoking the name of God and peace to to his children while then pivoting quickly to go find the enemy and kill him.
Dan LeFebvre 09:50
So there was that almost switch getting flipped at that point with Pearl Harbor, because that was the impression that I got in this series was all All of a sudden, these we see these guys going off to enlist, and they’re volunteering and they’re wanting to join this fight like this is the big thing.
Marty Morgan 10:08
That’s definitely what happened. In fact, recruiting stations all over the country were overwhelmed. If you’ve ever been to Times Square in New York City, you know, there’s a military recruiting station right there in the middle of Times Square. And it had so many people lined up, when it opened on Monday, December 8 1941, that they had to count out the total number of the crowd, they could handle that day, until everybody else go home, we can’t handle you come back tomorrow or the next day. So many people were ready to volunteer, there was an element of national prestige that had been insulted. I’d like to remind myself of how powerful it is to know that Americans were killed during peacetime. This obviously invites comparisons to September 11 2001. When people get killed by a foreign power, it pisses people off. It has an instant effect of escalating the emotion of the situation where you might have the pragmatists that are there that can point to Well, we’ve been on a collision course for years with the Japanese pragmatists, who could point to the fact that as of 1921, we were engaged in a pretty intense war of espionage with the Empire of Japan, where they were as guilty of spying on us as we were of spying on them. And that continued then for two decades. And so there were voices that were like this has been coming for a long time, everybody, there’s no surprise here. But to most Americans, it was surprising because not every American was someone who paid attention to every developing story in the global politics. It’s a lot like today, it’s been fascinating to watch during the last two weeks the way that suddenly everyone’s in Afghanistan expert. With the fall of Kabul, suddenly everyone’s paying attention to the Afghanistan issue. And I think it’s safe to say that a very large number of the people who are now paying click keen attention, were people that were a little bit checked out prior to the Taliban taking over the entire country swiftly by that same token, and a comparison that I realized is not entirely 100% dependable, but I think still a little bit useful. The American nation was packed full mostly of people who had tuned out a little bit to geopolitics. And they had tuned out because domestic politics were so dynamic, and they had so much more of an immediate impact on their lives. When you think about people who were languishing in the Great Depression, the American military occupying pal, Myra ate or fortifying midway, a toll or the United States reaching a treaty agreement not to fortify Guam and reaching that treaty agreement with the Japanese. It’s easy to understand how these developments may have slipped past people, because they had more pressing matters that had more of a direct bearing on their lives that were at work. And so people, people checked out on the story a little bit. Then the story kicked in the front door and barged in on them right before Christmas during the first week of December 1941.
Dan LeFebvre 13:21
There’s a good analogy. I think something you were saying that you know about the different islands, you know, with Guam and midway and stuff. In Episode Number one, we see the US Marines landing on Guadalcanal. And this is on August 7 1942, according to the show, and even there, they’re talking about like where like I’ve never heard of this place. You know, like they don’t they don’t know where this is somewhere out there. The situation that we see in the series though, I thought it was interesting because it’s very similar to like, you know, Saving Private Ryan abandoned brothers like they tried to build it up there. They’re in these landing craft ease here. The bombs whistling overhead and airplanes are flying over and you hear gunfire in the distance the war is approaching. And then it’s time to go. And nothing. All they see are just American soldiers on beach like What took you so long? Is that how the landing on Guadalcanal actually happened?
Marty Morgan 14:12
It is indeed, it was not an entirely unopposed landing, but it was mostly an unopposed landing, a few shots were fired that day. However, for the most part, there was effectively no combat. So the Americans were able to seize the landing area effectively while facing very little opposition from the enemy. And what you will frequently hear to take it a little bit of a step further, as you’ll hear something that happens regularly and descriptions of battles in the Pacific. And you’ll what you’ll hear is that there was an engineering battalion or there there was a construction battalion on the island and they that’s indeed what was there and they were engaged in the construction of the airfield that would ultimately be the center of this ongoing air, sea and land campaign that stretches all the way into 1943. And I wanted to mention it because I wanted to point out one important detail and that is that for general labor battalions and construction battalions, the Japanese made extensive use of laborers who came not from Japan but from Korea. Korea had been annexed into the greater empire in 1910. And so the Korean people were subjects of the Emperor. And the Korean people were used in combat. However, a general suspicion circulated around them and the Japanese military, took them and use them, but didn’t use them as combatants necessarily. And I’m bringing it up because it will come up again and again and again. You will encounter Pacific islands where there are prisoner of war halls. The one I’m thinking of immediately that relates to this story story in an important way, although not directly, is that when the secondary division conducts the operation galvanic landings in November of 1943, in the form of British Gilbert islands, place that you will hear veterans pronounce it as Tarawa. I tend to say terawatts. But the terrible landings will ultimately result in prisoners of war being captured. And I am quick to point out that out of the prisoners of war that are captured very, very few of them are actually Japanese. The majority of them are these Korean laborers. And that is what was at work on Guadalcanal while the airfield was being constructed there. So that one American fighting forces conduct this surprise amphibious landing operation on August 7, this Japanese battalion that is not there to fight it is a non Combat Arms Battalion, it’s a construction Battalion, they turn and they flee into the jungle because they’re really just, they’re not prepared to fight an American marine infantry battalion or multiple American marine infantry battalions. And since they’re not prepared for it, rather than just being chewed up and being captured, they flee into the jungle. This is what produces the circumstances of non opposition on the beachhead on the first day. And so what’s depicted in the series is that as elements of our, our protagonist units, we have two protagonist units that are being introduced to us at this stage in there. It’s it’s the second day of the first Marine Regiment, and then the first battalion of the seventh Marine Regiment with this cast of characters that we’re going to get to know as the series begins to develop, as the units land there, they’re coming ashore, under no opposition. And what’s depicted is a group of men who land who have not been told the enemy’s not opposing us on the beach. And they hit the beach and there are other Marines already on the beach when they get there. So the big surprise that they get is they’re not greeted by bullets from Japanese machine guns or Japanese mortar fire, and instead they’re greeted by other Marines who are already on the beach and there’s not a shot being fired. So it’s
Dan LeFebvre 18:00
interesting the way they portrayed it in the show, because they’re trying to almost, I saw the correlations to the other other shows like Ben brothers and Saving Private Ryan, where you’re expecting another landing during World War Two, and they kind of leave that up.
Marty Morgan 18:14
I think that’s exactly what they were going for in the series. They were going for the the oddity I almost want to say weirdness, the weirdness of everyone’s geared up for this opposed amphibious landing, and instead, it’s an unopposed amphibious landing. It’s being used as a vehicle. And I think it’s being used effectively as a vehicle of building suspense. Because if anything, the Guadalcanal campaign, it’s almost as if a screenplay writer wrote the thing. Because it’s a suspense builder. And it’s over and over again, it’s it’s punctuated by intense battles, there are moments that were tension is relieved between these intense battles. The the opening moment, is anticlimactic. And it’s not like that was a big mystery. It was well known. And it was depicted in other works. I’m quite fond of a film that came out before this film that’s called the Thin Red Line. Maybe you’re familiar with it, and the Terrence Malick version that came out in 1990s. And then there was an earlier than red line where it’s depicted as it’s depicted as well. And there are moments in the Pacific version that look just like the Terrence Malick version of Thin Red Line where they’re approaching the beach and you don’t know what’s about to happen. You think that it’s about to be intense combat, and then nothing. So we’ve we’ve known that that was sort of a feature of the Guadalcanal campaign. But still, it’s an extremely effective way of building suspense. And suspense gets paid off very quickly. Because there’s one thing that the Guadalcanal campaign does, and that is that it gives you plenty of drama, and this foreshadows that drama very effective in the
Dan LeFebvre 19:59
series. The core of the Battle of Guadalcanal takes place in episode number two. According to show, it’s October of 1942, with the seventh Marines, and once they’re fighting the battle, it seems to be brutal, but it also has an almost immediate impact on the mental state of the men. There’s one scene where Bob Leckie one of the main characters is writing a letter to Vera back home and he writes that we’ve been swallowed by the jungle and 5000 Japanese are waiting to kill us. So the impression that I got was there was this this roller coaster like they land on Guadalcanal with almost no resistance seem to be in good spirits. And then just a couple months later, so their morale is effectively shattered as the fighting intensified. Is that a pretty fair assessment of what happened?
Marty Morgan 20:44
Definitely, that’s a definitely accurate description of what happens because one thing I’d love to point out is that the battle begins with a whimper with the unopposed landing, we then get the tinaroo River battle, which is fought on August 21. It’s fought just a couple of weeks after the landings. And in that battle, the Marines prevail over this, this regiment of Japanese army, the cheeky Regiment, they prevail over them. And so just a couple of weeks after the landing, they absolutely slaughter this regiment of Japanese infantry, and their spirits and their morale has improved because they they’ve come there for what they’ve come there to kill this this person, enemy of the United States of America, that’s why they’re there. And in the Tennessee River battle, which was fought at the mouth of alligator Creek, because of some confusion over the rivers, they prevail over the enemy. And at first, they’re like, hey, and it’s truly the first big moment where a force of Americans prevails over the Japanese, from Pearl Harbor up until this point, it’s a timeline, a narrative that has been dominated by embarrassing defeats. There are a few bright spots in there. But for the most part, you have embarrassing defeats like what happens at Bataan in April 42. What happens at corredor in May 42. We had outposts that felt like one fell at the outset of the of the war, we had the embarrassed the embarrassment of Pearl Harbor, at the outset of the war. And although our our spirits come up a little bit after the Battle of Midway, and that’s something that’s, I think, quite intangible to marine infantry men who want to serve a purpose, many of whom joined immediately after Pearl Harbor, because they wanted more with this enemy. And although midway provided a turning point, a decisive moment in the Second World War, they didn’t have it didn’t deliver them the tangible defeat of the enemy that they wanted. The 10 Red River battle in August gives them that and things look bright. But in the aftermath of the tener river battle, the Japanese begin dumping more and more troops onto the island. And that’s what leads us to this timeline. Whereby there’s, there are an initial series of battles in August. That’s followed by a major battle at essence Ridge in mid September. And that leads us to the October the climactic October battle. And during that time period, nothing was a foregone conclusion. I can’t emphasize that point enough. I’ve struggled to figure out the point at which American troops could look at Guadalcanal and go, Okay, we’ve got it. It’s ours. It’s all downhill from here. And that point comes quite late. And I don’t think that points in 1942. I think that points in 1943. And battle doesn’t, doesn’t extend past the first week of February 43. And during that time period, the battle could have gone anyway, either way, the fortunes of war could have easily swung to favor, Imperial Japan. And it just worked out that the fortunes of war were in our favor. Now that’s not to discount or to trivialize expertise and combat and skill on the battlefield. Because the units that fought on Guadalcanal, they certainly had that they had expertise in combat. They were they were excellent warriors. And they were fighting under very difficult conditions. But at the same time, their expertise and their ability to prevail in combat was dependent on things and one of the things that it was dependent on was being able to resupply the fighting force. And there were moments during the timeline of the Guadalcanal campaign where it looked like we might not be able to resupply them, if that had failed. If the Japanese had, in just a few examples managed to prevail and severed the logistical supply train that was supporting the first Marine Division and then ultimately the Army units that are fighting a model now if that logistical supply trail had been severed. It doesn’t matter how great the warriors were, if they were cut off, they were cut off and the battle was going to end despite their fighting spirit. And this is ultimately what determines the outcome of the Guadalcanal campaign. When the battle opens, part of why part of why we get this roller coaster, as you very accurately described it is that the Japanese from the outset, are capable of resupplying the island. There’s a brief moment at that experience and we don’t experience again during the hit again during the Pacific War, where we deposit our amphibious assault force on the beach. As we begin the process of unloading the supplies and the reinforcing units that will allow that assault force to maintain the beachhead, the enemy kept the enemy counter attacks with such intensity that the Navy is compelled to leave the area. The Navy is compelled to leave the first Marine Division alone on Guadalcanal for a period of time. And that’s because we could not afford to lose ships like USS Enterprise, fleet lost USS Enterprise, there was a brief period of time where enterprise was the only aircraft carrier we have in the Pacific. And to lose it was simply not an option. We simply could not take chances with that ship. That ship was central to our ongoing struggle against Imperial Japan. And so the Navy had to withdraw the Marines land at first, everything looks bright because the enemy doesn’t oppose that landing. Then enemy airpower from the major Japanese fleet anchorage this few 100 miles to the north at Rob ball on the far eastern end of the island in New Britain. When the Japanese begin counter attacking, it’s obvious that the Navy is vulnerable. And then Japanese ships sail down and, and as a result of a climactic battle called several Island, the Navy has to face facts and the fact is, the Navy can no longer stay and continue supporting the Marines that are ashore. And with that the Navy withdraws that sucks away some of that confidence that was built as a result of the unopposed landing. And then the enemy sends a major effort toward the airfield by attacking from the direction of the Tennessee River, that the attack on it descends on Marines that are guarding act what is actually the alligator alligator Creek. And when that Japanese attack, hurls itself against marine positions, the Marines fight them off and fight them off with a warrior spirit of warrior spirit. That is something that you just can’t realize it’s extremely effective, and a very dramatic action that determines the outcome for at least a brief period of time. And that outcome being that the Marines will continue to hold a perimeter around the airfield that the Japanese were beginning to build, and that airfields was positioned at Langa point. And the perimeter around what we call the longer perimeter remained secure against the attack of the cheeky guy, the cheeky Regiment, and that’s the tenor roof of battle. So that then brings their confidence level back up a little bit because for the first time, you’ve seen an American fighting unit and Japanese ground units square off against one another and the Americans prevail. And so that has the effect of improving the overall morale. But then, that overall morale begins to sink because in the weeks that follow the tender river battle as Aug gives way to September, then the Japanese just begin dumping reinforcements on the island because the Japanese have what is by night an uninterruptible supply line. And we end up nicknaming it for Tokyo Express as the Japanese bring ships down from the major fleet anchorage at Simpson harbor revolve to resupply their fighting forces on Guadalcanal and their their bid to recapture the airfield. And for the Japanese, it wasn’t just the point of pride and prestige to recapture this airfield from the Americans who like taking it. It was central to overall Japanese strategy in the in that part of the Pacific. The overall Japanese strategy was to continue a process of extending not just basis for ground troops, but also specifically basis for operating air drums for ground based aviation. The Japanese had realized was that if we extend all the way down the length of the Solomons and we establish an airfield, a large enough and long enough airfield to support multi and multi engine bombers, we can then extend a bombing umbrella across this very important ceiling stretching between the Solomon Islands and an island group that at the time was known as New Hebrides, that is today known as fun to watch and by By then extending ground based aviation over that sea lane, it would have the effect of not permanently knocking out the supply lines to Australia but, but hampering them but interfering with them to such a significant degree that supplies would be interrupted at a critical time. So building an airfield in Guadalcanal was imagined as being a tool necessary to extend this umbrella of a multi engine aviation that could threaten the sea lanes that were keep the sea lanes keeping Australia supplied. And if the campaign had been successful, it could have even been a preliminary for amphibious landings in the New Hebrides Island group. Maybe even then, bombing of Nomad New Caledonia, which was also becoming an American base of certainly important statute, maybe even to be then followed by an amphibious landing of New Caledonia, which would have put that out of out of reach for Americans, we’d not would not have been able to use that as a jumping off point for operations against this greater Japanese oceanic empire that had been created. And so by denying the Japanese the airfields on Guadalcanal, we just dropped a big fat gate, right in front of the plans of knocking Australia out of the war. So for Japan, it was no longer just a matter of it wasn’t a matter of pride, it was a matter of, well, if we’re going to continue this strategy, we’ve we’ve encountered this major setback, the Americans took this airfield, we have to take it back from them. The first effort, which was the cheeky regiments, effort, and what became ultimately the tenor river battle, that was frustrated, the Japanese were experiencing major victories at sea. That is certainly what happened during the Battle of several islands. They then land this ground force with a confidence that was supported by what had been going on in the world up to that point, because when they land each Regiment, what, show me where there was really bad news for the Japanese in the Pacific.
Marty Morgan 32:12
Um, that’s a rhetorical question that’s meant to point out the fact that the Japanese had not they had not suffered a direct defeat up to that point. They were beginning to experience some problems with the Australians who were kicking the snot out of them on the Numa Numa trail in New Guinea. But they hadn’t been soundly defeated up into that point. And so with the tinaroo River battle, they experienced this this major setback. They can’t just let Guadalcanal go, and they have no choice. They have no recourse but to begin flooding the island with reinforcements. And try again and try again and try again.
Dan LeFebvre 32:51
It sounds like you know if Guadalcanal is such a major part of their strategy, but they also weren’t expecting the Americans to arrive. Was it was it that they didn’t have the the soldiers on the island to defend against an amphibious landing, they just assumed that the Americans wouldn’t, wouldn’t attack if it was really that important of a strategic point. I would I guess I would assume that they would have more people there to defend it.
Marty Morgan 33:21
They have a lot of people in the Solomons and the fact that they just didn’t do what I mean even if they had, let’s say committed one battalion of Japanese special naval landing force Japanese Imperial Marines. Let’s just say they put one battalion Imperial Marines on over at Guadalcanal. And just for the record, the landings on Guadalcanal are not alone. Because of what we’re doing here because we’re talking about this series and we’re talking about a specific story and specific characters. We focused on Guadalcanal but just across sealord channel, on the island tulagi. You have Japanese forces them I mean, they’re three islands technically there’s tulagi glue to a ton of Bogo. They’re Japanese on all there’s a seaplane base operating in that area. And so when the Japanese moved into the southern Solomons, they were establishing the long runway for their ground base multi engine bombers on well looking out, and then we’re going to have this then that we’re gonna have this seaplane base in the area around grabouw tonon. Bogo and tulagi for their big spectacular and painfully beautiful sea planes. I believe you’ve probably seen them because the Japanese were by this point at the war they were operating one of the most spectacular aircraft of the entire conflict which was the county Shi h 8k flying boat that we nicknamed The Emily and it was a long range maritime surveillance aircraft and it was a spectacular aircraft. And they had extreme range, but they were sea points. So it was a combination of just like when they were trying to get to midway it was going to be seas midway a tool for ground based aviation and Although you never hear about it, there was a second a tool that was a part of the Japanese operation called Korea. It’s only 58 miles away from from midway. And Korea was going to be the seaplane base and midway was going to be the base form of AI underground base aviation, similar situation and the southern solomont. And so the Japanese had some fighting forces and they had some good ones, but they were on the other side of the channel just a few miles away at tulagi. If the Japanese had just put one battalion of Imperial Marines on Guadalcanal, August 7 1942, would look quite a bit different than it did I not saying that the Japanese would have held the Marines back, that would not have happened, but it would have resulted in a contested landing, it would have been an opposed amphibious landing operation, rather than an unopposed landing. But the Japanese didn’t have anybody there. That’s not to say that Guadalcanal wasn’t important. It’s just that I’d like to present the point like this frequently, and that is that the Japanese Empire was big. They had plenty of people. And the Japanese oceanic Empire was more than they could handle. So they couldn’t put a regiment they couldn’t even put a battalion at every place that they needed to, they would eventually have to confront some cold, hard realities. After 1942. When, when remote island outposts would have to be garrison and would have to be garrisoned at significant strength. And that would represent for the Japanese, a major personnel drain throughout the years that would come. But at this point in the war, I don’t want to call it an arrogance. But there was certainly not and ridiculous amount of cash, there wasn’t an abundance of caution. They weren’t thinking, you know, what, what do we do if suddenly an American task force of 90 ships shows up and they dropped the first Marine Division on our head?
Marty Morgan 37:01
If there were voices that were mentioning that those voices, they were overruled by the voices that were like, Nah, the Americans aren’t ready for that yet. Because prior to this, where was the first Marine Division, I love to point out how shortly after the war began, the first Marine Division is literally scattered across the entire Pacific with with elements of the division, somewhere in Hawaii, somewhere. I think it Fiji somewhere on New Zealand, obviously, which is where they came together when they sail to go to Guadalcanal. And I mentioned this just to simply illustrate the point that the first Marine Division was experiencing something that Japan would ultimately experience. And that is, you can’t guard everything, you end up having so much real estate to cover that it basically dissolves all of your units strength and integrity. That was certainly the case of where the first Marine Division was when the war began. Now, of course, the first Marine Division is then ultimately concentrated at New Zealand, prior to the landings on walking out. But the Japanese weren’t following them, they didn’t have up to up to date intelligence about where all the diverse elements of the first Marine Division were located. They didn’t necessarily know that the entire division was staging for an invasion in New Zealand. And if they had known maybe they would have been more cautious, and there was some knowledge of it. But that knowledge did not seep down all the way to the operational level to the point that they put a regiment or even a battalion on Guadalcanal to protect the construction site. Because after all, that’s all it was. At that point, it was a construction site. So that when the first Marine Division conducts its landings, there’s nobody home. And it’s because it was much Korean construction engineers with some Japanese foreman and officers, and everybody disappeared into the jungle because they simply were not ready to stand up and fight. That’s not they’re not the kind of unit that is there to do that. They’re a non Combat Arms unit, and they get a Combat Arms unit dumped on top of them, and a pretty well armed Combat Arms unit on top of that. So it’s an unsurprising reality that emerges that when the first Marine Division comes ashore, the Japanese who were there scattered to the hills. And it should also be considered, I think, slightly unsurprising that at this stage in the war, the Japanese were not fully prepared for a couple of bold moves, and you got to give it to the United States and the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. during that first year, we throw some bold moves at them. I’m thinking at first of the hit and run raids that target Japanese island outposts in the Marshall Islands in early 42. I’m thinking that of Roy Royce raids from the southern part of Philippine Islands and I guess that’s April 42. Then of course the mother of them all the Doolittle Raid April 18 1942 That’s boldness right there. That’s an that’s an enemy that you knocked him over. He he hit the mat, but then he got up he was togetherness with and he started throwing punches again. The United States throws some pretty bold moves to include aircraft carrier rage on islands on Island group, aircraft carrier raids at places like land sell them out in New Guinea that caught the Japanese by complete surprise. The Japanese had seen boldness from us at this point. But what had that boldness been? It had been hit and run aircraft carrier rates. And so to them that boldness, there was no precedent for an entire division embarked aboard ship that crosses a significant expansive ocean to conduct an amphibious landing operation. And so the Japanese were caught off guard and caught by surprise by American boldness. And if there’s anything that characterizes January 1 1942 through August 6 1942. It’s American boldness. We experienced some big setbacks during that time period. Yes. But then again, we also have the era of the rates. Leading ultimately to the Doolittle Raid, we have midway which is some of the greatest boldness that this war can give you. And then here we are about to land on their head in the southern Solomons to interrupt this plan to separate the sea Lane Keeping Australia in the fight. There
Dan LeFebvre 41:35
is a huge moment in episode number two that I want to ask you about and it gets repeated throughout pretty much the rest of the series. And it’s why the episode is called bass alone, right? It happens. This vicious battle one night john basilone is a machine gunner, and he’s part of the Marines forming a line of defense against the Japanese tack they withstand the first wave of attack and then there’s another wave, he decides they need to move to another part of the line. So he picks up his machine gun with bare hands gets third degree burns on his hands in the process runs through the jungle. On the way he literally runs into some Japanese soldiers that he shoots with his now handheld machine gun before rescuing a couple other soldiers with him who were engaged in some hand to hand combat. And then after moving he continues pretty much doing whatever is necessary running back and forth from line to get ammo for machine guns. During one of those trips, he runs into another marine named Manny Rodriguez Rodriguez actually knocks bass alone down and then shoots a few Japanese soldiers behind him saving his life allowing him to continue delivering a multi line. And in the end, the Marines are able to hold off the Japanese attack thanks in no small part to his actions. The next day, he finds the body of his friend Rodriguez who seems like he was shot somewhere near where he saved someone’s life. According to the show, this event would ultimately lead to him being awarded the Medal of Honor and simultaneously being tormented with this guilt for getting this metal and being awarded this when his friend died. How well did the show do depicting this event
Marty Morgan 43:11
depicted it very well. And it depicted with with I think some some excellent acting to bass alone is tormented. And I think the series explains it well, I’m getting ahead of where we’re going in episodes. But after becoming recipient of the Medal of Honor, bass alone is taken back home, it’s depicted in these these. We’re just talking about the first four episodes here. And so this is part of what we’re covering. And I’m stepping ahead a little bit though when I pointed out that when he goes home to provide a very, very useful function in the form of helping to raise money for the for the war alone. Bass alone is tormented by the fact that he has brother Marines who are out still in the fight, and he’s not there and they will ultimately go on first Marine Division ultimately go on to participate in landings at Cape Gloucester, the day after Christmas 1943. And they’ll fight at Cape Gloucester and one of the in a grueling battle for over three months. And bass alone in the meantime, has gone home. And he is he has become a face and a voice for the United States government in the war alone, where he where what he is doing is extremely important because this war was not simply just a mobilization of the American people. It required a mobilization of American industry. And in order to mobilize American industry, you had to mobilize the American economy. And in order for us to be able to pay for everything the government had to have money and it had to have money from the people that came in the form of war bonds that were purchased by the people that were ultimately paid back in the aftermath. Since the war, and in order to keep the money flowing, the United States government had to have to make this the series of campaigns that became a number of different war loan initiatives. It was incredibly important for the government to reach people effectively. The people ended up knowing a lot about what happened the first Marine Division on walking out during the period from August 7 till the division is ultimately relieved from and removed from the island in early December 42. That was headline news. That was everyone in the country knew about what the first Marine Division went through on Guadalcanal. And they ultimately would read about the heroism of the men who held off repeated Japanese attacks during the course of the first marine divisions time on the island. And basan ultimately becomes one of the celebrities of the first Marine Division. I hate to use that word. But that is exactly what he was, he was a household name. And he could therefore contribute more importantly, to the war alone, then his contribution would be more valuable in pressing the war alone than it would be if he was continuing to function as a machine machine gun section leader, because as a machine gun section leader, he might just get himself killed. And so bass alone, staying in five star hotels made wined and dined back home, no one’s shooting at him. He is never spending a night outside under the open skies never getting rained on, he’s never walking in the mud. He’s living the it’s the ideal posts in many ways. And he’s completely miserable. And it’s because he’s a warrior. And his, it’s not even just the fact that he’s a warrior that wants to be out there doing what he can. It’s also because he understood he was living off of borrowed time. And that Borrowed Time
Marty Morgan 46:58
began when his life should have ended that night at the mouth of alligator Creek in August of 42. And his life was instead saved by another Marine, who that very night ended up losing his life that weighs heavily on people. That’s such a, an obvious statement. I mean, that’s, that’s the greatest understatement that could ever be made. But I was raised by someone that experienced the psychological disorder that’s called survivor’s guilt. My father was in Vietnam, and my father had survived a critical moment in Vietnam. And to know him on sort of just a social level, you would never have guessed that it was something that traumatized him and troubled him all the way through the universe of his life. But it was only by being an intimate being around him. And being a family member that saw him constantly, it was only then that you could realize the extent to which it haunted him. And I believe the john john bass alone, in the very same way, john bass alone, just couldn’t accept the fact that he was chosen for reasons known but to fate, to be the one that gets to go and sell war bonds to the American people. And he was not okay with it. Because he wanted to be in the field, he wanted to be leading Marines in combat, because he was good at it. It’s like, I watched this movie the other night that made me think about basketball. And I watched this movie, it was about September 11. And it was about a group of police officers to get trapped in the south tower when it collapsed. And it shows this character who was a Marine who, when September 11, happened, he was physically fit. He didn’t have a permanent assignment time. And he was therefore capable of doing something. And so he went down to the site, and did something and he’s the man that ultimately finds these traps police officers. And I felt like that that helped explain something powerful to me. And that is that it must have just been grueling. For people who have a warrior spirit in them, and they have 10 fingers and two legs and two arms, and they’re physically fit and they’re capable of fighting. And a point I find myself making all the time is that the American nation that fought the Second World War is quite a bit different than the one that we have now. And that between today, and 1942, a lot has happened. And something that now characterizes us in a way that I don’t believe that it did, and almost 80 years ago, is that cynicism, pessimism, and disenchantment. were no longer sort of dominant ideas for us. They’re dominant ideas for us now.
Marty Morgan 49:54
Particularly pessimism and suspicion and it’s only when I think You can figure out what it’s only when you can create a mathematical way of removing pessimism, suspicion, cynicism. And you can remove those from your mind, you can only do that by doing a lot of reading. And imagining a world where those things were those forces were not as powerful to a national identity. It’s only when you can do that you can imagine how I think john bass alone was haunted. Because there was a sense of duty assumptive a sense of optimism and a sense of courage that characterize what he did. And for him to have been removed from it and be back home had to have been torture. Because he was being called to the battlefield. There’s been a great deal of writing recently to that has indicated the way that warriors experience combat, and how they’re called on to engage something that’s in our animal side, because we’re still just animals, we still have all of these animalistic behaviors. But then we also have this back here, we have a lower cortex, and we have an frontal cortex. And that makes us different. We are thinking animals, but we’re still also animals. And there is a tribalism that can characterize the way that we interact in social settings and humankind. We are social, we’re very social. And some of the most recent writing is indicated that men who experience combat with one another, develop a bond that’s different than anything else that you can or will ever develop. It’s different than the bond that you’ll develop with your wife. It’s different than the bond that you’ve developed with your father or your brother. And yet it is as powerful. And although I haven’t experienced it, I was raised by somebody who did. And I watched the way that 30 and 40 and 50 years later, he would interact with many it served with and it told me that this is this is a something serious, and this is something extremely powerful. So john bass alone, who had been in the Union, who had been in uniform for quite a long time, up to this point, he had been in the army for years before he entered the Marine Corps. And bass alone had served with a lot of people and he’d served in uniform in the Philippines. And now here he is wearing green uniformities, in combat in the Pacific, in the Solomon Islands, and he experienced his combat with people and right toward the beginning of that combat, in the moment that will ultimately make him a household name. The night right there at alligator Creek when he engages in the actions that will ultimately result in him being awarded the Medal of Honor. He also sees someone save his life, and then that person is immediately killed. And it traumatizes him, because that’s what trauma looks like these people, what we asked them to go do during the course of that war was go out and dance with all of this complicated psychology. And he fascinates me bass alone fascinates me, because he could have just been a guy that bank, every chip that got delivered to him and you bet your bottom dollar, women threw themselves at that man’s feet. Like he was a god. And what did he do? All he wanted was to get back to his machine. That’s actually all he wanted to do was lead Marie to combat that says something so fascinating. And it. That’s why I’m so glad that ultimately the series makes bass alone in a central character. Because he’s, first of all, he’s very tragic. But he’s also somebody that’s extremely admirable, because he presents qualities to us that I think we all want to imagine. Because what I think we want to imagine is that there’s a nobility inside of us, and that we have a dedication to something and that that dedication is to Country, Country and comrades. Although I don’t believe john bass alone was some Puritan. I have a feeling that he probably would have been complete under yet under different circumstances. I think john bass alone was someone who was would have been fine to just go out and sleep with women endlessly. But his the trajectory of his life, sent him down a different path. And that trajectory imbued him with this torture, this haunting of what happened to him that night, what happened to him in the nights that followed on Guadalcanal? The things that he survived, the friends that he saw, lose their lives. And it just wasn’t enough. He he could not tolerate the idea of being the sociopath that separates himself from those men that were still out. They’re fighting the enemy. He couldn’t, he couldn’t individualize. And that fascinates me. He couldn’t just be like, up to bat for you guys, I’m going home, and I’m going to bang every single beauty queen across our fair country. He couldn’t do it. Because it was it was too late. That’s not to say that he wasn’t a red blooded American man, because he clearly was. He was a man who was capable of these complex feelings. And that’s why I think he’s so amazing. Because he obviously had a deep feeling of love, which is ultimately expressed in his marriage, which we will ultimately learn more about as the series moves on. And there’s something deeper than than just banging checks going on. I don’t mean to keep equating it to that. I’m meaning I’m mentioning it only because I want to call emphasis to the fact that there was a higher calling at work and john bass loans mind. And that higher calling I think, was forged on Guadalcanal. And it began from the landings, and I feel like it was set in motion in the most powerful way of all, during the Tennessee River battle on alligator Creek on August 21 1942. When he he’s almost I don’t want to say single handedly, but his certainly his leadership was instrumental in guaranteeing that
Marty Morgan 56:26
that his company or his section would not be overrun that one seven would hold the line and would prevent the enemy from overriding the airfield and kept recapturing it. And it makes his story so much more compelling. And that’s why I mean, I don’t mean to rush into it. But eventually, I’m involved in that, which comes out as a companion book to the series. And this represents a big departure from the what ultimately happened, and that there was a team that was researching, and I was a part of that team when I was involved in the series. And then there was screenplay, writing people that were actually putting a TV series together. And we ultimately departed under not the most entirely positive circumstances. And they made decisions that I didn’t care for. And we advocated for things and this book that they ultimately chose not to follow. And they did that in favor of we weren’t following bass alone. We were following other people who had stories that were equally as compelling, by the way, but they went with bass alone. And in looking back on it now, I’m glad they did. Because I continue to be fascinated through my career with what people would like back then, because understanding john bass alone, has called me down this path of recognizing that Americans thought differently back then, that Americans felt senses have a duty of honor of optimism. And I’m not saying that it’s entirely gone now. Because it’s definitely still there. It’s just that I think the background noise has been turned up, the volume of the background noise is much louder. It’s distracting us from the fact that it’s during times of trial, that our survival instincts as animals kick into motion. And those survival instincts will present themselves through human behavior as loyalty and dedication. They’re they’re things that make us love dogs endlessly. And they’re things that make us love ourselves. Because when you look at john bass alone, and you see that loyalty, that this man who could have just sat back and lived an opulent life in uniform, and the best possible assignment ever, a man who could have been content with the amount of sacrifice he had already made, and he was not content with it, he was discontented because he was capable of doing more, and he couldn’t do more, which is what ultimately compels him to go back to the field ultimately brings him back to the fleet marine force, so that he can lead Marines in combat and that is ultimately what brings his life to an early end.
Dan LeFebvre 59:26
We’ll get to that in a future episode. If we head back to the series, there is a there’s a contrast that we see here in this series with with the rest of the men to their after Guadalcanal. And I believe it’s early January 1943. According to the show, they end up in Australia. And in there, they’re greeted by adoring crowds. They’re cheering holding up signs. They’re in there the other men start to get girlfriends some more serious than others. In this episode, what kind of seemed almost like it felt kind of like a half time to the war like I mean, there was this the vicious battle that that that they had there in Guadalcanal and then obviously the war is still raging on but they get some rest and relaxation and get to kind of hang out for a while was that a common experience or was that mostly because of their experience on Guadalcanal that led to them being taken off the front lines and getting some rest and relaxation.
Marty Morgan 1:00:23
They ultimately get as much rest and relaxation in Australia as they do because they need it. And what I’m pointing out here is that first of all, first Marine Division had sustained high casualties during the campaign. Now, there are 650, killed in action for the entire division with 12 108 wounded in action. And if you look at that number, your first instinct will be to indicate that you know that 650 men kill. But that’s not a division that’s been wiped out. And that’s certainly not a division that needs almost a year to get ready to go back to battle. But there’s a there’s an invisible reality in that and that a very large number of those survivors, those who had not been killed or wounded. When they got to Australia, they were malarial. And they were therefore non deployable. Malaria is one of the it’s is a fiendish disease. And it can present itself in waves, where the disease can be active and it can be dormant and a very large number of the been contracted on Guadalcanal. And when they get back to when they get to Australia, they have to re equip the after resupply the men get some needed rest, the men get some opportunities to blow off steam, sometimes a little too much. But then more importantly, it’s only then that they can begin the course of treatment that will manage their malaria and they weren’t necessarily capable of eradicating it completely. But this is a problem for the American man at arms throughout the entire conflict. Because as an example, the first the first Infantry Division, the Army’s first Infantry Division, it conducts amphibious landings in North Africa and late 1942. It then conducts it participates in the operation Husky about the planning operations in Sicily, and July 43. And then it’s involved in this vicious Battle of place called train on Sicily, during which time everyone, almost everybody has a malarial relapse. And the division suffers an enormous amount of readiness trouble from men who, because they relapse, malaria that they had contracted in Tunisia, the year before. They they’re out in the field, they’re fighting and suddenly they wake up one day, they have 104 degree fever. If you have 104 degree fever, you are not capable fighting, you are out of the battle. And so the course of treatment would require you got to give them get them someplace where they’re stable, where they’re they’re not in a in a physically vigorous environment, like the fighting in Sicily, which was physically very, very vigorous. And so if the first Marine Division were just plucked out of combat on Guadalcanal and sent to combat again, soon, it’s ready to it’s it’s overall, deployable readiness would have dropped rapidly. And that’s just because so many men would have experienced malaria, we’d lapses. So too many words about that sending them to Australia was partly you needed to let them in, blow off some steam after what you had just put them through. Men have also, they’re under bodyweight. Because if you think about the average metabolic rate of a marine in his 20s, that’s in a high stress environment and an environment where he’s got an reduced caloric intake on a daily basis, bodyweight is going to fall, and that opens the door to some big dangers actually makes you more vulnerable to malaria, for example. So they get to Australia, they are in no shape to go back into battle. And that’s addressing the physical attributes of what they had gone through. It would be wrong not to, uh, to address the psychological attributes what they gone to, as well because these men had gone through an experience of an in tense trauma as they fought through the battle. And then they get to Australia. And a way that they have an ideation of that trauma and terror becomes like these wild those self destructive behaviors that are while going out drinking and getting drunk being lousy, or being being being loud and rowdy. The way that that presents itself is through these, what we would, I guess call self destructive behaviors where men will go out they’ll drink too much they’ll be rowdy, they Well, Chase women. And this is a common experience of what people that have been through trauma will do. And they’ll, they’ll, they’ll turn that into part of the fraternity of what they had gone through with what’s their comrades in combat
Marty Morgan 1:05:17
that needed to happen, those men needed to go out there and be young men. And Australia provided that for them, and from their accounts of it, Australia provided that in spades for Australia, Australia apparently was a great place to be in early 1943. Of course, now, Australia also was fighting the Second World War. And so what the first Marine Division found when they got to Melbourne was that the men were, for the most part gone. So that young recruiting age males were not physically present in the country. They were therefore then around women that were of the appropriate age, everyone’s in their meeting prime. And everyone is dealing with the further stresses that the war is introducing. And so it’s completely unsurprising that, that the perfect storm it’s worlds together is that a large number of relationships are formed, some more substantial than others, but relationships nevertheless, everybody needed each other in this scenario, the Australians, particularly as Young Australian women needed needed this and the men in first Marine Division needed a place like Australia to go so that they could have these experiences. And Australia made it possible for that division to fight again.
Dan LeFebvre 1:06:41
One of the relationships that we do see it kind of see this what you’re talking about, depicted with Bob lucky he gets a girlfriend there in Melbourne, and she ends up dumping him and then he goes to a bar gets drunk. And then there’s this incident, where he takes over post for your gun and ends up pulling his sidearm on Second Lieutenant Corrigan, I believe. And so this later on, Corrigan says that Second Lieutenant lebec is going to take over the platoon. But before Corrigan leaves, he reassigns lucky to the battalion intelligence section. Did that really happen?
Marty Morgan 1:07:16
It did circumstances are in dispute, though, because the series presents what you just described. And that was Robert Luckey, who went on a bender because of the fact that Stella dumped him. And the series depicts the convoluted thinking that resulted in him being dumped, which was she was thinking that she’s, they’re in a fully committed relationship with this, they’re in love with one another. He spent in the family household, he’s charmed the mother, he knows the father. He’s, he’s become like what is obviously, basically this son in law in the making. And they find out they’re going that the division is going to inevitably, inevitably leave and go back into combat, and that he might not survive it. And so Stella breaks up with him, so that the relationship won’t proceed further so that the mother won’t grow more attached to him so that then his loss won’t be as painful he felt. And it’s presented as Stella doing this, oh, as a result of this sort of starcross melodramatic feeling that you’re eventually going to die and you’re eventually going to be gone. And, and why should I bring you Why should you? Why should I bring you into a close relationship with my family when you’re just going to go away and I’m never going to see you again. And that’s thinking that is understandable. And it’s a bit melodramatic, but it is, you can understand why an Australian girl would think like this. I’m not criticizing her at all. He then responds in this time honored tradition of what you do when you get dumped in that as you go out, you get drunk, and you sort of drown your sorrows. He after drowning his sorrows. Then he briefly relieves another marine at his guard posts while this marine goes off to the bathroom and he encounters Corrigan and they have an altercation over the fact that Leckie has been drinking and Lucky’s drunk and in the series is depicted as lucky draws his service sidearm is and I can eliminate one pistol. And there is hell to pay for that, but not nearly as much to hell to pay as he would think, under the circumstances, for drawing a pistol on an officer. And the price that like he pays for that, as it’s depicted in the series is that he is transferred into the battalion intelligence section. He’s transferred out of the company and into Intel. And that is not the story told in this little book. The story that like he tells is that he was simply A wall, along with a very large number of other Marines from the first Marine Division. And that because he was a wall, he was going to face some consequences and that it all, it all the consequences track him down when they show up to receive payment when they’re receiving their their salary. And it’s when he shows up to receive payment that he’s pulled aside, and essentially the company commander and he’s then informed of that he’s being transferred out, is being transferred into battalion intelligence. And he’s furthermore then recruited for this assignment to write a company newspaper, which never eventually happens, because he’s then reassigned again and then reassigned yet again before the whole story is over with. So from what lucky tells us the transfer was quite a bit less dramatic than what we see depicted in the series. And I see no reason to doubt what Leckie has told us. I promise I’ll only beat this dead horse a little bit. But when I was involved in the series, we were having these discussions with the overall production team to include the executive producer. And that was the were the discussions about is this just going to be like a band of brothers What? Initially, I remember the first phone call I was a part of that. I was looking at a speakerphone on a conference room table and Steven Spielberg’s voice was coming out of that speakerphone that’s as close as I got. But in that calls Spielberg and said I, what I want is I want I want Banda brothers only in the Pacific, I want to find the one unit from start to finish. And in the Pacific, that’s not possible. It is certainly not possible the way that it was possible with ecomony 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment 100 and first Airborne Division in the European Theater. That’s why part of the reason that I got involved in the series was that Steven Ambrose died of lung cancer. And that would be October of 2002.
Marty Morgan 1:12:13
I had been hired to work for Ambrose in the museum. And about two years before that. I was working around Ambrose and sort of within this inner circle, not that I was chummy with him. But I was around enough that I got to work at these banquets and things that we did for the opening of the Museum in New Orleans in June of 2000. And that was shortly before Banda brothers came out. And so Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks came to the grand opening of the museum and we had this banquet event and I remember that Mr. Spielberg stood up and Steven Ambrose, who was still alive at the time was sitting at a table right next to me, and that Spielberg said that we’ve got things coming in the future. There are great things coming. We’re going to get this museum open. Later this year, we have this next year, we have this mini series coming out that’s about Steven Ambrose, his book Band of Brothers, it’s going to be very exciting, everyone’s going to love it. We then opened a Pacific exhibit that opened December 7 of the year 2000. And when that opened, it was with this feeling that there’s more to come I remember those days very well working at the museum and sort of being around that inner circle a lot It was that we had developed this feeling that like the museum’s open and then Band of Brothers comes out. And then we just opened this Pacific exhibit and at the Pacific exhibit opening, there was discussion of how Spielberg was working with Ambrose toward making a book that was going to be like Banda brothers only about the Pacific. And he talked about it and in fact, at this banquet, Spielberg, like pointed down at the table where Steven Ambrose was sitting and he said, as soon as Steven gets as soon as Dr. Ambrose gets done with book, we’re going to move forward with making another mini series and it’s going to be about the war in the Pacific. And that was like the first hint that this was something on the horizon that we all kind of gasp like, Oh my god, it’s so exciting to be around all of this, how kick ass is this going to be? And it was very exciting. Then Steven Ambrose died. And when Steven Ambrose died, the whole thing just went away because there were the immediate conditions of we, he had a private funeral service, but then there was a public funeral like not a funeral, but a public memorial service for him that we held at the museum and Mr. Speight. Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Hanks both came to that. And after we had that, I was involved with another person and with two other people and going over to the Ambrose house and the Ambrose house is about 50 miles that way and basically was Mississippi and Korea. Do all his writing in an apartment above his external garage from the house, all of which would ultimately be wiped out by Katrina in 2005. But back then it was still standing. And after Dr. Ambrose died, I went with another worker from the museum. And then Dr. Ambrose, his son, Hugh Ambrose. I went with them over to the house. And we packed everything up in Ambrose’s study where he did all of his writing work. And that was quite magic. There was a moment where I sat down in his chair in front of his typewriter, where he wrote Band of Brothers and D day, and where he was, even up to the time of his death, writing this new book that was, we were all just referring to it as citizen soldier Pacific, but it was going to be a book about the Pacific War. And there had been an enormous amount of research that was going into this book. He’s probably about halfway through the project when he died, we cleaned everything out, took it back to the museum, and then things just kind of died down for a while. That was in late 2002. And
Marty Morgan 1:16:06
then the next thing you know, it’s 2003. And some time had gone by, it was almost a year. And Spielberg then reached out to Dr. ambrosus son, Hugh Ambrose. And he when when he reached out to him, he reached out to him saying, I want to make this miniseries. And your dad’s gone, you have all the material that your father had collected as he was, as he was writing this book, and he was about halfway through writing that book. And Mr. Spielberg expressed an interest to Hugh Ambrose, and proceeding with the miniseries. And he invited Hugh Ambrose to come on board and do what his father had done before. So his father had written the books that that provided the basis for Saving Private Ryan because Dr. Ambrose’s 1994 book about D day was the basis for Saving Private Ryan. And then of course, his book, Band of Brothers was the basis for the HBO miniseries that came out in September of 2001. And so what Spielberg decided to do was he was like, why don’t we just go ahead and move forward with it? And why don’t you Hugh Ambrose finished the book that your father started, you can recognize a nostalgic power to that. And so Hugh Ambrose, to his credit, as he’s stepped into this very, very ambitious and intimidating project, he realized he needed help. He was using the past tense because he was passed away in 2015. So he’s no longer alive. But to his credit, he realized that he wasn’t up to the job, because To put it bluntly, he just wasn’t he wasn’t the historian his father was. And he, there was a lot to learn, there was a lot that needed to be done. And also, his father’s preliminary work was not, was not finished enough to where it could be delivered to Steven Spielberg, to make a miniseries. And so I got hired as the first person hired by Hugh Ambrose. To begin this process of what we were going to do was in this phase that would proceed writing, we were going to come up with basically, the storyline that finished out Dr. ambrosus book. And then we were going to turn that over to we’re going to that was going to be a book that was get turned over to Steven Spielberg, and he would make a miniseries out of it. So automatically, we were following a different path than the previous project Saving Private Ryan and Bana brothers, because they were books that were written independent from a filmmaker, and then a filmmaker optioned the book and made a Movie or Miniseries out of it. This was going to be basically production by committee. And those never turned out well. And this one did not turn out at all. I mean, this had its It was a bumpy road. But what had to happen immediately was that there had to be a certain number of decisions made about what the heck are we going to talk about. And I’m promising, I’m circling back to what we were just now talking about. Because one of the things that we felt powerful about was that we had to first of all, communicate to the bosses Hanks and Spielberg that you can’t just follow one unit from the beginning of the Pacific or to the end of the Pacific War, it does not work like that. You’re going to have to follow multiple units. And our first effort was to try to identify the units that we could follow and make something good out of. We then went off or I say we eventually turned into the my, the team that I was a part of was of course you Ambrose was running it. It was me as my buddy Bob Carr in Florida. My buddy who’s in Nasr name, William Howe, and then a guy who works at the Mississippi armed services museum now that worked with at the museum with me eventually. And we were the team that would basically do all this research work and all this writing that would come up with that storyline. We had ideas about what we thought it should be, because we were all very interested in the Pacific War. I have been interested in it from my childhood, because I had two family members that were in the Second World War, both of them in the Pacific, one of them on Guadalcanal. Only he was with the army, not the Marine Corps. Anyway, I was very interested in Pacific War battles. And therefore I felt invested in like this story. We need to include this, we get to, we have to anchor it and Guadalcanal, we’re gonna have to hit these high points. And then we were we were evaluating things like should we talk about Iijima at the time, you might remember, there were two movies about Iijima that were simultaneously in production. And then they eventually came out before the Pacific came out. And that was Flags of Our fathers and letters. I mean,
Dan LeFebvre 1:21:07
this is Clint Eastwood movies, right? Yeah.
Marty Morgan 1:21:10
These were movies. And we were aware of them out there doing their thing. And we were thinking, well, they’re doing they’re tackling Evo. So let’s not go to Evo. Let’s do let’s not stamp on the same ground. I remember we discussed like, do we want to go to Guadalcanal? Because if we got to go out now, that movie just came out a few years ago, Thin Red Line, it was about the army Guadalcanal. And we were trying to basically tune in who these characters would be what battles we would we would go to as a part of this. And basically the narrative that we would tell. And we all sort of overwhelmingly agreed, there is no time for love stories. And I remember having these these distinct discussions where Hugh Ambrose would be devil’s advocate, and he’d say, Well, I can tell you right now what they’re going to say to me if we if we’re not going to include love interest stuff, and we’re not going to have side quests of men going off and falling in love and getting married. I’m not saying these things don’t happen. They do happen. Yeah. But what we wanted to tell was the story, the Pacific, and we wanted to tell the story of battles, not so much the story of the human experience in those battles. I mean, that’s important to it. But we felt like the the human experience in war was something that band of brothers had told really well, and Saving Private Ryan had told really well. And so we were more interested in doing not not to say that we were going to just depict robots fighting in the Pacific, but we wanted, we didn’t necessarily feel like we needed that we needed to do it. And we also didn’t feel like there was there was enough room. From the start, we knew this is going to be a 10 part miniseries, it’s going to be 10 hours television. So we knew we had plenty of time, but you be surprised at how quickly 10 hours can disappear. When you’re trying to carve a story out of something like this. And we were all like, we can’t have an entire episode that’s about men in Melbourne not fighting the war, we were not that was not on our radar, we were to visit we were cramming it through of combat, because the story that we were going with was one that was going to start at December 7 1941. And go with at Pearl Harbor, and it was gonna go all the way to Okinawa. And it would end largely where it ends in the series. But we were going to have, we’re going to have marine characters, and we were going to have a Navy pilot as a central character. And that was going to take us to very different places. And we were not imagining developing love stories, or love interests. And so there was a point. I remember having these great arguments with them that he would have to take it to x and Spielberg and we would say to him, like we don’t have time for Are we really gonna have to go we don’t have to do love stuff doing. And he was like, I can tell you what they’re gonna say to me if I present it where there’s no love interest stuff in it. He was like they’re gonna say, but we have to we have to present something that women will be interested in watching. And our argument was, are women going to watch this? Did women watch Saving Private Ryan? Did women watch band of brothers? I know women did. I’m not denying that. I they did it. And I was around women that watched Banda brothers when it premiered. And they were interested in it. But it wasn’t something that really spoke powerfully to them. The things that spoke to them were about it were not things that spoke to me. I was frequently getting feedback if they liked Vanda brothers because all the cute guys that were in it, I’m not dismissing what they felt. But that is something that they responded to. Just like I respond to movies and a few actresses in them this it’s not there’s nothing wrong with that. But they were we felt like we’re not making this as something that’s meant to appeal to a female audience. It’s incredibly important that I mentioned the elephant in the room right now. And that is we felt like we had a great example of what not to do in the form of The god awful movie Pearl Harbor, that, as she might remember, came out as an infection on humanity.
Marty Morgan 1:25:09
And you’ve seen the movie. Oh, yeah, I’m sorry, you have my condolences. I’m not a fan. But when the movie came out, I, we had a big premiere event for that movie. We had it here, my uncle, who was was present on a wahoo on December 7 1941. He was with the army, but he was on the island at the time of the raid. And I invited him to come over to this premiere event because we got all excited. And so my uncle, the Pearl Harbor veteran came over with his wife, and they that movie rolled out and I wasn’t 30 minutes into it until I started making the face like, what is this? The movie was strange. And you can see what what they were attempting to do and making that movie is that the movie was basically a weird and creepy three way love triangle that the Japanese attacked. But the movie wanted to play up things that they believe that I want. They wanted to play up things that would attract an audience that wasn’t just a bunch of white middle aged males. And I can respect that decision. that’s a that’s a sound decision for a movie. And so it became Kate Beckinsale and nurses and amazing outfits. And it became all these all these things that were sort of adjacent to the larger story of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the attack on Pearl Harbor, in that movie was not a story that was particularly well told. So we felt like, let’s not do that, because keep in mind that had just happened a few years before. But the point when we begin working on this series, and we’re working with you to come up with a storyline, figure out what units and what people were going to feature as the stars. As we’re beginning to do that we’re like, let’s not do that. And we very quickly clashed with the people who would ultimately screenplay all this because they wanted that. And they wanted it to fall somewhere between just nothing but nonstop, blood and guts the way that private Private Ryan was. I mean, are there any female speaking characters and setting Private Ryan? I don’t believe there are.
Dan LeFebvre 1:27:22
And we have to go back and watch it now. Again, I don’t none none come to mind.
Marty Morgan 1:27:26
their, their their woman like the mom. She’s not speaking. The typists non speaking. I don’t know that any women actually speak in that.
Dan LeFebvre 1:27:35
Maybe they came across some French women in one of the towns or something like that.
Marty Morgan 1:27:41
That’s right. Okay. Yeah, they’re when they’re handing the kid off. And Adrian capozzoli gets shot. Yeah. So there’s one speaking role that is a woman in that movie, but, and she’s sort of accelerated this overall story of combat. And so what they were imagining was where the series is going to have to be something that falls between Private Ryan, which is very much, I mean, that movie was the most popular among men. And they wanted to write something that fell between that, and Pearl Harbor, something but they also wanted it to be something that was historical, unlike Pearl Harbor. And so we were kind of like, up against that. And we were all sort of blood and guts knuckle dragging military historian types. Who all I mean, we had to be reminded that the story was going to have to include women in a love story to some extent. And we were like, We were more focused on coming up with good candidates that got us from Pearl Harbor del canal. And we were more focused on that, then we were on, where can we have a boy meets girl love story in the middle of this, because that’s something that happens in the middle of Pacific. And we ultimately clashed over that to the point where we all basically got fired. And I ended up just taking all the work that we had done, and they finished out the series. I’m not bitter about that. That’s not the part that I’m bitter about. And it doesn’t matter what I feel about the part because the series is still great. And the point I’m, then the point I’m serving and mentioning all of this is that this episode that we’re talking about right now, this time in Melbourne, is being used to develop this human side of everything we’re getting boy meets girl love stories. I don’t have a problem with that. We’re also getting men who have been traumatized by combat as a as a theme. I definitely don’t have a problem with that because that is what a fascinating thing to develop. And that’s not really a theme that is developed in a major project like this. You can look back in history, and you can see a few movies that flirt with it and some movies that really lean into it, but it’s it’s not really until you get to, I guess really the 19 70s and 80s, the post Vietnam time period where you get movies that develop that theme of the way that the human spirit interacts with the trauma that’s developed as a result of the experience of combat. That’s not what we were writing, we were more focused on what we eventually come up with in the form of the three character arc that’s told in this book. And it’s following the the big three that we were going to follow would be a marine officer named Austin Shoffner, and Navy pilot named Vernon Mike keel. And then eventually, that would bring us to the person who I think we can thank the most for all of this. And that is none other than Eugene B. sledge, the man who wrote with the old breed on petaloo in Okinawa, because the story that we kind of imagined was that with this marine officer and this Navy pilot, they would get us through the early part of the war. And get us to petaloo, at which point, we would meet Eugene sledge, and he take us through to the end. And the story we came up with had all three of them coming together at the end, because they all three came together on Okinawa.
Marty Morgan 1:31:11
I’m here to comment about the story that was actually turned into a series not the one that I wanted to become a series. But that’s, that shows you the point of departure because for us, it was all going to begin with a bang and episode one with our main character, Vernon mckeel, the Navy pilot who flew off of USS Enterprise. During the war, during the early phase of the war, he was one of the pilots that flew into the middle of the December 7 attack on a wahoo. So it was going to be off to a bank. And then he also flew strike missions during the Battle of Midway. So this series with him is a star was going to be battle midway. He’s also involved in the Doolittle Raid, because enterprise sales with Hornet for the rage there was going to be December 7, Doolittle Raid midway. And then he was going to go back to the US and begin training people at the point at which we would then begin to follow Eugene sledge, in his experience in uniform, which the series eventually follows because we follow sledge when he we get him early on when he can’t join because of his heart murmur. But then we’ll see him again later on in the series. I don’t know, spoiler alert, there’s too much. But that’s what we were planning and what we were planning left, basically no room for boy meets girl. And it left, basically no room for reflecting on being traumatized by war. And those are, let’s be honest, those are major themes in this series. And so it turned into something quite a bit different than what I was working on when I was involved in the series. And I’m not here to say that what it turned into was bad. But it did turn into something different. And it is certainly worth observing that throughout we are narrating the story of people being traumatized by combat. We’re narrating the story of young men and young women that meet and fall in love. While we’re also narrating a story of, of dedication to duty of the optimism that so many people felt the spirit of patriotism that a very large number of people felt that compelled them to go and do amazing things. Like john bass alone did that, that compelled them into the lives of self sacrifice. So if it had turned into what, what my group was advocating, there would have been no episode where we’re in Melbourne and men are traumatized and drinking and falling in love and, and being absent without leave and being disobedient and sort of drinking away what they went through one Guadalcanal.
Dan LeFebvre 1:33:58
But we also would have gotten Pearl Harbor and midway. It’s it’s impossible to watch this without comparing it to something like Banda brothers, right. And like you were saying, early on, they essentially wanted a band of brothers in the Pacific and Band of Brothers doesn’t have this sort of love interest component to it to the level that the Pacific does. So it’s interesting to me that they wanted banded brothers in the Pacific. But now let’s change it because Bana brothers was, I mean, that was pretty popular. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right.
Marty Morgan 1:34:37
Band of Brothers was vastly more popular than the Pacific was. That’s not to say that the Pacific was unpopular. It wasn’t it was just that Band of Brothers towered over it. In terms of
Dan LeFebvre 1:34:50
it’s just interesting to try to change that formula than that, you know, it obviously worked.
Marty Morgan 1:34:55
Yeah, well. I’m gonna just go ahead and do this and They would very quickly. But what they changed, I think is central to why here I am a decade later, and I’m disgruntled about the time that I spent involved in this series. And that is because from the start, I found that Mr. Hanks, Mr. Spielberg, not so much you But Mr. Hanks, Mr. Spielberg, what they were very interested in telling was something that I fundamentally object to. And HBO when it produced the series, HBO then made a series of shorts that were basically like documentary short films like they made. For each episode, they have basically an episode overview. They have a little like contextual documentary for each one. Each one is very short, where they talk to historians, and they talk and they have Hanks and Spielberg talking about the series. And you hear you get the very odd thing is that I was, I was frequently in the phone calls. I’m not here to say that Tom Hanks is a bad guy. I’m not saying that. I am just saying that. My experience around him was that he was someone that was used to being listened to. He was not used to listening, he was certainly not used to listening to like a little nobody like me. And he was willing to give Hugh Ambrose an ear to a certain extent. But Mr. Hanks and Mr. Spielberg both did something and you can see it in these little documentary shorts that they created for each and every episode. They believed in what I call Orientalism. And that is Orientalism. That’s not something I created. That’s an idea and historical idea, and really a socio cultural idea that people will look in another culture, and they will turn it into something different and exotic, and that they will often develop sort of a spectator quality of this exoticism of this other. And when I was in my doctoral program, they kept referring to it as an other ring. If you engage in an other ring of somebody, you are condescending to them, you’re speaking down to them. And I found that Hanks and Spielberg were, were quite guilty of othering, the Japanese, although in a way, that was, I think, to them, not racially condescending, although by the standards of 2021, which are quite a bit different than the standards of 2009. By the standards of 2021. It’s weird. And I just looked at those shorts for each episode again. And it’s almost cringy to sit through them. Although they were only from 2009, which just seems like it was a week ago to me, but they are doing things like you’ll hear the word fanaticism come up in reference to the Japanese, which is something that I believe historians should just stop doing. Because
Marty Morgan 1:37:54
although we might describe them as fanatical, they could easily describe us as fanatical, we can all call each other we can all call our opponents, fanatics, and it is a derogatory term, it is meant to call a critical assessment to them. It’s not meant to understand them in any complexity. It’s meant to just make them look like mindless robots, or worse yet to use fanatic, almost suggests Savage. And that is a theme that I remember when I was in my master’s program. And then when I was in my doctoral program, that there was a lot of discussion and meditation on this issue. Because when I was when I was in my master’s program, I started it in 1991, and finished it in 1996. That was in a heyday because it was through I was in my master’s program during all of the 50th anniversaries 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima. And as each one came up, there was sort of this building this building storm toward Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end, where Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1995. They became the target of this historiographical revision, which called attention to race in a very powerful way. And there were a number of historians that were leveling this accusation against the United States that we dropped the atomic bomb because we were a racist nation. And they would look at American history and come up with all this proof of racism that existed before and they would then deliver this verdict and a book that was sort of the Bible of that line of thinking came out shortly it came out when I was an undergrad history major actually has a book called war without mercy, by dr. john dour and towers war without mercy was a book that I had to read and review as an undergrad. I then had to read and review and earn a Master’s setting and then I had to read and review it again. damn near 25 years later when I was working on my doctorate, and it fascinated me to watch those three very different errors and The way that they looked at that book and understood that book, it’s critically important that when HBO produced these little short, contextual documentaries to proceed, each episode of the Pacific, that one of the historians interviewed was was john dour and john dour. While he does. His book is deserving of a much more sensitive and long and drawn out analysis, I’m just going to say to john Bower, it was all racism. And Mr. Hanks and Mr. Spielberg believe that. And they were guilty of othering the Pacific War in a way that I vigorously object to in that they were they would frequently say things like, the Pacific War was worse than Europe. And to that I just can’t give you an edge. When I hear that absurdity, escape from from someone’s mouth. I like to go Oh, how quickly you forget about Auschwitz, or how quickly you forget about Babi Yar, or Titan, how quickly you forget about all of the things that make the European war, hideous, and awful. There’s still to this day, so many people that are willing to believe what a large number of intelligent people were teaching 25 or 30 years ago, which was, the war in the Pacific was worse. And there is very, very much a theme that runs throughout the Pacific miniseries, that this war is worse. It is more Savage, it is more intense, even the fighting conditions are worse. And if you listen to the interviews that Hanks and Spielberg gave, as a part of those contextual documentaries that come before each episode, and then when they did press junket, and they were like on The Daily Show, they they were regularly calling attention to the weather circumstances. I’ve been to all of the islands that are discussed in this mini series have been to the many times and those weather conditions are quite harsh. And I have been to all of the environments where the war in Europe was falling. And those conditions were harsh to.
Marty Morgan 1:42:06
It’s weird to me that they kind of wanted to make it about they wanted to make it this little struggle of well, Pella was worse than the Battle of the Bulge. And I’m like, to me, they’re apples and oranges. To me. The experience of being an infantryman in the Battle of the Bulge seems like it suck really, really bad. I spend a lot of time in Bastogne. I’ve spent time there during the summer. And I’ve spent time there during the winter. And I’m like, yeah, this would have sucked really bad. And then I’ve been to Petaluma, probably about a dozen times or so. And every time I’ve gone to petaloo, just for the record, it has been in March. I’ve never been there when the battle was actually fought when it’s quite a bit hotter. And it sucked. It sucked in the offseason. And I every time I’ve gone there, I’ve been like, yep, this would have sucked, this would have sucked real bad. And so it’s bizarre to me that with the production team, the California side of the production team, that what they wanted to do was to say, this war in the Pacific, it’s worse, even the weather’s worse, because I don’t think that’s true. And then they also and I’ve mentioned the daily show a minute ago, I was already started going through a breakup over the mini series when it premiered. So I was already sort of disgruntled and grumpy about it. And I watched when Mr. Hanks went on The Daily Show. And Jon Stewart was hosting at a time and Jon Stewart said and with us today when he introduced tanks he did the throw to Hanks and then for the first question at him like you do. And he he said, Joining me tonight is Tom Hanks, executive producer of the Pacific 10 part miniseries premiering on HBO next month and and Tom, tell me what’s the series about and Hanks the first words out of his mouth war, and I quote, the war in the Pacific was a war of race and violence. And all I could think was, well, I have failed completely I failed to reach him. We failed fundamentally because he then went full throttle down that path of Pacific bad. And that it’s so strange to me that that would come from a man who had been involved as a starring actor in Saving Private Ryan, where the European theater was pretty damn bad. He was involved as a producer and Banda brothers to include an episode where they liberated concentration camp for crying out loud. And then to have him go full throttle into the Pacific was worse because weather and racism and it broke my heart. And I’ve been heartbroken about it ever since. And it’s because I do not agree. The Pacific War was not worse. It was terrible. And the European war was 10 There are different kinds of terrible, but I’m not here to declare a winner. They were both, I think, equally, although differently terrible. And from the start and the first conversation we had with them over the phone, because that’s all the only conversations I was ever present for those conversations from the start from coming out of the gate, Hanks and Spielberg wanted to go with Pacific War bad. And we then frustratingly kind of crashed up against that, and clashed with him over it over and over and over again until we were no longer needed. And we will no longer have simple part of the team, he remained on to write this book, which I helped with. And this book departs fundamentally from the series because this book is the story we were proposing,
Dan LeFebvre 1:45:55
just as a real quick insert. For listeners who can’t see what you’re talking about, there is the Pacific companion book,
Marty Morgan 1:46:02
he doesn’t really go in like, like, he’s not a big character here. Bass alone is not a big character here. Because it’s mainly the book we the storyline, we wanted the miniseries to be. And throughout all of that, we definitely did not want it to be basically just a 10 episode Tableau of going Pacific or bad. And that’s what it turned into. I’m not taking away from the project. It was a it was a great series. And it’s a series that everybody should watch. And I think everybody that’s already interested in the subject, they all watched it anyway. But I can tell you this, that it did not reel in new people, certainly not the way that Ben brothers did. It did not pull new people up onto the deck the way that Saving Private Ryan did. I’m even aware of a cohort of people who were brought into an intimate interest of world war two history by the movie Pearl Harbor. And I don’t want to take that away from them, because I’m just glad they’re here. I’m just glad they got interested. The Pacific I had hoped I had when I was working on it there for a while I had hoped that this thing is going to blow Band of Brothers out of the water, everybody’s going to love this. And it did not do that. And I think it did not do that because of the themes that it chose to follow. And those things were very different than Band of Brothers. And as you have already acknowledged, I think the fact that Band of Brothers followed a different set of themes altogether that I think the crowd wanted. I think that is why it succeeded in a way that the Pacific didn’t.
Dan LeFebvre 1:47:41
Well, that leads right into there. I was gonna ask you about that because there was one some something I noticed in Episode Number four, when they’re on a Peruvian in particular. It’s another letter that like he is writing to Vera, he says, has I haven’t seen a Japanese soldier for two weeks, they got smart and moved out. Now the jungle itself is our enemy. So they really do play up the factor that the weather plays a big part in this. Um, was it actually a factor? I mean, you said it was terrible. So it sounds like it would be
Marty Morgan 1:48:12
the environmental factors are certainly there. And it’s certainly worthwhile to play up those environmental factors because troops landing on Omaha Beach on June 6 1944, they just didn’t experience a weather situation comparable to troops landing just a few months later at petaloo. I learned my lesson on petaloo on the very first day I arrived. And the very first day I arrived on my very first visit to pelo we landed on the north side of the island and we immediately went down to the landing beaches. And we walked around for a while and the way I learned my lesson was that I didn’t just dump water down my throat by the gallon like I should have been doing. And I went down from heat exhaustion on my very first day in my very first visit. And I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but it’s terrible. It’s one of the worst feelings on earth. And I didn’t hydrate like I should have and then I over exerted and I ended up then back at by there are these they’re lovely little resorts on pebble and now and you stay in these little beautiful charming cabanas and I went back to come on cabana and I passed the EFF out and I could not move. And then the next day when I woke up, I came to and I was like I still can’t move and I made myself move because I was like oh my god, I’m on callaloo. I am not going to lay in bed. And I powered through the day but I didn’t feel good. And that was the first 24 hours on the island. I was a physical frickin wreck. And that was in the month of March when it’s not that when it was I think it was 85 degrees total. That’s the hottest. And it’s not like I live in Massachusetts. I live in southern Louisiana. It gets hot here, but it is nothing is nothing like heat on pelo in the offseason, by the way, they’re this they’re receiving more direct sunlight. It penetrates you faster, then the environment itself is it’s an adversary. And it’s an adversary in weird ways like
Marty Morgan 1:50:22
crepe. Gloucester is one thing because click cape last year, I spent a lot of time up there. And 2019 I spent a lot of time and revolve at Cape Gloucester. A few other places that were on, on New Britain, and I went to bowmanville. And I went to New Guinea, that’s all we did on that trip. But when we were at revolve in Cape Gloucester, it was, was quite warm. And we struggled on a basic level moving from point A to point B, and I was there for National Geographic filming a TV show. And we struggled, we were basically, we were reduced to being like a, an infantry platoon. If we wanted to go from point A to point B, we were walking, because there, the roads were just so if he, and then also the roads are so heavily pockmarked that the highest speed you could achieve in a vehicle is about five miles an hour. So they have roads, but they don’t have roads at the same time like that in the guinea to, at any rate, the experience that we were having was that these things that we take for granted so much in our daily life, I had to go into downtown New Orleans yesterday, that’s 30 miles away, boom, boom, like nothing ever happened. It was it’s for me and a trip that’s less than an hour. And I’m so spoiled by that I’m so spoiled by civilization. And these are places where civilization has tried to hack the jungle away and the jungle one. There are places where the people who live there who have learned to live there, they have learned to live there, because it’s just something that is part of their social culture. It’s because they’re grown up in it, they live in it, they know how to live, they live far more in tune with nature than we do. And they have my ever admiration for that. It reveals to me just how the reality that we’ve created for ourselves here is one where we’re sort of delicate. I’m not here to say that Marines who went through basic training in world war two were delicate. But I am here to say that you can toughen people up, you can get them hard and used to sleeping on the ground, and not eating warm food all the time. You can get them used to spending a lot of time out doors in adverse weather conditions. But then when you throw that exposure on them and stretch it out, week after week, after week, the human body will reach a point where it can’t go any further. And the strange thing is is it becomes a race between what’s going to give out first, the body or mind because i mean i’m i’m hammering on Cape Gloucester right now and in this in the Pacific, it depicts how morale sinks to this all time low at Cape Gloucester. And their time on Cape Gloucester is it’s three months. And they’re in this this jungle, where they’re out there in it at all times. And that protracted exposure, wears them down physically and wears them down mentally to the point where a dramatic scene, and the series is the man who strips naked and commit suicide. And it’s because it overwhelms him, it gets to him that no matter what you do in training, no matter how difficult the training is that you administer, when you put human beings into that you never really know what you’re going to get you can toughen them up to toughest nails where they pass very rigorous basic training regimes, stateside, where you have to ensure their health and you have to provide food and water and rest and and you provide housing for them. But then when you drop them out in a jungle like that, it’s a stopwatch that begins ticking. And people can only take so much of it. Unless you’re born and raised in it, you can only take so much of it. And particularly when you take people from North America and you put them in jungles that are just a few degrees off of the equator, they’re going to be susceptible to not just heat exhaustion, but also tropical diseases like malaria. And that wipes them out you then throw them into this reality of an enemy who engages you and then retreats. And that creates a combat experience which I think is well depicted in the episode depicting click cape Gloucester, where like he makes the comment about how the enemy has gone and we haven’t seen them.
Marty Morgan 1:54:58
It’s fun to I have to I have to Just throw this one gripe out that there are countless, like secondary historians and crappy historical books that talk about the Pacific War, where they’ll say things like the Japanese were expert jungle fighters. And my question to that is like, where How did that happen? How did they become expert jungle fighters, because what it looks like to me is that they lived in a group of home islands that are at a latitude and longitude that’s above this parasite line, basically, where we are in North America, and that they then had to project force down into this tropical part of the world, where there are lots and lots of parasites and tropical diseases. And they had to learn to fight in the middle of that right alongside us. Because the jet it’s it, it’s a part of that Orientalism, and that othering, that thing of making the Japanese, these wily creatures that they know how to fight in the jungle, because they’re from the jungle, the Japanese weren’t from the jungle. They’re the part of Asia they’re from. I mean, if you get all the way down to the southern part of Japan, but certainly in the home islands, it’s not jungle, but you can get down into like the Ryukyu and islands where Okinawa is, or here, you’ll note that you can get down to the southern areas. And it’s sort of jumbly Taiwan, which was a part of the Japanese Empire at the time. It has its jumbly qualities, but is nothing like a Gloucester It is nothing like the Owen Stanley mountains in New Guinea. They were learning that environment, while we were learning that environment, that’s why the United States Army had a jungle Training Center in the Panama Canal Zone. And that’s because you can’t prepare people for jungle warfare in North America. Hawaii doesn’t even really prepare it, prepare them nicely for it. The Panama Canal Zone, though, yeah, all of the baggage of operating in the tropics, you can be found there. And so that’s why we conducted some training before the war, and then during the war there, but just nothing that could meet the demands of the war that we eventually inherited a war where we had to fight in places where we were struggling against the natural environment. But at the same time, Europe does that. That which is why I returned to this idea that I don’t know that it’s, I don’t know that it’s intellectually helpful, force attention to be called over and over again to jungle warfare. I understand that that’s where the Pacific War was mostly fought not entirely, but mostly, and it’s important for us to understand that it was a different place to fight. But I’m not convinced that that Americans fighting at Cape Gloucester experienced something that was necessarily worse than Americans fighting. along the western dorsal the Atlas Mountains in Tunisia. During the winter of 1943. conditions were pretty bad. Or Americans, of course, fighting like in the hurtgen Forest, or in Northern luxenberg, during the Battle of the Bulge, all of those and find those fighting environments are trying and difficult fighting environments that introduced all these new and different problems. So I’m not sure that the decision that was made by the people in charge of this series to really push hard into Pacific worse Junko bad. I’m not sure that they were, they were doing a great service to the topic by making those the big topics. The Love Story stuff is great, because like they have a number of attractive and charming actresses who are excellent at their craft. And that’s always terrific to watch, and young, attractive and charming men who are actors that are tops of their craft. And it was great to watch all of that. And it’s fascinating for me to go back and watch the way that those actors performed, according to the project that that they were not in charge of that they had they exerted no control over it. And the people who did exert control over it chose to develop these themes that I just don’t really feel like the people wanted. vana brothers gave them something that they wanted. I think the reason the beta brothers succeeded is because it was less about abyss and complexity, and there’s no win and everything’s miserable, and everything’s terrible. Panda brothers was less about that. And it was more about nobility and honor and serving and protecting each other and brotherhood. Those are things that are still in the Pacific, but they’re just not the primary themes.
Dan LeFebvre 1:59:28
Well, you talked about them early. And I wanted to ask you about Eugene sledge, because in Episode Four, he comes back and you know, you mentioned earlier I think it was in the first episode, he couldn’t volunteer because he has a heart murmur. And then in Episode Four, he ends up volunteering, joining the Marines as a Mormon. How well did the show do depicting his path into the Marines?
Marty Morgan 1:59:52
it succeeded wildly. There was a good casting decision about that. So you’ve got a great actor. That’s, that’s representing Eugene sledge. Well, and an actor who by the way, just for the record, he committed himself to understanding sledge and reading about the Pacific War, and really taking on the character. It wasn’t just some passing assignment for him. And I think that’s reflected by its performance in the series. They depict sledge I think in compelling ways that were true to his form benefit of the way that sledges depicted here or they benefit from the fact that they had ready access to Eugene sledges best friend, and they benefited Sorry, I was just reflecting for a moment they benefit cuts, since I think I told you I met sledge and I knew slits and Phillips well, and I was quite close with Sid Phillips because he just lived not terribly far from here and I would go see him all the time. All of my family is from OBO
Marty Morgan 2:00:48
said and Eugene were from mobiel. All my family ended up there were all these circles where the story is crossed eventually. And I was able to meet Eugene sledge once. And then I had this more extensive relationship with Sid Phillips, but the production had access to CIT Phillips, and his sister Catherine, who sort of came to prominence because Ken Burns had done a series about World War Two in which he interviewed Syd and Katherine Phillips. And the two of them, they’re no longer with us, both of them, unfortunately. And they were lovely people. And they oozed southern charm in a way that I just don’t. And they had the excellent mobio accent in a way that I just don’t. And they were you could not not love those people. They were such enormously generous, sweet, kind hearted, polite people. So Mr. sledge wasn’t around for the filmmakers to work with. He died in 2001. They did have access to sit Phillips who was his best friend, Sam Phillips, who is also a character in this that we haven’t mentioned yet. And it would be remiss not to mention him because he was a mortar man and H company of the second battalion first Marines, he one and Sid had a fascinating experience during the war in that he was in the Marine Corps early and then is selected and he goes off, it comes back home after Guadalcanal. And no, no, he comes back home after Gloucester and he goes to school in North Carolina. So he’s got the early part of the experience and then crosses paths briefly with Eugene at fubu. You say it like I do. By the way, I say I’ve always all my life said booboo, and most many of the veterans I’ve talked to say it like that, you will hear some people say pabu I just say anyway, the series depicts sledge and in a way that I think ended up looking good. They they ended up having to do something that all southerners just kind of we all go. And that whenever they when you get people from other parts of the country or the world who tried to do Southern accents, they never really pull it off great. In the series, the only person who does a good job is Rami Malik Actually, he does a pretty damn good Louisiana accent I have to admit, it was of all of the accents to the Louisiana accent is the hardest to execute. And the Alabama accents always stand up sound and lacks like Gone with the Wind I need a glass of water they end up sounding terrible like that they all because they just don’t you can’t do that you just can’t imitate it and and southerners just kind of go here we go again. But the great thing is that I didn’t find it to be all that distracting in unlike I did and some other examples. Like if you saw in movie, Hacksaw Ridge, those Southern accent people should go to jail over those accents is so bad. They were and I don’t mean to just be catty about it. It’s I they became sources of deep distraction for me in just go and enjoying the film. And the film had other problems. But that’s another story anyway, this film didn’t really have those big problems, because they had good actors they portrayed sledge Well, they I think they humanized him to the extent that they, in a very subtle way, show his frustration over his heart murmur that initially prevents him from joining Marine Corps. When son Phillips goes into the Marine Corps. And then they there’s a compelling depiction of the scene when he’s finally old enough to do it without parental consent. And he doesn’t need his father’s advice or permission. And also it’s a little bit later in the war. And the Marine Corps is no longer quite so picky about your physical condition overall. It’s worth mentioning that there’s an old great diehard cliche that I’ve heard over and over again throughout my life that hey, if you’re colorblind, you can’t be in the military. Or if you have flat feet, you can’t be in the military, oh, yes, you can. If they need you, they’ll look right past your flat footedness and put you in a pair of boots that don’t help your feet and send you off the war. It’s just there was a big difference between physical requirements in the early part of the war, when we were largely doing it with volunteers. But an honesty that we have to accept about the American experience in world war two is that Pearl Harbor did a lot to create hundreds of 1000s of volunteers. And all of that began to die down later in 1942. A lot of people were compelled by senses of patriotism, to go down and join. And the stories are endless and inspiring all of them. And after about August 42, the number of volunteers did that dropped off precipitously, to the point that we already had a draft in place. The draft was in place before the war started, in fact, but the number of people that were being called up by the for conscription, by the Selective Service, the the number of people had to increase dramatically to compensate for the decline in volunteers. And as that happened, we suddenly had lots of people that we were overlooking silly things like color blindness and flat footedness. And we were also overlooking things like they they had persistent pneumonia, were putting people in uniform, despite persistent pneumonia. And there were people that were not up to where we sent them. Because if you think about persistent pneumonia, and if you think about a lot of a very large number of people affected by the Great Depression, or growing up under conditions of malnutrition, and that they’re getting food, they’re just not getting the right foods. They have low body weight. And when you have low body weight, you’re susceptible to things like pneumonia. So you have a lot of a large number of people that had experienced pneumonia before they enter service, they enter service, they have a pneumonia relapse, and they’re suddenly either non deployable, or they’re so sick, we spend a lot of time in the hospital, we have problems like that. And if you were one of those sort of like sickly weaklings, and you were down at a recruiting station, right after Pearl Harbor, they turn you away. And then a year and a half later, you’d get you get a draft notice, by that same token, a very large number of people were ineligible for service, right after Pearl Harbor, because they had felony records, they had criminal records that prohibited them from entering the service. All of that was out the window by late 1943. And so there’s a massive surge of the number of people who were being drafted into the military. And it was because the United States military was facing massive personnel needs by late 1943. And it was meeting those needs by drafting more and more people to compensate for the lack of volunteers. And it was dealing, it was dealing with that also by bringing people in, who might not have met the physical standards of earlier in the war. So Eugene, sled shoes ruled out early on, first of all, because he needed parental consent, and he had a heart murmur. sledge by the time he’s 18, he no longer needs parental consent. And the government’s no longer really all that turned off by his heart murmur. And the result is he’s in the Marine Corps. And not only is he in the Marine Corps, but he’s in the Marine Corps to endure two of the worst battles that the Corps fought during World War Two. But that’s for another time.
Dan LeFebvre 2:08:42
That’s for another time. Yes, speaking, speaking of at the very end of Episode Four, we do see, Bob Luckey has an uresa. So he’s in the hospital, but then he ends up essentially bribing The Doctor, Doctor grant he browser with a Japanese pistol that he found, gets them out of the hospital, and then they ship off to play Lou, which we will talk about in our next chat. But before we wrap this up today, is there anything from a historical perspective that you feel the show did or didn’t do well, in the way that they depict this lead in to Palella?
Marty Morgan 2:09:17
You know, it’s considered, it’s considered bad form to criticize them for what, for the show that they didn’t make, because I should continue I can contain my comments to the show that they did make and show that they did make was one where they were following a specific set of people. And that brought them to certain story points. And one thing that I found just a little disappointing I don’t want to hammer into this too much is that the depiction of Cape Gloucester in the cape Gloucester campaign was one that was only briefly placed in a bit of context. There wasn’t a lot of context development and then I I also feel like the cape Gloucester side quest. I feel like it was a little bit of a miniature Vietnam movie, in that what we were confronted with during that was a theme that let’s, if I can just be direct and honest about it, it’s a little taxing for me to sit through a series that wants to go Oh, in this part of the war was bad. Yeah, I know. It was Coster was brutal and difficult. And it’s just sort of thrown into a, almost a bland and in distinct context, whereas the presentation of Guadalcanal is it’s a hard fought battle, and that these Marines came together as a fighting unit that they overcome, they overcame difficulties, and that they were brutalized by this experience. And then they get a reprieve in Australia, only to then be sent to Cape Gloucester and cape Gloucester sort of just feels like it’s nothing. It’s sort of feels like the Heart of Darkness. I’m not here to challenge the idea that cape Gloucester was a difficult fight, because it was very difficult. What felt a little on the disappointing side to me was when stripped out of its proper context, it can turn into a Vietnam movie where you’re like, what’s the purpose of all of this? Why? Why did we come here so that we will just struggle in this battle where the enemy is retreated and the enemies not here and we encounter the enemy only every now and then. I feel like the cape Gloucester part is also developing a little bit of the that the wily Japanese infantry lurking in the in the jungle, which I believe is a racial condescension that’s not entirely appropriate for describing the Japanese. They’re also the depicted like that a little bit in the Guadalcanal chapter of this story, but at the same time, they’re not here to tell the Japanese side of the story. They’re not neither on Guadalcanal nor at Cape Gloucester. But I feel like I’m left wanting a little more. I quite admire this movie called Letters from Iwo Jima, maybe you’ve seen it, because I think it’s quite good. Because it was an attempt to tell the Japanese side of the story and I respect it for that. And I also find it to be not necessarily a movie that you can enjoy because it’s very dark and it’s very violent, but it’s a it’s a movie that you can understand. I feel like it did them service. And I feel like what we’ve seen in the cape Gloucester sequence doesn’t do them service. And because I don’t think it helps intellectually, when they’re just nameless, faceless warriors lurking in the jungle that get mowed down by Robert lanky and not, not that we’re here to tell a different story. But that that objection and that little problem that I have there is part of this larger umbrella of a problem. And that I believe that although Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg certainly didn’t mean to be racists in making this series, I believe that they inadvertently produce something that has certain racial condescension in its tone. And that those racial conversations are about to get a lot worse in future episodes just for the record. And that, I would believe that if Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks were to make that same series today, they would not make what they made. Like if it was made today, let’s just be honest, there is the regular and frequent use of a word that is in the series that is absolutely off limits now. And that’s the word jack.
Marty Morgan 2:13:58
And it is regularly and frequently used in the dialogue of this series. If that if that series was made today, I don’t think we’d see that I don’t want I don’t think we’d hear that. And by that same token, I believe that there would be when it came out, there was nobody that was standing by to offer a sensitively and carefully worded critique of how the series engages in or in Orientalism, and othering. Nobody really was out there coughing up that criticism when it came out, I was sort of the only one brooding in the corner, gone. Well, if they’d listened to me, there would have been none of this racialized narrative. But it’s fascinating to have watched it from the perspective of 2021 from particularly the perspective of the within the broader socio cultural movement that I think has changed the rules so much that the series if made today couldn’t look like the series that was made back in the late 2000s. And also So, I believe that Mr. Hanks and Mr. Spielberg engaged in intellectually into inappropriate racial simple simplifications and Orientalism, I’m not saying that they are racist people, but that I am saying that they unconsciously coughed up some racial stereotyping in making this series that I don’t think is all that fair. And all you have to do is go and watch those little contextual mini documentaries that come before each episode. And you’ll just hear them gurgling up, all of them, including the historians that they use, they all gurgle it up over and over again. And it’s all this age old crap that the Japanese were expert jungle fighters and the Japanese, they were unlike any other enemy, they wouldn’t surrender. And you hear that over and over from them. And they were the people that pushed those ideas into the heart of this series. And all of those ideas are absolutely spurious. The idea of identifying the Japanese as somehow being more medieval, because of their refusal to surrender than the Germans weren’t because the Germans would surrender, it refuses to recognize a very basic idea, and that is that there were a series of treaty agreements that the United States that signed and Germany had signed, and those treaty agreements defined, and they regulated the way that for example, you treat prisoners of war, and the way that you treat medical staff and the Empire of Japan had largely not signed any of those treaties. And so I, I don’t believe it’s fair for us to look at Nazi Germany where we see German often that we see German troops that get surrounded, and they can’t possibly win. And instead of fighting to the death, they surrender, and it’s treated almost like and they surrender, like any sane and rational person would. And that then suggests then that the Japanese are neither sane nor rational. And I believe that that is, I believe that to be a racial condescension, that is entirely inappropriate for understanding the way that Japan fought in World War Two. Because just because they wouldn’t surrender when surrounded the way that Germans would, we automatically have to treat them as fanatical or insane. And they were not that they had their own motivations and their own dedications that that discussion, I think, is probably too big for what we’re trying to do tonight. But they have their own motivations. And it is so wrong. It deprives everyone of a broader and more sensitive understanding of that war, when we cheapen them and trivialize them and turn them into fanatical, fanatical, primordial junk jungle fighters, because they were none of that. And cape Gloucester sort of place that up a little bit, which is why I sort of struggled to swallow it. And if you get a chance to go and watch the, those little interstitials, those little consent contextual mini documentaries, but there I found those to be almost impossible to sit through. Because what those men are all saying it’s Hanks and Spielberg, who are not historians, they are filmmaker, one’s an actor, but also filmmaker, and the other one’s a filmmaker. And so I’m not sure that we should turn to them for instruction on how to understand complex historical subjects. But then they turn to a series of historians who represent sort of an older era of the historiography, because to get where we are today, we had to move from an old historiography where the Japanese never had identity and they never had agency and we had to move through then john down or in his book, war without mercy and an attorney, and they use an historian in that, and the many dogs named Akira area who was quite outspoken in this racial interpretation of the atomic bombs, we need to move for them to get to where we are today, which is I think, this world that’s quite a bit more progressive and understanding and one in which the Japanese are not just the whole, you know, broadcloth painted, or I should not rock broad, we had to move through them to get to this world where the Japanese are not just broad brush painted as mindless fanatics, because they weren’t that that’s lazy. That’s lazy. It’s wrong. That’s not a proper understanding of the Japan that thought the Americans on Cape Gloucester or Guadalcanal or petaloo or Okinawa, it’s so much more complicated than that. And it it’s a worthy investment of time to understand that topic more sensitively, and these many Doc’s that are now
Marty Morgan 2:19:40
12 years old, maybe 13 years old. It’s fascinating how dated they are now. And it’s also for me the source of a little bit of heartburn because from the start, that’s what those men wanted out of this series. What those men wanted was the Heart of Darkness. They want To play up this idea of European war, familiar, good, war Pacific jungle band, that’s what they were developing. And that’s I think we see that in the cape Gloucester sequence. And that’s a very post Vietnam way of looking at things. And we’re beyond that now. Or at least we should be. So I’m a little that that was a little bit of a disappointment in the series. I’m not going to hammer away at it by saying things like, the series didn’t talk about the army at all, because the army was a part, a part of that battle, where we see the basketball Medal of Honor, the Medal of Honor actually depicted so so effectively. There were Army troops on the island at that point, they were fighting alongside the Marine Corps and they were an important part of it. I’m not here to say that well, we got to throw army and we everyone has to be represented, because that’s not the story being didn’t the
Dan LeFebvre 2:20:50
Marines steal some of the army supplies? I think in one of the one of the episodes, I think,
Marty Morgan 2:20:56
it comes up the army supply situation comes up and, and in fact, there’s a fascinating detail if I can just throw out one example is that one thing that comes up is sort of a, it may be a little bit of an episode of mythology, but it’s brought up that by the time that the US Army arrives on the island, the first army unit to arrive there is the 160/4 Infantry Regiment of that will be the North Dakota National Guard, and one of the 1/64 infantry arrives on the island in October before the battle Anderson field, they are armed with what is at this point of the war, the United States Army’s primary service rifle, which is the M one eight shot semi automatic rifle. The Marine Corps has not adopted that rifle for every fighting unit in the fleet marine force, which is why if you pay close attention in the scenes that depict the Battle of the Tennessee River, and then also the Battle of interesting field, you will see Marines fighting with the 1903 manually operated five shot bolt action rifle. And if I can be caddy for a moment, there’s a fascinating little detail in there. And that is it shows Marines fighting with the 1903 manually operated rifle on Guadalcanal. And it shows them with the wrong rifle. Which is I can understand how an armored trying to outfit a movie would have a hard time coming up with the correct rifles, especially when you consider that Principal photography for the series occurred in Australia. And it was probably difficult for them to come up with the exact correct model of the 1903 rifle. But the 19 oh 30 rifle depicted in the series is in 1903 83 rifle, which is a version of the 1903 rifle that it was just going into production in the Marine Corps did not have it yet. And so you can tell that was just a production decision where they were like, Hey, we don’t have the right Oh, three rifle but it’s another three rifle. And I find largely that filmmakers do not care. Like in Private Ryan wrong sniper rifle, hey, it’s just a rifle. Just go with it, they went with the wrong 1903 bolt action rifle, which is disappointing when when you watch the sit the sequences for tinaroo reverence for battle of interest and field where there’s all this loving attention paid to the browning of 1917, a water cooled machine gun, it almost becomes a starring character. I mean, the way that they depict that gun to the sequences that overwhelmed me with pleasure to watch that because it was, first of all the weapons are all correct. They make the weapon a starting character and it depicts the weapon as being exactly what it was, which was a fiendishly effective firearm. There are times that I’ve in the past encountered people that look at a water cooled machine gun being used 42 they think of it as a throwback, it’s something from the past, it’s all that it’s outdated, it was obsolete. And that is not true, because that firearm was a life taker. And that is extremely well depicted in the series, almost to the extent of all those basketball sequences, like I just couldn’t get enough of them because that machine guns as much of a character as these actors are. And that machine gun was a devastatingly effective firearm, and the Marine Corps and the army put it to use throughout the Second World War. It’s funny how something like that can seem unimportant, something like getting the correct type of firearm it can seem unimportant, but people will politicize the firearms and I have frequently with other historians engaged in acrimonious debate about the way that they can politicize the firearms and it has come up several times about the Guadalcanal battle, because at the outset of the Guadalcanal battle, of course, the Marine Corps lands in the Marine Corps. For most Marine Corps units, not all but most Marine Corps units, particularly the ones that laid it on walk now. They’re still armed with the 1903 Springfield manually operated five shot bolt action rifle. There have been historically In the past that have said things like old world war one bolt action rifles and they they serve that up as if to make them seem more underdog
Marty Morgan 2:25:12
these guys were out there and they’re fighting the environment in the jungle around them and the enemy surrounds them and and how are they doing it to doing it with this old world war one rifle and that is pure poppycock. That is pure nonsense. Because the one they in 1903 rifles that Marine Corps had on Guadalcanal were firearms that had gone through service life and extension programs. And some of them are possibly even new production rifles because the United States military or the United States government put the 1903 rifle back into production just as World War Two was beginning. And so to characterize the rifle as somehow, being a weak link in the chain is a completely inaccurate characterization. And it’s been a large number of historians that present it like that they serve it up to you. Like these Marines, the Marine Corps landed and they weren’t properly equipped. Because what often comes up when we talk about the Marines landing on Guadalcanal is that they landed Guadalcanal, the Navy has to leave soon thereafter. And they’re left without all of their equipment, like it’s come up regularly that they don’t have insect repellent. And they don’t have mosquito netting. And that’s why everybody got malaria. That’s why that happened because the ships had to leave. Things had not been properly combat loaded as we will ultimately perfect later in the war. But at this point in the war, it’s still everything’s new everything’s first time. We don’t have everything that we need. And so there was this weird theme that was developed early on in this abandoned this now obsolete era of historiography, where they would say things like the Marines landed, they’ll go down a checklist of the things in the Marines didn’t have no insect repellent. They didn’t have enough barbed wire, they didn’t have mosquito netting, they didn’t have this, they didn’t have that they didn’t have proper artillery. At first, they didn’t go down this list of all the things the Marines didn’t have. And then it’ll turn into the standard old and they were fighting the enemy with this old world war one rifle, which is a deep distortion of the reality of the circumstances. It’s a it’s a deep misrepresent, it is a purposeful misrepresentation of the fact that the in 1903 rifle was still an extremely effective combat weapon, which is why it remains in combat used by the Marine Corps and the army from the day the war begins all the way through the day the war ends. We make the mistake of imagining that every single American that fought the Second World War had an eight shot in one rifle. And that’s not true. And it’s not bad that they had a five shot bolt action rifle. Yeah, the eight shot semi auto, you could say, provided it provided attributes that made it better. But it’s not to say that the 1903 rifle was a poor rifle, especially when you consider that the Japanese enemy that they’re fighting on Guadalcanal is an enemy, who’s also fighting with a five shot bolt action rifle. And so it’s that’s why it’s moments like, I don’t want that distortion to squeak out. Like if you let a little air out of balloon. I don’t want that distortion to get out. Because I find that that’s the kind of bullcrap that like journalists and water cooler story, they’ll take that and they’ll walk it around the group going on and look, and the Marines were there fighting with their old crappy 1903 rifles, and, but the oh three rifle is an absolutely excellent combat weapon. And it seems so weird to turn the spotlight on its deficiencies, rather than turning the spotlight on its strengths, because its strengths were many. But that’s done by people who are basically screenplay writers. That’s what journalists are anyway, they’re just present. They’re presenting you a screenplay. It’s done by people who want to produce an emotional impact. And the emotional impact they want to do is to go look at look at these heroes that overcame all these difficulties, and they did it with an old, obsolete rifle to that’s how good they were. I’m not here to say they weren’t good. I’m just here to say that they were good. And they faced lots of adversity. And one of those adversities was not the rifle they were fighting. Yeah, well, they’re
Dan LeFebvre 2:29:22
adding to the story to make it even a bigger David and Goliath type, you know, you’re underdogs. And they’re ill equipped and they’re using old weapons and they still managed to power through, you know,
Marty Morgan 2:29:36
that’s precisely what they’re trying to go for when they turn to something like that. There are even a few moments in the series where I mean, I just sort of admiringly looked on while you see the cast of the firearms cast of characters is noteworthy because obviously the 1979 one machine gun is a starring character because it’s so central to the basketball Medal of Honor action. It’s It’s so important Things that will unfold later in the series. And you get glimpses of the wrong 1903 rifle. I don’t want to be too harsh about that. You see the oh three rifle the oh three a three rifle when you should be seeing technically a service life extended 1903 rifle but who cares? Then you get a couple of glances of the MIT 28 a one Thompson submachine gun. In fact, you see Leckie killing Japanese with that at Cape Gloucester. You see a few examples of that on Guadalcanal I think Oregon’s got 19 2081 and you see them equipped with a 50 round drum magazine. Like Like a gangster. And it’s fascinating that the Marine Corps was still issuing the 50 round detachable drum magazine as a combat accessory for the Thompson submachine gun at this point in the war. As we get later in the war, they quit using that they quit issuing the 50 round drum magazine, it doesn’t go away entirely, but it goes away almost entirely. And that’s because it is a terribly impractical idea. The rounds when they sit inside the drum rack magazine that can move around inside the magazine and it sounds like a tin can full of marbles. So it’s not ideal for achieving stealth. In combat, it’s a noisy item to begin with. And then also it’s it’s an item that if you don’t know exactly how to line up the carpet just inside the drum magazine, and then you end you don’t know exactly what you’re doing in terms of applying the proper spring tension. When you wind up the spring on the drum magazine, it’s a it’s a device that’s its complexities are such that it doesn’t work well they found that shifting over to to stick magazines was super simple, super easy. Nobody ever encountered problems with that they never made noise. And so you’re seeing the fact that the filmmakers although they have the wrong Oh, three rifle, it’s wrong with me to bring it up because they had so much else that was right. They had, they had I mean, they really did the 1979 one machine got a great service and depicting it very accurately and depicting it for how powerful a weapon it was. You see, the 28 Thompson submachine gun depicted with drum magazine. So there were people on there, they knew better. And I have a feeling it wasn’t that they like a bunch of dopes just went Wait, that’s not the right oh three, they knew, it’s just that they probably didn’t have access to a sufficient quantity correct three rifles to get through the production because productions live and die by a schedule, you make mistakes. It’s like everything and you can’t get everything right. And they push to get as much right as they could. And I respect that for the effort
Dan LeFebvre 2:32:32
to make sense. It boils down to time and money when it means a business. Yeah,
Marty Morgan 2:32:36
you’re producing an entertainment project, a product. And the entertainment product is. I mean, I can say this, just because I gave birth to a baby this week Call of Duty is about the new Call of Duty is about to come out. And I’ve been working on that secretly for a little over a year and a half now. And we do the exact same thing we do what the precisely the same thing, you can’t get everything right, but you should try to get as much right as you possibly can. And if you if you don’t get everything, right, people are gonna let you know, they’re gonna let you know real quick, and your overall attempting to produce something else. And it’s a lot of people that are involved, and you’re producing an entertainment product. Because at the end of the day, if it’s not something that is appealing to people, it’s not going to sell, you’re not going to produce income that will keep the industry moving the Pacific. I mean it, it performed well for HBO. But it did not perform nearly as well as Ben brothers performed. I mean, for crying out loud. The actors who were in Band of Brothers 20 years ago now, those actors have in years before COVID. They were coming back to Normandy where they were being greeted like celebrities, because that series is so deeply loved to this day, 20 years later, the actors who are in the Pacific, I mean, look how many great actors are in the Pacific that go on to do amazing things and other things that when they did the Pacific, those other things have not happened yet for Rami Malik for crying out loud. Those actors, I don’t think 20 years from now. I don’t I don’t think 20 years after the Pacific, which will be surprisingly in less than a decade. But I don’t think 20 years after the Pacific. I don’t think that they’re going to be going to make appearances at places. And they’re going to be there. I don’t think they’re going to have lines around the block of people who want to get selfies with them and get autographs that happens with those actors from Banda brothers. And that was 20 years ago. The actors that were in the Pacific, they’ve moved on their other projects or their their legacy. The actors who were name an actor from Banda brothers winters other than what’s his name? What is his name?
Dan LeFebvre 2:34:50
Marty Morgan 2:34:52
Yeah, Damian Lewis, layman actor that went on to bigger and better things after Ben brothers.
Dan LeFebvre 2:34:56
Wasn’t Michael Fassbender in there.
Marty Morgan 2:34:59
Yeah. That’s my mind. And that’s a little bit of a hand grenade. Yes, ask me more, and he’s gone on to do something else. But what do people think of Bana brothers when they think of Michael Fassbender? They don’t. I forgot he was in that. But I’m talking about like main actors, the actors from Vanna brothers. Some of them went on to do other things. But the main core characters, Banda brothers was where their career topped out. I mean, Damian Lewis went on to do a few great things beyond it. But the for most of those actors, that that was the role that defined their career. For most of the actors in the Pacific. It’s there as the roles that they went on to eventually that define their careers. And it’s just because as a lasting legacy, the Pacific did not resonate the way that Ben brothers did.
Dan LeFebvre 2:35:51
Play, you mentioned something that I want to ask you about, and we will continue our look at the Pacific. But you mentioned working on the new Call of Duty game, you also have another new world war two show that you’ve been working on. So you’ve been pretty busy lately. Can you share a little bit about what you’ve been working on where people can learn more?
Marty Morgan 2:36:09
Certainly, first of all, I’ve been working on a show from the Discovery Channel, but very excited about that’s about Japanese balloon bombs during World War Two. In fact, I’m going to Texas tomorrow to film the final scenes of that where we will be blowing up bonds to simulate what what what the Japanese were sending across the Pacific to be more of the United States over the course of a period of time between November 1944. In May 1945, the Japanese released 9000 balloons that cross the Pacific Ocean using the high altitude jet stream reached, not all of them reach North America, but many of them did and came down and set off explosions. And one of those explosions killed Americans in an Eastern Oregon in May 1945. And this show is a big investigation into that subject, and I’m quite excited about that it will be on Discovery Channel at some point in November. And that’ll be right at about the same time that the other big project is coming out because on November 5. Activision publishers, is releasing Call of Duty Vanguard, which I had been working on as authenticity advisor and technical advisor, since I climbed aboard the project with my studio work for a studio called Sledgehammer Games. And we began working on the project in earnest just as COVID began, and have been secretly slaving away on the project to get to get it done under very challenging circumstances. And we dropped our worldwide reveal trailer earlier this week. Maybe you saw it, trailer look exciting and awesome trailer has some Pacific War in there. I don’t know if you noticed. It’s gonna be fun. I think I can say now, I don’t know if I’m supposed to keep it quiet. But we’re doing to Pacific battles, bowmanville and midway, and I’m very excited. You’d have to be a little bit slow witted to not catch the Midway references because there’s a shot of USS Enterprise with SBD dauntless and TBD Devastator torpedo bombers all on the on the aft Deck preparing to take off, that’s a big midway tip off. And so it’s no secret that when you see this TBD devastators you know automatically, it’s bad midway, and that’s in the worldwide revealed trailer. And so I’m quite excited about what that’s going to look like. And I can tell you, it’s going to look awesome. Amazing. So that’s going to come out on November 5, so just in time for Christmas shopping season, and if it sells well, we’re hoping to take it into a sequel after that, but cross that bridge when it come to it. So pay attention to what might be coming on on broadcast cable on Discovery Channel in the next few months. And then of course, be ready for November 5, when Call of Duty Vanguard is released.
Dan LeFebvre 2:38:52
Thank you again so much for your time right
Marty Morgan 2:38:55
It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.