Will Tom Hanks Screw Up “The Pacific?” Sounds Like He Might

Tom Hanks has brought more attention to the stories of World War II than one man can be expected to bring. However, a recent article in Time magazine makes me wonder what he is going to do with stories from the Pacific Theater.

The Pacific, his new 10-hour epic about the Pacific theater in World War II, plays out against a very different backdrop, when the country is weary of war and American exceptionalism is a much tougher sell. World War II in the European theater was a case of massive armies arrayed against an unambiguous evil. The Pacific war was mainly fought by isolated groups of men and was overlaid by a sense that our foes were fundamentally different from us. In that sense, the war in the Pacific bears a closer relation to the complex war on terrorism the U.S. is waging now, making the new series a trickier prospect but one with potential for more depth and resonance. “Certainly, we wanted to honor U.S. bravery in The Pacific,” Hanks says. “But we also wanted to have people say, ‘We didn’t know our troops did that to Japanese people.’ “

Emphasis mine.

Let’s start with the first bolded section of text. What do they mean “different from us?”

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He doesn’t see the series as simply eye-opening history. He hopes it offers Americans a chance to ponder the sacrifices of our current soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. “From the outset, we wanted to make people wonder how our troops can re-enter society in the first place,” Hanks says. “How could they just pick up their lives and get on with the rest of us? Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”

Ok, back the truck up, Hanks.

We didn’t want to annihilate the Japanese because they were different. We wanted to annihilate the Japanese for this:

2,402 personnel were killed. 1,282 were wounded. As if that were not reason enough, consider the story of Ralph Ignatowski, as told by Iwo Jima flag raiser, John Bradley, from the book, “Flags of Our Fathers“:

“I have tried so hard to block this out. To forget it. We could choose a buddy to go in with. My buddy was a guy from Milwaukee. We were pinned down in one area. Someone elsewhere fell injured and I ran to help out, and when I came back my buddy was gone. I couldn’t figure out where he was. I could see all around, but he wasn’t there. And nobody knew where he was.

A few days later someone yelled that they’d found him. They called me over because I was a corpsman. The Japanese had pulled him underground and tortured him. His fingernails… his tongue… It was terrible. I’ve tried hard to forget all this.”

Many years later, in researching my father’s life, I asked Cliff Langley, Doc’s co-corpsman, about the discovery of Iggy’s body. Langley told me it looked to him as though Ralph Ignatowski had endured just about every variety of physical cruelty imaginable.

“Both his arms were fractured,” Langley said. “They just hung there there like arms on a broken doll. He had been bayoneted repeatedly. The back of his head had been smashed in.”

Other reports say Iggy “had been tortured in the cave by the Japanese for three days, during which time they also cut out his eyes, cut off his ears, smashed in his teeth, and cut off his genitalia and stuffed them into his mouth.”

in 1946, Time Magazine detailed another instance of Japanese war crimes – cannibalism:

By 1945, when the blockaded Bonins had no fresh meat, he hatched the idea that liver would soothe his gnawing stomach pains. The islands’ commander, fat, bullnecked Lieut. General Yoshio Tachibana, had ordered all captured U.S. flyers executed. That was the chance Matoba had been waiting for.

Cannibal Feast. At least two aviators were beheaded publicly by Matoba’s own 308th Battalion, to buoy the troops’ morale. In each case, the liver was cut from the still-warm bodies, delivered to Matoba’s cook, cut into strips and served in sukiyaki. At one gay party, where the cannibal dish was washed down with sake, Tachibana was Matoba’s guest. That night, during a U.S. air attack, Matoba boasted that enemy bombs could not hurt him because he had eaten the enemy’s flesh.

Other unit commanders who wanted a morale-booster for their own men were given the privilege of staging the executions of flyers captured in their bivouac areas. On at least two occasions the livers of the executed men were served in the officers’ messes while strips of flesh cut from the legs were used to flavor enlisted men’s soup.

Do I need to go into what happened on the Battan Death March?

Will Hanks cover that, so viewers can say, “‘We didn’t know our troops the Japanese troops did that to Japanese people our people.’ “?

Or will this be a rewriting of history? Let’s hope Tom does right by the men who fought and died on those islands, so far away from home.

Hat Tip: Hot Air

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