Voices of the Pacific – Book Review
There is no better vehicle to capture the human dimension of war than the oral history. To read or listen to the personal accounts of those who fought in war has a dramatic impact on anyone. Unquestionably, some of the most powerful stories come from the veterans of the fighting in World War II’s Pacific Theater. The unforgettable stories of over a dozen of these veterans are brilliantly captured in Voices of the Pacific: Untold Stories from the Marine Heroes of World War II.
In Voices of the Pacific, authors Adam Makos and Marcus Brotherton take readers through the wartime experiences of fifteen Marines who fought in the Pacific Theater. It begins with the Marines sharing their feelings on the bombing of Pearl Harbor and continues thorough their discussion of boot camp and preparation for war to the fierce fighting they experienced on the Pacific Islands (Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa) to their ultimate arrival back to the United States.
Additionally, Makos and Brotherton conclude the volume with two valuable chapters for the readers. The first entitled, “The Lives we Lived” enables the veterans to share with readers how their lives transpired following the War. As you can imagine, there are some interesting twists and turns in these lives. The second is named, “The Last Words.” In this chapter, the veterans were asked to provide a message to the generations of today. As expected, this section is emotional, patriotic, and a superb ending to the volume.
I believe the making of the book is a story in itself. The authors were able to locate and then interview veterans who were truly in their golden years. The range of their ages was from 88 to 95 at the time of the publishing of the book. As the authors stated, “This book could not be written ten years from now. Not five. Maybe not even two.”
There are three aspects of the book that separate this volume from most in this genre. First, Voices of the Pacific is solely focused on the words of each Marine. I have read some oral histories in which the thoughts of the authors are emphasized more than the subjects of the book. Within their pages, Makos and Brotherton occasionally interject a few sentences just to set the conditions for the words of the Marines. In the books initial pages, the authors proclaim that they will stay in the “shadows” in the volume and they have succeeded in this.
Second, the organization of the book is outstanding. I have read some oral histories in which I became somewhat confused in time and space. Within the pages of Voices of the Pacific there is no such confusion. There is a smooth flow to the book and each successive passage truly builds upon one another. Consequently, readers will find this volume extremely difficult to put down until completion.
Finally, Makos and Brotherton have done an outstanding job in personalizing each Marine featured in the book. They have included passages by the Marines that assist readers in getting to know each as a person, not just a name. They have also inserted dozens of photos highlighting the Marines in the book. The addition of well crafted-maps and of pictures of the battle scenes from the islands in which they fought add clarity and personalization.
In their introduction, Makos and Brotherton provide readers with an excellent depiction of their book. They state, “This is a conversation between you – the reader – and the men. Imagine for a moment it’s late at night and you’ve walked into the kitchen for a drink and you find your father or grandfather and his old buddies around the kitchen table. They’re swapping stories. You listen and what you hear you’ll never forget. That is this book.” Readers will agree that Voices of the Pacific is that book and much more!
(* The authors have also developed a website (http://www.valorstudios.com/voices-of-the-pacific.htm) which is a great complement to the book. The site includes a section from one of the Marines’ spouses discussing life on the home front, additional experiences from the Marines, and an excellent gallery of art tied to those who fought in the Pacific.)
Rick Baillergeon is a retired U.S. Army Infantry officer. Since his retirement, he has served as a faculty member at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He is also co-author of the popular Armchair General Web series “Tactics 101.”