Part Nine: The largest land battle of the Pacific begins on the island of Okinawa, 01 April 1945. Eugene Sledge and his Marine buddies for the first time encounter large numbers of civilians in the battle zone. Watching soldiers, enemy and friendly, die is hard enough, and now women and children enter the mix. War doesn’t get any harder than this.
In a letter home to Vera, Robert Leckie writes, “Dear Vera, There are things men can do to one another that are sobering to the soul. It is one thing to reconcile these things with God, another to square with yourself.”
As the Marines mop up Okinawa, the news of the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan is spread.
Part Ten: After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese emperor spoke to the Japanese people for the first time in history with his radio broadcast on 15 August calling for “enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.” The war with Japan was over and American boys would soon be coming home.
Back in Alabama, Sid Phillips meets Eugene Sledge at the train station to give him a ride home. Eugene asks Sid, “Why did I end up back here and all those other fellows didn’t?” “Every guy back has thought that,” replied Sid.
Robert Leckie is reunited with his family and looks up Vera…he takes her to out for a candlelit dinner and announces, “Three years ago in a miserable part of the Pacific, I was dreaming about a moment like this with you.”
Back from the war, these young men will never be the same. Some will be more successful than others in dealing with survivor’s guilt and the horrors of war, and maybe with time, forgetting the past horrors as they built new lives and raise families of their own.
Do we really wonder why veterans prefer not to talk about war and the past that any normal person flees…leaving the darkness behind is a hard job…
a man with his eyes shut swam upward
through dark water and came to air
it was the horizon
he felt his way along it and it opened
and let the sun out
W. S. Merwin