Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

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ISBN: 0-316-50111-5
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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War is a simply superb memoir of the war in the Pacific. William Manchester, whose father was a WWI Marine, uses vivid descriptors, and leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to the horrors that he and his fellow Marines had to suffer through while waging war against the Japanese all over the Pacific. He also brings the perspective of what some of these sites looked like when he revisited them in the 70's. I found it quite disturbing as a former Marine that some of these famous battle fields such as the deadly island of Peleliu, have but a crumbling, dilapidated remnant of a monument to the countless Marines that gave their lives for, in hindsight, a frivolous effort. I found it equally disturbing that the same trend was found at other sites of great sacrifice such as Tarawa, and the Philippines. I found myself asking; how could we forget?

Manchester also does a great job of touching on his post war emotions. I loved how he incorporated dreams that he was having during his trip back to all of the battle sites. It seemed like just being back at those hallowed grounds evoked certain memories that he had suppressed, for obvious reasons. He always saw himself as a young sergeant, almost watching himself as if on the big screen, reacting to certain situations. One of these came while spending a night in a fox hole on Bloody Ridge on the island of Guadalcanal.

This time my dream is familiar. It is of the old party and the Sergeant. There is a difference, however. When the old man arrives he finds that the Sergeant has been there for some time- his boondockers have plowed the mud- and he ignores his visitors' presence. He has the half-pathetic, half-comical look of a concentration camp victim, beret of dignity. Atabrine has turned his skin yellower than a Jap's. His uniform is just hanging on his emaciated frame, and it's stained with what, at a closer look, turns out to be blood. He is in a towering rage, though clearly not at the old man; he doesn't even glance in that direction. Glaring elsewhere he shakes his fist at the darkness in pitiful fury and swears savagely. At first he appears to be angry with himself. Then the truth becomes clear. I know this problem. He is furious at Lefty Zepp, the first of the Raggedy Ass Marines to die.

Just reading this gave me goose bumps. I can appreciate Manchester's dilemma here not only as a former Marine, but as a current leader. He had suppressed the guilt of Lefty's death. And he recounted it via one of his many dreams. It is these dreams that help Manchester come to grips with what he had been thorough, some 30 years later. By the end of the book the Sergeant is gone, and only the old man is left.

This book gets you on so many different levels. It is almost hard to grasp all of them the first time around. I will definitely be picking this book up again in the near future. I am proud to be associated with men like William Manchester. Their sacrifices were so great. This book gives you a firsthand account of those sacrifices, and all of their consequences after the fact. How could we forget?

Also, check out WW2DB Managing Editor C. Peter Chen's review of Goodbye, Darkness!



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Famous WW2 Quote
"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You win the war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country!"

George Patton, 31 May 1944