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Download Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (Laurel Book) epub

by William Manchester

The author relates his experiences as a Marine Corps sergeant in World War II, recalling the horrors of Guadalcanal and Okinawa
Download Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (Laurel Book) epub
ISBN: 0440329078
ISBN13: 978-0440329077
Category: Biographies
Subcategory: Leaders & Notable People
Author: William Manchester
Language: English
Publisher: Dell; Reissue edition (April 1, 1987)
ePUB size: 1236 kb
FB2 size: 1224 kb
Rating: 4.9
Votes: 173
Other Formats: lrf doc txt rtf

As a student of 20th century history I’ve read many WWII memoirs from soldiers of Russia, Germany and Americans during the war in Europe. In all my readings it became rather evident that the most brutal and savage fighting took place on the Eastern Front with the struggle of the Wehrmacht and the Red Army. I had conducted limited reading but mostly of naval battles of the war in the Pacific during this time period.
In 1978 the author who is one of my all-time favorite writers of historical events went back to the battlefields where as a young Marine Sgt fought. In this very detailed reminiscent tour of his youthful past we find a young man who transformed from a young college student to a full-fledged man who had experienced combat in what I consider more brutal and savage than the Eastern Front.
This is not a normal memoir when the storyteller only tells of his experiences. Manchester not only tells us the story, he gives a complete history lesson as to why certain islands were attacked and others were not. He tells us of leadership mistakes and how his fellow Marines reacted and proceeded forward to get the job done. In doing this history the author gives us further background to the native population and how those people are living currently upon his return visit.
Also Manchester goes into his personal life during his experiences as a Marine. His attitudes and beliefs are molded by his personal experiences with women, fellow Marines, officers and above all how he viewed the enemy. His descriptive accounts of actual combat rival anything I’ve read about the brutal Eastern Front.
Also the author describes that not only the enemy, who were more fanatical than any Russian fighting in the brutal winter climate, his descriptions of the unlivable conditions of the various jungles make the brutal winters seem like a ski vacation in comparison.
In all after his last fought battle on Sugar Loaf Manchester comes to the following conclusion which I must say that sooner or later most combat veterans realize. In the following quote Manchester concludes the essence of all veterans, “So my feelings about Sugar Loaf were mixed. As I look back, it was somewhere on the slopes of that hill, where I confronted the dark underside of the battle, that passion died between me and the Marine Corps. The silver cord had been loosed, the golden bowl broken at the fountain, the wheel broken at the cistern.”
Manchester realized that his pride in the Marines and his country was not what it was all about. The real reason as any combat veteran knows that his loyalty rested with his comrades at arms his fellow Marines who would do anything for him and that he would do anything for them. True loyalty is in the brotherhood of the men who fight with you.
Never have I read a book that so grippingly, and I assume accurately, conveys the horrors of combat (and that includes Sledge's masterful book on Pelilu). The late Manchester leaves behind him a canon of distinguished non-fiction, one of the gems of which is this memoir. One often wonders how veterans of brutal combat cope with their memories. In this book, the twice-wounded Manchester revisits -- several decades later -- the Pacific Islands where he and his Marines confronted the Japanese: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Okinawa, etc. His tales of actual combat are gripping and vivid. Did he finally come to terms with his memories? Read it and find out.
This book is a powerful memoir of the gruelling war in the Pacific by a vigorous lively writer. The experiences, the heroism, and the suffering of the men who fought their way up the Pacific from the outskirts of Australia to the outskirts of Japan must never be forgotten, particularly in a contemporary American environment in which volunteer armed forces, a tiny segment of the American population, fight endlessly while the rest of the country drivers bigger and bigger SUVs and fantasizes about Making America Great again, under a Commander in Chief who could not be more removed from what Manchester writes about..
Billy Granson
Manchester takes the reader through his sometimes disjointed, but deeply passionate and troubled journey through time to find meaning in a war which focused and changed the American character and psyche. Gripping and at times disturbing, Goodbye Darkness is ultimately a cathartic embrace of events without precedent, the enormity and scope of which cannot be fully understood except by those men whose courage and suffering fill the pages. A definite read for the children of the Greatest Generation.
War haunts all who live through it. But not all who live through it are blessed with the eloquence and power of William Manchester’s prose. Manchester was one of the most notable American historians of the late twentieth century. He became famous for his prize-winning biographies of Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy and for a host of other works of history spanning everything from the Middle Ages to the German armaments house of Krupp. But this book is quite certainly his most evocative and personal book.

The vision for the book started out as a nightmare. A soldier; trim, bruised, with sunken eyes, ascending a hill littered with smoldering guns and dead bodies, meeting his counterpart from thirty years later, demanding to know what he did during all that time. The solider was young Manchester who fought on Okinawa, was wounded and lived to tell not just that story but many more. The counterpart is old Manchester. How do you reconcile the two?

To do this, Manchester undertook a unique initiative. He decided to visit every single important battlefield of the Pacific War, from Pearl Harbor to Okinawa, and relive his and others’ memories. Hitler might have been the greatest enemy of World War 2, but for Americans the vast expanse of the Pacific was where they truly made their stand, where they encountered the most fanatic enemies and had the most brutal and obscene memories seared into their minds. The European theater was primarily an Allied effort in which the Soviets played a disproportionate role; the Pacific Theater was squarely an American one, although the British and the Australians ably assisted them. For the US, the list of casualties in almost every campaign of the Pacific war far exceeded that of most battles in Europe, and the sheer brutality of the fighting was unprecedented. The island hopping campaign in which first the Japanese and then the Americans wrested control of islands so tiny, obscure and far-flung that their inhabitants had never even heard of the United States stretched across an expanse of thousands of miles. It boggles the imagination to realize both just how technically accomplished this vast sweep was, and how much blood human beings will shed in order to conquer a few square miles of land.

The Germans in Europe were tenacious, but the Japanese were fanatical. From Banzai charges to Kamikaze attacks, they made it clear that they would watch their whole country go up in a giant inferno and exact a price for every drop of blood they spilled rather than surrender; that justified fear was partly what compelled the dropping of the two atomic bombs. Their sheer tenacity would test the American navy and marines like no other. The carnage in some of these places was unbelievable – on Iwo Jima, as Manchester recalls, there were more pieces of human beings around than entire human beings. They infected even the local population of those islands with their propaganda; one horrific instance was played out on what is now called Suicide Cliff on Saipan, where thousands of Japanese villagers, brainwashed by the Japanese into thinking that the Americans would torture them if captured, jumped to their deaths. Women flung their babies off the cliffs before jumping themselves. Japanese soldiers would strap grenades to their chests and run toward enemy soldiers. Was this fanaticism? As Manchester correctly says, “in the long run, fanaticism is indistinguishable from patriotism.”

Manchester’s long journey begins with Pearl Harbor and proceeds through the great bloodstained landscapes of New Guinea, Tarawa, and Guadalcanal, all the way to the hell that was Iwo Jima and Okinawa. His accounts are of three kinds; stirring snapshots of the battles that were fought in these places, personal accounts of Manchester’s own initiation into what he calls the “Raggedy Ass Marines” and a vivid narrative of what these places look like today. His coming of age in the Marine Corps, failed attempts at wooing a woman before shipping off for the Pacific and the enduring nightmares that he has have almost a Pynchonesque quality to them; in fact sometimes the scenes have a dreamlike quality that make it hard to tell fiction from fact.

The solidarity and camaraderie in the Marines is exactly what you would expect; and so is the mind-numbing impact of war that made so many of them so indifferent to the carnage around them. And yet Manchester was not unique; one can only imagine similar feelings in his fellow Marines. At least he grew up around Boston and New Jersey. Much more otherworldly was the experience of several nineteen-year-olds from the Midwest, kids who had never even seen an ocean, suddenly thrust in the middle of the most beautiful seascapes from the far side of the world that was about to be juxtaposed with inhuman cries and spilled guts.

Everywhere he visits Manchester finds both mundane and grotesque reminders of what happened there. Much of the war monuments are bittersweet and depressing; forgotten, crumbling plaques overgrown with grass located at the tops of hills which nobody climbs anymore, rusted shells or bullets occasionally stumbled upon, old villagers or war veterans with bones sticking out of them, with nobody to talk to. More grotesque remnants like thousands of skeletons of men who were starved, maimed or had fallen prey to terrible diseases in the jungle are more heard about than seen. One can feel Manchester struggling to reconcile what happened in 1945 with what the place looks like in 1980.

Most surreal are the hollow superficialities of modern capitalism – parking lots and malls and kitschy souvenir stores – standing at the same places where in 1945 dozens of men had to die just in order to walk a few meters. Was all that bloodshed worth this? Standing on top of Sugar Loaf Hill in Okinawa where some of the most brutal fighting took place, Manchester finds it hard to believe that the same spot where he can now stand indefinitely is one where the average life expectancy of someone in March 1945 was about six seconds. One can also understand his dismay at seeing the large numbers of Japanese businessmen, tourists and even military personnel thronging many of these islands. You would think this is a welcome sign of peace being restored, of an international citizenry once again being welcome in these once terrifying places. But for Manchester the wounds and faces are hard to forget, and sadly he realizes that the rift between him and the Japanese is one that will never completely go away.

At the end of this bittersweet and vivid memoir, as Manchester is waiting in a Hong Kong hotel room for his flight back to California next day, he has another dream. The same bruised and battered Marine ascends that godforsaken hill littered with bodies and mortars. But nobody meets him this time. No figure from the future, no one he can demand accountability from. He turns in the other direction and walks away, tears in his eyes. I often think about whether fifty or a hundred years from now, the names of Okinawa and Pearl Harbor, or the Somme, Normandy, or El Alamein for that matter will mean anything to future generations. Will these names simply be ghosts from the past, or will some of the people alive then also see the likes of William Manchester on top of Sugar Loaf Hill, asking them what they did during all that time?