What it sounded like

They Call It Pacific

In recent weeks I've been re-reading Clark Lee's "They Call it Pacific." The book describes the first phases of the U.S.'s entry into World War II from Lee's perspective as an Associated Press reporter first in Shanghai, then in the Philippines. Lee, as I may have mentioned elsewhere, escaped Manila just short of midnight on New Year's Eve, 1941, on the same boat as Melville Jacoby and his wife, Annalee. Thus Lee's narrative of the war's first years -- particularly his description of those first few months after Pearl Harbor -- provides an important base for my work on Mel's life. The read has been thought-provoking aside from those passages about Mel. At some future point I look forward to writing about some of the tangents Lee's book has led me along, not the least of which being my discovery of his involvement in the Tokyo Rose controversy (It's so easy to learn so much about other subjects while doing research like this). For now, I thought I'd share a terrific passage I read this afternoon that powerfully captures the experience of enduring regular bombing raids. The raids Lee describes here took place in early January, 1942, as he and Mel and Annalee waited on the island fortress of Corregidor for the next phase of their journey away from the Philippines.

"...Then would come the noise of the bombs falling. The bombs didn't screech or whistle or whine. They sounded like a pile of planks being whirled around in the air by a terrific wind and driven straight down to the ground. The bombs took thirty years to hit. While they were falling they changed the dimensions of the world. The noise stripped the eagles from the colonel's shoulders and left him a little boy, naked and afraid. It drove all the intelligence from the nurse's eyes and left them vacant and staring. It wrapped a steel tourniquet of fear around your head, until your skull felt like bursting. It made you realize why man found he needed a God."


This is what war sounded like. This is what war sounds like.