“The Pacific” Loses John Basilone

Are you watching? As we wrote after Episode One – “Watch ‘The Pacific’.”  It’s not perfect, and history is molded for effect and to fit the time allotted. So what? It’s reasonably accurate, entertaining and most importantly, one can become immersed in the lives of these real men who fought through the Pacific Theater.

We quickly fell for John Seda’s portrayal of John Basilone. Charming yet unaware, confident yet humble, Basilone is what the Marine Corps purports to be but falls well short. The flawed Marines of “The Pacific” are sorely missed and today’s Corps suffers because of their extinction.

Enough with the commentary. Back to Basilone.

“The Pacific” follows John Basilone’s journey prior to Guadalcanal. A professional soldier, well, maybe one who bores easily, he left the Army and later joined the Marines to see some action. We watch him on Guadalcanal operate against an overwhelming Japanese enemy. Anything to help his friends.

Basilone is awarded the Medal of Honor and is sent back to the states to shill for the war effort. He’s a star, and his star power is real. While Seda personifies one comfortable with an adoring public, a sadness hangs over him. He can have anything—except his boys in the Pacific.

After what is portrayed as one final, contrived radio broadcast, he convinces the Corps to send him to train new Marines. He heads to an unrecognizable Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. The sadness remains. Maybe it’s the weight of the responsibility to teach his charges to fight and survive as he did. Don’t know. Maybe it’s Hollywood. Regardless, it’s all there in “The Pacific” for you to decide.

While at Pendleton Basilone meets Lena Mae Riggi, a stunning Italian Marine sergeant. The doomed story of Basilone and the no-nonsense Riggi is poignant, sans melodrama.


Basilone re-enlists to ship to an undisclosed location. He and Riggi marry. John ships out. John leads the fight during the first hours on Iwo Jima. John dies.

A reader told us he watched Episode Eight with a group that did not know John Basilone dies in combat. The group was horrified and at least one member was inconsolable. (These are people who had never heard of John Basilone before “The Pacific” and have only vague knowledge of the Marine Corps.)

Watch “The Pacific.” Episode Eight airs again May 9 at 8 pm on HBO. Episode Nine airs at 9 pm with the final installment the next week. Check listings.

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