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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific…
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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (edition 1980)

by William Manchester

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6151115,832 (4.13)18
Member:Shineqi
Title:Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
Authors:William Manchester
Info:Boston: Little, Brown, 1980. Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 401 pages
Collections:Your library, Fireplace Right
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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester

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Ground warfare in the Pacific during World War II was brutal. It was fought by men who had a different sense of place and purpose in the world than what we would commonly find in our culture today. At some point in time the American's who fought during that war came to be characterized as "the greatest generation." William Manchester's war memoir, Goodbye Darkness, carries a reader a long ways toward understanding what it was that forged that generation.

Manchester wrote his memoir about 35 years after the war, as he tried to process and say good-bye to memories that have long haunted his dreams. The overall purpose is summed up as he returns to the battlefield of Tarawa: "So I have nightmare, and so I have returned to the islands to exorcise my inner darkness with the light of understanding."

Drawing on a combination of his own combat experience on Okinawa, a number of months he spent on Guadalcanal, and the combat reports of other islands, he writes a compelling account of the journey of the US Marine Corps through the island battlefields of the Pacific. In each case he weaves stories of the war with the islands as they are today, having taken a trip to visit each of them in 1978, prior to writing this book.

Manchester is an author with an accomplished track record. I have not read any of his other works but he demonstrates great skill here in weaving together threads of complex stories, showing both the micro and macro view. I highly recommend this book, both for the story told as well as to read the work of a master storyteller. ( )
  BradKautz | Jul 26, 2014 |
Mr. Manchester is a competent stylist, and he has some demons to confront. I'm hoping he got some closure from this effort. The experiences seem to be much in line with other marine memoirs, and there's little startle in this book.
I seem to have read an earlier edition, copyright in 1979. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 15, 2014 |
William Manchester, one of the premier writers of the post-war era, was a combat Marine in the Pacific theater. He, along with other members of his unit, wase among the comparatively few college students, many from Ivy league schools, who served as enlisted soldiers in the Marines.

Manchester writes a deeply moving memoir of his experiences. He describes the lives of common soldiers who were part of the island-hopping campaigns from Guadalcanal through Okinawa. (He states in the afterword that he was not present at all the engagements he writes about.) His narrative of the incredibly vicious combat that both sides endured is vivid and horrific. The magnitude of casualties, dead and wounded, is staggering. The Marines would just not back down despite the desperate tactics utilized by the Japanese defenders of these priorly unknown islands. The Japanese war ethic was one of resistance to the last man; death was the only honorable option open to them in the face of inevitable loss. In the face of such fanaticism, one marvels at the bravery of the Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen, most of whom a short time before had been civilians.

Manchester writes on the big picture strategy employed by US leaders, where he points out the many errors that occurred along the way. (He admires MacArthur's bold and innovative strategy, although much about the man was otherwise flawed.) Campaigns like that for Guadalcanal and Tarawa were uncoordinated and poorly supported. Peleliu was a utter waste of lives as it could have been bypassed without any ill effect on US strategic aims. Iwo Jima was expected to be taken in a few days, but the fighting lasted for months. Iwo Jima saw the beginning of a shift in tactics by the Japanese. Abandoning fierce resistence at the beach heads, the Japanese instead built unassailable redoubts and labyrinth-like fortified caves and tunnels from which they forayed against advancing Americans. The time of the banzai charge by Japanese troops determined to die was over, replaced by deadlier means of combat.

The fullest realization of the Japanese tactical shift was Okinawa. Manchester's principal combat experiences were there. Okinawa is about 500 miles from the Japanese islands. It became clear that the intention of Japanese military leaders was to make the taking of Okinawa so costly that the Americans might shrink from an invasion of the home islands. Perhaps they envisioned a negotiated peace overture, although I am not aware that any was made. In any event, the determination of the US was so strong, and the sacrifices to date were so great, that no partial surrender terms would ever have been entertained. The fighting on Okinawa, told in riveting detail by Manchester, was so awful that one can barely absorb it. The loss of friends who had been with Manchester for the duration is astounding and heartbreaking to read.

Probably there are many books on the Pacific war that provide a grander overview and deeper analysis of military strategy, but this is the book to read if you want to grasp the experience of the common soldier. Manchester, writing often in a philosophical vein of the gestalt of young men facing horror and death, gives penetrating insights into what everyday life was like for these brave men -- the seemingly unbearable effects of boredom, anxiety, fear, and loss. ( )
  stevesmits | Aug 22, 2013 |
This is a raw and brutally vivid memoir by a US marine who fought in the Pacific in World War 2. He also happens to be an accomplished author and biographer, so the prose is beautiful. The story itself is not - it is rough and disturbing - but it feels accurate. It is a close-up view of the absurity and stupidity of war - in clear and extremely personal terms. The story is told via the author's trip back to those islands 33 years after the events that took place. The effect is at once haunting and hopeful....we learn about the scars of the author, the landscapes and the islanders. All in all a heavy read, but an important one. ( )
1 vote damcg63 | May 27, 2010 |
My review of this needs revision; the initial form was uncharitable. I'll try to remember to update this. ( )
  ex_ottoyuhr | Sep 6, 2009 |
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Epigraph
Your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions.
--Joel 2:28

War, which was cruel and glorious,
Has become cruel and sordid.
--Winston Churchill

But we . . . shall be remembered:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
--Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii
Dedication
To
Robert E. Manchester
Brother and Brother Marine
First words
Our Boeing 747 has been fleeing westward from darkened California, racing across the Pacific toward the sun, incandescent eye of God, but slowly, three hours later than West Coast time, twilight gathers outside, veil upon lilac veil.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316501115, Paperback)

The nightmares began for William Manchester 23 years after WW II. In his dreams he lived with the recurring image of a battle-weary youth (himself), "angrily demanding to know what had happened to the three decades since he had laid down his arms." To find out, Manchester visited those places in the Pacific where as a young Marine he fought the Japanese, and in this book examines his experiences in the line with his fellow soldiers (his "brothers"). He gives us an honest and unabashedly emotional account of his part in the war in the Pacific. "The most moving memoir of combat on WW II that I have ever read. A testimony to the fortitude of man...a gripping, haunting, book." --William L. Shirer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

e personal memoir of the author while serving in the Pacific during World War II as a foot soldier in the Marines.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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