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Publisher's Summary

In this companion to the HBO miniseries - executive produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman - Hugh Ambrose reveals the intertwined odysseys of four U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy carrier pilot during World War II.

Between America's retreat from China in late November 1941 and the moment General MacArthur's airplane touched down on the Japanese mainland in August of 1945, five men connected by happenstance fought the key battles of the war against Japan. From the debacle in Bataan, to the miracle at Midway and the relentless vortex of Guadalcanal, their solemn oaths to their country later led one to the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot and the others to the coral strongholds of Peleliu, the black terraces of Iwo Jima, and the killing fields of Okinawa, until at last the survivors enjoyed a triumphant, yet uneasy, return home.

In The Pacific, Hugh Ambrose focuses on the real-life stories of the five men who put their lives on the line for our country. To deepen the story revealed in the miniseries and go beyond it, the book dares to chart a great ocean of enmity known as The Pacific and the brave men who fought. Some considered war a profession, others enlisted as citizen soldiers. Each man served in a different part of the war, but their respective duties required every ounce of their courage and their strength to defeat an enemy who preferred suicide to surrender. The medals for valor that were pinned on three of them came at a shocking price - a price paid in full by all.

©2010 Hugh Ambrose (P)2010 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
  • Howard
  • Cincinnati, OH, United States
  • 03-28-10

Big let down

I have 59 Audiobooks in my library, many of which
dealing with the Marines and battles in this book. Having finished listening to it yesterday, "The Pacific" is without a doubt the most confusing and poorly narrated of all.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great story - poor narration

The narration of this book misses on many counts. The reader's monotone voice hides the emotion that should be the center of this tale. There is no clear organization of the telling, chapters flow together like a runon sentence.

I believe another reader would make this story come alive.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

So Vivid It Left Me Breathless

In the forward the author makes it clear that this book has a different approach from other approaches to narrating history. This is not a comprehensive book about the war in the Pacific in its entirety. Nor is it a detailed account of a particular battle. It’s not the experience of one person. Instead it is the intertwined story of five men – collectively they experienced many of the war’s vast trials.

I found the narration to be clear and straightforward. It does not need a great deal of inflection – the writing is so vivid it stands on its own. In part one I found myself breathing hard as I listened to what it was like to be a dive bomber pilot rolling into a seventy degree dive raining down on a Japanese carrier at the battle of Midway. I felt revolted at the recount of enduring a Japanese POW camp on The Philippians. When I heard the detailed incredible struggle of John Basalone’s machine gun battle on Guadalcanal I was speechless. It just keeps going on and on – I was amazed.

A few warnings will make sure you enjoy this book. First, I did initially find it confusing when the narrator switches from story to story. I relaxed and told myself the confusion was part of my own vicarious experience. About one third of the way through I was familiar enough with the stories to make that issue go away. Second, the stories all start out with very great detail about some of the things you might not consider essential, but can be fascinating. Examples include: How do carrier pilots find their way back to the carrier? When firing a Browning water-cooled machine gun, fire in bursts, not a stream – the barrel will overheat. If you listen carefully, you really have a good grasp on what happens later.
I’ve read (listened) to a lot of books about history and conflict.

The approach taken in this book is fresh and enjoyable. The stories are important. The stories of these men need to be recounted and from many different angles. We ought never forget.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Walt
  • Lompoc, CA, United States
  • 01-10-11

Great Book -- Terrible Narration

The material is very good, but I find myself looking forward to the end because of the narration. There is no emotion, inflection, and it seems he's only reading, not living the story.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Louis
  • Valrico, FL, USA
  • 04-01-10

Extremely Poor Narration

I had high hopes as well as others had I'm sure, but I find myself fighting to stay awake during the narration of this book. I've listened to quite a few audiobooks, "Helmet for my Pillow", who is one of the soldiers in this book, and would have liked this to have had some of that emotion. I have to have the strongest cup of coffee to even stay awake during this. I believe I'll just settle for reading the book when I get a chance and watching the series on television, which is a shame.

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

I am glad I did not read the reviews first

In a nutshell - I enjoyed it.

I happened to hear about this book when I was looking for something to put on my ipod touch. I had not seen the miniseries yet.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the narration. Yes it was long, but since I got in in 35 minute commute sessions, I found myself looking forward to the commute.

It took me a month to listen to it, but I feel it was well worth the time and effort.

If I read the reviews, I might not have listened. I am glad I did.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • LCH
  • Hays, KS
  • 03-16-10

Great companion to the HBO miniseries!

I'm about two-thirds through with this lengthy work, and am becoming impressed how well the individual stories integrate. I watched the first episode of the HBO series, and found that the book substantially enhanced my enjoyment of the installment, which would otherwise already been quite high!

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Robin Bird
  • Central Square, NY United States
  • 08-20-12


Ambrose has always been a favorite author of mine. This book is another excellent portrayal of military history. The reading was well done and the story is captivating. Another excellent book by a fantastic author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A great read

I enjoyed the book very much, learning a great deal about WWII, the Marines involvement and basically the zeitgeist of the times. Narration is involving and emotional without being overbearing. I like the format of following 5 different people through the war and their personal experiences.

Without knowing the background of the book, other than its being adjunct to the HBO series, I did not know exactly what I was in for. This book does not give a complete history of the war, but personal accounts that tie stories of the war together. It also leans heavily on the writing of E.B. Sledge and his experiences as a Marine in some horrific battles. 360 degree view of the war is not delivered and some stories depended on what happened in previous battles, encouraging/forcing me to look them up in Wikipedia to understand how they affected the current story (which was enjoyable, mostly). What is gives the listener a very personal feel of the war, the times and what these people overcame (and some did not).

Overall I enjoyed this greatly.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

The Real Story of War

Every American needs to understand the story told in this book. The sacrifices given by these men and women to overthrow barbarity with freedom must never be forgotten.