The Pacific Part 8: Iwo Jima

This episode started out peacefully in the States and was a relaxed episode for a while. John Basilone decides he wants to reinlist and tells the lieutenant general in Massachusetts that. The lieutenant general tells him he "makes him proud to be a Marine." Basilone  is sent to Camp Pendleton in California to train enlistees for combat. It's kind of a slack operation at first, something Basilone doesn't like. He starts with two Marines and works them relentlessly. Basilone meets a female sergeant named Lena. She blows him off at the beginning, saying he just has one purpose with her as he did with all the other women he has been with, and she walks away from a dinner. But she warms up to him and they get serious. Basilone gets a full division in camp and trains them ruthlessly. He's a devoted guy, knows the toughness of war, and makes sure his division understands this is not the movies; it's serious stuff.  He wakes them up one morning at 3:30 to get to work, and, at attention, one of the Marines says under his breath to another he's tired of this and ready to "slap a Jap." Basilone hears this and goes off. He tells the young Marines that the Japs have been fighting since they were in diapers and that they will, before dying, make sure many Marines go with them. "They don't care if they live or die," he says. Basilone's point is respect the enemy; they are formidable and want nothing more than to kill you. They are savage warriors and they should be revered.

Basilone and Lena get married and set off for their honeymoon. Then, next scene, he's at Iwo Jima in February of 1945 on basically a suicide mission. The Japs are bombarding the Marines from everywhere with gun fire and bombs. Men are getting shot and killed right and left on the beach. The Marines are killing Japs, but it almost seems futile as Marines are getting killed all around Basilone. Basilone is trying to get his men off the beach so they won't get picked off. He  courageously leads his men in what is pretty much a death march for a lot of them. But he never retreats. He just keeps on going  at the Japs. The Japanese commander, Kuribayishi, is an expert at defensive fighting according to a historian, and will wait till the Marines come to him and his troops. The Marines are annihilated on the beach. Some are making it, but a lot are killed. There is a lot of blood, men getting shot in the head, blood spitting out of their helmets, men getting shot in the chest, men blood covered pleading for help.It's very brutal stuff, could be the worst of the was so far. Kuribayishi has told his men that "you're going to die. Before you do, take 10 Marines with you." The Japs want to murder Americans at all costs. They don't care if they live or die.

Basilone makes a charge up the hill with his men, but is shot and is lying on his back barely alive. He tragically dies. His men are in disbelief and torn up. It's a tough, sad moment as he lay on his back dying. The camera gets up close while Basilone is fading away. The war just keeps getting meaner.

In another scene earlier, the first division is done with Peleliu, and have declared victory there, but at a high cost. The American forces never used Peleliu for anything else. A waste of a lot of men though it was strategic at the time. Sledge and Snafu are resting from the fighting and Snafu thinks he has jaundice. Sledge tells him to shut up. Sledge had picked up a book that was signed by his captain who had been killed on Pelelui, his inspirational leader. There is calm before the storm for the first division.

Next week looks to be as powerful as ever as Sledge, Snafu and company land at Iwo Jima. This just seems to be a  more deadly war than the European Theater. More brutal, more gore. Just ruthless combat. The Japs die willingly as long as they take Americans with them.

Photo above: Sergeant John Basilone; actor Jon Seda

Part 8: