[PICS] ‘The Pacific’ premieres aboard USS Missouri
‘Pacific’ premiere draws mainly military audience
Photos by Cindy Ellen Russell / email@example.com
Randi Jeung greeted actors James Badge Dale, right, Jon Seda and Joe Mazzello with lei upon their arrival at the Hawaii premiere party for “The Pacific” held aboard the USS Missouri.
By Burl Burlingame
You know it’s going to be an excellent event when you’re greeted not by a scowling person with a checklist, but by a smiling young chap with an ice-cold Heineken on a serving tray.
“The Pacific” is HBO’s gazillion-dollar gamble that it hopes audiences will embrace the way they did “Band of Brothers” eight years ago, except that this limited series is more episodic and far more brutal than the earlier one. The war in the Pacific had a racial and class-hatred undertone that is difficult to talk about — even today, some 65 years later — and so HBO is doing its best to make the series a must-see event.
You start the campaign by word of mouth, and so HBO has been holding lavish rollouts around the country. Thursday’s premiere was held aboard the fantail of the USS Missouri, the battleship newly refinished after half a year in drydock. The “Pacific” premiere is the first event held there since the battlewagon has remoored at Ford Island.
The crowd stood as the Marine Corps Band played at the premiere screening of The Pacific aboard the USS Missouri.
The audience consisted of military, both active and retired — with a smattering of WWII vets — plus local museum, film and political poobahs.
The rollout featured plenty of excellent food, giveaway swag such as crewcaps and an open bar. A military band played, and then everyone trooped up the gangway to Mighty Mo’s fantail to see the first episode of the 10-hour series.
Leo Mullen, 89, was a Navy corpsman and veteran of four of the most vicious campaigns in the Pacific — Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima. He’s in the islands staying with daughter Judy, who said he never, ever talks about the war. Until this week.
“It WAS brutal,” Mullen recalled. “On Iwo Jima alone, 371 corpsmen and 71 doctors were killed, and they were non-combatants. What I mostly recall, though, was our boys laid low by disease. Malaria. Dysentery. As many casualties from disease as from the enemy. Very disheartening.”
Mullen shook his head. He was in a 105mm howitzer battalion of the 1st Marine Division, one of the units left stranded on Guadalcanal when the Japanese drove off the US fleet.
“It was pretty rough,” he said. “No ammo got ashore. I wonder if the film will show that?”
Judy Mullen said, “I didn’t know that.”
“Even if we keep it in for all these years, there’s no forgetting,” mused the elder Mullen.
Richard Costick, who works with the USS Missouri, doubted the film would completely, accurately portray the long-ago era.
“It’s a period of time we’ll never be able to go back to. However, it’s good it’s on HBO and can get away from censorship. Nobody likes war and nobody hates it more than the people who fight it.”
Colin Chang provided vintage flavor dressed as a 1944 Iwo Jima Marine.
World War II re-enactor Mark Chun, however, noted that “it is about time someone recognized the heroes who fought the Pacific War. So much attention is paid to the European war.”
After comments from HBO and USS Missouri executives, and the inevitable appearance of the mayor — “Everyone likes watching a good Mufi!” — the first episode of “The Pacific” unreeled and the audience was transported back into that terrible, desperate time.
A cold rain was falling as the film ended and the audience, now sober and quiet, filed out of the battleship’s gangway.
“It brought back a lot, a whole lot,” said Mullen. “Of course, the jungle was worse, you can’t feel the nastiness of the running sores, or the shoes rotting off your feet, but — those Japanese charges, right into the guns … that was how they did it. Just like that. Horrible.
“I did my part. That’s all I can say. We went through it because it had to be done, and we did it, and then we came home to start over. And we didn’t talk about it.”
And Leo Mullen, with daughter Judy holding his arm, with cold raindrops beading their freebie “Pacific” ballcaps, shuffled off into the night and the memories he keeps to himself.
About 500 guests were on hand for the Hawaii premiere of “The Pacific” on Thursdsay.
A jeep equipped with a 50-caliber machine gun was part of the scene.