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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

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This emotional and honest novel recounts a young man's experiences during World War II and digs deep into what he and his fellow soldiers lived through during those dark times. 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 t This emotional and honest novel recounts a young man's experiences during World War II and digs deep into what he and his fellow soldiers lived through during those dark times. 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


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This emotional and honest novel recounts a young man's experiences during World War II and digs deep into what he and his fellow soldiers lived through during those dark times. 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 t This emotional and honest novel recounts a young man's experiences during World War II and digs deep into what he and his fellow soldiers lived through during those dark times. 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

30 review for Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Except for the part about Okinawa I would have given this a "0." Just terrible--inaccuracy after inaccuracy on every page. It's inconceivable to me that this man is a historian. But more than that, it is filled with fabricated incidents, recounted in great detail, as if the author had participated in them. It's only in a note at the end of the book that the reader learns that the author did not serve on Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, or Iwo Jima. He only served on Okinawa--and that's more than e Except for the part about Okinawa I would have given this a "0." Just terrible--inaccuracy after inaccuracy on every page. It's inconceivable to me that this man is a historian. But more than that, it is filled with fabricated incidents, recounted in great detail, as if the author had participated in them. It's only in a note at the end of the book that the reader learns that the author did not serve on Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, or Iwo Jima. He only served on Okinawa--and that's more than enough! And when he writes about the two months in combat he served there before being wounded so severely he was evacuated, his writing becomes intense and sincere. Why did he write all that other crap, leading the reader to believe he served where he didn't and did things he didn't do? It's stupid. And also a huge insult to the reader. The ridiculous LA Times blurb asserts the book "belongs with the best war memoirs ever written." Really LA Times? Really? It was bad enough when I was muttering to myself, no, Roosevelt didn't deliberately lure the Japanese into attacking the US; no, there were no P-40s on Guadalcanal in September, 1942; no, there isn't a village named Nakasoni on Guam; no, Hirohito didn't say "Hell is upon us"--Osami Nagano did; no, improperly field-stripping a BAR will not cause the recoil spring to rip your throat out (I asked!)..., but when I learned that all the detailed descriptions of his experiences were completely fictional--and he just adds it as an "oh, by the way" codicil--for crying out loud. I want my money back. No, more than that, I want my time back, the emotional energy I invested in this book--I want it all back. Even the blurb about the book here in Goodreads says, "Manchester visited those places in the Pacific where as a young Marine he fought the Japanese." No, he didn't. He didn't! He writes as if he did, but buried in a waffling, weaselly 340-word paragraph deep in the Author's Note at the end of the book is the acknowledgement that he only saw combat on Okinawa. It's very rare that I feel a book cheated me, that I get mad at a book...the book's author...but both are true with "Darkness." It's bullshit. And that's a shame because, as I say, the part about Okinawa is really good...assuming it's true. Why, why, why didn't Manchester just stick to that? Post Script The scene in which Manchester describes an observation plane being destroyed by flak during the Okinawa campaign--which I thought was very effective and added to Manchester's quotes--appears in Away All Boats, the 1953 novel by Kenneth M. Dodson. Granted, Dodson writes about it as part of the Kwajalein campaign and Manchester rewrote it some. But it's clearly the same episode, and it seems pretty clear to me that Manchester snagged it from Dodson. So now I don't know whether to believe any of what Manchester wrote about Okinawa. Who else did he crib from? He should have just written a novel in the first place. Incidentally, Dodson's book is amazing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    M. D. Hudson

    Here you have a tight, well-wrought first-hand account of a Marine’s experience at the Battle of Okinawa rendered in about 40 pages scattered throughout a nearly-400 page book. But it might be worth it, depending on your interest in the subject. When Manchester sticks to events that actually happened, he is taut and has a knack for turning a good descriptive phrase. As most combat veterans are, Manchester is self-deprecatory, but at his best, this doesn’t seem forced or inauthentic. For instance Here you have a tight, well-wrought first-hand account of a Marine’s experience at the Battle of Okinawa rendered in about 40 pages scattered throughout a nearly-400 page book. But it might be worth it, depending on your interest in the subject. When Manchester sticks to events that actually happened, he is taut and has a knack for turning a good descriptive phrase. As most combat veterans are, Manchester is self-deprecatory, but at his best, this doesn’t seem forced or inauthentic. For instance, here he describes his virtues as a Marine: “To be sure, I was not an inept fighter. I was lean and hard and tough and proud. I had tremendous reserves of stamina. I never bolted. I was a crack shot. I had a shifty, shambling run, and a lovely eye for defilade…coupled with a good sense of direction and a better sense of ground…” (p. 12). Notice how the fairly stock characterizations of a soldier moves to that wonderful “shifty, shambling run.” As a self-assessment, this could come off as bragging, but it doesn’t - it is clear-eyed. Good stuff, when he’s up to it. But what is not so good is an early version of the Greatest Generation shtick that became so prevalent in the 1990s. When his dander is up, Manchester can really lay it on with a trowel: “The United States was a different country then….the thought of demonstrating against the war, had it crossed anyone’s mind, would have been dismissed as absurd. Standards were rigid; everyone was determined to conform to them because the alternatives were unthinkable. Girls who became pregnant, or boys who cheated on examinations, were expelled from school and cast into outer darkness…The bastion of social stability was the family. Children were guided, not by radar beams picking up trends and directions from other children, but by gyroscopes built into their superegos at home….” (pp. 246-247) This sort of third-rate wishful thinking, including botched fragments of Freud and stridently simplistic social commentary, blights the book. Manchester’s disgust with the current culture (the book was written around 1978) is manifest throughout, usually in the form of snide “Pepsi Generation” remarks that make him sound nothing but grouchy and narrow-minded in a 60s-era Generation Gap way. Yes, the World War II Greatest Generation made tremendous sacrifices, and accomplished the overthrow of the Axis. The biggest problem with Greatest Generation Fallacy is the enormous contradictions it is forced to ignore. Manchester often trashes his contemporaries when he is not waxing rhapsodic. For instance, although they were in imminent danger of Japanese invasion, New Zealand dockworkers went on strike just as the Marines were heading to Guadalcanal, forcing the Marines to load their own ships. At the same time, US Merchant fleet also went on strike, refusing to sail supply ships into a combat zone without increased pay. This caused supply shortages for the Marines already ashore. Not so great o’ generation, eh? But these were civilians. Yet Manchester’s contradictions extend to the military as well - the US Army comes in for a real drubbing, especially the 27th Division, which did not live up to Marine expectations on Okinawa, to the point where Marines taught local children to chant “27th Division eats shit!” Well, doggies were part of the Greatest Generation too - “Saving Private Ryan,” anyone? Hell, Manchester doesn’t like Navy nurses either! So what am I supposed to think, stranded here in the post-post-Pepsi generation? It’s as if the Greatest Generation was made up only of Marines. But that is not really the case either, for Manchester describes in great detail a sadistic sergeant and several incompetent Marine officers he served under. The sergeant fell apart during an artillery attack and had to be shipped home with shellshock. So as always, Greatest Generation rhetoric falls apart when it becomes clear it, like any generation, is made up of human beings, which is to say liars, thieves, saints, geniuses, nitwits, slugs, poltroons and heroes. In any case, when it comes to the Greatest Generation’s postwar accomplishments, it could be said they never quite lived up to their early promise. It was actually the FDR-Ike-George C. Marshall generation (born 1880s-1900 or so) that brought about the actual strategic planning, technological miracles, and political will that won World War II. Although the Greatest Generation, because of their youth, bore the terrible burden of having to do almost all of the fighting, it had little to say in how it was conducted in a larger sense. But after the war, as their elders passed from the scene (Eisenhower left office in 1960) started what could be seen as the Big Decline. Vietnam was often ineptly led by Greatest Generation World War II junior officers (Westmoreland), and Greatest Generation veterans from JFK to Gerald Ford ran things in the White House without great distinction, I think it fair to say. Meanwhile, a group of increasingly clueless Greatest Generation bluffers in Detroit scoffed at “Jap” cars and “Kraut” technology and we know where that kind of thinking got us. The 1960s Greatest Generation complaints of the Baby Boomers have been discredited in many ways, yet I have to agree with the hippies when they found “plastics” to be an unsatisfactory life goal, the “missile gap” a fraud, Vietnam a catastrophe, and the Cuyahoga River catching on fire an abomination. Okay, I am grossly oversimplifying here. But Manchester simplifies as well and I find it objectionable that he seems to think his generation was the last one to make sacrifices or know how to demonstrate love of country. Believe me when I say I have enormous respect for anybody who had to endure (or die) in a meatgrinder such as Tarawa or Okinawa. But what about Chosin, Tet or Fallujah or Kandahar? What about the Civil War generation? What about the fact that so far at least, the Sesquicentennial is best characterized as not really even happening. Well, the hallowed dead of Shiloh are long dead and let’s face it, mostly forgotten. And yet I don’t hear much by way of fond reminiscences from World War II vets - who are old enough to remember those last few Grand Army of the Republic or Army of Virginia vets sitting around on the courthouse steps. How about a shout-out to the boys in blue and gray who didn’t get to carry styrettes of morphine in their first aid packs or get plasma at the aid station, or penicillin, or the GI Bill…? There are other problems as well. The book consists of Manchester’s actual combat experiences, a general history of the War in the Pacific, and Manchester’s trip to Pacific battlefields in 1978. Sometimes his grim jungle plods with native guides get out of hand and Manchester makes it seem as if he had fought at places where in fact he did not. An author’s note at the end of the book straightens this out, sort of, but a lot of readers have complained about it (there is even a sheepish aside in Manchester’s poorly-constructed Wikipedia page). There seems to be some basic military history factual errors as well. Japanese “knee mortars” could not be fired from the knee, according to everything else I’ve ever read (it’d break your leg if you tried). Even in 1978, vet-captured samurai swords in dusty attics are not worthless junk (if you think so, please let me know and I’ll take them off your hands). When reporting on battles he was not present for, Manchester has a penchant for the combat scenario in which some intrepid Marine shouts something witty (or not perhaps as witty as Manchester seems to think it is) at a charging “Nip” or murmurs something poignant while being cradled in the arms of his gunny just before he dies. It is not that such things never happened, but there are so many such incidents salted throughout the book that it got to the point that I felt I was reading excerpts from the script for “The Sands of Iwo Jima” or some other period movie. A lot of the second-hand events started feeling apocryphal. Again, Manchester best conveys the pity of war when he sticks to his own experiences. This being said, in a couple of places he talks about his first hand experiences with women in such a way that made me cringe. Talk about gory! With a great deal of high-toned self-righteousness, Manchester describes in detail the Greatest Generation ethos of never talking about how far your girlfriend would let you go (Manchester refers to this as “foreplay” although that generally indicates a prelude to actual sex; he seems to be referring to “making out” or what used to be called petting, or getting to third base). He even gives an example of one of his frat brothers who said too much about his steady gal’s makeout techniques and was therefore ostracized by his brothers, apparently for life, a story I found so utterly unbelievable as to be comical (frat guys?). And yet despite his professed scruples, Manchester talks in explicit detail about two women with whom he has botched sexual encounters just before shipping overseas. One was a “nice” college girl he was very fond of but, after ruminating romantically about her for a few pages, feels compelled to mention how he got four fingers into her during a movie. His other sexual encounter is with the alcoholic wife of an Eighth Air Force guy who was already in England - that Manchester vigorously tries to screw her (it doesn’t quite pan out for technical reasons) is sheer hypocrisy on his part, given all the Greatest Generation blather he inflicts on the reader elsewhere. As Manchester describes her, the woman is such a slut that you could do whatever you wanted to with her (ah, the classic Greatest Generation double standard), but what’s worse than screwing the wife of a fellow serviceman? To make the sex stuff even worse, Manchester feels compelled to inform the reader that “I happen to be damned, or blessed, with outsized genitalia.” (p. 124) I think he meant “penis” but perhaps he had big balls too, which is to say that these sexual asides struck me as coarse at best, vulgar at worst and certainly unnecessary. There is one bizarre exception to the awfulness of the smut: Manchester recounts how he immediately masturbated after waking up in a shell hole after the rest of his squad had been obliterated by artillery. He was surrounded by detached limbs and viscera of his platoon and yet had to toss off. This struck me as weirdly apt and human in ways I cannot begin to articulate - that Manchester chose not to expound on the incident beyond merely reporting it is a testament to his occasional good sense. I wish he’d treated his girlfriends with such discretion. It’s not only women who get the Greatest Generation treatment. The sergeant mentioned above who collapsed during combat was later arrested for a homosexual act, illegal then, and sentenced to 85 years prison (standard Marine sentence for a homosexual act), something Manchester reports with gusto. He goes on to make it clear that the Marines were not charging the beaches for homosexual rights, but that, rather, the Greatest Generation was fighting for America. They weren’t fighting for desegregated schools either, I’d bet. Manchester’s attitudes are equally benighted when it comes to non-white people, women, the 27th Infantry Division, the merchant marine, rear echelon troops, and Navy nurses. Because of the horrors of what they endured, I’ll never complain about a PTO vet referring to, as Manchester does, Nips, Japs, buck teeth, bandy legs and “fanatic” (rather than heroic) banzai charges, but I can’t say such references demonstrate any sense of humanity or empathy for fellow, if enemy, combatants. Say what you want about the “Japs” - they were formidable soldiers of astonishing tenacity, discipline, and courage and they were often brilliantly led. Manchester too often seems to still consider them the “vermin” of wartime propaganda - again, I understand, given his combat experiences. But I wish there had been some recognition that such thinking is a product of the horrible experience and not something that is necessarily the best frame of mind to have some forty years later. Manchester is not one of those vets who goes to Tokyo to shake hands with the elderly pilot who shot him down over Luzon in ’44. But even the people Manchester presumably likes are not rendered particularly well in this book. The fullest, fondest portraits he manages are his parents. His father’s World War I experiences are harrowing, worse than his son’s since Bill, Sr. was crippled and died young. Manchester was obviously loved his parents very much, and indeed, they seemed like exceptionally good people. But everyone else is pretty much a blur. Manchester’s description of his platoon - the Raggedy Asses - is remarkably sketchy. He gives brief profiles of his men (he was platoon sergeant) that are occasionally deft and illuminating, but mostly they are an undifferentiated mass or else too much like the “melting pot platoon” featured in so many bad movies - the Jew, the big blonde WASP, the little shifty Italian guy, the Polish surname nobody can pronounce, etc. Towards the end of the book he gives a bullet-point run down of what happened to all of his men (many of them were killed). As poignant as this should’ve been, it felt merely tacked on, almost an afterthought as if Manchester was in a hurry to catch us up on his dead buddies before he rounds out his own grandiloquent, rhetorically incontinent search for personal meaning and peace. This being said, Manchester makes some very shrewd observations on what it means to be a platoon leader with the same training and about the same age (or even younger) than his command. Instant or even grudging obedience to his orders was not something he expected, especially in combat, which was interesting. Terror and lack of confidence in their leaders made Manchester and his fellow Marines somewhat...hesitant. Humoring your men to get them to follow an order was apparently a common strategy for Marine sergeants - hardly the way things were done in “The Sands of Iwo Jima.” The Marines were wise to be balky - their leadership was sometimes homicidally inept. At one point, an officer of Manchester’s acquaintance shows up while Manchester’s squad was pinned down after struggling ashore under fire. This gung-ho lieutenant tries to rally the men into a suicidal Pickett’s Charge frontal assault on Japanese pillboxes. Manchester pleads with him to wait for the flanks to do their job and eliminate these positions. The officer calls him a coward and tries to lead by example, climbing up over the seawall while Manchester and his platoon stay under cover. Within seconds, a Nambu stitches the officer chin to crotch (as Manchester describes it) and he is dead before he hits the ground. A few moments later, the flank assaults succeed in eliminating the pillbox and Manchester’s platoon moves forward safely. The most horrible thing about this story is that new recruits probably would’ve followed the inexperienced Lieutenant and been wiped out. This sort of thing seems to have happened to US forces a lot in World War II. Then there is the problem of Manchester’s prose, which is bafflingly inconsistent. At his best, he can write with concision and force (see that “shifty, shambling run, and a lovely eye for defilade” quoted above). At his worst, Manchester is capable of some of the purplest prose this side of the 19th century: “…Then there are the colors of the underwater rock: amethyst, scarlet, emerald, salmon pink, heliotrope, lilac, all as pale and delicate as those in the wardrobe of an 18th century marchioness. The very air has the sensuous feel of a rich, soft fabric. You sense that you are approaching Eden, or an Eden run amok, a land so incredibly fertile that its first heady scents, as you wade through he restless, lacy surf, have the effect of a hallucinatory drug. (new paragraph, for no apparent reason) The coconut trees, lithe and graceful, crowd the beach in their ordered rows like a minuet of slender elderly virgins adopting flippant poses, simpering in the zephyr that never quite dies while sunlight, piercing their leaves with the playful malice of a Persian cat, splashes the ground in ever-changing patterns of light. Inland from the endlessly pounding surf…” (p. 89) “Endlessly pounding headache…” You should thank me for not quoting one of his tropical sunsets! These cloying swatches of purple not bother me as much as his ongoing dogged efforts to find “closure” with his past via the rather unconvincing haggard spectre of the younger Sgt. Manchester that kept making appearances, silently disappointed in the aging civilian Manchester and making significant ghostly gestures. Worse than the grim, ghastly, ghostly sergeant is a sexy, beckoning, decaying Whore of War, a hallucination told in such slathering maggoty crotch-rot detail that Stephen King would blush. Manchester goes on and on about his dreams too, but I mostly skipped that stuff. The problem with “closure” of any sort (Manchester does not use this awful word, only because it hadn’t really been invented (in the contemporary sense) when he was writing this book) is that it too often comes across as forced or unconvincing. And Manchester did not need to go to such efforts and when he does so in this book, it cheapens what he was trying for. His descriptions of his Okinawa experiences, rendered with real force and economy, made it very clear that anyone who has endured such terrible things is never going to find “closure” of any sort, really. After reading the book, I got the definite impression Manchester knew this and I wish he’d just stuck to his story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I am a sucker for emotional manipulation. I cry when I'm supposed to at movies or in the course of novels, tearing up at even the foreshadowing of tragedy or selfless nobility. It works too for the kinds of histories Manchester has written of the United States of America: his books on MacArthur, on social history, on Kennedy, on--as here--himself. He even, and this is more remarkable as I do not laugh so easily as I weep, pulls me into his sense of irony, of humor. This book as at once a history I am a sucker for emotional manipulation. I cry when I'm supposed to at movies or in the course of novels, tearing up at even the foreshadowing of tragedy or selfless nobility. It works too for the kinds of histories Manchester has written of the United States of America: his books on MacArthur, on social history, on Kennedy, on--as here--himself. He even, and this is more remarkable as I do not laugh so easily as I weep, pulls me into his sense of irony, of humor. This book as at once a history of the American war in the Pacific, of the part played in it by the Marines and of his own experiences as a very young member of the Corps. His return to the war, to the major locales in which it was fought, in which in some cases he had fought, was inspired, he tells us, by the nightmares and amnesias he had suffered since. This evocation, he would have us believe, effectuated an exorcism, but I doubt it--a recovery perhaps, some needed catharsis, but not an exorcism. Some of it is too terrible to ever forget and that terror is well conveyed. There is, as he also states, a deep divide between his generation, Dad's generation, and mine. Fewer now would go so blithely, so ignorantly to a war of the kind they fought.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Another WWII Pacific campaign book done. I enjoyed this one even though I usually do not go for memoirs. Guadalcanal, Betio, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa were all discussed. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of Okinawa of which I am woefully uneducated upon. Some of the fiercest fighting occurred during the island campaigns. However these battles were necessary to defeat the air and naval forces of Imperial Japan. I found the discussion an excellent insight into these ruthless actions to conclude W Another WWII Pacific campaign book done. I enjoyed this one even though I usually do not go for memoirs. Guadalcanal, Betio, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa were all discussed. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of Okinawa of which I am woefully uneducated upon. Some of the fiercest fighting occurred during the island campaigns. However these battles were necessary to defeat the air and naval forces of Imperial Japan. I found the discussion an excellent insight into these ruthless actions to conclude WWII.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    Manchester could make anything readable. If only this one were true: Manchester wasn't at all those battles; he relied on newspaper and buddy accounts, but presents them all in the first person. Impossible to separate the fiction from the fact, but a damn good read. Manchester could make anything readable. If only this one were true: Manchester wasn't at all those battles; he relied on newspaper and buddy accounts, but presents them all in the first person. Impossible to separate the fiction from the fact, but a damn good read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Manchester presents three perspectives in this look back at his days as a Marine sarge in the Pacific Theater. He gives a good overall history of events interspersed with tales of his contemporary (late 1970s) visit to the islands where he fought, which are then interspersed with memories of his adventures as an educated, young marine. These angles make the book a good introduction to the war in the Pacific, a little of everything. Manchester was a renown historian of his day, 60s-70s, with pop Manchester presents three perspectives in this look back at his days as a Marine sarge in the Pacific Theater. He gives a good overall history of events interspersed with tales of his contemporary (late 1970s) visit to the islands where he fought, which are then interspersed with memories of his adventures as an educated, young marine. These angles make the book a good introduction to the war in the Pacific, a little of everything. Manchester was a renown historian of his day, 60s-70s, with popular biographies of President Kennedy and Douglas MacArthur. The book has a feel of an amalgamation of effort. He probably used a lot of his previous research on the war, and his memories as a marine are likely ones he’s written down over the years, and of course his re-visit to the islands is contemporary, so while still a good read, it feels like different articles from a variety of times glued together. It’s not a bland look either, he doesn’t hold back on his opinions of Roosevelt or MacArthur. There is an interesting insight of the battlefield souvenirs they all went to various efforts to collect, the swords, flags, guns, etc, he views them as valueless because he and others brought back so many (this would bet the late 70s). Now in 2015, they are quite the collector items! Reading the Preamble and the Prologue, Manchester comes across as being a bit full of himself, well, he does have the credentials, and when you get to the end, in the Author’s Note he explains that some of the recollections are not his ! but stories from other Marines. So the beginning and end are odd, but the sandwich in between is a good read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I just lost a review of this book which I spent 2 hours working on; I put more effort into reviewing this book than I have for any other book, because "Goodbye, Darkness" is in my top 5 "best books of all time." I'm not up to recreating the whole thing right now, but this book is truly incredible. Manchester is an excellent writer whose work is always intelligent while remaining utterly accessible, and who epitomizes the writing dictum "show, don't tell" so well, particularly here, it literally I just lost a review of this book which I spent 2 hours working on; I put more effort into reviewing this book than I have for any other book, because "Goodbye, Darkness" is in my top 5 "best books of all time." I'm not up to recreating the whole thing right now, but this book is truly incredible. Manchester is an excellent writer whose work is always intelligent while remaining utterly accessible, and who epitomizes the writing dictum "show, don't tell" so well, particularly here, it literally gave me goosebumps, took my breath away with horror, made me cry and laugh out loud...all those cliches, but absolutely true. He writes with an honesty that does not spare himself embarrassment. This is not a book just for historians or those interested in the military or war; this is a book for humans who feel and survive and try to connect with other humans. “Goodbye Darkness” should be required reading for anyone who is or may be in a position to send others into war; Manchester bares the realities of war in a clear, vivid light which denies the deceitful obfuscation of demagogy or rhetoric and puts those who fight it clearly in our sight, where they ought to remain.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gayle

    After reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s experiences as a POW in Japan during WWII, I realized that my education about that war was sadly lacking when it comes to the Pacific theatre. I was not certain why, considering my total fascination with that era that I concentrated on the war in Europe. After all, I had a cousin who was killed in Okinawa, and a brother-in-law who served there shortly after the war. I hate to admit it, but Manchester’s expl After reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s experiences as a POW in Japan during WWII, I realized that my education about that war was sadly lacking when it comes to the Pacific theatre. I was not certain why, considering my total fascination with that era that I concentrated on the war in Europe. After all, I had a cousin who was killed in Okinawa, and a brother-in-law who served there shortly after the war. I hate to admit it, but Manchester’s explanation for this lack of interest—total lack of knowledge and experience of the area—is probably the reason in my case. Of course Manchester, a renowned author and biographer by the time he wrote this book, tells the story beautifully. It is the late 70s and he has gone back to the area of the battles in an attempt to work out some of the demons that soldiers of war bring back home with them. In the process he has also recorded the details of the sometimes hopeless odds and horrendous aftermaths of this part of WWII. These are the things of which I write because I’m certain that anything else that I might say about Mr. Manchester’s book has already been written, and because most of these are the facts and statistics of which I, in my ignorance, was completely unaware. For example, Manchester compares the Siege of Bastogne in which the 101st Airborne was surrounded for eight days by the Germans in Belgium to the Battle of Guadalcanal, where Marines were isolated for over four months. “All but abandoned by the vessels which brought them there, reduced to eating roots and weeds, kept on the line though stricken by malaria unless their temperature reached 103 degrees, dependent for food and ammo on destroyers and fliers who broke through the enemy blockade, always at great risk, they fought the best soldiers Tokyo could send against them, killed over twenty thousand of them, and won.” To get a picture of the enormity of the situation you only need to read Manchester’s description of Hitler’s European influence vs. The Empire of the Rising Sun in 1942. Although at that time Hitler ruled an area larger than the United States, Japan and its conquests took in more than one million square miles and “...stretched five thousand miles in every direction...” Manchester relates the haunting tale of the islanders on Saipan, who having been convinced by the Japanese of the atrocious acts that the Americans were certain to commit on them should they be captured, hurled themselves and their children off two cliffs, now forever known as Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff. Parents even placed their children in circles, giving them a live grenade and instructing them to toss it to each other. Throughout the book I was continually astonished at the numbers of American and Japanese dead after battles, rivaling and in many, many cases surpassing those in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Many times I’ve read about the soldiers coming ashore in Normandy on D-Day, how they were sitting ducks being picked off by the hundreds. While reading Manchester’s accounts, I came across a more terrifying landing on an island in the Pacific, and then another, and then another... To anyone wanting a complete picture of the Pacific theatre during WWII, this book is a must read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    A wonderful memoir of a marine in the South Pacific, who became an award winning historian and author. What I found most interesting about the book, was the parallels that Manchester portrays between past and present as he visits the sites of his experiences 35 years later.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maria Mazzenga

    A literary and honest memoir of Manchester's service in the Pacific during WWII. Manchester is a weird guy--he's got a penchant for talking about feces and sex--but somehow this tendency is what raises this book above Band of Brothers level hackdom. For example, he recounts a moment where the Japanese and the Americans are squaring off against each other on Tarawa or some other godforsaken Pacific island; two dogs run out to the middle of the battlefield and start mating. Both sets of soldiers ar A literary and honest memoir of Manchester's service in the Pacific during WWII. Manchester is a weird guy--he's got a penchant for talking about feces and sex--but somehow this tendency is what raises this book above Band of Brothers level hackdom. For example, he recounts a moment where the Japanese and the Americans are squaring off against each other on Tarawa or some other godforsaken Pacific island; two dogs run out to the middle of the battlefield and start mating. Both sets of soldiers are so shocked that such a regenerative act could happen when these guys are trying to kill each other that they temporarily stop shooting. The dogs finish their act and the soldiers resume their fighting. Manchester realizes that the two acts--killing and sex--are somehow related to each other in some primal way. He consistently brings out the primitivity of war by supposedly civilized peoples with irony and wisdom.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    The fourth star borders on being awarded on an emeritus basis because I'm so fond of William Manchester's other work. The narrative could have been more straightforward. Intertwining his experiences as an older man with his memories of his fighting days tended to be distracting. Nevertheless, he is William Manchester, and his capacity to lead the reader into profundity through reflection on daily experiences remains intact. The fourth star borders on being awarded on an emeritus basis because I'm so fond of William Manchester's other work. The narrative could have been more straightforward. Intertwining his experiences as an older man with his memories of his fighting days tended to be distracting. Nevertheless, he is William Manchester, and his capacity to lead the reader into profundity through reflection on daily experiences remains intact.

  12. 5 out of 5

    T. Fowler

    This book must have sat on my shelves for over ten years. I finally got around to reading it and regret now that I had not done so sooner. I now understand why this book must be regarded as one of the classic memoirs of World War 2. The author's story is especially intriguing as he sets out to visit the major battle sites of the US Marines in the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, and describes how they looked long after the war ended. He then takes us back to each of these the battles and r This book must have sat on my shelves for over ten years. I finally got around to reading it and regret now that I had not done so sooner. I now understand why this book must be regarded as one of the classic memoirs of World War 2. The author's story is especially intriguing as he sets out to visit the major battle sites of the US Marines in the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, and describes how they looked long after the war ended. He then takes us back to each of these the battles and recounts his experiences in them. Above all, his writing skill is superb and I must count him as one of my favourite writers. Most powerful is his disclosure of the emotional effect the war had on him - how he became sick after killing his first Japanese soldier, how he became disillusioned about the Marines and war in general after the horrors of Okinawa, and how this trip seemed to finally rid him of the terrible dreams that haunted him after the war.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    William Manchester was among the most popular biographers and historians of the 20th century. His trilogy on Winston Churchill is wonderful, his history of the Age of Exploration (A World Lit Only by Fire) is stirring, and this memoir of his service as a U. S. Marine Sergeant on the Pacific islands in 1944 is a great read. You won’t find scholarly footnotes in most Manchester books, but you will find beautifully crafted stories of his subjects—stories that make them breathe. Caveat There has been William Manchester was among the most popular biographers and historians of the 20th century. His trilogy on Winston Churchill is wonderful, his history of the Age of Exploration (A World Lit Only by Fire) is stirring, and this memoir of his service as a U. S. Marine Sergeant on the Pacific islands in 1944 is a great read. You won’t find scholarly footnotes in most Manchester books, but you will find beautifully crafted stories of his subjects—stories that make them breathe. Caveat There has been controversy about the veracity of Manchester's wartime memories. Our only independent information is that he was an OCS candidate who didn't finish and ended up a U. S. Marine Corporal in the Pacific; his combat experience was on Okinawa, the last island battle of the war in the Pacific; that he was badly wounded by a mortar; and that he received a Purple Heart and promotion to Sergeant. There seems to be no doubt that Manchester paid his dues in the war. But the book’s unusual format is misleading, encouraging one to think that he fought in many island campaigns from Gaudalcanal to Okinawa. This has led to controversy about the nature of the book: is it fact or hyperbole, memoir or fiction? To some extent it is all of those. The concluding Author’s Note helps us see the problem. There Manchester says, My own combat experience occurred in Okinawa, where I fought for over two months . . . I have drawn from that bank of experience for flashforwards, introducing each episode at a point where it seems fitting. In other words, action sequences in chapters prior to Okinawa are actually his Okinawa memories displaced backward to earlier campaigns. Thus his chapter on Guadalcanal morphs from a history of that campaign into a first-person action account that leads one to believe that he was in combat on the Canal. Thus, it is no surprise that some reviewers and readers have seen the book as a series of combat vignettes that Manchester experienced as he fought at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and other Pacific island.. Nor is it a surprise that those who knew he was only in combat on Okinawa believed he was gilding the lily of fame, that the book was pure fiction. Modified Review Goodbye, Darkness (1980) is a look back at Manchester’s early life from the vantage point of a 1978 visit to Okinawa, the scene of the last ground battle in the Pacific War. It begins with his birth in 1923 to a USMC Marine Sergeant father, humorously details his move toward maturity (he was timid, bullied, clumsy—and dedicated to the concept of valor), and describes life and lessons learned in the Corps and in combat. His observations on Marine boot camp are hilarious and absolutely spot on—it was the same when I went through twenty years later, though without the corporeal punishment—they just shellacked your mind. This is not a combat book as much as a remembrance of places, people, and events in the war combined with Manchester’s return to the Pacific as a 58-year old veteran, during which he visited battle sites from Guadalcanal to Tarawa to Peleilu to Sapan to Iwo Jima and, finally, Okinawa. On Okinawa he was a Corporal serving as a company runner when he was conscripted to lead a 12-man infantry squad; this was normally the responsibility of a Sergeant. Manchester's memories of Okinawa included a number of stellar events—he saw his Sergeant Major, a grizzled veteran of decades of combat, reduced to trembling and tears, and learned that once returned to the States the tough veteran was given an 85-year sentence to Portsmouth Naval Prison for homosexual behavior; he was the only survivor of a direct hit by an artillery shell, having stumbled and fallen into the safety of a crater just as the shell landed; he watched a former OCS classmate try to get his men to attack by “going over the wall” by leading them into withering fire--nobody followed. The officer effectively committed suicide by Jap. There are lots of very good combat books (the recent Matterhorn is my all-time favorite) and this book has the same “Kilroy was here” feel. Goodbye, Darkness is a wonderful book—very funny, filled with keen observations about the insanity of people and of war, showing an erudite mind telling it like it was. And Manchester’s imagery is glorious: he reports that on the 1978 trip visiting the Pacific War islands he had a recurring dream about two men climbing a mountain from opposite sides, meeting at the top; one is an old man, the other a young Marine sergeant. No words are said as they look at each other, wondering how the other got there. That is an image to keep! You will find it a welcome relief from the normal heaviness of WWII books. Highly recommended! Five Stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fergie

    A deeply profound, moving memoir by a WWII marine who also happened to be a fantastic, successful writer after the war. William Manchester's GOODBYE, DARKNESS: A MEMOIR OF THE PACIFIC WAR often reads like a first person account novel. It's a page turner written with respectful care and insight. Through the pages of the book, the reader sees the evolution of a naïve boy turn man. You feel for Manchester as he begins his search for peace when he goes back to the Pacific islands upon which he had f A deeply profound, moving memoir by a WWII marine who also happened to be a fantastic, successful writer after the war. William Manchester's GOODBYE, DARKNESS: A MEMOIR OF THE PACIFIC WAR often reads like a first person account novel. It's a page turner written with respectful care and insight. Through the pages of the book, the reader sees the evolution of a naïve boy turn man. You feel for Manchester as he begins his search for peace when he goes back to the Pacific islands upon which he had fought as a young man thirty-five years after the war's end. GOODBYE, DARKNESS: A MEMOIR OF THE PACIFIC WAR is the type of book that will stay with the reader long after it's read. You will be moved by the struggle, sacrifice, and courage of the boys and men who fought and died on the far away, often forgotten islands of the Pacific. This book is a testament to that struggle, and a fine dedication to WWII's fighting men.

  15. 5 out of 5

    T-bone

    This book was borderline deceitful. Only at the very end does the author reveal that he only fought at Okinawa. He should have just written a memoir about Okinawa and cut the unsourced 350 page history of the entire Pacific campaign in which he implied he participated in every battle. When he did discuss his direct experiences it was good. I particularly enjoyed the account of his failed attempts to lose his virginity and the description of the first time he killed someone which opened the book. This book was borderline deceitful. Only at the very end does the author reveal that he only fought at Okinawa. He should have just written a memoir about Okinawa and cut the unsourced 350 page history of the entire Pacific campaign in which he implied he participated in every battle. When he did discuss his direct experiences it was good. I particularly enjoyed the account of his failed attempts to lose his virginity and the description of the first time he killed someone which opened the book. Really stripped war of any glory. But it was dishonest not to outline the extent of his involvement in the war at the beginning and it was misleading to mix memories of Okinawa with descriptions of other battles without explaining that is what he was doing. This could have been a good memoir, instead it was a shit history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    James Reagan

    I had just finished this book and thought it was terrific. Then I read the American Spectator article showing that Manchester faked his heroics. He was in a Marine staff position on Okinawa during the battle. Now I wonder how honest ANY of his other books are.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    What a book! I came to this work thinking that it was the recollections of Manchester's time in the Marines during the War: it is that, but so much more besides. It is a potted history of the island-hopping campaign run by Nimitz, along with a current-day (1980) view of some of the most infamous and bloody battles in history. Manchester, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa - where he was seriously wounded - decided in his middle-age to revisit the Pacific, to try and make sense of his time there, What a book! I came to this work thinking that it was the recollections of Manchester's time in the Marines during the War: it is that, but so much more besides. It is a potted history of the island-hopping campaign run by Nimitz, along with a current-day (1980) view of some of the most infamous and bloody battles in history. Manchester, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa - where he was seriously wounded - decided in his middle-age to revisit the Pacific, to try and make sense of his time there, to make sense of the War in the Pacific, and work through his ideas of what the United States had fought for, and whether it was worthwhile. This is, mostly, a recollection of futility and waste: that is, a book about war. Manchester revisits Guadalcanal, the first test of the Marines in the War, where both the Allies and the Japanese fought the climate, disease and lack of food as much as they fought each other. Not for the last time, the Americans greatly underestimated how much effort it would take to successfully complete such invasions. For months, the fate of the Allies' war, and perhaps even Australia, balanced on who would prevail in the Solomons: at that time Guadalcanal was one of the most important places on the globe. When Manchester visits in the late 1970s Guadalcanal has returned to being the sleepy backwater it was before the War. He spends a night on Bloody Ridge, and is haunted by old memories and fears. He then visits Tarawa; he wasn't there during the War, and there isn't much there now. The island of Betio which held the airstrip and which therefore was the prize, is small - "No part of it is more than three hundred yards from the water." There were nearly five thousand Japanese on the island, and about the same number of Marines landed to face them. In 76 hours the battle was over, at the cost of 3,381 Marine casualties (over 900 deaths): of the Japanese garrison, 17 were taken prisoner. Such brutality was commonplace in the Pacific, where the Marines often took 60-70% casualty rates in their units and were still fighting. The Japanese typically fought to the last man. This fact makes it all the more horrifying when Manchester goes on to describe the battle for Peleliu. Owing to the quick advance of the Allies under MacArthur on the Western flank of the warzone, the Peleliu operation was strategically pointless by the time it got underway. Every casualty there was a waste of a life. 2,336 Marines died there, 8,450 were wounded. The Japanese lost 10,695 killed, and of the 202 men captured, 183 were foreign labourers. As the Allies got close to Japan, the tactics of the enemy changed. Instead of meeting the Marines on the beach, the Japanese fortified themselves inland and proceeded to bleed the US forces dry. In this way they hoped that, even though they knew Japan couldn't win, the Allies would baulk at the horrific cost in men that an invasion of the Home Islands would make (MacArthur, usually accurate in his predictions, estimated one million US casualties in such an invasion). Thus as Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima fell, so did tens upon tens of thousands of men. (In what is an acute irony, Manchester describes how Iwo Jima is now a Japanese military base.) Manchester deals briefly with MacArthur's war as well, his fleeing and returning to the Philippines via New Guinea. But this is a memoir mostly of the Marines, of Manchester's platoon, and in the end, of that platoon's Golgotha, which came to them on the slopes of Sugarloaf Hill on Okinawa. The scale of the carnage on that island is almost impossible to believe. In fact Manchester, when he revisits it, struggles to come to terms with the fact that normal life, with motorways and McDonalds stores can go on where such bloody battles were fought. This passage is a key to some of Manchester's struggles within this book: what was all the sacrifice for, if the World, and people, haven't really changed? How can people forget so quickly? How can it be that the things that he and his comrades fought for have now become "old hat"? And how can the fit and combat-ready Marine Sergeant have become a crusty middle-aged man? Manchester's description of the horror and degradation of battle is at times terrifying and his howls of anger at the death of those he fought with are painful to read. In the end Manchester comes to the realisation that soldiers fight for love of the man next to them: grand strategy has little meaning, but the life of your platoon-mate means everything. When you see them die, part of you dies as well. Some of Manchester's platoon died heroes, single-handedly fighting off Japanese attacks; Others had their throats cut in the middle of the night; Some were killed by friendly-fire; one was incinerated when a flamethrower malfunctioned; another got hung up on barbed wire, unretrievable, and the platoon had to listen to his screams of agony until he died. This, in the end, is the legacy of war. At the end of the book, Manchester has his recurring dream one more time. This time, when the middle-aged Manchester reaches the top of Sugarloaf, he doesn't see his younger self ascending the other side. He has laid his ghosts to rest: "His Sergeant would never come again. He turned away, blinded by tears." He wasn't alone in that. This is one of the most powerful books on World War Two that I have read. It is not for the faint-of-heart. It is a classic. Check out my other reviews at http://aviewoverthebell.blogspot.com.au/

  18. 4 out of 5

    David B

    Labeling this book as a memoir is a bit misleading. It is more an old man's travelogue as William Manchester visits WWII battlegrounds in order to come to terms with his experiences as a combat Marine in the Pacific War. There is a lot of description of these sites as they appeared at the time of writing and quite a bit about the local lifestyle. Some of this is interesting and all of it is well-written, but it is not what brought me to the book in the first place. Manchester's accounts of life o Labeling this book as a memoir is a bit misleading. It is more an old man's travelogue as William Manchester visits WWII battlegrounds in order to come to terms with his experiences as a combat Marine in the Pacific War. There is a lot of description of these sites as they appeared at the time of writing and quite a bit about the local lifestyle. Some of this is interesting and all of it is well-written, but it is not what brought me to the book in the first place. Manchester's accounts of life on the front lines and the many battles he was in are the strong point of this book. This is five star material, very harrowing, graphic, and insightful. He also comes across as quite honest, since he often portrays himself in an unflattering light. The sections about his upbringing and other non-military experiences are much less successful; he often seems to strain for effect, trying to emphasize the universal significance of his life experiences. My biggest problem with the book--and it proved to be a constant annoyance throughout the narrative--was the disrespectful way he referred to the Japanese. He is honest enough to admit that he has never gotten over his antipathy toward them, and I can understand that. I can even accept the use of derogatory terms when he is writing "in the moment" about combat, replicating his state of mind at that time. However, there are many extended passages in which Manchester writes about the war from the perspective of a historian, and even these supposedly objective sections are liberally sprinkled with terms like "Nip" and "Jap." Again, I appreciate Manchester's honesty about his dislike of the Japanese. Unfortunately, he seems to be incapable of seeing this as a flaw in himself, something to be resisted and not inflicted upon others

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I'm not a war buff- far from it. But this highly personal memoir from Churchill and MacArthur's biographer is simply one of the greatest books I have ever read. It describes in often unpleasant detail the author's experience fighting in the Pacific Theater during WWII, from Tarawa to Okinawa. If war is a necessary evil in the world, reading this novel should be necessary reading. I bought a second copy so I will always have one to loan. I'm not a war buff- far from it. But this highly personal memoir from Churchill and MacArthur's biographer is simply one of the greatest books I have ever read. It describes in often unpleasant detail the author's experience fighting in the Pacific Theater during WWII, from Tarawa to Okinawa. If war is a necessary evil in the world, reading this novel should be necessary reading. I bought a second copy so I will always have one to loan.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    This is a well-written and artistically compelling account of battle on the Pacific Front of WWII. However, despite being billed as a "memoir," this book is almost entirely fictional. The author describes the horrors of war as a soldier seeing combat on a wide variety of battleground islands (Tarawa, Guam, Okinawa, etc.). Unfortunately, the author only ever saw combat on Okinawa before suffering an injury that kept him out of the rest of the conflict. Thus, the detailed first-person accounts rel This is a well-written and artistically compelling account of battle on the Pacific Front of WWII. However, despite being billed as a "memoir," this book is almost entirely fictional. The author describes the horrors of war as a soldier seeing combat on a wide variety of battleground islands (Tarawa, Guam, Okinawa, etc.). Unfortunately, the author only ever saw combat on Okinawa before suffering an injury that kept him out of the rest of the conflict. Thus, the detailed first-person accounts related to the other battles were derived from the author's imagination or ripped from contemporary works of fiction and non-fiction. This would be bad enough, but the book is rife with historical inaccuracies and complete nonsense added for dramatic effect. This was an incredibly disappointing read as it was labeled by many publications as one of the greatest war memoirs ever crafted. I would not have minded some narrative flexibility applied to the facts of WWII, but this account is more novel than memoir. For that reason, I cannot recommend to fellow WWII history buffs. Edit: After reading the article Stolen Valor in the American Spectator, I downgraded my review to one-star. It appears that nearly all of Goodbye, Darkness is complete and utter BS, including Manchester's descriptions of his own life, his attitude toward war & glory, and most of his descriptions of his involvement in the Pacific (including Okinawa). This book is a disgrace.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gene

    Another great book about the war in the Pacific.

  22. 5 out of 5

    William A.

    Let's face it, history can be dry even in the hands of a great writer like William Manchester. But here the author vividly describes what happened on the bloody beaches of too many Pacific islands through the eyes of a man who fought there. To do so he takes us along on a personal journey he made back to the places where he lost his youth. In the process he finds relief from the nightmares that still torment him and is able to finally find inner peace. A very moving story! Let's face it, history can be dry even in the hands of a great writer like William Manchester. But here the author vividly describes what happened on the bloody beaches of too many Pacific islands through the eyes of a man who fought there. To do so he takes us along on a personal journey he made back to the places where he lost his youth. In the process he finds relief from the nightmares that still torment him and is able to finally find inner peace. A very moving story!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scottnshana

    A lot of people assail this book because of the battles he describes in it, Manchester only personally fought at Okinawa. I don't agree with this perspective; it would have been impossible to find someone who survived every engagement he describes here--Tarawa, Peleliu, etc.--to get all of them down on paper. If you could find such a person (even right after the war, when there were certainly more of them amongst us), there are few with Manchester's talent to narrate the Pacific War in this mann A lot of people assail this book because of the battles he describes in it, Manchester only personally fought at Okinawa. I don't agree with this perspective; it would have been impossible to find someone who survived every engagement he describes here--Tarawa, Peleliu, etc.--to get all of them down on paper. If you could find such a person (even right after the war, when there were certainly more of them amongst us), there are few with Manchester's talent to narrate the Pacific War in this manner. Disregard for a moment that he has written what are recognized as amongst the best biographies of both Churchill and MacArthur, or that he was in the fight and wounded at Okinawa. He has picked up the pen to describe air "rank with the stench of feces and decomposing flesh, and the cratered surface looked like hell with the fire out"--and his prose emerges solid, 35 years after the book was published. I'm sure folks have also gone after his theme of the damage done to the indigenous people on these islands when suddenly Japanese, American, and Australian forces arrived to prosecute the war and spoiled the idyllic and fragile culture. "Well, there was venereal disease, hitherto unknown here. And insensate hatred between aliens, and efficient ways to destroy those you hated. Most cruelly, they were left with an uneasy feeling that these monstrous strangers had, for all their brutality, found clever ways of making life more tolerable and interesting. It was cruel because that way of life can never coexist with theirs." This was roughly two decades before Jared Diamond made the same point in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (also a superlative book), but coming from a man who was on the ground in the theater as part of this Tree of Knowledge road show, the point is as solid as his wordsmithing. When he visits Tarawa decades after the battle and asks, "Is that why 3,381 Marines of my generation fell here thirty-five years ago?" there is something poignant here that you're not going to get from some reactionary history professor who has never raised his right hand at a recruiting station. Manchester's description of terrain and the difficulties of fighting in it are spot-on (though the consistent comparisons of islands to items like sea horses and crab claws grow a bit annoying; the book has pretty good maps in it, and I can make my own comparisons to lima beans or squawking toucans). It is clear that he misses the men he bled and sweated with in the Pacific, as well as the sense of purpose and the societal rule set that enabled his generation to show up and push all the way to Japan; he admits, though, that "when a man reaches his late fifties almost any change empties him a little." He visits places like Tarawa, for example, to try and hook back into that: "Looking seaward, I realize that the only way I can grasp what the assault was like for those first three waves of Marines is to get my feet wet. Leaving my camera with the policeman, to photograph me, I trudge out and don't reach landing-craft depth until I have gone over a thousand yards. Looking shoreward from that distance, seeing the bunkers and pillboxes, I feel anger roaring in my chest, and I think of the men who fell in the surf, sprawled like priests at high mass. Suddenly the most important thing in the world is for me to leave..." His ruminations on the revolution in amphibious warfare in which he and his fellow Marines took part (MacArthur's truly joint Island Hopping campaign WAS revolutionary and he realized early on that it needed land/air/sea force synchronization to succeed), as well as a deep analysis of Heraclitus and Hegel reveal an intellectual depth I would again argue is perfectly suited to this type of narrative; the fact that he makes these ruminations accessible to the layman reveals his skill as a writer. His discussions of time and death, from the perspective of a man in his autumnal years, are just as interesting. This book, as you can see in the other reviews, is not going to please everyone. I will say that, as a professional soldier and father of three children--all of which were conceived after combat deployments--I can agree with his assertion that "Continuity of the generations is, after all, the only bright sequel to war." Again, not everyone is going to dig this book; but I can personally recommend it for its insight, style, and aspirations to get its hands intellectually around a historic epoch in the American profession of arms and the society that supported it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Henry Wood

    After spending many, many years reading and digesting all sorts of books about WWII in Europe, I became interested in the Pacific War and began looking for similar tales. I spent a few months reading some of the "classics" - "With The Old Breed"; "Helmet For My Pillow"; and quite a few more. I then picked up and began reading "Goodbye Darkness [...]" by William Manchester, yet after a very short while I began to feel uncomfortable reading Manchester's story. Something was not right. It had nothing After spending many, many years reading and digesting all sorts of books about WWII in Europe, I became interested in the Pacific War and began looking for similar tales. I spent a few months reading some of the "classics" - "With The Old Breed"; "Helmet For My Pillow"; and quite a few more. I then picked up and began reading "Goodbye Darkness [...]" by William Manchester, yet after a very short while I began to feel uncomfortable reading Manchester's story. Something was not right. It had nothing to do with his juxtaposition of "modern" tourism views compared to his own supposed personal wartime memoirs; nothing at all wrong with that, *except* the wartime memoirs did not quite ring true. At about one-third of the way through the book , I did not give up, but I did go searching and the results of those simple online searches quite horrified me. Why on earth do such famous authors self-destroy their reputations? Is it because they think they should be *MORE* famous than they already are? Or ... do they think/believe that they have not already done enough in their already "famous" lives that they need to embellish their personal history so that they are placed on pinnacles instead of maybe just residing in the foothills of history/literature. Whatever the reason, William Manchester has done himself no favours in my personal library. After finding and reading "Stolen Valour", every single one of Manchester's books that I owned has now gone to the tip. I can no longer trust any single thing that this charlatan has ever written. A man who would steal valour to embellish and gild his own memory in "glory" deserves to be wiped from the pages of literary history. *NO MATTER* what he wrote before. After all, are his previous works to be trusted?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason , etc.

    Oy. If this had been advertised as a work of historical fiction, it would've been five stars. Maybe six. The writing. The subtle, almost British-ly dry humor. All of it. Wonderful. However, I found out nearly 3/4 of the way through that most of it was a giant pile of hogwash. Completely untrue. Including the author's counterparts and their interesting deaths on the final two hops of the island-hopping campaign through the Pacific. Truthfully, the red flag shot up after Tarawa, when I started looki Oy. If this had been advertised as a work of historical fiction, it would've been five stars. Maybe six. The writing. The subtle, almost British-ly dry humor. All of it. Wonderful. However, I found out nearly 3/4 of the way through that most of it was a giant pile of hogwash. Completely untrue. Including the author's counterparts and their interesting deaths on the final two hops of the island-hopping campaign through the Pacific. Truthfully, the red flag shot up after Tarawa, when I started looking up how many marines could have possibly survived Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, AND Okinawa. Including William Manchester, I believe the number is zero. So, I read American Ceasar when I was a kid, because I was a kid looking to do something in the military. It was good, but dry to the point of requiring regular dunks in pools to keep the pages from going *poof* into the air, gone forever. This book, however, is not that. It's a great read, cover to cover. You just need to understand that all of the eyewitness accounts either did not happen or weren't actually those of the author. It remains a conundrum why someone as universally acclaimed as he was still chose to believe it necessary to fabricate a military career not just in print, but also in interviews toward the end. We all fight battles, I suppose, and some have to do with ego or self-awareness. This case is a bummer. If you're in for a good work of historical fiction regarding the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific during WWII, read this, but do so with the *. *He was mostly, largely, almost completely uninvolved.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    Goodbye, Darkness is a memoir of a Marine's journey through the Pacific, once during World War II and again in the late 1970's as a journalist and historian. It is a wonderfully-written book which shows the madness of war, the ineptitude of mid-level military leadership, and the bond that men in combat forge. This bond is a central theme that connects the author to his father -- a Marine who fought in World War I -- as well as to his buddies on the Pacific battlefields that led to the downfall of Goodbye, Darkness is a memoir of a Marine's journey through the Pacific, once during World War II and again in the late 1970's as a journalist and historian. It is a wonderfully-written book which shows the madness of war, the ineptitude of mid-level military leadership, and the bond that men in combat forge. This bond is a central theme that connects the author to his father -- a Marine who fought in World War I -- as well as to his buddies on the Pacific battlefields that led to the downfall of Imperial Japan. This bond can be explained with one example: Manchester received a "million-dollar wound" -- a wound serious enough to get him back to the States, but not serious enough to cause permanent damage. Upon hearing his unit would be making an amphibious assault behind Japanese lines, he went AWOL from the hospital and rejoined his rifle company -- only to be nearly killed a short time later. Quite simply, he loved his buddies back in his platoon and didn't want to leave them behind. The author admits that there are better Pacific Theater histories available -- because the jungle is a lousy place to keep journals and files -- but the history of each of the major amphibious landings are succinct and well-researched. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    I really enjoyed the perspective this author took in writing this book. It was written from a revisit to the many battle sites of the pacific, and whether the author was there or not, he transcended into a first person account of the battles, though really focused in on individual stories. The pain and hatred of this author is evident. He doesn't sound like one of the proud soldiers from the greatest generation, and after reading his tales of battle I can picture this guy as a protestor of futur I really enjoyed the perspective this author took in writing this book. It was written from a revisit to the many battle sites of the pacific, and whether the author was there or not, he transcended into a first person account of the battles, though really focused in on individual stories. The pain and hatred of this author is evident. He doesn't sound like one of the proud soldiers from the greatest generation, and after reading his tales of battle I can picture this guy as a protestor of future wars. I hope I am wrong. He does delve into some very dark details and describes sexual matters in detail , sparing nothing and not churching it up at all. Overall a very dark perspective, or perhaps real perspective. This was not like any other book I have read about WWII. This was like Slaughterhouse 5 meets All Quiet on The Western Front meets The Battered Bastards of Bastogne. I did the Audiobook, and the reader was mostly monotone, which either added to the darkness, or made the book less enjoyable, not sure which yet. Overall, I enjoyed the information, but finished feeling very sorry for the author and his mental state throughout his life.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tony Ludlow

    William Manchester was a brilliant and gifted writer and one of my favorite biographers. He was also a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. It is this experience that occupies him in this memoir as he tells of his life as an active duty Marine in the 1940s and then his return trip in 1979 to the islands he fought on in an effort to exorcise the demons of that darkness from the war. As a Marine myself, I was captivated by his experiences. As a freelance writer and lover of books, I loved r William Manchester was a brilliant and gifted writer and one of my favorite biographers. He was also a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. It is this experience that occupies him in this memoir as he tells of his life as an active duty Marine in the 1940s and then his return trip in 1979 to the islands he fought on in an effort to exorcise the demons of that darkness from the war. As a Marine myself, I was captivated by his experiences. As a freelance writer and lover of books, I loved reading this book. But as a man who admires Manchester, I'd have preferred less battle detail, at least in the beginning, and more of Manchester himself. I wish I had known him. As like all books we love, I started reading slower as I neared the end, regretting the last page, saddened by the last word. Closing the book was bitter, hardly any sweetness in the completion, like you get with some books. I truly wish he'd written a follow up memoir. I hated to say good bye.

  29. 5 out of 5

    James

    Somewhat overwrought in places, and some of the ideas presented have become truisms to such an extent that they're becoming cliched - e.g. the revelation that people fight for their fellow soldiers, Marines, sailors, or airmen, rather than for the flag, Mom and apple pie. Still, Manchester was an excellent historian, and this is based on his own experiences as a young Marine in some of the worst of the fighting aginst Japan in the Pacific. For anyone interested in an intensely personal narrative Somewhat overwrought in places, and some of the ideas presented have become truisms to such an extent that they're becoming cliched - e.g. the revelation that people fight for their fellow soldiers, Marines, sailors, or airmen, rather than for the flag, Mom and apple pie. Still, Manchester was an excellent historian, and this is based on his own experiences as a young Marine in some of the worst of the fighting aginst Japan in the Pacific. For anyone interested in an intensely personal narrative of that war, this presents a different perspective from anything else I've read from that generation - the closest would be Paul Fussell's writing about his war in Europe.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Janine Urban

    There's many things that are left wanting in this book. For example, more first hand accounts of the authors experiences in the war and not others experiences passed off as his. This book was all over the place and it pains me to say this (since I really liked American Caesar and The Last Lion), I did not enjoy this book. I was expecting quality on the level of the above mentioned books, and it fell flat. While Manchester is a great biographical author, he lacks the knack for the memoir genre. There's many things that are left wanting in this book. For example, more first hand accounts of the authors experiences in the war and not others experiences passed off as his. This book was all over the place and it pains me to say this (since I really liked American Caesar and The Last Lion), I did not enjoy this book. I was expecting quality on the level of the above mentioned books, and it fell flat. While Manchester is a great biographical author, he lacks the knack for the memoir genre.

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