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The Other Side of the Good War

by Dale Maharidge

Pub Date: March 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-58648-999-1
Publisher: PublicAffairs

The story of a distinguished journalist's search for his father's war.

Pulitzer Prize winner Maharidge's (Journalism/Columbia Univ.; Homeland, 2011, etc.) father was a Marine sergeant who fought on Okinawa, where he suffered brain damage in an explosion that killed one of the men in his command, Herman Mulligan. Among the souvenirs the elder Maharidge brought home was an omnipresent photograph of himself and Mulligan, as well as sporadic explosive rages that terrified the author throughout his childhood. Maharidge received no diagnosis or treatment for his injury and refused to talk about the war to the end of his days. After his death, the author, "a person obsessed with the past and what I could not heal," set out to discover the truth about his father's wartime experiences, learn who Mulligan was and, if possible, locate his inexplicably unidentified gravesite. He conducted interviews with almost 30 elderly members of his father's company, and he presents 12 of them at length. He also traveled to Okinawa to visit the site of his father's injury and meet with civilian survivors of the battle in an effort to lay his father’s demons to rest. The result is a moving memoir of the war by someone who wasn't there but who suffered from wartime injuries just as surely as his father had. The veterans' interviews are sensitively conducted, powerful and disturbing, graphic descriptions of brutal and largely unnecessary combat with a suicidally determined enemy, and frank accounts of atrocities committed by both sides. Equally importantly, some also explore the men's difficulties in re-entering civilian life, placing in context the elder Maharidge's often unsuccessful struggles to live with his experiences among people who could not imagine or understand them.

A powerful narrative of the dark side of American combat in the Pacific theater and the persistence of resulting injuries decades after the war ended.