The Pacific (2010) is one of the most realistic depictions of the fighting that occurred in the Pacific Theater during the Second World War. It shows just what the American forces – in particular, US Marines – faced while fighting against the Japanese and their arduous overseas service. The characters featured in The Pacific are based on real-life Marines, all of whom served their country with distinction and bravery.
The Pacific (2010)
The HBO miniseries The Pacific is a gripping and visually stunning World War II drama that follows three US Marines – Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone – with the 1st Marine Division as they navigate the grueling fighting of the Pacific Theater. From the creators of Band of Brothers (2001), the series consists of 10 episodes and originally aired in 2010.
Sledge initially struggles with the decision to join the war, but eventually enlists. He experiences fighting on the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa, where he witnesses the brutal realities of combat, including the toll it takes on his fellow soldiers. Leckie, a writer and journalist before the war, serves as the miniseries’ literary voice and participates in major battles like Guadalcanal, Peleliu and Cape Gloucester, where he endures hardships and camaraderie.
Basilone, a heroic figure, becomes a symbol of valor and resilience. He’s awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Guadalcanal Campaign. He subsequently returns to the United States to participate in a war bond tour to support the war effort. Basilone’s storyline explores the challenges of fame, the strains of war, and his eventual return to combat on Iwo Jima, where he meets a tragic fate.
The Pacific vividly portrays the harrowing battles, the complexities of the soldiers’ experiences and the toll of war on the human psyche. It also delves into the struggles faced by Marines on the homefront and the impact on their families. The series is known for its unflinching portrayal of the physical and emotional hardships endured by these soldiers in the Pacific Theater.
Robert Leckie, portrayed by James Badge Dale in The Pacific, enlisted with the US Marine Corps in 1942. Like many from his generation, he felt a strong sense of duty to fight for his country, and he served in the Pacific Theater as a scout and machine gunner in H Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, with whom he participated in several significant battles and campaigns.
One of the most significant was the Guadalcanal Campaign, a pivotal moment in the Pacific Theater that marked the first major offensive against Japanese-held territory. Leckie’s experiences during the campaign would later be chronicled in his memoir, Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific. Leckie also participated in the Battle of Cape Gloucester, where the US forces faced challenging terrain and a determined Japanese resistance.
Like many veterans, Leckie experienced the physical and psychological toll of war. He was wounded in action during his service, but eventually recovered. After the war, he became a successful writer and journalist, with his wartime experiences as a Marine serving as the basis for his aforementioned memoir, which was later adapted into The Pacific.
Leckie’s service and literary contributions left a lasting legacy, offering valuable insights into the experiences of Marines during WWII. His work, along with that of other veterans, has helped preserve the memory of their sacrifices.
Eugene Sledge is portrayed by Joseph Mazzello in The Pacific. His service in the US Marine Corps during WWII was marked by his participation in some of the most brutal battles in the Pacific Theater with K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Often referred to as “Sledgehammer,” he enlisted in the Marines in 1943. He served in the Pacific, where he participated in several significant battles against the Japanese forces. His experiences were chronicled in his memoir, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa.
Sledge’s service included the Battle of Peleliu, one of the most brutal and ferocious battles of the war. He and his fellow Marines faced intense combat, extreme heat and harsh conditions. Sledge also fought in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. This engagement was another grueling and costly fight that played a significant role in the eventual Allied victory in the Pacific.
After the war, Sledge returned to civilian life and pursued his education, albeit after some difficulty readjusting to life away from the battlefield. He returned to school, became a professor of biology and wrote his aforementioned memoir.
John Basilone is portrayed by Jon Seda in The Pacific, and the decorated Marine was known for his extraordinary bravery and heroism during the Second World War. He initially enlisted with the US Army in 1934 and initially served in the Philippines. Basilone later joined the Marine Corps and was assigned to D Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Basilone’s most famous and heroic actions occurred during the Battle for Henderson Field during the Guadalcanal Campaign. He commanded a machine gun section and demonstrated remarkable courage and leadership under intense enemy fire. His actions helped hold a critical defensive line, and he earned the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
After receiving the Medal of Honor, Basilone returned to the US and became a symbol of heroism. He embarked on a war bond tour to raise funds for the war effort and became a celebrity figure. During his tour, he met and married Lena Mae Riggi. Their marriage ceremony was widely publicized, and Basilone’s celebrity status continued to grow.
Despite his fame, Basilone requested to return to combat duty; he believed he could make a greater contribution in battle. His request was granted, and he joined the 5th Marine Division in the Pacific. Basilone participated in the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. Tragically, during the intense fighting on the first day of the engagement, he was killed in action.
Basilone’s service in the Marines exemplified courage, selflessness and dedication. His actions on Guadalcanal and his decision to return to combat duty after receiving the Medal of Honor made him a legendary figure, and his sacrifice and heroism continue to be celebrated as a symbol of the Marine Corps’ values and the spirit of selfless service.
Merriell ‘Snafu’ Shelton
Merriell “Snafu” Shelton is portrayed by Rami Malek in The Pacific, and the Marine is known for his role as a mortarman in the Pacific Theater. He enlisted in 1942 and was assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Shelton participated in several significant campaigns and engagements, including the battles of Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. In fact, he was the one to give Eugene Sledge the nickname, “Sledgehammer.”
After leaving the US Marine Corps in 1946, he returned to Louisiana and worked as an air conditioner repairman. He also later obtained work in the lumber industry. He and Sledge didn’t reunite until 35 years after the Second World War, when the latter released his memoir.
Sidney Phillips, Jr.
Sidney “Sid” Phillips, Jr., portrayed by Ashton Holmes in The Pacific, was a childhood friend of fellow Marine Eugene Sledge. He enlisted in the US Marine Corps a day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was assigned to H Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Phillips participated in several significant engagements, including the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Following his overseas duty, he enrolled in the V-12 Navy College Training Program, with the aim of becoming a naval officer. However, by this point, his four-year enlistment with the Marines was over and he opted to join the Reserves.
Following WWII, Phillips wrote and published the memoir, You’ll Be Sor-ree: A Guadalcanal Marine Remembers The Pacific War, in which he recounted his experiences.
Romus ‘R.V.’ Burgin
Romus Valton “R.V.” Burgin, portrayed by Martin McCann in The Pacific, enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1942. He was among those assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, serving as a mortarman.
Burgin served in the Pacific Theater, where he participated in several significant battles against the Japanese forces. One of the most notable was the Battle of Peleliu, during which he faced particularly difficult challenges.
In 2010, Burgin published Islands of the Damned: A Marine at War in the Pacific with William Marvel. In it, he provided a vivid and unfiltered account of the horrors of the Second World War in the Pacific, describing the physical and psychological toll the combat had on him and his fellow Marines.
Burgin’s service and memoir are a testament to the sacrifices and challenges faced by Marines in the Pacific Theater. His story, like that of many veterans, serves as a reminder of the bravery and resilience displayed by those who served in WWII.