Goodbye, darkness : a memoir of the Pacific War

by William Raymond Manchester

Hardcover, 1980




Boston : Little, Brown, c1980.


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

User reviews

LibraryThing member damcg63
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member McGrewc
Gripping tale in which Manchester relates the horrors he faced as a Marine on several Pacific islands. The chapters leapfrog between narrative accounts of his personal battles and chapters in which he returns to each of the islands to slowly defeat the inner darkness the memories caused him for decades.
LibraryThing member etrainer
This is an excellent personal account of WWII experiences in the Pacific. Recommended for anyone interested in the subject.
LibraryThing member addunn3
William Manchester describes his experiences in the Pacific during WWII. He does a good job educating the reader about the expansion and contraction of the Japanese empire as he also revisits his development during this time.
LibraryThing member kcslade
Great recollections of marine combat in the islands of the Pacific.
LibraryThing member stevesmits
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.
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LibraryThing member bnbookgirl
A great, memorable read about the grueling war in the Pacific. Manchester was a Marine fighting on the islands during WWII. This memoir certainly explains ground combat and all of the horrors that go with it. He takes the time to describe each island as well so the reader definitely gets a sense of place as well. My father fought in the Pacific theater so this book really brought much his day to day struggles to light for me. The sights, the sound, the smells, the emotions all come alive in this book. This honest memoir is truly a compelling and eye-opening read.… (more)
LibraryThing member rbanks1
Brings home the misery and terror that is war.
LibraryThing member Tatoosh
Interesting account of William Manchester's service in the South Pacific in WW II.
LibraryThing member kcshankd
This one will stick with you. The author, who would go on to a career as historian with biographies of Churchill, MacArthur, and several other works, first survived the Pacific Theater as an enlisted Marine. It is as bad as you think, if not worse. He received his 'million dollar' wound on Okinawa, with this memoir remembering his fallen colleagues, his lost self. I grate a bit at the 'greatest generation' moniker but this memoir makes a solid case for the honorific.… (more)
LibraryThing member BradKautz
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.
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