Rami Malek stars as Snafu in the HBO miniseries The Pacific. Screenshot via The Pacific.
HBO’s award-winning miniseries The Pacific is widely considered one of the best television shows ever made about World War II. Following in the wake of the groundbreaking miniseries Band of Brothers — which follows a company of American paratroopers fighting across Europe — showrunners Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks decided to make a similar miniseries chronicling WWII’s Pacific theater. The Pacific went on to rake in awards and garner high praise among film critics and veterans alike, but one veteran of the Pacific theater isn’t totally convinced of the show’s accuracy.
Lt. Col. Dean Ladd — who is reportedly the oldest living Marine — recently watched the first episode of the miniseries, and he was quick to point out some of the show’s inaccuracies.
“See, and all that yelling, it’s just all made up,” Ladd said in a reaction video recently posted to YouTube.
Ladd knows a thing or two about the war in the Pacific. He served with the 2nd Marine Division on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian, and he wrote the WWII memoir Faithful Warriors: A Combat Marine Remembers the Pacific War. Despite calling the actors’ yelling “all fictitious” and a “bunch of baloney,” Ladd deemed the miniseries an overall success.
The first episode of the series depicts the harsh conditions during Guadalcanal — something Ladd is intimately familiar with. He praised the episode’s portrayal of a Japanese soldier who feigns injury in order to kill two Americans with a grenade. Ladd also praised the episode’s depiction of the intense naval battle off the coast of Guadalcanal that resulted in a costly defeat for the US Navy.
“It was actually way offshore. You could see the shells going back and forth. Heavy fire between ships,” Ladd recalls of watching the two navies duel at night.
Another scene in the episode shows waves of Japanese soldiers rushing American positions, only to be cut down in droves by machine-gun fire. Ladd never experienced such an assault on Guadalcanal, but he recalls a similar instance from fighting on Saipan.
“On Saipan they came at us by the thousands,” he says. “I think it was mostly our machine-gun fire that was giving them the problem. They just kept coming and coming until they were all killed.”
The Pacific is based on four books written by three veterans of the war. All three veterans appear as characters in the series, grounding the show in reality. Despite the series being based on primary sources, some details were, unsurprisingly, altered for the sake of entertainment. And while Ladd is quick to point out the show’s minor inaccuracies, he praised the series for its other strengths.
“The storyline was not realistic, but the settings were incredible — very well done.”
Spielberg and Hanks are teaming up for another WWII miniseries, Masters of the Air, expected to premiere sometime in 2022. One hopes that some of the last remaining heroes of the greatest generation will weigh in on the new series’ accuracy.
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
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