The battle on Peleliu Island continues. The Marines have captured the airfield but now must root out Japanese soldiers holed up in an elaborate scheme of more than 500 caves—something U.S. Intelligence knew nothing about. It’s grueling work, a campaign that would last 30 days, around-the-clock. It’s October, 1944.
As Sledge continues to write about his experiences on the pages of his Bible we see how the war is inevitably changing his personality. The well-respected Capt. Haldane tells him he “can’t dwell on it,” but is soon killed by a sniper. Sledge attempts to walk further into a dark place when he moves to cut out the gold teeth of a dead enemy, just as Snafu had done before. But Snafu, perhaps seeing that Sledge may turn into what he himself has become, stops him—another interesting scene between the two Marines as they struggle for their sanity in an insane setting. Even the stalwart Gunny is disabled, succumbing to shellshock.
While engaging a Japanese bunker, PFC Leydon is injured. With grenades, rifle fire and flamethrowers, the enemy is forced out, but one attacks Sledge with a Samurai blade before Sledge can shoot him. The Japanese credo of never surrendering becomes the bane of the entire Pacific War.
At the risk of being a broken record, enough cannot be said about the care put into the authenticity of The Pacific. Not since HBO’s Deadwood has a TV production spent so much effort into making it real, an effort that’s paying off.
Basilone, still in the states on his war bond tour, takes his aggression out on golf balls while spending an intense day on the driving range, battle images running through his mind. His restlessness is evident. Coming attractions show that he reenlists and returns to action. Good. His character is crucial to telling this story.
This extremely grim episode receives some dark comedy relief when a Marine who steps into a cave to take a crap is suddenly chased out by a screaming Japanese soldier while the Marine’s pants are around his ankles and he’s yelling, “Shoot him! Shoot him!” which they eventually do. It leads to laughter all around while the Marine stands with a pair of soiled trousers. “Ah, shit. I fucking shit myself!”
When the battalion returns to the sanctuary of Pavuvu Sledge is stunned by the sudden appearance of nurses in starched white uniforms handing out orange juice. The contrast, not only between the men and the nurses, but also between the Sledge who first arrived to Pavuvu months ago and the Sledge who stands there now, is striking.