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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

3.9 22
by William Manchester, Barrett Whitener (Read by)

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In this intensely powerful memoir, America's preeminent biographer-historian, who has written so brilliantly about World War II in his acclaimed lives of General Douglas MacArthur (American Caesar) and Winston Churchill (The Last Lion), looks back at his own early life and offers an unrivaled firsthand account of World War II in the Pacific, of what it looked like,


In this intensely powerful memoir, America's preeminent biographer-historian, who has written so brilliantly about World War II in his acclaimed lives of General Douglas MacArthur (American Caesar) and Winston Churchill (The Last Lion), looks back at his own early life and offers an unrivaled firsthand account of World War II in the Pacific, of what it looked like, sounded like, smelled like, and, most of all, what it felt like to one who underwent all but the ultimate of its experiences.

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Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Goodbye, Darkness

By William Manchester

Back Bay Books

Copyright © 1980 William Manchester
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-50111-5

Chapter One

Blood That Never Dried

Our Boeing 747 has been fleeing westward from darkened California, racing across the Pacific toward the sun, the incandescent eye of God, but slowly, three hours later than West Coast time, twilight gathers outside, veil upon lilac veil. This is what the French call l'heure bleue. Aquamarine becomes turquoise; turquoise, lavendar; lavendar, violet; violet, magenta; magenta, mulberry. Seen through my cocktail glass, the light fades as it deepens; it becomes opalescent, crepuscular. In the last waning moments of the day I can still feel the failing sunlight on my cheek, taste it in my martini. The plane rises before a spindrift; the darkening sky, broken by clouds like combers, boils and foams overhead. Then the whole weight of evening falls upon me. Old memories, phantoms repressed for more than a third of a century, begin to stir. I can almost hear the rhythm of surf on distant snow-white beaches. I have another drink, and then I learn, for the hundredth time, that you can't drown your troubles, not the real ones, because if they are real they can swim. One of my worst recollections, one I had buried in my deepest memory bank long ago, comes back with a clarity so blinding that I surge forward against the seat belt, appalled by it, filled with remorse and shame.

I am remembering the first man I slew.

There was this little hut on Motobu, perched atop a low rise overlooking the East China Sea. It was a fisherman's shack, so ordinary that scarcely anyone had noticed it. I did. I noticed it because I happened to glance in that direction at a crucial moment. The hut lay between us and B Company of the First Battalion. Word had been passed that that company had been taking sniper losses. They thought the sharpshooters were in spider holes, Jap foxholes, but as I was looking that way, I saw two B Company guys drop, and from the angle of their fall I knew the firing had to come from a window on the other side of that hut. At the same time, I saw that the shack had windows on our side, which meant that once the rifleman had B Company pinned down, he could turn toward us. I was dug in with Barney Cobb. We had excellent defilade ahead and the Twenty-second Marines on our right flank, but we had no protection from the hut, and our hole wasn't deep enough to let us sweat it out. Every time I glanced at that shack I was looking into the empty eye socket of death.

The situation was as clear as the deduction from a euclidean theorem, but my psychological state was extremely complicated. S. L. A. Marshall once observed that the typical fighting man is often at a disadvantage because he "comes from a civilization in which aggression, connected with the taking of life, is prohibited and unacceptable. "This was especially true of me, whose horror of violence had been so deep-seated that I had been unable to trade punches with other boys. But since then life had become cheaper to me. "Two thousand pounds of education drops to a ten rupee," wrote Kipling of the fighting on India's North-West Frontier. My plight was not unlike that described by the famous sign in the Paris zoo: "Warning: this animal is vicious; when attacked, it defends itself." I was responding to a basic biological principle first set down by the German zoologist Heini Hediger in his Skizzen zu einer Tierpsychologie um und im Zirkus. Hediger noted that beyond a certain distance, which varies from one species to another, an animal will retreat, while within it, it will attack. He called these "flight distance" and "critical distance." Obviously I was within critical distance of the hut. It was time to bar the bridge, stick a finger in the dike-to do something. I could be quick or I could be dead.


Excerpted from Goodbye, Darkness by William Manchester Copyright © 1980 by William Manchester. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

William Manchester (1922-2004) was a professor emeritus of history at Wesleyan University. His best-selling books included The Last Lion, a multivolume biography of Winston Churchill, and American Caesar, a biography of Douglas MacArthur.

Audie® award-recipient Barrett Whitener has been recognized by AudioFile magazine as one of "The Best Voices of the 20th Century."He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Goodbye, Darkness 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Manchester makes you feel as if you are there right from the begining of the book to the end. He writes honestly on what it was like and you feel as if you know all the characters. These are the stories of the simple infantry Marines who really won the Pacific war. One of the best books I have read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Goodbye Darkness is an autobiography tells the story of a retired sergeant who experienced the hardships and turmoil of World War II. William Manchester served as a Marine in the Pacific. In the time that he served he witnessed some of the toughest fighting on many different islands throughout the Pacific. Years later Manchester felt the need to go back to the different battle sites and experience them out of combat. He feels that in doing this he can make his peace and end the reoccurring nightmares he had been having since the wars end .He analyzes his actions and personality that he had as a sergeant and the personality he developed after the war. In Goodbye Darkness , Manchester also takes a look at past conflicts and the lessons he learned from his father, who was a World War I veteran. The author recalls graphic violence and some of the horrific events that he witnessed and tells about how they affected him later in life. Near the end of the book . One major theme that the author stresses is the horrors of battle and war. He states that, ¿ Even the men who aren¿t wounded during war are still casualties.¿ War affects the mental state of everyone who experiences it and each person must prepare themselves for the things that they will do and witness. One thing that Manchester did well in Goodbye Darkness, was the way he described every battle and event in great detail. He describes the layout and terrain of the battle fields he was on as well as the people he met very well . Despite his excellent detail and writing style the author tends to give the reader way more information than needed. Many times during the book he reminisces about childhood memories that are irrelevant or other battles that he didn¿t take part in. Manchester goes off topic many times and it makes Goodbye Darkness a bit hard to follow. I would recommend this book for others to read , because its interesting and informative. However I do feel that there had been better books written that are very similar. If the I had to rate the book I would give it two and a half stars out of five.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am familiar with William Manchester's historical and biographical works. Death of a President, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, The Last Lion I and II, the word 'tome' was created for these books. That's why Goodbye Darkness so intrigued me. How would Manchester approach a memoir? Could Manchester make something very personal to himself, personal to the reader? Would his clinically dispassionate, journalistic style of writing carry into the recounting of his military experience? How would he approach the unapproachable memories of WWII in the Pacific Theater? Could he be as honest with his own memories, as he had been with the lives of the people about which he had written biographies? In typical Manchester style the reader starts with some historical perspective. Manchester tells of his father¿s experience in WWI and his family¿s military roots. Along with this family introduction Manchester sets the scene politically and socially. America is a more Balkanized country with, Segregation, sexual repression, grandfathers who had fought in the Civil War, mothers and fathers living through the Great Depression. Manchester writes of America before the awareness of a global economy and a global responsibility. It is America in a time of simple, God-given, prejudices full of the pleasures of a naïve nation. It is an Euro-centric America where every man has a nickname that introduces him to the rest of the world. Then Manchester blends his trip, in the 1970¿s, to the islands of the Pacific Theater, with the history of the battle¿s fought there, with his own experiences in the USMC. In an effort to maintain his perspective Manchester talks about the Sergeant. The Sergeant is Manchester as a Marine in WWII. The Sergeant is the man who killed. The Sergeant is the man who lost friends. The Sergeant lived in unceasing rain and mud. The Sergeant wondered when and how he¿d die. The Sergeant is the man who hated the enemy. The Sergeant is the man wounded. The Sergeant is the man who returned home to twenty-five years of nightmares. Always, the Sergeant is William Manchester. By creating this character, out of him self and his wartime experience, Manchester can be honest, he can be candid, he is cathartic. Goodbye Darkness is the first of Manchester¿s works I¿ve read where the timeline is incidental, trivial to the human experience. Manchester willingly confesses that his memories of this time in his life are tainted, by injury, by time, and by his decades old struggle to purge them. The fact that after twenty-five years his memories are so intact adds to the trauma of the events. As much as the experiences Manchester had in WWII were traumatic. The author refuses to succumb to maudlin prose. Manchester sprinkles in humorous and human events like his botched attempts to lose his virginity before shipping out. He also outlines the mundane tasks and burdens of the WWII combat Marine. Reading Goodbye Darkness makes other history books seem derivative. When Manchester talks about the Raggedy A-- Marines, the reader is quite sure he coined the term. Finally, Manchester¿s use of the English language and his classical vocabulary, are his ways of honoring the men whom fought and died in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Manchester¿s casual uses of multi-syllabic words, simultaneously distance Manchester from, and draw the reader into the story. His complex sentence structures are a way of forcing the reader to focus on what he has to say. The reader must think as well as feel their way through the battles of Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Siapan, Tinian, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the myriad of unnamed islands in between. William Manchester¿s Goodbye Darkness solidifies, in my mind, his place in the pantheon of writers. This memoir satisfies completely. The level of intimacy the reader shares with the writer becomes more poignant with 2003¿s climate of looming conflict.
Toast More than 1 year ago
This book should resonate with our brave veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manchester has the tools to bring his story directly to the reader and it's amazing how this book is as fresh and thought provoking as it was when it came out in 1979. I am a Retired Naval officer and a combat vet and in my humble opinion this paints war the way it is. The current generation may be cut out of different raw material than the generation who fought world war 2 but there are common elements to be found: courage, loyalty to your buddies, fear, uncertainty and the desire to do something for someone else besides self. My admiration and respect for the world war 2 generation has only deepened since reading this. This book reaches across generations. I have visited all of the venues he fought in during the Pacific war during my career with the US Navy's Pacific Fleet and it's a shame that a very tiny percentage of Americans visit the battlefields in Guadalcanal, Tawara, Peleliu, Saipan, Guam, Philippines, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. I am still in awe of the feat of arms of our Pacific War veterans fighting and winning under such appalling conditions. Americans should be more mindful of this, and should pay proper respect to these veterans by visiting the far flung memorials all over the Pacific.
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