The Pacific: Hell was an Ocean Away, Hugh Ambrose

The Pacific: Hell was an Ocean Away, Hugh Ambrose

Closely linked to the HBO TV series, this sizable book follows the experiences of five US servicemen (four Marines and a Navy aviator) during the four years of the Pacific War, tracing their experiences from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines to the preparations for the invasion of Japan, through the battles of Midway and Guadalcanal and the long island hopping campaign that followed.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this and Band of Brothers is that the men included here served in different locations and services, while the earlier series followed a single company. As a result we get a broader but slightly less focused picture of the war in the Pacific compared to Band of Brothers' view of the European War. This introduces a danger that the book might become a little disjointed, but Ambrose has skilfully weaved his separate stories together to produce a generally coherent whole, and the careers of several of the men overlap on a number of occasions.

The big benefit of this approach is that we get to see more aspects of the war in the Pacific than if we were following a single unit. The five men include one who was on the Philippines during the Japanese invasion, a Navy pilot who fought at Midway, a Medal of Honor winner from Guadalcanal, a teenage recruit to the Marines and Eugune Sledge, the author of With the Old Breed, one of the best first hand accounts of the fighting to emerge from the Second World War. The focus is very much on the Marine Corps's war - the US Army barely gets a mention, and the US Navy's powerful surface fleet is reduced to the role of a supporting player.

All five of these men's stories are remarkable in their own right, so bringing them all together has produced a very impressive piece of work, and is a fitting tribute to the men who fought in the Pacific.

Act I: House of Cards
Act II: Even Up and Squared Off
Act III: The Pause that Refreshes
Act IV: Haze Gray and Underway
Act V: Legacies

Author: Hugh Ambrose
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 508
Publisher: Canongate
Year: 2010

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