Our three-part series covering HBO’s The Pacific wraps up today with the last three episodes.
Episodes we’re covering today:
8. Iwo Jima
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Dan LeFebvre 02:18
We’ll kick off today in episode number eight where we see John Basilone ask Lieutenant General Vandegrift for permission to stop “pushing pencils” as the show calls it. The request is granted and then he starts training new Marines at Camp Pendleton. Was that how Basilone transitioned from his Medal of Honor-related promotion for war bonds that we saw earlier in the series to training Marines at Camp Pendleton?
Marty Morgan 02:45
It was an a couple of fascinating dynamics are at work there that leads to Basilone return to the deployable fighting marine force, which we call the fleet marine force the FMF. What led to him returning to the FMF was a couple of factors. First and foremost, he was a little bit done with the pencil pushing as he puts it, he was a little bit done with the war bond tour. For the record the war bond to her that he was centrally involved in, it had come and gone. That’s not to suggest this possibility to jump asinine was a has been because he certainly was not that he had been elevated to this position of a household name. And you may be aware of the fact that when he returned home after walking out, he was celebrated in New Jersey with a parade that was covered by movietone. And one other source so that it made its way into the newsreels that preceded the motion pictures is that which is the way that most people receive their visual news at the time. That’s how they received it. It was either newspapers or newsreels, that’s what you got. And he became a household name. He was elevated to household name status, by that he was in used during this war bond tour with great success. And at the end of it, it wasn’t that he was like forgotten and he was a husband. It was that other battles that occurred, and other heroes had been created by those battles. And the Department of the Navy wanted to feature the old heroes like basketball and they wanted to feature the new ones as well. So it’s not like he was no longer useful to them is that they needed to present more heroes, they needed to make more people, they needed to elevate more people to the status and stature that bass alone had been elevated to. And so he was less needed for that sort of promotional tour work as he had been in 1943. So in 1944, he’s no longer quite the front page news that he had been he was still a celebrity. He was still a household name, but there was other front page news that was attracting everyone’s interest. He therefore was still useful. He was still involved in Some promotions and some training. But he was also nearing the end of his enlistment. And I think that’s the critical factor might be closing in on his enlistment because his listen and listen that was running out in. That would be June 44, toward the end of the month, and as his enlistment term was nearing its end. He was trying to figure out in a way that’s I think, well depicted in the series. And he was trying to figure out what his future was going to be and what it was going to do, because it was going to be a big decision. If I re enlist, am I going to keep doing this? Am I no longer a deployable fleet marine force marine? Or am I going to be a stateside person that’s involved in promoting war bonds and things like that. So it was for him a difficult decision. So his needs were about to merge with the Marine Corps needs because the Marine Corps needs changed fundamentally, while he was promoting the war bond drive. And that is that in 1943, the United States military all branches experienced a major personnel crisis. And so far as the people who had flocked to the recruiting stations early in 1942, the people that had lined up in the immediate aftermath of December 7, basically that entire generation of people they had gone through recruit training or basic training or whatever you want to call it. They had they had been placed in operational units, they had gone overseas. And we had basically worked our way through that harvest, the harvest of volunteers who came in right after Pearl Harbor. To be perfectly clear, people were still volunteering, they just were not volunteering and numbers comparable to early 1942. So that by early 1943, it’s beginning to decline, the number of volunteers, the military had addressed in position. And we began using that draft before the war started. By 1943, we were drafting more people than we were more people that were volunteering. And the result was that also that the military had to forecast what the future would look like, and the military and imagining a future where those numbers were going to continue to decline. The numbers of volunteers. That is, the military had to compensate for that in advanced planning. And that compensation resulted in the military beginning to swell the draft pool. So that through the calendar year 1943, more and more people are being drafted, our draft figures are increasing. And it’s critically important to point out that the United States Marine Corps began accepting people for selective service through the draft, which is something that the Marine Corps had not done before, which is something that the Marine Corps wouldn’t do, again until Vietnam. But that’s another story. At any rate, the Marine Corps was feeling the pinch of the personnel crisis as the volunteer numbers declined for 1943. And the result was that the Marine Corps had to haul in a bunch of people, they still have volunteers, but they had to haul in a lot of people as draftees. early on. Do you want to hear just some some early on research, like gossip from when I was involved in Ceres? Maybe you do. I remember early on that Hugh Ambrose, one of the one of the research tasks that had been assigned for me like going way back to the very earliest version of the of the research team for the Pacific. Going back to 2004, early 2005, I had been given this assignment to research the length of time that recruit training was taken. And that’s because Recruit Training is something that exhibited change over time, during the course of the Pacific War. Two were in the before the war, there was sort of a, there was ample amount of time, many, many weeks to take someone in his recruit, put them through boot camp, and then graduate them on the other end and put them in a unit. What the Marine Corps would experience in 4344 was that the personnel crisis became so acute that Marine Corps Recruit Training had to shrink very quickly, because they suddenly needed volume. And this was elaborated through these things that are called letters of instruction that came from the commandant and went to the marine recruit depot’s Parris Island in North Carolina, and South Carolina, excuse me, and then of course, San Diego, California. And in the letters of instruction, the commandant was instructing these to recruit repos on how to change the length of time that recruit training was going to take place. I’m mentioning it not just to bore you to tears, but I’m mentioning it because I feel like it is provides a fascinating reflection on the way that the Marine Corps experienced this personnel crisis in 1943. And the way that the Corps responded to it was like, Oh my god, we’ve got to punch it. We got to push a bunch of people through recruit training. fast. And the knowledge will be that we’ll just we’ll just fill the hose up with a lot of people and we’ll run them through it, we will shorten the length of recruit training will then get them to their destination unit where they will complete their training the the conceit was that upon reaching their unit, their unit will train them will put will fill in the gaps of the training that they didn’t receive in recruit training because it was abbreviated. That was the idea. And so I spent an enormous amount of time going through the letters of instruction from Commandant to mcrd Parris Island mcrd, San Diego, and it fascinated me It told me a lot about the way that the Marine Corps had to deal with the Second World War. And it’s not all butterflies and unicorns, it’s not all, plenty of people were lined up and volunteering. That’s absolutely not what was going on by 43. This, I don’t want to say dark, but dark or reality, it’s set in and the Marine Corps had to I don’t want to say sacrifice, quality training, but it had to compensate for the sudden shortfall in personnel that resulted in abbreviated Rico recruit training with the expectation that on delivery to their unit, they would receive greater levels of training, which is something that is very nicely depicted in the series. Because you see that ultimately, John Basilone decides to re enlist. he marries he realists or Wait, is it one for the other? They’re almost simultaneously either way. Any reenlist? He then becomes, yeah, he becomes Cowdray in the 27 Marine Regiment. And by Cowdray, I mean he’s senior noncommissioned officer Cowdray that is then sent to Hawaii, where he is training. Marines who have already completed this abbreviated Marine Corps Recruit Training, who’ve already been sent, sent through the system and have been assigned to the 27 Marine Regiment fifth Marine Division. And bass alone is there to enhance their training. So you get some of that you get some of that as a payoff in the series. It’s well depicted, I think, and it’s showing him and how would you like to be that person? How would you like to be the young Marine who went through abbreviated recruit training and got assigned to a unit and you’re told you’re going to meet this you’re going to meet the sergeant here shortly. And john, or
Marty Morgan 12:21
I can’t imagine what those Marines must have thought they would have followed that man through the gates of hell. Because he was jump Aslam. He was a recipient of the Medal of Honor, they had all read about his exploits and long canal. And he then became the person that was going to lead them in combat. It all fascinates me all of these details. They seem irrelevant. They seem like fluff, but I believe they inform this, but this broader picture, and I think they help you appreciate him. Because I believe that part of what he of course, he didn’t survive the war. So we couldn’t interview and ask him, but if he had, I would love to have asked him. Like, why did you write Why did you reenlist? And I would, I would imagine that I believe that maybe one of his responses would have been, I felt an obligation. I had experience. I have knowledge, skills, abilities and experience that the Marine Corps desperately needed that because by that point, by the point when he re enlisted, he was beginning to see the people who had been siphoned who had been pushed through abbreviated Marine Corps Recruit Training. And I believe he was saying like, these, these people are Marines, but they’re not quite ready. They need experienced noncommissioned officer leadership, to get them all the way to where they’re prepared to go into combat, because the combat that they’ll go into is going to be harsh. And I believe he would have said, I know this is absurd for me, did historian 77 years later to put words in john basketball’s mouth, but I believe that he felt a responsibility. It wasn’t just a matter of him wanting to be in combat. It wasn’t just a matter of him wanting to get back into the fray because he loved adventure. I don’t think that was it. I think we actually trivialize very complex things when we make it a matter of he just wanted to get up there and get in the action again, because he was bored. I think there’s more to it than that. I think he would have provided a very nuanced response to that question that would have included, I had a responsibility, these young recruits needed people like me, I think he would have provided response to the extent that he wanted revenge against the Empire of Japan, because I believe that animated a very, very large number of people throughout the course of the conflict. And I think he would have provided maybe even an additional answer that I can’t even imagine. Maybe he would have offered up patriotism. Who knows. And I think that we think that we are dealing with a great inequity. And it was a very big loss for him, not just five conflict, because I think he could have provided some insight into things that I’m certainly very interested in. Because one thing that I’m seeing more and more is that as we as we move into this postmodern era, a lot of the standards of The way that postmodernity interrogates the world war two time period, I think is it’s very much 21st century ideals, interrogating very early 20th century ideals. In other words, I believe that we project a great deal of cynicism into the actions of people who I believe we’re not quite as cynical as we would have them be. I think they were certainly not quite as cynical as the HBO miniseries The Pacific depicted them. And I think that there were other things that work and I and I, I feel that it’s a big loss for us not to have had the voice of john bass alone stretching beyond 1945. Because I think he would have told me a lot. I don’t know that he would have felt a pressure to misrepresent the reasons why he re enlisted and stayed in the Marine Corps. I think he felt a sense of duty. And I think he felt a sense of patriotism. And I believe that the 21st century through all of its disenchantment and condescension, would never acknowledge that. So it goes without saying that it was a loss, that he didn’t survive the war.
Dan LeFebvre 16:09
I think it’s kind of telling kind of what you just said a moment ago of when he was struggling with the decision of whether or not to re enlist something that you mentioned there was it you know, if I re enlist him, am I going to be stateside and I’m just going to be doing this tour over and over again, not only did he re enlist, but he stopped doing the tour like he he actually went back to train, I think that gives some sort of insight into why he made the decision to re enlist, it wasn’t just to re enlist and still enjoy this life of being a household name that everybody No, I mean, he still was, but there was some duty there, I would imagine, you know, some sort of sense of obligation to, I have this experience, and I can do something with it.
Marty Morgan 16:53
I think you’re absolutely right, there was something there. Because if you if you had just married the love of your life, why would you volunteer to go off to die. And he did that he could have and no one would have said the first critical word about it. He could have become an instructor in mcrd, San Diego, where he would have been contributing and contributing in a positive and meaningful way. And he could have gone home every night to leyna. The two of them could have served side by side in the Marine Corps to transfer her to where she was conveniently close to him, they could have lived together as a young couple. And in their honeymoon phase, because the two of them were married for exactly 224 days. And during that time, how long were they together, they were together a handful of days for their marriage. And for her. That was the entirety of her marriage. She was married for 224 days. And she never remarried. And it’s not even clear that she ever had another relationship. So he could have very easily. And this is I think, why I’m so fascinated by him and the not 1000s. But millions of other Americans that were like him during that conflict. Because he was placed in circumstances where he could have just stayed stateside and trained people, it would have been great service, it would have been useful service, and no one would have criticized him and he could have gone home to his wife every night. But instead, he was called to serve. And more than just a training capacity, he sought out an assignment to fleet marine force, which led him to the 27th Marine Regiment fifth Marine Division, which led him ultimately to his death. And why would these people do that? Why would someone like him, the world was literally his oyster, he could have stayed home with his beautiful wife, he could have continued to serve, he would have could have remained in uniform for for the duration of the conflict, and then enjoyed a life after his service during which he enjoyed a great deal of prosperity, simply by virtue of the fact that he was a household name as a war hero. And instead, he had to have fleet marine force, he had to have a combat assignment. And he got to give up something at work. They’re different. by that same token, Eugene sledge, had a physical cormode comorbidity that disqualified him from service. He was from a wealthy family. He was intelligent, he had laid out in front of him every reason to dodge and during the absolute misery of Petaluma in Okinawa, but instead, he, he sought them. He purposely sought out an assignment to the fleet marine force. And I find sometimes that Freudian postmodernists, which I think is hilarious because there are a lot of them. And to me, post modernism is in direct conflict with every aspect of Freudian thought, because Freudian thought is something that we’ve long since abandoned and yet post modernists love it. To use Freud when when he is convenient for him. And I, they will frequently call on Freud to say, Oh, well he did it because he derived advantage from it, he derived a payoff, he was rewarded by it in some, to some extent. So they use this Freudian psychology to pretend like they actually understand the actions and motivations of individuals. And so, post modernism is a very 21st century thing. And then they look back to an abandoned and obsolete School of 19th century thought, to peer into the minds of people and assign to their motivations, all these dark self aggrandizing characteristics, but they will frequently do that, and I don’t see how these decisions rewarded Eugene sledge, they certainly did not reward john bass alone.
Dan LeFebvre 20:51
We mentioned her earlier. And I wanted to ask about Lena, because according to the show, while bass alone is at Camp Pendleton he meets and falls in love with Sergeant Lena righi. And then something the show heavily implies is that I thought this was funny. So the show really heavily implies a bachelor is very popular with the ladies due to his public appearances as the hero Guadalcanal. And Lena actually rejects him a couple times, and episode number eight. Because of this, she just thinks that he just wants to hook up. And so he has to prove to her that he’s not just trying to hook up with her. And this is actually a meaningful relationship. How did the show do portraying how john and Lena met,
Marty Morgan 21:29
I’m the wrong person to ask this because the coffee scene I think, is the greatest scene of the entire series. I absolutely love the two actors, the way that they interact with one another. And I believe that they had a chemistry and I believe that any breeze is a goddess living among us. First of all, that’s the actress that played Lena. That scene is so full of charm, and so full of an interesting dynamic of tension and, and the future. And if it had been given to lesser actors, I don’t think that scene would have sprouted the way that he did. And to me, it’s my favorite moment moment in the entire series. Yeah, I love battle a Henderson field in 1979, one machine guns. But to me, the entire heart and soul of this series is literally that scene where you’ve seen somebody and I can’t stress this enough, john bass alone could have had one howling drunken binge from one end of the United States to the other. And no one would have breathed a critical word, he could have burned all of that out of his system for a year or two or three years or even 10. And then decided to settle down and pick it, pick a nice little woman and settle down with her. He could have done all of that. But that’s not what happened. Interestingly, he fell in love with somebody, and it has every appearance of being something that was pure and genuine. She waves him off at first, because she’s just assuming that he’s nothing but a playboy. I get this all the time, too. I’m kidding, I never did this. She I could see how approaching somebody like him might have for her, then, like something, a moment of great caution. And I think that’s why this scene is that scene is so damn good. Because you can see her going all right, you get Watch out with this guy, because he’s just going to fly in one day, and he’s going to be gone the next day, I’m just going to be another name that’s forgotten. And in a year, I’m just going to be you know, we’re going to be two ships passing the night and that’ll be that, I could see how a woman would be cautious to that I could see him and even a man could be cautious to something like that, should the circumstances present themselves. And so she exercises this caution. And then she ultimately falls for him. What she doesn’t fall for is the manipulator who uses his charm to draw her in, and then gets what he wants and dashes off. Instead, she falls for somebody who it seems to me, provided her with the genuine true, one love of her life. Because it’s certainly noteworthy that woman never remarried and apparently never had another relationship. And john Basma, by that same token, appears to have expressed the same in the same emotions. Because he couldn’t literally have had anyone I realized in the 21st century, it’s weird to say things like that here in the, in this era, particularly when we we don’t understand greatness being within the context of a man who resists all these other temptations. But I would, I would also point out that in this era, and this in this political moment where we’re having these reckonings, with the way that sexual assault and sexual harassment, interact with the way that men and women interact within that, that zone, we have plenty of examples of people who use absolutely every advantage available to them, so that they can, they can chalk up another victory. They can pull some butt, drag somebody into bed, and then move on and act like it never happened and then settle down later in life, we have plenty of examples of that. And what do we have here, we have an example of a man and a woman who genuinely appear to have loved one another deeply, and that they also were both tugged at by senses of patriotic responsibility. Because, after all, it is only because of the uniform of the United States Marine Corps that the two of them were brought together, they would not have met one another otherwise had it been for that uniform. And that’s why the the two of them as a couple fascinate me. Because they were both responding to these, what I believe were genuine senses of patriotism, and obligation, they were brought together by ideas of service. They were then they they went through exactly what millions of couples go through every year, they fall in love with one another. And the two of them brought those impulses together the patriotic
Marty Morgan 26:04
move toward service. And the very genuine and natural man falls in love with woman and woman falls in love with man. And I just can’t say how much I admire that one scene where the two of them sit down to have a cup of coffee and have a central simple passing conversation. I feel like that does more. That provides more character development than him mowing down waves of Japanese attempting to attack Henderson feeling welcome now, that does more to make him this deeply believable human. The machine guarding Japanese on near Henderson field does a lot to and I think all of this I’m saying all of this because I believe it shows you there was so much to these people. These were not one dimensional, homogenous slaves to Freud, who only sought out opportunities that were presented to them by service to their nation or by a relationship that emerges. They were not that simple. They were multi dimensional, multifaceted, dynamic. And I believe that we do the two of them are their legacies rather of deep disservice. When postmodernism tries to make them these one dimensional slaves to Freud,
Dan LeFebvre 27:23
that is very telling, he said that she never remarried, and has
Marty Morgan 27:26
like the drive to be that guy, the guy that dated Lena afterward. And after that, who was going to measure up to this towering man among men, and she didn’t just love him because he was a Medal of Honor recipient. I think, I can’t putting words in her mouth. Now I shouldn’t do that. But it doesn’t look to me that she did, that she went, Oh, he’s famous. I like him. That’s why I’m gonna marry him. Although the world certainly provides you more examples of that, but I think what is happening is that there’s a reverse psychology that’s going on. I think what we have done is that we have moved away from old fashioned relationships like that. And we’ve moved to this more stark mercenary and opportunity, opportunistic reality among relationships. And I think that by trying to project Freud onto them by trying to project modern ideas of what relationships are, that they’re all basically just mercenary opportunism. I think what we’re, what we’re seeing is that it’s the 21st century, trying to just to dismiss the old timey ways, from the 20th centuries, they all back in the old days, they were really just slaves to impulse and they were constantly looking for opportunities to aggrandize themselves. And I think that the 21st century does that because the 21st century is trying to assuage its guilt because so many relationships today have turned into that they’ve turned into mercenary materialism. And I don’t know that john bass alone and Lena had that. I think there was something deeper at work with them. I think it’s it’s far, far deeper and vastly complex and I think that they’re very, very well portrayed in the series. I think I’ve gushed about it quite enough now, don’t you?
Dan LeFebvre 29:07
Well, you alluded to something else too earlier and this happens towards the end of Episode Number eight, the company that Donbass alone straining gets the orders to ship out and he had been struggling with whether or not to reenlist but he decides to reenlist he does marry Lena. And that’s how we see according to the series, bass alone returning to action for the battle on awa Jima. And during the battle I got the sense that he’s you know, he’s doing some very heroic things that almost seems similar to what got him the Medal of Honor earlier. We see this like he’s seemingly dodging bullets there. You know, he’s running around giving commands. But then he has hit. Can you share the historical story of how john bass alone was killed on Iijima?
Marty Morgan 29:51
Yeah, because it bleeds it leads us into a decent little controversy that certainly worth mentioning. And that is that and john bass was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his action on your gym on February 19 2045. And as a part of the Navy Cross citation, it describes that he was killed by fragments from an exploding mortar round. Well, you might remember that I was brought on to the project in the capacity of assisting the Lakeview Ambrose in his research, which was aimed at assisting Mr. Hanks, Mr. Spielberg as they were beginning the process of standing this project. Well, Hugh and I, as a part of our research effort, we ordered documents. I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t the only one. There were several other people. My good friend, Bob Carr, in Palm Harbor, Florida, was one of them. A friend named Bill Howe, who was a serving United States Marine Corps major at the time, and he’s now I’m no longer the Marine Corps. But he, he served to retirement, he was another member of this research team. And then we had another member who now works at this museum in Mississippi. Well, we were all working toward helping you, he was interacting directly with Hanks and Spielberg. And at one point, he came to me to place an order for this documents called the ADP F, that stands for individual deceased personnel file. The idpf is sort of a stock in trade for people who do who conduct military research. If you’re researching people who served during the Second World War, the idpf is a document that typically contains a lot of extremely useful information. And a quick note on that, in the aftermath of the war, at first, the veterans kind of didn’t care about their service. I found that early on their children didn’t care, because the baby boomer generation, they were children until the 60s and 70s. And it was only when they became adults in the 70s and the 80s. That from the perspective of adulthood, that they really began to care what their parents had done, they cared about what their parents had done during the war. And so research efforts began that era where there was the people sort of didn’t care. And it wasn’t because nobody cared, it was because basically, this whole damn country had, to some extent, been involved in the war effort. And so I mean, it wasn’t a big deal. People weren’t necessarily trying to impress one another with what they did during the war, because everybody did something to some extent. So in the aftermath of the war, there was sort of like a black hole, I did just put it that. Anyway, that black hole resulted in. We knew very little about what people had actually done during the war. People got used to having their relatives around, who were capable of answering questions and describing their experiences. Then they, in the 1980s, began to realize, hey, this isn’t gonna be here all the time. And people began trying to document everything. And as we began trying to document everything, we were experiencing great difficulty in documenting individual experiences. What that led to was, researchers like me, were out trying to figure out ways of documenting the individual experience because prior to the 1990s, the way that the Second World War was remembered was from the bird’s eye view. It was remembered basically from an extremely high point, looking down on army groups or Marine Amphibious Corps and what they did, it took time to get to the point where people were more interested in the individual experience in war. And by the time we got there, almost all the veterans were gone. And for people who didn’t survive the war, it was made all the more difficult. And what that did was that placed an enormous importance on what documents you could get, and this idpf the individual deceased personnel file was a document that you could get. I mentioned all of that, because he You had me request, john bass loans individual deceased personnel file. And very often when these files come in, they contain a lot of very boring documents. And then they contain things sometimes like hospital reports. And the report that came in, provided some information that departed from what was described in his Navy Cross citation. And that description once again described how he was killed by fragments from an exploding mortar round. What the idpf contained was a document that indicated instead that he was struck down by enemy small arms fire for him to sustain the lives that he got, concluded that he was hit by automatic weapons fire because first of all, Japanese had some finest automatic weapons the Second World War and they had lots of them and they use them to whip our assets across every island where we encountered them.
Marty Morgan 34:44
Based on the wounds, it appears to me that john got hit either by a burst from a Japanese type 92 heavy machine gun, or a Japanese type 99 light machine gun, but he received these bullet wounds and that’s what ultimately killed And the bullet wounds that killed him or sustained because he was in the open. And he was in the open because he was doing what he had done previously, and that is that he was ascending to the leadership position. Why was that? It wasn’t necessarily I mean, you could say on the one hand, it took bravery to do that. But it also it was a part, I believe an expression of his obligation. He had an obligation as a senior noncommissioned officer to lead his troops. And he was doing that when he was killed.
Dan LeFebvre 35:31
So it sounds like he was essentially doing something similar to what he did on Guadalcanal like he kind of fell right. almost fell right back into what he was doing before just leading the troops.
Marty Morgan 35:43
Yeah, I think he, I think what happened can best be, I have to relate it to things that I’ve experienced because I haven’t experienced combat like he did. But I would relate it to flying a helicopter riding a bicycle swimming, or wears one more, or skydiving, I’m going to choose those four, because then those four things, the first time you do it is a lot different than the 100th time you do it. I’m just going to take learning to help by helicopter, I am not a helicopter pilot, but I dabbled in it for a while until I realized this is expensive, and I can’t afford it. But what you learned very quickly and trying to learn how to fly a helicopter is well first of all you learned is very expensive. Then secondly, what you learn is that the instructor is there to get you through. And I remember I had an instructor Tell me once he was like, the first 15 hours or why I’m here. Something magic happens. It’s typically around 15 hours. Sometimes for some people, it’s around 10. For other people, it’s around 20. But something magical happens, you eventually passed through a threshold and invisible threshold where you really get it. And it’s only then that you’re you’ve become largely safe. Like skydiving, I remember that I have done that. That is something I’ve definitely done, I did a little helicopter stuff and a lot of skydiving, the first time you do it, it’s absolute terror the second time you do it. It’s absolute exhilaration, riding a bicycle, I remember it was some struggle that it took to get me up on two wheels. And then once I was up on two wheels, that wasn’t stopping me. But the first few days it was sort of wobbly. But then once I had gotten it like I haven’t written about I don’t think I’ve ridden a bike since Amsterdam 2017, actually, but I could go get on a bike now and write it because I learned and when I learned was circa 1975, it was a long time ago. And once you learn it, you never forget it. I’m saying all this to draw as close of a parallel as I can to what has been described to me by people who have been there as defining the combat experience. And that is that when people are first exposed to it, it’s like their first skydiving or maybe those first 15 hours of learning to fly a helicopter. And that is that. Third, your first experience is one where you basically have to kind of get through it, that there are intimidating qualities, to put it mildly, that you have to basically just overcome. And once you’ve overcome those, and once you’ve harnessed the ability to control that. It’s only then that you can function in that environment. And I mentioned all of this because I believe it meaningfully informs the john bass alone experience. Because I believe that part of what compelled john bass alone to re enlist was first and foremost feelings of patriotism and obligation.
Marty Morgan 38:37
And then I think he also realized that Listen, I’ve got all this experience, what am I going to do stay at home, I have actual combat experience. There are plenty of other off there plenty of other noncommissioned officers in uniform, who haven’t had what I have. And it’s gotten me through that across that threshold to where combat will not be new to me. And once once you’ve as it’s been described to me, once you get past that, you can always you maintain your cool, you’ll learn how to maintain and alertness and an extremely distracting environment. And those are things that are not natural human instincts, that you have to overcome these instincts. Just like you have to overcome instincts when you’re in recruit training. I find sometimes that non military people will. They’ll look at like footage of basic training and they’ll think it looks ridiculous where you see drill sergeants getting this close to someone’s face and screaming and they think it’s all theatrical, and it’s all unnecessary. Well, that is not the case. It’s all extremely necessary because they’re attempting to get those recruits through the threshold where you can maintain cool, you can engage a deliberate decision making process in an environment that’s full of extremely powerful distractions, because that’s after all, that’s the essence of the combat experience. And so john bass alone had already been thrown out That he had been elevated to this other tier where he was a different type of person. He was a combat experience person. And they’re different than us. Maybe you’ve been in combat, maybe you’ve not, I have not. But combat experience people, they’re different. The their experiences elevated them to this other level. And john basketball was already there. And he, I believe, felt that it would have been a great waste of that experience for him to have not led men in combat. And then, on the day of his death, what was he doing he was, I think, doing exactly what you expect the senior noncommissioned officer to do, and that is the truth. Even though you’ve got people who have completed recruit training, even though you have Marines who were the eg, and a the eagle globe and anchor, their actual Marines, they’ve gone through very challenging training, they haven’t crossed the threshold, they haven’t become this different evolution of humankind, they haven’t become combat veterans. And so their first experience in combat is going to be one where it slows them down. Because the experience does that to people. JOHN bass alone had already passed all of that it was years behind him at this point. And john bass alone was leading those men who were just only passing through that threshold, which is why he had to be conspicuously in the front of the action, which is why he had to be out in the open to lead literally Jasmine forward. And the unfortunate reality of the combat environment of evil Jima was that the enemy was just there in such great numbers, and the enemy was so so very heavily armed that they got him while he was trying to do exactly what he was there to do.
Dan LeFebvre 41:45
He mentioned he might I want to ask you about that, because the next episode we’ll get to, that’s Episode Number nine, when the Marines aren’t Okinawa, and we’ll get to that. But because the series focuses on bass alone there and ujima, it doesn’t really tell a lot of the rest of the story of what’s going on there on unit, which I think is fair, because I mean, focusing on bass alone, and that’s definitely a moment there. But can you fill in some of the historical context around what was going on with Iijima?
Marty Morgan 42:14
Of course, the reality is that the United States Marine Corps conducted this initial assault on February 19 1945. In a battle that will continue for the next 36 days and over the course of that battle, first three Marine Corps divisions and ultimately receiving support from army units. Ultimately, the entire Japanese garrison of the island was overrun, the island was captured by the United States than occupied by the United States. We converted it into an aerodrome. A great deal of this old now abandoned historiography called emphasis to the fact that after capturing it with Jima I think the number they come up with is something like 20,000 pilots survived the war because you would Jima was used as an emergency auxiliary airfields were battle damage b 29 is referring returning from rage against Japan could land and thereby save the aircraft save the crew. While that is true, that is not why we invaded Iijima. In fact, that was not part of the overall plan. There’s no evidence of that of it having even been a consideration and the pre operational planning for Iijima. we invaded Iijima to establish a fighter base. And that’s because the basis where the between eyes were in the Marianas on Guam, Saipan, and tinian. Those bases were too far away for the fighters, that the 29th can make the run I think the run from the northern most of those islands, which would be sideband, from Saipan, to Tokyo i think is about 1700 miles to make that run a b 29 can make it no sweat. A fighter could not make that not even the P 51. Mustang could do that. And so the military recognized early on that if we’re going to expose the enemy to this dramatic escalation of the strategic air campaign, if we’re going to begin conducting broad scale strategic bombing raids against targets in the Japanese home islands, the airplanes are going to experience Japanese fighter interceptors. The airplanes are therefore going to need fighter escorts and the fighter escorts can’t fly from sideband. So we’re going to need something a lot closer which is why he would GMO was selected, which is why the operation took place and then in the end, that’s why we captured it and turn it into an aerodrome Yes, as an afterthought, troubled by the 29th were able to land there and save crews but primarily, we landed on that island to capture it to be to make it a base for US Army p 51. fighters and other other fighters as well but mainly that will be seven Fighter Group fighters based on the island. The irony of this is that as it turns out, targets of the Japanese Nice home islands were far less defended than we thought that they would be. In other words, that would be 20 nines, we’re flying into a threat environment that had far less in the way of anti aircraft defenses far less compared to what bombers were experiencing in targets over Germany. And also the Japanese were putting far fewer fighters in the air than we expected. So in the end, the primary reason for landing on Iijima to establish a forward fighter operating base turned out to be not nearly as necessary as we had thought. That makes
Dan LeFebvre 45:38
sense, though, I mean, because you don’t know what sort of opposition you’re going to get. I would only assume then that from Japan’s point of view, one of the reasons maybe they didn’t have as much anti aircraft, as Germany is just there being islands, they’re not going to have as many planes flying over, as in Europe and everybody a lot closer together.
Marty Morgan 45:57
Yeah, exactly. That’s the exact point you should take away from this because I don’t want to say that they were neglectful or that they overlooked anything because the Japanese were too smart to make dumb mistakes like that. I am saying, however, that what the Japanese got was a war that dragged them into an unpredictable paradigm. They were dragged into this war where they, I mean, yeah, they started it. But then the eventuality is that the United States other allied nations fought them so vigorously that they inherited a war that they had not imagined. So that during the course of the conflict, good planning is one where you’re looking 234 years in the future. And when the Japanese in 1942, we’re looking into the future, the future that they envisioned was one where they maintained an oceanic Empire stretching almost well stretching all the way to Hawaii. One in which there were not formations of 300, American b 29 bombers over Japanese cities. And so the result was that they had a very effective anti aircraft weapons, they didn’t have enough of them. They had very effective fighter aircraft. And they had plenty of them. But then they also have lots of territory that they had to cover with those fighter aircraft. And the Americans began bombing that focused on industrial targets that forced them into the position of dispersing their industrial production, that that dramatically shrank the output of industrial production to such a level that combat losses. They weren’t irreplaceable, but they were very difficult to replace, they would eventually become irreplaceable. And in fact, when we’re talking about Iijima, it’s not far in the future. It’s just a few weeks away that the combat losses are going to become irreplaceable. But the Japanese just they didn’t have a crystal ball, they couldn’t see the future they had one future, the future that they imagined looked very much different than the future that they got. And as a result of that, they were caught short on fighter interceptors, and anti aircraft armament with the result that American strategic bombing was extremely effective against Japanese cities, starting in August of 1944, and stretching all the way through the following year. During that time period, American bombing of Japanese targets went from disappointing to not that bad to absolutely devastating. for reasons that are not really part of what we’re talking about today, but I mentioned all of it as a means of simply saying that the Japanese are eventually caught slightly flat footed in being able to defend the airspace over the home islands. That’s not to say that they didn’t have anti aircraft guns, they put up a fight because they did that’s not to say that they didn’t have fighters that flew up to intercept our b 29. They just couldn’t deal with the flood. To put it in coarse terms, we ended up gang banging in that airspace in a way that they just couldn’t deal with. And in the end, turns out he would Jima with hundreds of P 51 Mustangs in peace, it p 61. Black Widows and another aircraft based on it. Those aircraft were far less needed than we had thought that they would be. If we
Dan LeFebvre 49:07
do go back to the show in Episode Number nine, it’s may of 1945. In the Marines are on Okinawa. There’s a bit of dialogue from snafu where he says the Japanese are fighting for their own turf now. So they’re only going to get meaner and meaner with each step that we go. Was the show correct to imply that the fighting intensified as they got closer to the Japanese home islands? Yes, it is.
Marty Morgan 49:31
And it is correct to characterize the fighting in that way. Because of the fact that we were the closer we got dealing with stronger and stronger Japanese military forces. We were also beginning to deal with civilians in meaningful numbers. And also Japanese supply lines were shortening. And as your enemy supply lines shorten your enemy get stronger. As your supply lines lengthen, you get a little bit weaker. The result was that each of these battles presented The way that each of these islands presented battle was that the Japanese fought from very advantaged positions, not in an overall metaphorical or holistic sense because the Japanese after all, were in the broadly disadvantaged positions. They were being attacked on all fronts by very powerful enemies. Yes, that’s true. But at the same time, we’ve talked about pehlu in detail, that is a battle where a weaker enemy force simply using terrain, was able to impose combat on our forces in a way that was extremely costly. And so yeah, as we crept closer and closer to the Japanese home islands as we attacked and captured one Japanese island outpost after another, we we we were seeing a greater intensity of combat, we were seeing a greater loss of life, you can certainly certainly see that in this broad escalation of the loss of life that occurs from one island to the next. Over the course of the petaloo battle, we lose 1700 94 people killed. Over the course of the 36 days of the ujima battle, we lose nearly 97,000 killed. That’s a broad escalation and with Okinawa, we will see the costliest Battle of them all for the American military during the Second World War, we’ll see 12,000 killed over the course of a battle that I mean, you could say 82 days, you could say 92 days, we’ll get to that later on, but you’re seeing an escalation of the intensity of combat the intensity of terrain, then the you’re seeing an escalation of the size of casualties that are being sustained. On both sides for the record, you’re seeing escalations across the board. When you add to that this incredibly important factor of Okinawa as a part of Japan. The same could be said about about Iijima technically because it would Jima belongs to this overall, the Japanese regional organizational element that they use the most reliably is called the prefecture and technically wajima belongs to the Tokyo prefecture but it was an island that had two tiny villages with a handful of civilians in the beach, that we’re all evacuated before the battle. So yeah, when we landed on Iijima, we were landing on Japanese soil, but it wasn’t a landmass with a significant civilian population. Okay, now on the other hand, was because Okay, now I had over 100,000 civilians living on it. We had encountered civilians on a meaningful level during the Battle of Sai pan. But Sai pan wasn’t a print part of prefecture of Imperial Japan. sideman was territory that had been given to the Japanese as a result of the the League of Nations Pacific mandate. And so the Japanese had the Marianas. And so Sai pan had military facilities and it had colonists on it colonists who were engaged in farming and a number of other things, and we encountered them on that island with tragic results. And SAIPEM provided a whisper of the of the tragedy that would unfold in Okinawa where we would experience an even larger population of Japanese civilians. And there was every expectation that the next operation because Okay, that was the last battle, but if the war had continued, which it could have, we would have conducted the operation Olympic opposed if it was landing on cue shoe, the southern most of the Japanese home islands beginning on November 1 1945. And then we would have conducted the operation Coronet opposed amphibious landings on the Tokyo plane on March 1 1946. And those operations which did not happen, thank God, they would have been the great Armageddon of the 20th century because they would have been American military catastrophes. First and foremost, there’s absolutely no question about that. And then the cat catastrophes would have also resulted in the deaths of millions of Japanese people. That’s a subject for another day. But I circle it back to Okinawa and saying that, we encountered a very large civilian population on Japanese soil on that island. The Japanese military in uniform fought tooth and nail for every inch of the island using an extremely coherent strategy that was interrupted only by one moment of incoherence. And the result was the battle went on for a very long period of time. And a very large number of people died as a result of
Dan LeFebvre 54:24
it was that one moment of incoherence that you mentioned, the Japanese
Marty Morgan 54:28
command structure on the island is of course led by Japanese Lieutenant General named nishijima. He was following orders to resist the Americans using the strategy that had been so rewarding wapello for example, and that is the strategy of fight the attritional defensive campaign. Do not organize broad, aggressive actions that incorporate maneuver incorporate a calling on your forces to come out of cover and counter attack the Americans. Don’t do that because they are wasteful of personnel resources and for every individual on the island means that the the Americans will have to kill another person, for every individual to put up their utmost fight in the most efficient way possible delays, the Americans and every delay delays, the landings on cue shoot, the Japanese knew that was coming. The Japanese knew that war would eventually come to the home islands, they wanted to delay that as long as possible. And so they understood this coherent strategy of deep attritional defensive battle making use of terrain, they understood that that is the only method that the Americans have a difficult time with. And my God, they were right, because they beat the living shit out of us on that island, week in, week out. And it was only then because there was another commander on the island, who had intentionally chiasmus here and talked him into launching an aggressive counter attack and aggressive attack by maneuver at night. It was only then that the Japanese fell back to the old ideas that had rewarded them so handsomely early in the war, that was aggressive maneuver warfare. They had used that to great effect against us in the Philippines against us on on other occasions, against the British, against the Chinese, they use these these aggressive tactics over and over again. And in many ways, there was a romanticism and a heroism associated with that that just wasn’t there for attritional defensive warfare, where you’re huddling in a bunker or in a cave. And the result was that Japanese morale weakened to meaningful and observable degree as a result of the adoption of that strategy. And that when morale begins to corrode, everything begins to corrode and the Japanese on the island, we’re recognizing that. I think also part of the reason that a decision is made sort of midstream to launch one big Hail Mary counter attack was that, from the outset of the Okinawa battle, things have not gone well. The Americans conducted landing, they come ashore, the Japanese basically let us get ashore and then absolutely hammer us. And then they unleash Kamikaze forces with great effect on us. They, for example, send the super Battleship Yamato toward Okinawa. It is ultimately then sunk in combat, before it even made it halfway to Okinawa on April 7 1945, and the result is that the Japanese they’re fighting us and we were we were no pushover in 1945. The American way of war 1945 was extremely powerful just as the Japanese way of war was, it’s just that their powerful way of war was one that could not live much longer. And they understood that and so they have some setbacks early in the battle that began the process of corroding morale. the morale of the battle then descends into week after week, attritional attritional campaign where the Americans are, are inexorably pushing forward. And they eventually give in to this idea of launching a big counter attack they want in this counter attack. It’s between 20 and 25,000 men are thrown into the jaws of combat during this counter attack. And the counter attack is is repelled with extremely high loss of life. And there are people who estimate granted this is a bit of a fool’s errand to estimate. How much longer would that battle have going on? Had it not been for the fact that they squandered about 20,000 people in the camera check?
Marty Morgan 58:40
I’m quite comfortable and thinking that it could have gone on another 30 days. And if it’s gone on another 30 days, Holy God, what would it have looked like? It all already looks like Armageddon without having lasted up to what is it? June 18? June 21. It’s declared secure on June 21. If it had lasted through to the end of July, what would what would that body count look like? And how how would the outcome of the Pacific War be different? Not that I want to send us off on on that distraction right now. But at the same time, it’s certainly worth mentioning that the Japanese followed the COVID strategy for the most part, you know, the GMO battle, and they imposed nutritional warfare on the American forces. American forces who although extremely heavily armed, struggled to deal with attrition of defensive warfare. And because of that, the battle ends up taking a very long period of time, depending on what source you want to consult. If you want to just take carve out the fighting on Iijima proper. You can comfortably say it’s an 80 to 82 day long campaign. However, that’s ignoring some peripheral things that are of great importance. Most notably that A series of actions unfold immediately before it with landings beginning on an adjacent group of islands that technically belong to Okinawa called kurama Reto, where the US Army 77th Division conducts imposed amphibious landings on an island called toshiki and a few other islands in the Caribbean Reto group as a preliminary to the landings on Okinawa. And that then pulls the length of the battle closer to a 90 day periodization. And that’s why I tend to use 90 days on a rough basis with the knowledge that there are some actions that come before the operation iceberg landings the May the first day of the Okinawa battle April 1 1945. There’s a preliminary and then there’s some holdover as some holdouts don’t come out initially. It’s not significant the way that it was in the Philippines or on Guam, but there are some holdouts on Okinawa. And so the result is I’m very comfortable just saying it’s basically a 90 day campaign. And during that 90 day time period, 12,000 Americans lose their life and over 120, maybe 130,000 Japanese people lose their lives. It’s not funny anymore at this point, not that it ever was. It’s suddenly becoming biblical. As we with each island campaign, the casualties are soaring. And one thing that I have found too I made may have even mentioned it. No, I don’t think I mentioned this when we talked about pelo, but it comes up at Pella what comes up again after an hour, but then it gets kind of lost because after Okinawa there’s no more ground combat. But in the aftermath of pehlu, I have found to well I did mention this because we talked about the people who like to point out the Pella wasn’t necessarily the people that sort of like to Monday morning quarterback, the the palaeo operation. And something that they tend to point out is they they settle very quickly into a comfortable theme, a theme that is used over and over again, as a very poor way of understanding military history and something that stretches all the way back to the way that we have understood the Civil War. And that is they tend to use this metaphor of, of lions being led by lambs, or donkeys, or Alliance being led by donkeys as the British sometimes put it, meaning that you have a heavily bureaucratized group of leaders who are isolated from combat that don’t understand combat, aren’t seeing or experiencing the realities of combat and so they’re easily and wantonly sacrificing lives without a care in the world for which is a theme that I argue, becomes cemented into the way that we look at military history when we get to the Vietnam era, meaning that we are no longer allowed to look at the military history in any in any other way. Then the way where we look at the leadership was stupid and foolish and made the following mistakes. Well, the reality was, how was any of this predictable? What military professional had a course of study that would have prepared him for this? And the answer is no one absolutely no one. But what they have and I mean, the military professionals who were fighting these battles were people who had gone through the service academies in the aftermath First World War. And so they learned a lot about World War One. And the conflict that we thought was the more the one to end all conflicts. And this conflict is so much worse. And it’s quite a bit different than World War One, as well. And so that results from my reckoning, and again, I’ve, I don’t know, combat, I was never in the military, but I have spent a lifetime attempting to understand the Second World War and its history. And what it looks like to me is that everyone was caught flat footed and off guard on both sides by absolutely everything and all of the suffering surprised everyone.
Marty Morgan 1:03:43
Last time we talked,
Dan LeFebvre 1:03:44
we talked a little bit about some of the differences between the German and Japanese prisoners the way that Brandon brothers depicts the German prisoners versus Pacific Japanese and it’s in this episode in episode nine on Okinawa, where we see the first prisoners they’re actually held by the American army and not the Marines. And it’s also like you mentioned earlier we see Japanese civilians there as well. But you also mentioned that he would Jima had been evacuated but Simon had some civilians. Was this the not the first time that the American Marines had come across civilians and prisoners or was that just kind of for the show for the people in our show, this is the first time that they’ve come across them.
Marty Morgan 1:04:22
This was the first time they have come across them they meaning our cast of characters. It’s worth pointing out that we we collect the Japanese prisoners of war in almost every campaign, I actually think it’s every campaign. However, most of the prison for example, secondary division conducts an operation galvanic landings against the former British Gilbert islands, Taro and making in late 1943. And when they do that, particularly the secondary indivision on terawatt, they collect up a couple 100 prisoners at the end of the battle. None of them are Japanese. There Korean, the Korean Peninsula had been annexed into the environment pan in 1910. And Korean people were technically as subjects of the Japanese Empire. They served in the Japanese military and they were in some there were some volunteers, but for the most part, they were functionally just conscripted to the Japanese military. And for the most part, the Japanese were slightly untrusting of them and assign them to engineering units only. And so what you typically see are men in Japanese uniforms who are of Korean ancestry who were conscripts. So they had a little bit less skin in the game if to use a rather coarse expression. And the result was that we had an experience of what we felt was the rewarding reality of we collected their prisoners on the battlefield, but we kind of didn’t. So we had, we were collecting prisoners all along, sometimes they were Japanese, but usually they were not. They were Koreans. We had experienced Japanese civilians in significant numbers during the Marianas campaign on on Guam and tinian. to a lesser degree, but we experienced them in significant numbers on site, man, and that’s a battle is fought from June 15, to July 9 1944. And over the course of the site pan battle, the way that the army and the Marine Corps both interact with the civilians is one that it It provides dramatic foreshadowing for what we’re going to get on Okinawa. And so far as it was very troubling interaction, meaning that the civilians for the most part, huddled in caves, and at the end of the battle committed suicide in very large numbers. We still to this day, don’t know how many Japanese colonists on site pan killed themselves. At the end of the battle, most people tend to think that it’s around 1008 was done infamously from people who found themselves off the heights on the northern end of cyan in a place called marquee point where there’s a significantly tall Hill massif with enough verticality and a couple of 100 feet of fall, where people jumped from the hill on the ground below them to kill themselves. And then they’re also cliffs on the seashore, where the people jumped into the water and hammer famously this incident where they depict one woman throwing herself to her death. That should have provided ample warning for what we were going to get on Okinawa. And the military was prepared for that, because the military understood that when we land on Okinawa, we’re going to be dealing with civilians, we’re going to be dealing with them in large numbers. It’s this was no shock, no surprise. The strange thing is, is that it fascinates me because the more I read and study about people in leadership positions during the Second World War, the more I read and learn about them being these extremely intelligent people, and that they were less parochial, as they sometimes get depicted that they were among the best and brightest in the country. They were some of the most, some great intellectual minds. All of it caught them off guard. And they were planning for it. And they had experience already experiences the even to include the experience of civilian suicides on site pan. And still what happened on Okinawa blew everyone’s mind because nobody expected it to be that bad.
Marty Morgan 1:08:15
It was it was kind of if I could put it into a really terrible perspective. The Japanese militarized are they nationalized they activated all reserve elements on Okinawa before the invasion took place, because they knew an invasion was coming. And then when Americans landed on March 26, on top of Shiki, and kurama, Reto, they had proof Yo, yeah, they’re here. They’re not on Okinawa yet, but they’re just right over there just 15 miles away, they’re gonna be here any day now. So when everyone was activated with the landings at crema Reto, like policemen are activated, they have like a regular civilian defense force that was activated. But they activated all of the students at the two girls schools that were on the island, the open neck, the open Ellen, prefectural girls, normal school, and then one other school and I just don’t remember the precise name of it, forgive me for that. But there were two girls schools and girls schools were schools that were made up of girls between the ages of 11 and 16. And so these girls were activated, they were taken to a place on the southern end of the island called hematuria. Where they functioned as medical orderlies during the course of the campaign that we follow. And by the end of the campaign, almost all of them have been killed and the ones who lost their lives, lost their lives in the very closing days of the battle, when the Japanese military forced them out of the caves. And they were killed not purposely by the American military, but they were collateral damage during an extremely violent concluding phase of a modern land battle. And it was with the result that I had of a group of Gosh, I think was 300 or 300 girls. A handful of them survived the experience. This is the ugly reality of the way that the civilian experience is as much a part of the Okinawa battle as the military experience. And so it it helps me understand the way that the the experience of the war scarred the Japanese people. And I can certainly we respect that.
Marty Morgan 1:10:20
The American military, in the aftermath of Okinawa, suddenly had to step back and take a deep breath because we understood that we were about to conduct this landing in the Japanese home islands. because keep in mind that when the yocan our battle be when it ends, let’s just go with so June 21, I was gonna go with the day that general Lieutenant General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. gets killed in Okinawa, which is June 18. Let’s go with June 21. November 1 was to be the first day of operation Olympic the the invasion of Kyushu. The American military has had to confront this reality after Okinawa, that cuesheet is going to be much different, much more difficult, and it’s got a lot more people living on it. It’s a much, much bigger landmass with a lot more people landing on it. I went through this experience that to me was astonishing and breathtaking in 2006. I’ve been to Okinawa a couple dozen times, I guess. And, and this one visit, I just had the circumstances with just right to where I was flying from the airport at Naha, Okinawa, to the airport on Kyushu, the main civilian airport, which is just off of Kagoshima Bay near the town of Kagoshima itself. When the airplane took off, it flew to work the issue, basically flying up the aircraft kind of slid off to the Pacific Ocean side of Okinawa just off to the east side of the island. I was sitting on the left side of the airplane and a window seat and looking down and I was as as we were flying North I was checking off all the landmasses like Hacksaw Ridge, and Konishi ridge and the use of dock a and the use of dock a all these landmasses that will ultimately become these infamous fighting. That became infamous finding locations on Okinawa. I picked out Shuri castle where there was a reproduction of fury castle that was there that burned up in a fire last year strangely. But then I picked out Kakadu ridge and I was looking at the little undulating folds of terrain, that are these battles that were just sucking the life out of these combat divisions just I picked out for example, Sugarloaf hill on Okinawa, which is near Maha main place mall now, it’s easy to pick out because there’s a big water tank on top of it. And I looked down at it, and I remembered how basically the sixth Marine Division destroyed itself trying to capture that hill. And it looks like the tiny, most meaningless, little lump of terrain I’d ever seen. Then we passed Okinawa and continued to fly. And when we got to Kyushu, the terrain, looked so much bigger, like my god, it would never have worked. The terrain was so much more intensive. It is so much more intense on Kyushu, we would have landed with a massive invasion force, the Japanese uniformed military in the island was so much bigger than we expected. And then the civilians on the island would have fought us tooth and nail. And I think it is for the better of both of our nations that that invasion never happened.
Dan LeFebvre 1:13:21
Wow. I mean, when we explained it like that it makes not to spoiler to the end of the war and what happened, but you know, I mean, it’s starting to make sense, you know, these making some of these decisions for an alternative to actually landing on the island.
Marty Morgan 1:13:41
It was fascinating because of the the time period that I was an undergraduate from 1991 to 1995 95. No, no, that was when I was in grad school. I was an undergrad from 87 to 91. I was in grad school with working on my history masters from 1992 until 1996. That’s it. And when I was in grad school, working on the Masters, it was during the time period of the 50th anniversary of the war, and we got to the 50th anniversary of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the inevitable compensation that came up during that time period was over whether or not it was right to drop the atomic bomb and the conversations became these conversations of right and wrong, they became these moral questions that interested me very much back during that time period. It was a time it was a time period when I look back on it now is the good old days when I was outraged by what a lot of postmodernists were saying about the atomic bomb. Because what they were saying was they called an entirely called emphasis to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They acted like the 69 other cities that were destroyed by conventional mommy they acted like they didn’t exist. They acted like the lives that were lost over 700,000 they acted like those lives didn’t matter because the only lives that tended to matter to him with the lives that were lost as a result of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And so it was a very awkward Sort of contortion for them to call all this emphasis to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I get it, it’s nuclear weapons. Yes, we should pay attention to that. However, it felt weird to completely neglect and ignore everybody else. And it also felt very weird to me, because I understood very clearly what the alternative was. Because the alternative that we were considering was we had two alternatives. Number one was invasion of the Japanese home Island, which would have been a catastrophe that would have resulted, and at least a million Japanese deaths. The second alternative that we were considering, which was the Nimitz plan, which was a naval blockade of the Japanese home islands, which would have imposed the conditions of starvation on millions of people, I think at least being conservative, I believe at least 3 million people would have been starved to death in calendar year 1946, by the blockade. And to me, that is fiendish in humanity, that I am glad that the American nation did not exact on the Japanese people. And that’s why To me, the three options then are atomic bomb, yeah, you’re gonna kill that a quarter million people. As a result of the explosion and radiation illnesses, or invasion came about a million civilians, or naval blockade kill about 3 million. And so it felt very, very bizarre for me in the 1990s, as a young graduate student was extremely interested in World War Two history to listen to the way that the conversation played out. And the inevitably, the direction that the conversation took was this peculiar forecast of where we are today and that this book that powerfully informed the main point of hbos, many series The Pacific, which was this book called race and war by the late dr. john dour, which was a book that I mean, I’ll sum it up if you haven’t read it. It’s basically the United States carried out the war against Japan the way that it did, because it was a bunch of racists, which I believe is an atrocious trivialization of extremely complicated matters. For the purposes of jumping on a very headlining bandwagon that is now 30 years old. And yet, the Pacific believed in that very deeply. So that’s why the Okinawa episode of episode episodes of this series, I think, are really important for sort of the lasting message that sent by the series, because they were presented to us, the send up that we get is that Okinawa becomes the Heart of Darkness. And that it’s all doom and gloom. And trust me, I struggled to find anything positive in Okinawa, there’s nothing positive to be had in that battle. It’s human suffering from beginning to end of the greatest proportion, especially for the civilians, who were the butterflies in the hurricane. Eugene sledge, provided a narrative of the experience of combat on Okinawa. That is one that testifies to just the difficulties of the campaign and the human experience of struggling with those difficulties, and the traumatizing experience of having been a part of that campaign. That’s why I guess I find the way that the mini series approaches Okinawa, I find it to be something that I can’t just sit back and pop some popcorn and enjoy the show. It’s something that’s far more intellectual than that, as I think it should be for everyone that watches.
Dan LeFebvre 1:18:35
Well, you mentioned Eugene sledge on Okinawa, and in episode nine, there’s a few little clues that you can get for the timeline of the battle as sledges tallying the days in his Bible, I counted mentioned in the show that they landed there on Easter Sunday, April first. And then the tally marks that sledges made, say 60 days from a rival to a note where he had written in there that combat was over, and then another 51 days after that, so April 1 60 days after that would be like may 31, for combat ending and then another 51 days after that would mean they stayed there until July 21. Not necessarily. I mean, that was just what was shown there. Not necessarily everybody but at least as far as sledge is concerned, is that roughly accurate timeline for the battle book now?
Marty Morgan 1:19:24
It is and to a certain degree, you could say that the Battle of Okinawa continues today. I know that sounds like a little tongue in cheek, but forces had to remain on that island in the aftermath of hostilities, the hostilities are recognized as having ended. The day that Lieutenant General nishijima commits seppuku and kills himself June 21 1945. troops had to remain on the island, and they did remain on the island, even in the aftermath of the battle, and some even remained on the island until the aftermath. of the conflict. My grandfather, for example, Chief carpenters mate Joe Wilson, Morgan, senior, he served in the seventh construction battalion he came to Okinawa during the Okinawa battle. And he didn’t come home until 1946. And that’s because he was involved in important functions like road building and improving runways and improving sewage systems in building camps and building displaced persons centers, he was doing a lot of a lot of what the seabees did. And that was a lot of construction on that island, which is what kept him there, even after the war. But it is noteworthy that the American military remains on Okinawa to this very day, under circumstances that are not entirely popular, and not without controversy, because to this day, some Japanese don’t want us there at all. And some Japanese will do anything they can to keep us there forever. And that’s why I find that the modern era informs the world war two era in this very poignant way, in that the American military had this plan moving forward to get all all of our forces off and open our like back in 2012 2013, we began to prepare Guam and tinian for the forces we’re going to move from from Okinawa to the Marianas. And then the Japanese government came back to us because we have bases on Okinawa now particularly Kadena Air Force Base, and there’s a Marine Corps airfield and the big marine camp, which is camp cancer. They, they wanted those move because in the aftermath of the war, Okinawa went through this Renaissance, it went through this rebirth where if you went to downtown central canal, or Naha, Okinawa today, it looks like you’re up against in Tokyo. It’s a very vibrant place. It’s full of light and action, a lot of people and it’s a strong economy. When these military bases were built in the aftermath of the war, they were built out in the middle of nowhere and the Sprawl of the city of Naha grew over the decades until what they eventually encompassed even Kadena Air Force Base, which is well north of na. And so the reality of what Okinawa was in 45, When the war ended, and the reality of what Okinawa is today, they’re very, very different. And Okinawa was a little bit of a backwards agrarian place, and 45. And today, it’s a thumping and thriving Metropolis with a big population. And it’s very, very modern. It’s very, very nice. It’s one of the loveliest places on earth to go, which is what is so troubling about you go there, and you can’t help but every now and then grin and giggle because it’s a wonderful place. And you have to remind yourself of all the absolutely terrible biblical things that happen there. But a certain cohort of of Okinawan people want the American military to go. And the Japanese want us to stay, and eventually have agreed to build us a new military base and Joint Base up in the north, away from all the population. And that’s because they want us to stay because they’re worried about the Chinese. And they have every reason to be worried. A lot of people
Dan LeFebvre 1:23:07
think you kind of think of history is it’s in the past, and it is. But it’s also so much so affecting
Marty Morgan 1:23:17
today. Absolutely. I was teaching class, the night of September 11 2001. I used to teach college here in the New Orleans area, back before Hurricane Katrina 2005. And I taught at night because I had a day job at a museum and I would go from the museum to the college to teach. And I taught history, obviously. And I think the night of September 11 2001, I was supposed to talk about the Progressive Era in American history. And when I walked in, when I got to class, I was like, ain’t nobody going to be there. After what we had gone through that day. 20 years ago, blows my mind. I walked into class, every damn seat was filled. And I was like, well, I walked in and looked at them. And they all looked at me and I’m like, What are you all doing here? And they’re like, what happened today? And I was like, that’s a good question. Because I’m wondering, and I found myself, I had a wrote the word words AlQaeda up on the board to start and by the time the blackboard was completely full of all these names, and I drew this very careful historical timeline stretching all the way back to the Second World War. stretching back farther from there to the First World War, the Balfour Declaration, the Versailles Treaty, I had to talk about all of these 20th century events that had swirled together in one big gyre that had given us September 11. And when I got in my car to drive home from class that night, that was a long, weird day 20 years ago, and I remember thinking like, in order for people to unravel this world in which we live, their historical literacy has to be so mountainous, most people aren’t going to do it. The most In fact, the majority of people are not going to trouble them. to unravel everything that I had basically presented in a two hour class to help September 11 makes sense to a bunch of undergrads. And it made me It made me feel a little trouble, because I was like, I know now that very few people will ever troubled themselves to learn this history. And so what will they do instead? That was a more innocent time period 20 years ago, because what I see now I remember thinking, like when I was working on my master’s degree, and there was this sort of thriving debate about what were the actual circumstances of the American war in the Pacific, because I, like I mentioned earlier, john dour was a very powerful influence when I was in grad school, and everyone just like to write it off very simply and dismiss it currently with all his racism. Moving on. I remember then thinking, Wow, this is so troubling, because in 25 or 30 years, how will we be balancing john dour in his his sort of postmodernist beliefs about the racialization of the war? How will we balance that with the actual realities of it? And I remember, I think back to that now. And I was like, Oh, what a dummy I was, how sound naive and foolish I was to think that people would care enough to have these debates in 30 years, because what I find is that people largely just don’t care, I find that this idea of people becoming historically literate on this subject matter is something that they, they won’t really reach for it. If you bring it to them on a tray and drop it in front of them, like you do with Saving Private Ryan or band brothers of the Pacific. They’ll consume it, but they kind of they kind of push the Pacific back a little bit because this series that I was a part of, to a certain oblique sense. It didn’t do well. It certainly I mean, it did, it did well enough as HBO to say it did well, but it wasn’t great, like manna brothers was better. But this was a homerun like HBO didn’t see again until Game of Thrones. And the the minis and the Pacific was expensive, and it did not give them the same bang for the buck the Ben brothers didn’t. So the result was that people just kind of like they were, they were on the fence about the Pacific, I think it’s been a decade now strange to think, but people have sort of like, I watched it, and I kind of liked it, they don’t respond to the way that to it the way that they did to Band of Brothers. And one of the things that I had always hoped because I still believe a lot of this naive stupidity that that these movies will make a difference over time. And that people, they will function as a beginning point by which people will unlock and begin a lifetime of greater levels of historical literacy. And maybe it’s just because I had a bad day, I’m not feeling very positive On that note, but it’s it sort of doesn’t feel like that’s what’s playing out. Now. The Pacific i think is especially an interesting series to pay attention to, I think it’s more interesting to pay attention to it than Band of Brothers because of the way that it underperformed. The Pacific
Marty Morgan 1:28:08
did not give everyone a dose of what I think they wanted. And in this way, the Pacific runs in a parallel a very interesting parallel to another movie that I’m a massive fan of a movie called The Thin Red Line. Maybe you’ve heard of it. absolutely excellent film. That also did not do well, that also underperformed that came out almost on top of Private Ryan. And for the most part, when it was served up on a trade everyone they kind of pushed back. They didn’t care for it as much. And I believe it was because there was a little there’s a little bit of a sermon going on in Thin Red Line. And I think it’s the same service that’s going on in the Pacific and I think is war I think the sermon is war is bad. The reality is, I think that that is the only type of war movie that can be made now. One in which you come away from it meditating on human suffering, the human experience of war, the traumatizing experiences of war. You come away from these movies with those meditations and those only there are no triumphal isms, the way that there were in the 1950s and 60s. I mean, to an extent, you could see an echo of triumphalism even in the 1970s a movie that I love my favorite World War Two movie of them all. is a movie called the bridge too far. Maybe you’ve seen it. Of course. I can’t get enough of that movie. That movie doesn’t age. I can’t sit through half a Private Ryan now, but I will gobble up every last damn minute of a bridge too far. I love it. And I love the fact that I feel like it leaned a little bit more toward an older style of movie storytelling that looks a little bit more like the old movie pattern. Where you get a little mythology you get a little action adventure. You get a little bit of heroism and drama. There’s a little sprinkling of Oh yes, war is bad and you should be cynical and you should be disenchanted too. There’s a little sprinkling of that over a bridge too far. But then when you get to the era of Platoon, there’s a sledgehammer of war is bad, and you should, you should never celebrate it. It is never a source of good, it never does anything right or Well, everyone is corrupt. There is no future. It’s this bizarre nihilistic way of looking at absolutely everything. And I believe all of that was projected into this series.
Dan LeFebvre 1:30:31
Speaking of this series, if we go back to the last episode, so this is what we see what it’s like for the main characters as the war comes to an end. They give a date of August 15 1945 Lucky’s in the hospital and someone comes in to announce that the Japanese have surrendered. Everyone just starts celebrating. We see sledge snafu in Bergen. They’re on Okinawa, when the news comes in the soldiers. I mean, they’ve got alcohol and a lot of explosives. So there’s a lot of explosions and drinking.
Marty Morgan 1:31:01
What could possibly go wrong?
Dan LeFebvre 1:31:04
What can possibly go wrong? What was that what it was like when the war came to an end?
Marty Morgan 1:31:09
I love this. I love this question. Because when the way that the war came to the end has dominated our historical memory of the Second World War. I think there’s one image that has done it more than anything, you know, the image of the sailor kissing the nurse in New York City. I remember that when the 75th anniversary of VJ Day when We passed that anniversary, which was gosh, that was just last year, wasn’t it? Yeah, it was just last year, last August. That’s just a year ago, a little over a year ago. Anyway, when we pass that anniversary, it kind of went by with a little bit of a whimper. People barely paid attention to it. And I spent the entire day looking at the photo of the sailor kissing the nurse. What I think I like about this one aspect of the Pacific is that it it taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that, hey, not everybody was in uniform, and still at home. There were a lot of people that were in uniform, and still off in hellish god awful places, and still often places far far away from, from hearth and home far away from their parents far away from their family, far away from many of them far away from celebrations, there were still combat action going on. In New Guinea, for example, we tend to focus on Okinawa as the last battle, because it was one big organized, you know, epic battle. But there was still low grade combat going on, on New Guinea. And there were people that were Americans in uniform there. And how did they greet the end of the war? Well, they greeted it the best way that they could, they said, Yeah, they celebrated but I mean, just think of how limited your celebrations are. If you’re at Port Moresby, New Guinea, and maybe a commanding officer lets you get a little bit alcohol, although letting outlet letting the troops get alcohol is never a great idea. nothing good ever comes from it. Sounds like a Puritan, but it’s true. And there were people in uniform in places far far away that in some cases were a year away from seeing American soil. And yeah, they celebrated and their celebration looked a whole lot different than that sailor in Manhattan, who grabbed that nurse.
Dan LeFebvre 1:33:20
There’s a point in this series. I don’t remember who it was, but they’re on the train at the very end. And they’re making their way back and they were was it snafu? I think one of them was hitting on some girls there. And it didn’t work. And he made the points like, well, all the soldiers came back right after the war. They were they were the heroes that won the war. And then we came back, what, six months later and ever It’s over. It’s over. That’s over.
Marty Morgan 1:33:51
You have to be charming and polite and interesting. to work for it. Yeah. It’s, it’s funny to comment on that in the in this era, but there’s a reality to it. And that is that emotionally, that was such a massive release for everyone. Because the point I make about the American experience in the Second World War is that absolutely everyone, to some extent experienced it. They might not have been in uniform, but they experienced it. So we had a governor in Louisiana named Hale Boggs and he had a wife named Wendy and she was great. And I knew her and I interviewed her at one point, she was eventually the US ambassador to the Vatican. And she was a person of notoriety. And I remember her at one point, telling me a story that just blew my mind. And that was, I was just trying to probe around like, what was your day to day experience? Like I was interviewing her. I felt sort of dragooned into interviewing her because she was basically a famous and influential person. And I was like, This woman was stateside, what could she possibly tell me? Well, she could tell me the one of the best stories I’ve ever heard in my life. And what she told me she was like, She’s like, yeah, I mean, in my day to day experience was really difficult is like in New Orleans. Higgins industries was running swing shifts. So Higgins industries ran both night and day. And she said so there was a time period where when you draw swing shifts, you didn’t have what you weren’t permanently on swing shifts, you might draw it this month and the next month you on day shift, and then the month after that you went back to night shift. And so you would, you would you know, very that she’s like, the big problem that it created was that like my next door neighbor, she had two kids, her husband was in uniform off serving. And she worked at Higgins and she got on night shift. And so the way there was a period there where my day began, where the neighbor would bring her kids over, and I watched her kids, while she collapsed in the house and got some sleep, because she had just come while the kids were sleeping. She was out at the factory working, she came home in time to get the kids up, get them dressed, and get them ready. And on the weekends, they would just go over to her house. And she would kind of watch them while she got some sleep when the kids weren’t in school. And that would mean during the summer. The kids were like they were there every day. And so she was having to watch your neighbor’s kids every day so that the neighbor could get some sleep, so that she could be ready to go back up to the plant that night. And she said, Yeah, and it was that wasn’t terrible. It’s just that those kids ate a lot. And I was like, Oh, well, I bet especially when you get to other some other lady’s kids in your house. And she was like, Yeah, and I remember one day was really difficult because I got my kids up, get him dressed. She brought her kids over. I got I you know, I was watching them, I made breakfast for all of them, including me, said at the end of breakfast, I had to go downtown because it was the one day a week when I could buy meat. Because meat was rationed. And so she said, so I knew that if I didn’t get there early, I’d have a position way back at the end of the line. So I wanted to kind of get there early on. So I got I, as soon as the kids finished their breakfast, I kind of got them already. I got myself ready. We got on the streetcar, we went down to downtown New Orleans with ration certificates in hand. And I was a little bit later than I wanted to and there was a long line, she said she took her position in line and then began, the line began moving forward little by little by little. And then after a couple of hours, eventually there was a commotion up at the head of the line. And the line broke up and she saw the doors to the market close up and everybody’s sort of began to the line begin to break up and walk off. And she stopped somebody she’s like, what’s going on? they close and and the guy said, Yeah, the president just died. And I was like, Whoa, I mean, and I and so the the war is just so broad and encompassing that I have a tendency through my natural interest to focus on the combat fighting forces and what they went through. And I appreciated that opportunity to have a powerful story reminds me of just what the civilians were going through. And so everybody, to some extent, experienced this conflict. And this conflict, we live in the shadow of it to this very day. I mean, my God, we have bases in Germany, we have bases in Japan, including Okinawa. We live in a complicated geopolitical world that was in part created by the circumstances of the Second World War. The reason I want people I want series like this to get made, I want people to watch them and I want people to to increase their levels of historical literacy about the subject is because it’s too big. I watched the people who haven’t devoted their life to understanding it in an intimate way. I watched them in the way that they talk about World War Two. Because I see him on Facebook all day long. I see him posting these catty and superficial stories that obliquely refer to World War Two history and they often refer to it in distorted and mythologized ways, and it’s troubling to me because I feel like we all owe it to what the country went through to understand the subject matter.
Dan LeFebvre 1:38:50
Yeah. And I mean, like, like you’re saying, it’s not just in the combat, it’s as World War eight affected everybody regardless.
Marty Morgan 1:38:58
Absolutely. That’s why everyone has an interest in it. And that’s why the recent sort of racialized politicization of the subject matter is something that I mean, I’m not entirely comfortable with that because I believe that everybody experienced it on almost equal basis. It fascinates me to watch the way that the triumphalist the triumphalist and patriotic way that the more was remembered in the years immediately after the war, which was syrupy and sweet and like way over the top with patriotism. I look at that, and I go, yeah, I can see why that era began the era when I was in grad school where there was a little bit more of an intellectual critique of that way of looking at the conflict. It’s like the you know, the George Washington never told a lie and he chopped down a cherry tree. That’s the way that the way that American history was taught using that sort of mechanism. I can see why this this more academic and more intellectual mechanism ultimately ends up being used, but I can also see how it has been taken. To this degree of extremism, and I feel like the Pacific miniseries reflects that to a certain degree. Because the Pacific miniseries in many ways conformed to a very traditional way of producing a world war two movie in the post Vietnam era. And that is that it at all times must be the Heart of Darkness. It must be cynicism disenchantment. It must be war is terrible, even in World War Two, which sometimes awkwardly And strangely, overlooks some of the reasons why we got into the conflict, which, to me, at least even after all these years, I still see justifying reasons for American intervention and the conflict.
Dan LeFebvre 1:40:48
Like, like any movie, or, or show or anything like that, there’s, it’s entertainment, but also, it’s impossible to not be affected by the opinions of whoever is creating that. Because at the end of the day, you’re telling us, I mean, it’s entertainment. So you’re telling a story, you’re going to deviate from straight up facts, obviously, we’ve talked about a lot of those. But it you know, it is also trying to tell the story. And so it’s gonna have some of those opinions put in there just naturally, I mean, it’s just the way it
Marty Morgan 1:41:19
- And every entertainment product, wrestles with that subject to an extent, then, as you know, I work on Call of Duty and we have a call of duty that’s being released here in just a couple of months. And with my development team, we went through the exact same thing. It’s weird, I had the experience of having gone through a not entirely positive experience of being a part of this early production team for the Pacific. And we went through things then 10 years ago that I have gone through and almost the exact same pattern with Call of Duty, it’s that whatever you try to tell a story that relates to an historical event, they’re going to deal with, to some degree politicization, you’re going to deal with to some degree, creating fiction out of nonfiction. And no entertainment product is ever going to be perfect, some reach for perfection and present themselves as achieving it, but none of them ever really get there. I remember in the immediate aftermath of Saving Private Ryan when they came out that the overall claim the broad claim of Private Ryan was that oh, this is the most realistic thing that has ever been presented in movies and Private Ryan is so full of historical inaccuracies and distortions, and I can’t even sit through it anymore. So even the projects that serve it up to us as here’s a perfect example of of authenticity they are there I’m I remember that was the big claim that came with platoon when it premiered and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. And ever since then, people have treated platoon like it was a documentary and it was not that at all. At the end
Dan LeFebvre 1:43:03
of the series, we do get a brief explanation of text that explains what happened to each of the main characters after the war. Eugene sledge, earned a PhD wrote a memoir called with the old breed that was using the creation of the series, Bob Luckey marries his sweethearts, versicolor and also wrote a memoir called helmet for my pillow that was used in the creation series as well. JOHN bass alone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, as you mentioned earlier, and a Purple Heart for his actions on Iijima. Lena found out that her husband died on her 32nd birthday. And despite only being married for seven months, she never remarried. It’s all that true.
Marty Morgan 1:43:38
It is all true. Yeah. sledge caught at a little liberal arts college in Central Alabama. I suppose now’s as good a time as any dimension it but yeah, I’m an alabamian. And I went to the University of Alabama. I started there in 1987. And when I was there, I was dating a girl who was from Coleman, Alabama. And she attended montevallo College, which is the school where uwgb sledge taught. And if you don’t mind me, I’ll make it quick and painless. But it’s too hilarious for me not to tell the story. Well, I would drive from where the university is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to see her every weekend at montevallo. And she was a science major. And over and over again on my visits there. She was saying like, you know what, you should meet my biology professor, you should meet Dr. sledge. And I was like Why? And she was like, well, you’re because she knew I was a history major. She knew I was interested in World War Two history. And she said, Yeah, he was in the war. And I was like, Oh, really what was like, What did he do? And I didn’t know he was and the book was out, but I didn’t know. And she was like, Well, I don’t know what he did. And I was like, Well, I mean, was in the army. He was the Navy and she’s like, I don’t know that. You should meet him. I think you’d like him. I went in May 1987. I went was only seven I was at a very 1988 I went To a Adana mana Viola to see her and it was a memorial day weekend barbecue. And they had live music and barbecue out on the quad at Montebello and I walked out there and she went, Oh, there’s Dr. sledge. And she dragged me over to meet Eugene Banderas sledge. And she introduced him and he said she and he looked at her, y’all. You told me about him, didn’t you? And he’s like, you’re in Tuscola? Yes, sir. I’m Tuscaloosa. And he’s like, Oh, very nice to meet you. Nice to meet. So you were in the war? And you’re like, Yeah, and I think about it to this day. And I’m like, How embarrassing. So you’re in the war, two huge sledge. He said, Yes, being very, very gentlemanly about it. And I was like, were you in the army? As if I hadn’t been dumb enough. I then asked him if he knew the army. And he said, No, I was in the Marine Corps. And I was like, oh, okay, great. And then I asked him if he was on Guadalcanal. And he said, No, but his friend was, and then he, for about 30 minutes, told me a little bit about k three, five pehlu in Okinawa, and he mentioned his book. And the following week, I bought the book and
Dan LeFebvre 1:46:07
read it. And then you felt rather silly for asking
Marty Morgan 1:46:11
this person on planet Earth. And I at least it was, I mean, I didn’t, I didn’t know Sid Phillips then. And I didn’t know like Harvey Berg. And then or Harry Bender, all these other guys that were that were featured in the series that were either k three, five or h two, one. I didn’t know any of them at that point. And but I would ultimately meet them. And thankfully, mercifully, I was a bit more of a conscious human being when I met them, so I didn’t make an ass of myself. But Dr. sledge was very, very polite to me. And the one that only time I ever met him. So that’s a brush with greatness that I think about a lot, because that is the defining personal narrative of the American experience in the Pacific War.
Dan LeFebvre 1:46:56
You never know who you’re going to meet sometimes.
That’s fascinating. Wow.
Dan LeFebvre 1:47:01
Well, now that we have a chance, we’ve had the chance to chat about the entire series, if you had to pick a favorite episode. Which one would it be and why?
Marty Morgan 1:47:09
Episode Two for the combat on Guadalcanal. I mean, the depiction of combat I feel like was, was particularly arresting, I am not going to say that it was really all that historically accurate, there are some historical accurate inaccuracies in it. For example, there are about 100 and field sequence, when you see bass alone, machine getting down these Japanese attackers, the numbers that are depicted are greatly in excess of the actual numbers. And I say that self consciously because I don’t want to detract from the man’s action, the man was still enormously brave, the action is still noteworthy on every level. It’s just that it often troubles me that very often filmmakers, and video game makers, they feel that it’s not enough. And they feel that they have to exaggerate. And they have to make it bigger, which is a very entertainment industry to do, and are very entertainment industry thing to do, to something that actually happened. And I don’t want to sit here and futz over the difference between 30 dead bodies and 100 dead bodies, but I do find those scenes to be very compelling in the way they were depicted.
Dan LeFebvre 1:48:25
Yeah, I mean, I think you said it perfectly. I think that that’s something that’s very common, it’s, you have the historically accurate side and that way and filmmakers looking at it from how does this look compositionally in the in the frame? Or does this look like enough for you know, that, that sort of approach to it to help push that narrative even more?
Marty Morgan 1:48:46
Right now, I understand. I’ve been, and I, when I was younger, I remember being all fussy about that, and, and certainly about it. And now that I’ve been around the entertainment industry a little bit longer, I understand a little bit more about what the needs of storytelling are, and how people who are gifted and skilled at storytelling, they all have to turn to these mechanisms of getting the story out there and telling it and that sometimes being historically accurate is not the right way to go. At least not 100% historically accurate is not the way to go. I feel like lightnings gonna strike me for saying that. But it’s true. It’s true. It’s like, for example, prayer, Saving Private Ryan, which To this day, people treat it like it was a documentary. When it was it was fiction that was loosely based on something that actually happened. And the more I’ve been around it that the more I think that that might be the way to go. Rather than picking people who actually lived and depicting them in circumstances. circumstances like a battle that actually happened. It might be more difficult for the storyteller to get to where they need to go and that it might be more convenient. Just to create fictional characters inspired by nonfiction, I can see that now but I still, I still feel like you don’t have to go through these sort of naked exaggerations, to make people perk up and pay attention.
Dan LeFebvre 1:50:17
As you’re saying that one thing that came to mind, I talked with Dr. Horton, who was the historical consultant on movie, The Alamo. And something that he had said was, you know, his job is to let the director know when they’re going to be diverging from history. And that he one of the remember the exact phrasing that he said, but it was something along the lines of end of the day, this is a movie. And if it’s not entertaining, people aren’t going to watch it. And we’re not going to be making anymore. Right? So it ended the day it has to be entertaining. And so you have to have some of those story elements in there that are going to deviate from history.
Marty Morgan 1:50:55
Yeah, you got to succeed if you want to make more. That’s like a very good friend, very good friend of mine is an historian at Pearl Harbor. And that continues to be a subject that I am deeply interested in. And the museum where I used to work, we had a premiere event for the movie, Pearl Harbor, the great atrocity against humanity there and occurred in 2001.
Dan LeFebvre 1:51:14
I would love to talk to you about that movie sometime.
Marty Morgan 1:51:18
Nothing but fun right there. I’d have to not use profanity, I’d have to tell myself no profanity, anyway. But you know, a smart and it there’s an intelligent conversation we had about that subject that we should have at a later date. But anyway, my buddy has the story. And it uses Arizona, he was a historical consultant on that movie, which, as you know, is a landmark of bad, it is best known for being like, unspeakably bad. And what he tells everyone is that they I was brought on the project to inform the historical accuracy of the project. They gave me a script, I marked it up and turned it back into them. I was not the executive producer, and I was not director, they made the movie they wanted to make for the reasons that they had. And it turned out the way that it did. And I could tell that for him, that was a rehearsed speech that he had to deliver a lot.
Dan LeFebvre 1:52:17
Marty Morgan 1:52:20
And I could tell that it broke his heart a little bit, but just to put it in con. In a contrast, there is a movie that I quite liked called tour tortora, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, which almost perfectly fit well, I don’t wanna say almost perfect, it is far more beholden to political accuracy, then the 2001 movie, Pearl Harbor was, and it is something that is, for the most part, historically accurate, it’s got a lot of problems. It doesn’t have nearly as many problems as the 2001 movie, but it’s got a lot of problems. And that movie, if it was released today, it would fail wildly, it’s unwatchable. I don’t think a contemporary audience could sit through that movie, because that movie is some sort of like, tormenting three and a half hours long. It had an intermission, as was common in the 1960s and 70s. And it introduces way too many characters, there’s way too much going on, you ask way too much of the audience, you have to give them an intermission so that they can go pee just to get through the stupid thing. And I don’t think we can do that today. I think that’s an era that has left just like the era of the silent movie. And with that being the case, it might be the only way that we can present long form historical subject matter to a viewing audience is through something like Band of Brothers or the Pacific. Yeah, you know, you have to let them Game of Thrones their way through the series, make it possible like later on, binge it with what there’s a snowstorm or hurricane if you want to. Or you can watch it little by little, and provide coherence from one episode to the next where each episode has a beginning, middle and end. Your storytelling adheres to beginning, middle and end principles for each episode. And people can take it little by little and get through it, which was I think, accomplished so well with Banda brothers. That might be the only way that we can do this in the future. Because certainly the tour tour tour model is I don’t think it’s on the table anymore. No, I don’t think so.
Dan LeFebvre 1:54:24
I think a lot of that has changed even just with the streaming world now where you know, a lot more things are episodic. And that’s just I think you’re right. I think that’s the way of the future, which is almost good in a way though, because then you get, you know, 10 episodes at 10 hours of room to tell the story instead of
Marty Morgan 1:54:43
just a couple. Yeah, even if you dump something miserable on them like Tora, Tora, Tora, you dumped like a three hour runtime on them. That asks a lot, because they’re going to be tempted to tackle that in one sitting whereas a 10 part miniseries, they definitely won’t attempt that. And it fascinates me that it becomes a matter of what is the most effective way for us to present historical subject matter. Because one observation that I have to make is that as much as I would love to imagine a world where everyone becomes a history major as an undergrad, and everyone comes out on the other end of their undergraduate degree with a history Ba, and a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of historical subject matter, as much as I’d like to imagine that that is, that’s not going to happen, because that’s, that’s basically my science fiction. In science fiction, what you want to imagine is this, this world where everyone’s competent, and everything’s doing, everyone’s doing consequential things. That’s all science fiction, basically. And that’s kind of what I want to imagine is hope for humankind and I have to accept that that’s just not the way that it works. That it becomes more of the Huxley envision the Aldous Huxley vision and depicted in brave new world where it’s a little bit of people are numbing themselves, and people are superficial and contenting themselves with superficial traits of God, this just became very depressing. I don’t do that to you. But at the same time, I, I feel like it’s important within this discussion to say that, what does the future look like for the way that people remember the history of the Second World War? Yeah, they’re gonna be pinheads. Like me out there that do. I mean, that’s all I do is I sit around this house and read about that subject all day long every day. Not everybody’s going to do that. Not everybody can do that. But the subject is so big. It has such a bearing on our contemporary lives, that it will be necessary for them to understand at least some of it. And how do you get that to them? What source do you use to deliver that to them, and I thought I had a good handle on the way that that future looked back in the 90s, before the internet when I was in grad school, and everything’s different now.
Dan LeFebvre 1:57:09
Although I will say when you write that screenplay for the way, the feature will look in your sci fi world, I will watch that movie.
Marty Morgan 1:57:17
It would be so terrible. I’m working on the screenplay. Now. That’s all about firefighters. And as I worked on it a little while last night, and it’s not like firefighters and fire trucks. But like firefighters fighting wildfires use an airplane water bombers and helicopters and people on the ground and smoke jumpers, because all of that stuff is just kick ass. It’s fascinating and very dramatic and very exciting. And as I worked on a couple of chapters of it last night, and when I went to pick it up, I was like I have just written Star Trek only with clarifiers. It’s all science fiction that we cite in science fiction is competence, pornography, where everyone’s competent, and doing a good job. And that’s not how society works. That’s not how people work. And it fascinates me that as much as I the big weakness I think I end up having is I have watched way too much science fiction, and it conditioned me to imagine a progressivism that I don’t think that humankind can deliver back to being depressing again. But that’s a reality that we have to face that we’re going to create a product for people who might not be interested in it. And the way that the Pacific particularly was created was less successful than Band of Brothers, there was a magic to the way the band of brothers was created. That made it quite a bit more popular. And the Pacific did not capture that. Magic.
Dan LeFebvre 1:58:47
Speaking of the Pacific, this is a question that I asked you about banner brothers when we wrap that up, but overall for the Pacific, who is your favorite actor in the series?
Marty Morgan 1:58:56
It’s Annie Perry’s playing Elena because I just think she’s perfection. I believe she’s an excellent actor. And I know I’ve said it before, but the coffee cup, the coffee queen is a beautiful scene in which I found myself caring. Even because keep in mind like a confession that I have to make is that my experience and being involved in this series was one that ended in a very disappointing way. And I did not watch it until this month, even though it’s years ago, and I found myself watching it, try it and I think I needed to put that much time between me and it just because I was still pissed off and burned out from the disappointing experience of having been involved in it. And when I watched the scene from this neutral perspective, I tried to not be catty about problems with like 1903, a three rifles on Guadalcanal a little minor technical and authenticity problem, but I found myself getting to that scene and shot really enjoying it because all of the other members jumbo just disappeared. The disappointing experience I had in being involved in it, although, you know, in an oblique way, that all disappeared, I ended up not paying attention to well, you know, that’s not really how you would operate the mortar or that’s the wrong rifle. I didn’t pay attention at that. I just enjoyed the fact that I watched two actors who were very, very good. And they delivered a scene. And I already knew the way that the story ended. And I still liked it. And I felt that that was very nicely portrayed. So that’s my favorite scene. And although it might not be my favorite episode, it’s the scene I liked the most. Speaking
Dan LeFebvre 2:00:38
of people are involved in the series, have the writers for the Pacific mentioned their objectives and making a series did they like did they deliberately want to make a statement of any kind? And if so, what kind of statement Do you think they were making?
Marty Morgan 2:00:51
We had interesting developments on that just over the weekend. In fact, in the aftermath of the series, everybody went on press junket, everybody except my team, we were basically banished, we ended up getting kind of run off with pitchforks and torches. Although the companion book that we worked on, although it was published, and there was a little bit of interest in the book, there was a lot more interested in the series. And they talked about the series quite a bit. And I remember the night that Mr. Hanks went on The Daily Show, back in the day when Jon Stewart still hosted the show. And when they came back, they went to commercial and said And up next on the show is Tom Hanks to talk about the new HBO miniseries The Pacific came back from the commercial and Jon Stewart said I’m with actor director, producer Tom Hanks, and he’s here to talk about his new HBO series. Tom, tell me what it’s all about. And Tom Hanks said the following words he said, This series is about the war of the Pacific, which is was a war of racism and hatred. And I immediately just was I was crestfallen and heartbroken. Because that’s not what that’s not my main takeaway from the Pacific. And that was at the essence of why there ultimately became, there was ultimately a schism. And it was between the research team that I was a part of, and the people that ultimately ended up writing and making the series. And this schism was over this tone, the story that would be told. And so right when it came out, Tom Hanks did not hide the fact that he wanted to emphasize this post modernistic way of interpreting and understanding the Pacific war that was so heavily informed by authors like john Bower who wrote the book war without mercy that came out in 1986. It was weird in 2009, to be listening to people that were talking about john towers were without mercy, because I was like, haven’t we gotten past that? That was way back in the late 80s. So that was back when I started. undergrad, why are we still talking about this? Why are we still looking at subject this way? And that becomes sort of current topic, because of the weekend, Bruce McKenna, who wrote seven of the 10 episodes of the Pacific, he went on a podcast that I listened to and pay very close attention to. And he said a couple of things that answered this question very powerfully. And if I could just read a couple of quick quotes, I’ll tell you what McKenna said this quote, I found very interesting. And that was a quote where he was discussing the realities of combat in the Pacific. And he said, The other thing you have to understand about combat in the Pacific is that it’s not like, it’s not quite like what it was in Europe, where, you know, you had sort of a more structured line, you know, in some of these battles on pelo in Okinawa, there aren’t. There’s no difference between it and any of these, you know, because the Japanese have infiltrated because they can’t trust civilians, because, you know, it’s they’ve just been compressed into a zone of death. And there’s really no difference between, you know, that was made pretty clear from, you know, from what he wrote about, especially going, and McKenna just sort of descended into a bunch of us, and you knows, and the big takeaway was the zone of death quote, and what Bruce McKenna was identifying was a Pacific war that did not exist. And the Pacific war that he was identifying was one where you can hear him attempting to say that the Pacific War was defined by a lack of frontlines, and infiltration was central to it, and that there were civilians involved. And to that, I say, poppycock, it reveals immediately that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the realities of the Pacific War, because to me, the war in the Pacific looks a lot like the war in Europe. The main point he calls attention to in that quote is this lack of defined lines. Well, the Battle of Guadalcanal was one perimeter around an airfield and we fought to hold on to, to hold on to and defend that perimeter. For much of the campaign, it was an air sea and land battle but it was basically we were trying to hold the perimeter there was an established main line of resistance. And the the Japanese were attacking it over and over Get in and all of the other battles. That’s what I see as well. I mean, now I could go down the list one by one, but you don’t want to sit through that. Okinawa, I think is the only other one that I would mention. And Okinawa is defined by I mean, for God’s sake, Okinawa has a defensive line. That’s called the Shuri line. Where the Japanese before the battle they were like, Alright, we’re going to try and hold them on the beaches. We’ll fall back through kakuzu and then we’ll fall back to hacksaw which Japanese didn’t call Hacksaw Ridge we did but whatever they they call it the rural so my Ada escarpment whatever, anyway, the Japanese then created one fixed defensive line called the shoreline where they would stop us. And so in this way, Bruce McKenna has revealed a fundamental ignorance of the realities of Pacific or combat, and calling attention to the fact that there were no eyes that is not the Pacific war that actually presented itself. And I can’t come up with a good Pacific battle, where such circumstances did present themselves. And so he was wanting to give a viewing audience a Pacific war that didn’t actually exist. Because I think, just from that, quote, If you didn’t already know, he was talking about the war in the Pacific, you would think he was talking about the Vietcong and Vietnam, because the reality is, that’s what they were talking about. That’s what this series is. This series is a Vietnam War era, anti war statement. And Bruce McKenna set it himself and this podcast over the weekend where he provided this long quote that I’ll skip most of but a point that he made, I’m just going to pick it up. So I can spare you a lot of the suffering of listening to me reading what Bruce McKenna said. But he said that he was talking about scenes that were deleted, and he said the Pacific was written during the Iraq and Iran war. So it had there’s no way around, it affected the way the show was written and acted and directed and done. It’s actually the most expensive anti war movie ever made. And I felt like that was the most honest and real that Bruce McKenna ever was about that series. And this was literally just days ago that he said this. So in the aftermath of the premiere, they made the rounds I mean, even before the premiere debuted, writers directors, producers, actors, made their rounds and did press junket. And they over and over again called emphasis to the Pacific War was different, it was worse. And they call the emphasis to fundamental historical misunderstandings, like, there were no fixed frontlines nonsense.
Marty Morgan 2:07:35
They made it over and over again sound like they made a 10 episode version of platoon with World War Two uniforms, which, to be honest, is kind of what they made himself then declared it on his own that the series was informed by the the present day politics of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and that it was produced as the most expensive anti war movie ever made. I’m not endorsing war. I’m not saying war is great. It’s not that war is terrible. We should have sober understandings, sober and informed understandings of what war is. And when we make wars, when we make movies like if you’ve ever seen the movie sands of Iijima movie with john wayne, maybe you’ve seen it. I think it’s worth studying because sands of Iwo Jima it adheres to this very traditional very typical World War Two early Cold War era, patriotic paradigm where everything is this over the top highly exaggerated senses of patriotism it’s it’s extremely melodramatic with swelling music, right at the moment when the hero character gets killed off. It is in every sense, just nothing but pure cane syrup poured all over your pancakes. And that is an inaccurate way of depicting the realities of World War Two, when you when they had an objective and making the war in that way, and that was to celebrate American victory in World War Two, I don’t have a problem with that. I also don’t have a problem with making something that calls attention to the realities of the suffering of World War Two, I am just saying that I believe we we have to recognize that there is an evolution that has been taking place that we’re operating on a continuum of, of change over time, and that that continuum is anchored with movies made back in the 40s and 50s, because there were world war two movies made during World War Two. And that those movies were like way over the top with this exaggerated Mickey Mouse Disney quality patriotism that today is hard to sit through because we’ve been conditioned to be such cynics. And that as the decades moved forward, we reached ultimately than the Vietnam time period, and it changed the way that we look at war and that now there is an equally exaggerated and therefore equally distorted way of looking at war which I guess I could just go ahead and name the puppy and call it the platoon paradigm because I feel like we’re locked in the platoon paradigm. It was less apparent with Banda brothers. And in fact, in the interview from the weekend, Bruce McKenna called attention to the fact that in Banda brothers we made something different. He In fact, even voiced a dislike for what I thought was one of the best series. One of the best scenes in Banda brothers. You remember the baseball scene in the final series?
Dan LeFebvre 2:10:20
Oh, yeah, at the very end, where they’re kind of saying what what everybody did after the war and everything and how that
Marty Morgan 2:10:25
Yeah, and it had sort of a mission accomplished kind of quality and it had sort of a, we’ve done the right thing and had a quality that felt like the filmmakers didn’t want to shake their finger in your face and go, don’t forget to feel terrible about this. Because I feel like that’s what’s happening to be in Pacific. I don’t deny that there’s misery and suffering in the Pacific. But there was misery and misery and suffering and World War Two. I fought this argument many, many times since the Pacific came out. And people have said, but Oh, but the fighting in the Pacific was so much worse. And I was like it was it. I know of examples of atrocities in World War Two in World War Two in Europe, where American soldiers cut killed men and they cut their penises off and shoved him in the enemy’s throat. And I also let’s not forget about that small matter of the extermination centers, the Holocaust. And the final solution. Let’s not forget about that. When we’re quick to say the Pacific was worse. Why? Because there were jungles and it was hotter and the terrain was difficult and it was challenging. Yeah, and I feel like the terrain around Bastogne was pretty damn challenging to not that I fought there. But I’ve been there in the bleak midwinter, and it sucks. And I’ve been on petaloo when it was hot and humid, and it sucks to. And I believe that the Pacific is a mini series as an overall project, overwhelmingly attempts to package modern and present is to political ideology, and to an anti war film that disproportionately calls attention to environmental circumstances, and violence in a way that misrepresents the reality of the war in the Pacific. By making it seem like it was so much worse, when it was bad, but I’m not necessarily convinced that it was worse. And I feel like I’m more of a specialist in the war in the Pacific than the war in Europe. But Bruce McKenna, wants you to come away from that 10 episodes that you just sat through, feeling like war is bad. And to me, that also feels like a really rote, and super officialized trivialization of what you should come away with. Because let’s face it, we all know that war is bad. I guess what he didn’t want to do was give everybody what bandit brothers did, which was it gave everybody heroes to look up to and admire. And this time, we got heroes to look up to and admire. And we get to understand a little bit of the tormenting and suffering that they went through the trauma that they experienced. Whereas Ben brothers doesn’t even really flirt with that idea. But with this, we have filmmakers who really wanted to double down on that idea. And I believe that in doubling down on that idea, and participating in what has really become kind of common now, they went with the idea of Pacific War was worse, and it had a uniquely traumatizing effect on the people who fought it. And I don’t believe that’s true.
Dan LeFebvre 2:13:23
Defeat some of the back and get your opinion on this. I wonder if some of that is, like we were talking about earlier, you’re talking about September 11. Right. And Band of Brothers, I believe was released, right around then, which means it was created beforehand. Whereas the Pacific being created after mentioning, you know, being, I can’t remember the exact word that he used, but influenced by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And when it comes to war, I think you’ve made the point, well of war is bad anywhere. And so if you’re looking for a way to tell a story that you want to tell, it’s not hard to find bad things in war to help you get that point across. And it just sounds like the timing of it was Band of Brothers being in the European theatre. Really, more than the timing of when it came out, influenced what that story was, they were trying to tell so they weren’t looking for some of those horrible things that happened at work, because horrible things happen in war everywhere. Does that kind of sound like what you’re saying? They’re
Marty Morgan 2:14:30
totally it totally sounds like that. Because it’s hard. I think I find it hard to imagine a world like I continue to struggle saying back when we were in Afghanistan, and treating it as past tense, because it’s past tense now, because that war is over. That war was around for 20 years I got quite accustomed to that was just the new American normal. September 11. was so long ago I struggled to remember what the world world was like before it, but I do remember because I wasn’t An adult that was already out of grad school and already in a working profession, and I was teaching history. And I remember that there were levels of optimism then that were crushed by September 11. There was also a larger movement that it would be wrong for me not to mention it. And that is that the era Vietnam so implement influential on the baby boomer generation that they allowed the present is to politics and the 1970s to change the way that they looked at the world, they were becoming political thinkers. And I understand that part of what every person goes through is they were they rebel against an establishment that that establishment, the first establishment that they rebel against, is the establishment of their parents. And then later in life, when you become more mature, that you recognize how valuable and dear your parents were, and you recognize the difficulties that they went through. And people just naturally when they get past 40, they start to feel a nostalgia for their mother and the father. And there was an entire generation, that generation of baby boomers who crossed that threshold into the era of nostalgia. And I think what they wanted was to understand what their parents had gone through during the World War Two era a little bit more sensitively. And so the result was that we got an era where we briefly sort of drifted away from the post Vietnam era politics, like a movie that I’m quite fond of is the movie Memphis Belle, maybe you’ve seen it. And I think it’s quite good. I remember when it came out, I guess it came out in 89. I was an undergrad history major at the time. And I went out and saw it in the theaters the night that it came out. And there was like a veteran was there. And I took my dad. And there was a veteran there that set up a table and his and this veteran. I saw it in Birmingham, and he was from Birmingham. And he was a part of the 100 Bombardment Group, which is a market group that suffered extremely heavy casualties in the air war of Europe. And this guy, the theater asked him to come out and he set up a table with like photos and memorabilia from his time, flying my dad and I showed up at the movie and we saw this guy, we’re like, let’s go talk to him. And we stood there 30 minutes, and we were almost late for the movie. Because we were having a great time talking to this veteran. And we walked away and it was my father who’s now no longer alive, but we walked away. And he was like, yeah, it makes me think about my father because my father’s father been in the Second World War. And he was like, yeah, and he’s like, I had a different experience because I was in uniform. And I was in the military. And so we my dad kind of bonded over that. And he was like, but I still wish he was around so we could talk to him more because my grandfather was in a weird, weird career where he was in North Africa. And then he went all the way from North Africa to Guam, Saipan, tinian, pehlu. He will Jima and Okinawa. Very weird world war two experience where he experienced all those things. And we would talk about like, Man, I wish he wouldn’t he died in 73. I was like, I wish he hadn’t died. We talk so much more about him. But I could see that my father it was, it was a nostalgia thing. And we saw this whole veteran at the premiere of Memphis bill, we were feeling that and to an extent harvesting that emotion. And I remember what it was like to move out of the late 80s and into the 90s. And when we moved into the 90s, there was a different feeling because during that time period, Steven Ambrose published a series of books, one of which was abandoned brothers, that was then followed by his big thick book that came out for the 50th anniversary of D day, 60th anniversary of D day, I’m sorry, 60. And then his book citizen soldier, and there was this wave, this wave of sentiment, that was extremely nostalgic, and celebratory of World War Two, the world war two generations. It was after all, during this time period, that the book, The Greatest Generation came out, written by Tom Brokaw. And there was a totally different feeling. And then bam, Saving Private Ryan and then BAM Band of Brothers and September 11. And everything changed after September 11. That wave of this positivity of that was more celebratory, it was a celebratory way of looking back on the world war two generation that was more appreciative that was more interested that was more engaged. And that all went away after September 11. And I think because September 11, reminded the American people that we can’t have victory culture anymore, that the world’s a very complicated place. And in many ways, no matter what you do, it’s wrong. Even if it’s right, it’s wrong. We just got through 20 years of struggling with those very ideas in Afghanistan.
Marty Morgan 2:19:33
I don’t think we’d get this band, the band of brothers that we got, if it was in production before September 11. I’m sorry if it was in production. And that’s why I think these two miniseries look so different. First, McKenna said it himself. He made an anti war movie. That’s what he wrote. And that’s what it is. And that’s very much in keeping with the politics. You’re a science fiction fan. Are you Not sir. It only if it’s good. That was a good answer By the Way, I Like the Way because I’m I have lower tastes in science fiction I would kind of gobble up all of it. When I was a kid, there’s a TV show called bow star Galactica, which then you’re probably familiar with the later version that came out. And you might remember that Battlestar Galactica was multiple seasons, maybe three, I can’t remember now. Battlestar Galactica, when the TV the new TV series came out, after September 11, during the era of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I got all excited about it. And I’ve watched them all. And I eventually just kind of walked away in disgust, because they used Battlestar Galactica as a very clear means of transmitting their the way that they felt their political opinions about Iraq and Afghanistan, were transmitted through Battlestar Galactica, to the point where there’s one episode where there’s even a line of dialogue where somebody says, either you’re with us or you’re or you’re against us, which was a direct quote of George Herbert Walker Bush, or George Walker Bush. And I remember thinking at that point, like, why can’t I just cannot just have science fiction, because it’s an escape, it’s supposed to be that and I mentioned it simply because I believe it very clearly indicates a mood that was that hung over this country during that time period. And in my life, I have watched different moods, come and go. Remember, the 444 days of the Iran hostage crisis, I remember it very clearly because it was shoved in my face. Even though I was a kid. It was shoved in my face every night on the news. And then I remember the era of Ronald Reagan. And I’m not here to say that Ronald Reagan was great. And I’m not here to criticize him. I am just here to say that there was a difference in mood that I think the American people were more cynical and disenchanted during the Carter era, because of the Iran hostage crisis. And then that gave way to an era when people wanted to be a little bit more, not so heavy they wanted, not that they wanted to be ultra, or super patriotic, because we still had troubled times in the 1980s. But the 1980s felt different. And as an extension of this overall discussion, I would argue that the 2000s felt different. And as a result of that, they produced a totally different feel in the Pacific.
Dan LeFebvre 2:22:21
My last question for you is, it’s a big one. Over the past few years, you’ve come on the show to talk about the longest day, Saving Private Ryan Bana brothers and now the Pacific. If you had to put these in an order of how they’ve impacted people’s understanding of world war two history, what order would you put them in starting with most impactful to least,
Marty Morgan 2:22:43
I think most impactful is probably the longest day it’s faded a lot. But the longest day situated the D day story in such a way that I don’t think its prominence would have continued. Had it not been for the long. I don’t think in other In other words, if there had been no Longest Day, I think there would have been no Private Ryan. And this way, I believe, longest day it was more influential than Private Ryan, but I would select Private Ryan for being number two. Because prior to COVID-19, one of my primary Jobs was functioning as a tour guide in Normandy. And I’ve written two books on the subject and a couple 100 articles on the subject. And it’s a subject I live with constantly. And I love. I can’t get enough of it. And I watched the way that the combination of Saving Private Ryan and bandit brothers changed the way that tour guides deal with normally because especially during the last few years, I had to kind of like scold people, because all people wanted to talk about was Saving Private Ryan, I would take them to Omaha Beach. And they would ask me questions about Saving Private Ryan, and they would ask me questions about characters who didn’t exist, they would ask me like, what about Sergeant Horvath? And what about Where’s Captain Miller buried at the cemetery? And I’d have to tell them, it’s a fictional character that never existed and they’d be like, Oh, so but they they show the cemetery and they create a fake grave in the cemetery. Okay, well, where was that? Okay, let we’re not going to do that. We’re not going to go walk over to the spot of the cemetery where they put the fake Raven. And I mean, there were times where I would get churlish, and I would say, like, why don’t we talk? There’s 9387 people here that want to tell you a story. When we talk about them instead of that movie. I ended up developing kind of a crappy attitude about Private Ryan because that movie is full of historical distortions. And inaccuracy is that I still struggle with although it reached people and I’m often scolded like you should like it more because it reached people and it made it more popularized it in a way that it probably would not have been popularized. When scolded, I’ll go, Okay, yeah, I get it. Yeah, sure. It was it’s only a mark, but it’s a little bit too much of a matalin Mark I think Longest Day is the biggest. Private Ryan is the second time. Ben brothers is third. Band of Brothers created a sensation and a phenomenon, sort of unlike anything I think I’ve ever seen. I believe in the past I’ve mentioned to you that they’ve now taken to the actors from the brothers go back to Normandy, personal appearances and autographs, and one of them as a band that plays and things like that.
Dan LeFebvre 2:25:20
One of the guys from Bandar brothers has a band, please tell me it’s called brother’s
Marty Morgan 2:25:25
listening opportunity there. Shane, what’s his name? I can’t remember his last name right now, that played lead got its, I think it’s his band. At any rate, that series. I think, on an overall historical level, it didn’t have the greatest influence. But that series created an emotional phenomenon that is like nothing I have ever seen in my entire life. To this day, people can’t get enough of it that that series left people wanting more so badly. That we’re I mean, and that was 20 years ago. We’re 20 years after the fact. And people are still thirsty for it to the point where they still want to be around these actors. They want to interview them and have photos made with them. People still talk about it, it created an entire genre of publishing where people basically write Band of Brothers spin offs, and people can’t get enough of it. I know that to be the fact from basically all my tour guiding my tour guiding my publications were about the 82nd Airborne Division. I’m far more interested in that division, and I’m far more knowledgeable about that division. And nobody cares. I’ll get to our groups and normally and I’ll try to tell them about 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and things that they did. And the crowd will lose them like that. If I drag them over near record Manor or near Utah Beach in Tulum, Banda brother stories, I have their fixed attention. I do have an adult attitude about this and that I recognize like, hey, that why did that? Why did that series succeed in a way that the Pacific didn’t, because I was involved with the one that didn’t succeed nearly as much as the other one did. And Bruce McKenna, in that interview himself said that in Band of Brothers, they purposely brought a greater info in emphasis on heroism, which was perfectly in harmony with the greater vibe that emerged in the 1990s. With books like the book Band of Brothers, and the Ambrose books, the book, the greatest generation, that was the vibe that sort of hummed in the 90s. And that vibe went away on September 11. And what we got instead what we had to return, we went kind of back to the dark and gloomy side, there’s plenty to be dark and gloomy about with Pacific War, but I am saying that that these these people who make these many series, they make decisions about what they want you to think and feel. And in Band of Brothers, they wanted you to think about just cause and they wanted you to feel a sense of identification and admiration for the generation that fought World War Two, the people who exerted greater control than I did over the Pacific, what they wanted you to think and feel was war as bad. War traumatizes. And these heroes, they’re heroes in their brave, but they’re traumatized heroes. I think it actually in a way is sort of a reflection on Gone are the days of the anti war movement, spitting on soldiers that returned from Vietnam. There’s some fascinating historiography on that subject. There’s a book I would recommend called the spitting image that investigates this idea of, of like counterculture hippies spitting on people in uniform during the 60s and 70s. And the book overwhelmingly concludes that it’s mythology that it was a mythology that was created by the far right by the conservative right, to critique the, the counterculture hippie left, regardless of whether or not it’s mythology, I think it’s interesting that the Pacific creates a world where we can both hate war and scold it, while simultaneously celebrating the heroes in a way that is different than the Vietnam era. Because in the Vietnam era, we hated war, and every damn thing that had anything to do with it, and if you show up at the bus station in your uniform, somebody’s going to spit on you. Or at least that’s the mythology.
Marty Morgan 2:29:32
And so in a way, I think of it as an attenuation. It’s a political ideology that is adjusting the dials. And they know now after the experience, you remember the 1991 Gulf War and the in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, there was a little bit of a patriotic, celebratory, mission accomplished kind of thing, and then then we move beyond that. And that war was so brief that it’s almost like nobody had a big moment to challenge the way that we treated the end of the Gulf War and Lee Greenwood and that song proud to be an American that came kind of they became kind of the metaphors representing that era. And then we moved into the latter part of the 90s. And that I mean, so I’m saying that Lee Greenwood in the 1993 1991 Gulf War, that that was an era that was the pendulum swinging all the way back in the other way. So during Vietnam, it swung all the way over this way, with a counterculture hippie spitting on people in uniform, which may not have ever happened, read the book. I’m not here to talk about that. But I am here to say that that pendulum was swung all the way, all the way over to the left during the Vietnam era. And that pendulum then swung all the way back over to the right, and it was all the way up at its highest Apogee in the late 80s and 90s. And it was, therefore more it was fashionable for an NBC News correspondent to write a book called The greatest generation in which he identifies a generation of people as exemplifying characteristics and traits that are better than other generations, which is horrible. As you and I both know. But that stopped people from loving that book. No, it didn’t. Because people gobbled that book up. And I would just say I see young people in uniform today that they fit the description that Tom Brokaw elaborated in the greatest generation, they fit it to a tee. It is history is not generic generational history is something that exhibits change over time. But there are some things that don’t. And I believe that the optimism, courage, sacrifice and sense of duty that that motivated people like john bass alone, I think it’s still motivates a large number of people to this day. So I don’t know that the generational means of explaining everything was an effective way of doing it. I am very, very critical of that book. Because as much as I love the world war two generation, I see the same exhibits and characteristics in the Vietnam era. I see it in the same the people who have fought the war that we have fought for the last 20 years. The result is I can’t help but recognize that it was fashionable for an NBC correspondent to say favorable things about a generation that is best known for fighting a war. That’s the way the world look back in the early 90s. Would you see an NBC correspondent writing that book today? I don’t think you would, because it is not fashionable, to indicate duty, honor, courage, sacrifice, optimism, all of the things that all of the words that we’ve used to describe the greatest generation and broke, I was broke. I don’t think it’s fashionable anymore. Yeah, you’ll get the occasional story. I saw it on NBC Nightly News last night, in fact, where they will, I believe now, their participants in this era of the superficialis nation, the thank you for your service generation, I flew home from Las Vegas the other day, and now, every time you bought a flight, they call forward people active duty in uniform, and thank you for the service. And I feel like I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s a great thing. I think you should definitely appreciate and think people who have served. It’s just that I feel like that’s just a correction from the Vietnam era, when people in uniform were sort of targeted by a little bit of squirm and scorn and ridicule. We, it’s almost like the politicization of the American political landscape now recognizes, like, okay, you can’t take it out on the people in uniform, you have to you can be critical, but you just can’t take it out on them. And you should let them board the airplane first. And you should thank them for their service. And through these superficial means, you can then, you know, open up the can on American foreign policy as it relates to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I feel like that’s where we are. And the Pacific was created during the high watermark of that era. We have just passed another high watermark because the era of the FTM pullout, I think is a high watermark a lot like the surge in Iraq was and the Pacific was being written and produced during the era of the surge in Iraq. And I believe it’s politics. Very obviously identify it as having been born during that era.
Dan LeFebvre 2:34:16
I hadn’t really thought of it that way of you know, how, when it’s created is going to affect the stories that get told.
Marty Morgan 2:34:23
Then are you a Star Wars fan? Of course the answer is yes. It always should.
Dan LeFebvre 2:34:28
Do I have to include all of the Star Wars movies? Are there some that I can…..
Marty Morgan 2:34:34
I’m glad to hear that. That means you’re helping Star Wars fan. Get qualifying records. Let’s not even say that word listening. But like the original movie, like I know I’m being silly right now. But at the same time. That movie changed my life. The first movie, I know it’s Episode Five, but it’s first movie. And when when it I remember from the moment of the black screen and the words on screen came up. I was just blown away, my mind was blown. Every minute of that movie affected me emotionally. And I don’t just mean like emotions, like, Carrie Fisher was hot and I had a crush on her like every other American boy in this country. And I don’t mean emotions like that. But I like the award scene at the end of the first movie. I remember thinking as they hang awards around everybody’s neck except Chewbacca. I mean, I remember that award scene. I remember thinking, like, Wow, this is so amazing. And it emotionally reached me. And I’m not bringing it up just to gush about Star Wars stuff, but I’m bringing it up, because that’s storytelling. You create a hero, you put a hero in a setting, you employ the artifice of effective storytelling to develop that, hear that hero and follow that hero through it all. And like, I have a very good friend that mark met Mark Hamill once. And I was like, What was it like, and he was like, I couldn’t speak. And I was like, hey, make movies. I’m not talking about recent movies, of course. But I was like, This man made movies and people are so emotional. Now still, decades and decades later, that he’s, he’s effectively a god. If I haven’t met him, I don’t think I’d be able to speak. If I ever met Harrison Ford, I won’t be able to speak. And that’s what good storytelling can do. The good storytelling that was used so effectively in the first Star Wars movie, notice the qualification to the first movie, the good storytelling that was used in the in the first movie, I think it’s the exact same kind of good storytelling that was used in battle brothers. And that it gave you a hero. And in some cases, the reluctant hero, the reluctant hero who has swept into bigger events, and rises to the challenge that is, and that is a type of storytelling that takes us back to antiquity. There’s nothing new under the sun we are in Star Wars is basically just a Greek chorus. Band of Brothers is the same thing. We know the things that people will respond favorably to. And I believe that the era of the movie platoon inaugurated in marks a high point in this post Vietnam era, when people didn’t really want that heroic storytelling so much. And then and it was it became kind of like hepcat cool thing like snap your fingers to like the movie that made the powerful political statement. And then that became sort of a fashion because let’s face it in America, it used to be the baseball was our national pastime, and it’s not anymore. It’s politics. That’s a national pastime. It is a means for people to express themselves and the the interest in those expressions. they transmit themselves into political events. They express themselves in the way that many series get made based on the historical circumstances that surround them. And so I would argue that Guadalcanal Pella, Louie would Jima and Okinawa had absolutely nothing to do with September 11, with the invasion of Iraq with weapons of mass destruction with a sama bin laden with Afghanistan with any of that, and yet Bruce McKenna with other people made them relate to that. Those present political and historical moments.
Dan LeFebvre 2:38:20
Thank you so much for coming on a chat about the Pacific over the past few episodes. Before I do let you go for the end of this series one last time. Can you share a bit more about what you’ve been working on recently?
Marty Morgan 2:38:30
Yeah, I am very excited about a new TV show that I’m working on for the Discovery Channel. That’s about fuego the Japanese balloon bomb campaign during World War Two of campaign during which the Japanese released 9000 bombs that used the jet stream to travel all the way across the Pacific Ocean to land in the Pacific Northwest, with a focus and an emphasis on one bomb that killed that killed some people near Bly Oregon in May 1945, the one and only time that death resulted from enemy action. In North America during World War Two, that show will be coming out of the Discovery Channel. We think probably in December, I have to go out to California this weekend and do my last interview for it. It’s it’s a great subject. And I think the show is going to be well received. But probably right at about the same time. My other big projects in the last couple of years will be coming out that is Call of Duty Vanguard, which has been produced by my development studio Sledgehammer Games, and it will be available on basically every console you can imagine. On November 5, just in time for the holiday shopping season.
Dan LeFebvre 2:39:34
Fantastic. Can’t wait for those.
Marty Morgan 2:39:37
Ready, don’t you say? Yes, yes,
Dan LeFebvre 2:39:39
yes. We had this discussion. Yes. The World War Two ones are much, much better than the modern futuristic warfare ones. Oh, yeah.
Marty Morgan 2:39:48
Oh, yeah. So glad. I’m glad to hear that. I kind of hope that we’ll get a sequel out of this game. We set it up to see ball and I’m hoping we get that. It’s all a matter of how well it’s received.
Dan LeFebvre 2:39:58
I have a feeling it’ll be received pretty well. Those games tend to do pretty well. Thank you again so much for your time!
Marty Morgan 2:40:06
It is my pleasure Dan.