But it wasn’t really until 1998’s Saving Private Ryan that I grasped the true hell of combat. Even now, some 12 years later, when I think about those landing craft approaching the beaches at Normandy, my palms break out in sweat, my heart begins to race, and my damn testicles crawl up inside my body.
I had the same reaction watching 2001’s Band of Brothers. When Easy Company’s paratroopers bail out over France into heavy flak and tracer bullets, landing spread across hostile fields in which enemy soldiers wait below, wanting only to kill them, my first thought was an incredulous, Men actually did this?
The memories of these scenes left me eagerly anticipating the 10-part HBO miniseries The Pacific, which switches the action from the European theatre of war to the savage battles waged against the Japanese. Having recently read With the Old Breed—an outstanding combat memoir by Marine infantryman Eugene Sledge, and one of the books upon which the mini-series is based—I knew The Pacific had the underpinnings to be very, very good. And with the same superstar producer duo that brought us both Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers—Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks—I was hoping that lightning would strike thrice with The Pacific.
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