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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War Paperback – Apr 12 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 12 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316501115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316501118
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.9 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #110,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'One of the few truly great memoirs of the Second World War . . . a superb account of the Americans' Pacific island battle against the Japanese threat will become a classic . . . a marvellous book, searingly readable, graphic, thoughtful, rich with atmposphere and feeling, haunted by awful nostalgia and longing, brutally honest, angry and sad, utterly free of false heroics.' (Sunday Express )

'Manchester has done for that greatest of conflicts what Siegfried Sassoon did for the First World War . . . It is a gripping, haunting book.' (William S. Shirer )

'One of the most powerful and disturbing books to come out of World War II.' (Irwin Shaw ) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

William Manchester was a hugely successful popular historian and biographer whose books include The Last Lion, Volumes 1 and 2, Goodbye Darkness, A World Lit Only by Fire, The Glory and the Dream, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, The Death of the President, and assorted works of journalism.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This memoir of fighting in the Pacific Theater was as personal and compelling as I have ever read. Manchester masterfully uses feel, touch, smell, sight, and sound, to capture the imagery of war-making in the Pacific. He combines a superb overview of the history with the very personal touches of his own experiences, so that the reader gets both historical perspective and a powerful sensual effect. He discusses candidly issues of war that are seldom talked about in straight historical discussion. He writes this memoir after returning to the islands in 1978, attempting to restore something lost after fighting there. When finished, you get the feeling you've made the journey with him, experienced something of his pain, and found something also.
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Format: Paperback
About one fourth of this book is dull biography, one-fourth is a mundane travelogue of World War II sites in the Pacific, and one fourth is an interesting history of the Pacific War. The remaining one-fourth consists of some of the best war writing I have ever read and thus "Goodbye Darkness" gets my highest ratings. Manchester has the skill and the insight to express events and emotions far beyond that of the ordinary soldier describing his experiences.
Manchester was a Marine Corps Sergeant in an unorthodox front-line Intelligence unit during WW II. His baptism of fire was Okinawa where he was wounded twice -- once seriously -- during two months of combat. Most of the men in his squad were killed. Manchester strengthens my view that the U.S. Marines in World War II were among the finest combat soldiers that ever existed. But this is not a gung-ho book of combat tales of heroism and sacrifice. Manchester is equivocal about his service with the Marines and in the war. Writing the book was apparently a catharsis for him as he pours out feelings unexpressed for many years.
In the final pages of the book, Manchester gives his insight about the reasons the Marines were capable of taking casualties in excess of 50 percent without ever giving up. First, they had been tempered by the hardships of the depression; secondly, in WW II the whole generation was in the war together -- most of the Marines in his squad were Ivy Leaguers, FDR's sons were in uniform, and the sons of important politicians were being killed alongside the sons of sharecroppers --; and third, nationalism, "the absolute conviction that the United States was the envy of all other nations, a country which had never done anything infamous...." Contrast those examples of why the U.S.
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Format: Paperback
At first, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the style--part memoir, part history, part travelogue--but after a few pages into it, I was hooked.
Some thirty-five years after the end of the war, Manchester embarked on a journey to re-trace the Pacific War and, in a sense, find something he lost there as a Marine who witnessed some of the war's fiercest fighting and shed the darkness that has remained after all those years. He hits all the islands, from New Guinea and Guadalcanal, north to Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, onto Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In the process, he not only describes his travels but also chronicles his own wartime experiences and gives a bit of the history of the theater (with generous attention given to MacArthur); Manchester's range is as intriguing as it is impressive: strategy, tactics, philosophy, history, and literature pepper the narrative.
If there's one word to describe the book, it's "ironic." From his early, thwarted, incomplete sexual encounters (readers beware: these scenes, while brief, are definitely NC-17), to his leaving a hospital to rejoin his unit during Okinawa almost certainly to become a casualty (and indeed, he will be wounded badly enough to be sent home), to how the islands have changed or have not, irony pours from virtually every page.
Aside from some vague and indecipherable allusions and a penchant for using the Gethsemane comparison (sometimes confusingly), this ranks among the very best war memoirs I've read. It's of a very different sort than E. B. Sledge's excellent and straightforward With the Old Breed, but it's no less insightful, no less interesting, no less gripping. I highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War by William Manchester is a personal story of the Pacific War and its effect on an individual marine. Manchester, who is a superlative historical author, intersperses his war experiences from Guadalcanal to Okinawa with his more recent visits to the islands. The book is not a history of the Pacific War, although there is a lot of history in the book, but a very personal story that is played out with the War as a driving force.
Manchester does a remarkable job letting the reader feel what it was like to be a Marine on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and many other battles. His best writing is saved for Okinawa. It is on this island where Manchester was severely wounded. Manchester describes the heroism of the American Marines fighting for inches at the costs of thousands of lives. What is compelling about the book is that Manchester puts the reader in the battle, feeling the feelings of the soldiers.
For those that are interested in the Pacific War, or just want to read a personal account of the a soldier in battle, this book is a must.
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