Pearl Harbor, pet rats and Pacific islands: Mobile WWII vet Sid Phillips among 'Voices of the Pacific'

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Apr 5, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe


Dr. Sidney “Sid” Phillips, center, speaks to Marines after arriving at the Mobile Saenger Theatre before the local premiere of the HBO miniseries “The Pacific” on Saturday, March 13, 2010. Phillips is prominently featured in a new book on the experiences of Marines who fought in the Pacific campaign in World War II. (Press-Register file photo)


FAIRHOPE, Alabama – Mobilian Sidney C. Phillips, who became something of a national household name in 2007 thanks to the Ken Burns World War II documentary “The War,” will appear Saturday in Fairhope to celebrate the release of a new book collecting the wartime reminisces of himself and other Marines who served in the Pacific Theater.

Phillips’ wartime experiences (and those of another Mobilian, the late Eugene Sledge) also provided material for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.” Now Phillips and 14 other Marine veterans share their stories in “Voices of the Pacific: Untold Stories from the Marine Heroes of World War II,” a new book by Adam Makos with Marcus Brotherton.

The book’s authors sought to combine the men’s memories into an “oral history” of their experience, “from the Pearl Harbor attack and intense boot camp training, through battles with the Japanese on Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa, to their return home after V-J Day.”

As Makos explains in his introduction, the writers’ goal was to keep themselves out of the story: “In this type of book, the author presents the ‘voices,’ then steps back into the shadows. This is a conversation between you – the reader – and the men.” Consequently, there’s very little narration, just notes to provide context. Each chapter of the book establishes a topic, and presents whatever the subjects have to say about it in a series of vignettes.

That makes “Voices of the Pacific” the kind of book you can pick up, flip open to any page, and dive straight into. Some samples:


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Richard Greer on the shelling that reinforcements on Guadalcanal endured from Japanese ships: “I was in a slit trench at the company command post. Hell, the shells hit so close it’d knock you out of the trench. I’d been tossed out of my damn hole ten to fifteen feet. You would just scramble back like a rat into that hole. It scared the living hell out of you.”

Phillips, on the inhospitable island of Pavuvu, used as a staging area for Marines in the Pacific island campaign: “The place was literally infested with rats. Big rats. Those Norwegian wharf rats. If it was a moonlit night, you could see them running up and down the tent lines. We would name ‘em, and cuss ‘em, but there wasn’t any way of killing them. … After a while you could distinguish which one was which. There was Oscar, and Tommy. They got to be pets: really, really gross pets.”

Jim Anderson, on the cost of war: “To be in combat is a terrible, terrible, terrible thing. It puts a permanent mark on your life and it’s hard to shake. A politician would never declare war if he went through it.”

Chuck Tatum, on the price of freedom: “I generally tell young people that freedom is not free. Somebody paid for us. It’s beholden on everybody to accept their share when danger comes.”

Phillips will sign copies of “Voices of the Pacific” starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 6, at Page Palette, 32 S. Section St. in Fairhope. For more information, visit or call 251-928-5295 .

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