A thousand people filled the Nash Theatre at
Raritan Community College for the HBO and Verizon,
invitation-only, premier of THE PACIFIC. The ten part series tracks the intertwined real-life journeys of three U. S. Marines John Basilone (Jon Seda),
Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), and Eugene Sledge
(Joe Mazzello) across WW11’s Pacific theatre. Patriotism was in the air!
We learned about war from movies. Few did it well. In the lobby, before the screening of THE PACIFIC part one, real war stories were stirring. Old Iwo Jima, uniformed vets with chest- filled, polished medals, spoke: “Before the troops arrived in Iwo Jima,
I was there. Flares went up all twenty four hours. Why?
The enemy hid in caves and came out like rats. It looked like the Macy’s 4th of July”
A 94 year old Veteran added “The Navy left us with nothing. We’d eat beetles from lunch bags on the dead enemy. That’s what they ate.” A Tin Can Sailor with lingering hate pounded his cane: “Japan has Iwo Jima now!” Another piped: “The Tin Can Sailors is open to all former Navy Personnel. No fees, No dues, You might meet a shipmate.” etc.
On stage, in the theatre, against an immense beige–brown map of the Pacific with Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Peleliu and Cape Gloucester in red, the Leatherneck Pipes and Drum performed. Marine Veterans saluted and marched the American flag with their red John Basilone Detachment Flag. One never forgets Raritan is MOH, Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Marine Gunnery Sergeant, John Basilone territory and all these local vets are heroes.
Loraine Anderson, Director of Corporate Affairs for HBO, superbly co-coordinated the event, and spoke of the mini -series based on parts of books: Helmet for My Pillow, by Robert Leckie; With the Old Breed by Eugene B, Sledge; Chuck Tatum’s book Iwo Jima: Red Blood, Black Sands, etc.
It’s executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks
John Pacifico, the 20 year Chairman of the John Basilone Day Parade Committee, announced the 29th Parade week-end in Raritan begins Friday, September 24.
In part one; the three heroes are introduced with pictures and original interviews with people in the know. Outstanding was WW11 veteran Clint Watters in Oregon; John Basilone’s closest friend and Best Man at his wedding to Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Riggi. His face lit up with pride and knowing.
As Robert Leckie’s Alzheimer’s worsened, he forgot his family but remembered the enemy, again real and coming across his lawn. Told by his son, that image burned thru me. How deep is the unending wound of war in the 20th Century, the bloodiest century of all? When you see the series you’ll know more.
Present were: Raritan and Somerset County legislators, community leaders, State Senator Kip Bateman, Raritan Mayor Jo-Ann Liptak. Anna Louise Bongiovi, Mary Jane Paese, keeper of the Basilone Museum in the Public Library. Bruce Doorly author of Raritan’s Hero ( Basilone’s life) Peter Vitalli, Treasurer of the John Basilone Parade committee, Joe Yuzuik from Jersey Cares, Shirley Kline Bennett, Herb Patullo, The Leckie and Basilone families; Donald Basilone brother of John, spent 20 hours on a Florida train because of weather.
Who can eat one peanut in life? Seeing only one segment feels the same. I want to see more. I want to feel and care. How will my Aunt Lena (Basilone’s wife) be played by the wonderful actress Annie Parisse? Will the truth of their powerful, compatible love be written?
THE PACIFIC premieres Sunday March 14 at 9pm/8C playing every following nine Sunday’s