Getting Their Guns Off by Jon Zobenica
The Atlantic, May 2010
HBO has now released its highly anticipated miniseries The Pacific, a dramatization of our war with Japan, produced by much the same group that brought out Ryan and Band of Brothers (DreamWorks Studios, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks) and based chiefly on memoirs by two marines, Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge, who fought and suffered in that conflict. Any firsthand account of our fight with Japan--an often hole-by-hole war of extermination--will be intensely raw at times, and Leckie's and Sledge's books are no exception, yet the filmmakers, while skillfully tending to such difficult material, have once again taken care to shore up the dignity and pathos of the protagonists, in ways not reflected in the texts themselves, and in ways that should have been judged unnecessary for capturing viewer sympathy.
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Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, a former senior editor at The Atlantic, is now a senior editor at Smithsonian magazine.