Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Pacific-An Introspection

This weekend the HBO mimi-series The Pacific a ten part 600 minute tribute to those who fought in a series of campaigns that in the words of Richard B. Frank, author of Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle, is an "Overdue Pacific War Prospective." I would urge everyone to set aside time over the next three months to travel back and join the young men who plunged into a caldron of war, fought on a scale not seen in modern times.

off loading a tank

Landing at Tulagi Island

My family feels a special affinity and pride that HBO, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg have produced this long overdue tribute to the men who fought against a determined foe across half the planet's surface, because my father, Jay B. Wade was a young sailor who served aboard the USS Zeilin APA-3 one of the transports that delivered the 3rd Marine Defense Battalion onto Tulagi Island. . The "Mighty Z" as she was known stuck fast to her duty to get her charges ashore and secure, before withdrawing to resupply and return again and again during the course of the campaign; bringing supplies and reinforcements, then evacuating the wounded and survivors of the naval battles in the surrounding waters.

Damaged HMAS Canberra

One thing not really mentioned when discussing Guadacanal, is that the United States Navy lost more sailors in the naval battles in the waters off shore, than the total number of Marines and soldiers lost in six months of land combat. The Navy lost 2 carriers, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, 14 destroyers and several transports and support ships in the six month campaign to wrest the Solomon Islands from the Japanese Empire. The men of my fathers ship were present on the first night of the invasion to wittness the Battle of Savo Island, where they watched the worst defeat in US Naval history unfold a few miles across the bay. Then take onboard survivors of the battle before sailing to Noumea, New Calidonia on August 9, 1942.

Landing the Marines
ENEMY AIR ATTACKS ON THE TRANSPORTS forced a delay in unloading operations, but caused only light damage 7 August. This Japanese Mitsubishi "Hap" was flying fighter cover for the aircraft whose bombs are seen exploding off the stern of the transport. White streaks are wakes of landing craft scattering for safety.

I have written some about my father and how I came to learn of his service during World War II on this blog. Thanksgiving Tribute to My Dad, Why I Joined the Navy and Watchtower and Memories of My Father. The service experience of those who carried and cared for those Marines and soldiers has been mostly missing from the narrative, along with the role of those support ships that made each island conquest possible. In my quest to research my fathers legacy, I discovered that the USS Zeilin was the subject of an oral history published by Infinity Publishing as Attack Transport: The USS Zielin in World War II-An Oral Hisory. Learning of about this little piece of my family history prompted me to write about the Zielin and her sister ships in this article for Military History Online.

USS Zeilin
As I close out this post. Think of those men who gave their lives and for most, the chance to pass their physical legacy along to the next generation. We owe it to not only those who survived, but to those lost souls and their parents who mourned their loss, to pause and pay tribute by watching, reading and pondering the sacrifice of generations of Americans.

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