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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War
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Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  4,175 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
The nightmares began for William Manchester 23 years after WW II. In his dreams he lived with the recurring image of a battle-weary youth (himself), "angrily demanding to know what had happened to the three decades since he had laid down his arms." To find out, Manchester visited those places in the Pacific where as a young Marine he fought the Japanese, and in this book ...more
Paperback, 401 pages
Published April 12th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published 1979)
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Best Non-fiction War Books
101st out of 966 books — 1,383 voters
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8th out of 142 books — 181 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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M. D.  Hudson
Feb 21, 2013 M. D. Hudson rated it it was ok
Here you have a tight, well-wrought first-hand account of a Marine’s experience at the Battle of Okinawa rendered in about 40 pages scattered throughout a nearly-400 page book. But it might be worth it, depending on your interest in the subject. When Manchester sticks to events that actually happened, he is taut and has a knack for turning a good descriptive phrase. As most combat veterans are, Manchester is self-deprecatory, but at his best, this doesn’t seem forced or inauthentic. For ...more
Erik Graff
Dec 09, 2012 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWII vets & fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
I am a sucker for emotional manipulation. I cry when I'm supposed to at movies or in the course of novels, tearing up at even the foreshadowing of tragedy or selfless nobility. It works too for the kinds of histories Manchester has written of the United States of America: his books on MacArthur, on social history, on Kennedy, on--as here--himself. He even, and this is more remarkable as I do not laugh so easily as I weep, pulls me into his sense of irony, of humor.

This book as at once a history
Aug 08, 2011 Gayle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, the story of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini’s experiences as a POW in Japan during WWII, I realized that my education about that war was sadly lacking when it comes to the Pacific theatre. I was not certain why, considering my total fascination with that era that I concentrated on the war in Europe. After all, I had a cousin who was killed in Okinawa, and a brother-in-law who served there shortly after the war. I hate to admit it, but Manchester’s expl ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Wanda rated it did not like it
Except for the part about Okinawa I would have given this a "0." Just terrible--inaccuracy after inaccuracy on every page. It's inconceivable to me that this man is a historian. But more than that, it is filled with fabricated incidents, recounted in great detail, as if the author had participated in them. It's only in a note at the end of the book that the reader learns that the author did not serve on Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Peleliu, or Iwo Jima. He only served on Okinawa--and that's more than ...more
carl  theaker
Nov 04, 2015 carl theaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
Manchester presents three perspectives in this look back at his days as a Marine sarge in the Pacific Theater. He gives a good overall history of events interspersed with tales of his contemporary (late 1970s) visit to the islands where he fought, which are then interspersed with memories of his adventures as an educated, young marine.

These angles make the book a good introduction to the war in Pacific, a little of everything. Manchester was a renown historian of his day, 60s-70s, with popular
Aug 14, 2012 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: absolutely everyone
I just lost a review of this book which I spent 2 hours working on; I put more effort into reviewing this book than I have for any other book, because "Goodbye, Darkness" is in my top 5 "best books of all time." I'm not up to recreating the whole thing right now, but this book is truly incredible. Manchester is an excellent writer whose work is always intelligent while remaining utterly accessible, and who epitomizes the writing dictum "show, don't tell" so well, particularly here, it literally ...more
Maria Mazzenga
Aug 10, 2008 Maria Mazzenga rated it really liked it

A literary and honest memoir of Manchester's service in the Pacific during WWII.

Manchester is a weird guy--he's got a penchant for talking about feces and sex--but somehow this tendency is what raises this book above Band of Brothers level hackdom. For example, he recounts a moment where the Japanese and the Americans are squaring off against each other on Tarawa or some other godforsaken Pacific island; two dogs run out to the middle of the battlefield and start mating. Both sets of soldiers ar
Manchester could make anything readable. If only this one were true: Manchester wasn't at all those battles; he relied on newspaper and buddy accounts, but presents them all in the first person. Impossible to separate the fiction from the fact, but a damn good read.
Nov 26, 2008 Peter rated it it was amazing
I'm not a war buff- far from it. But this highly personal memoir from Churchill and MacArthur's biographer is simply one of the greatest books I have ever read. It describes in often unpleasant detail the author's experience fighting in the Pacific Theater during WWII, from Tarawa to Okinawa. If war is a necessary evil in the world, reading this novel should be necessary reading. I bought a second copy so I will always have one to loan.
Aug 26, 2007 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, memoir
Goodbye, Darkness is a memoir of a Marine's journey through the Pacific, once during World War II and again in the late 1970's as a journalist and historian.

It is a wonderfully-written book which shows the madness of war, the ineptitude of mid-level military leadership, and the bond that men in combat forge.

This bond is a central theme that connects the author to his father -- a Marine who fought in World War I -- as well as to his buddies on the Pacific battlefields that led to the downfall of
Feb 20, 2013 T-bone rated it it was ok
This book was borderline deceitful. Only at the very end does the author reveal that he only fought at Okinawa. He should have just written a memoir about Okinawa and cut the unsourced 350 page history of the entire Pacific campaign in which he implied he participated in every battle. When he did discuss his direct experiences it was good. I particularly enjoyed the account of his failed attempts to lose his virginity and the description of the first time he killed someone which opened the book. ...more
Dec 17, 2007 James rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Adults
Somewhat overwrought in places, and some of the ideas presented have become truisms to such an extent that they're becoming cliched - e.g. the revelation that people fight for their fellow soldiers, Marines, sailors, or airmen, rather than for the flag, Mom and apple pie. Still, Manchester was an excellent historian, and this is based on his own experiences as a young Marine in some of the worst of the fighting aginst Japan in the Pacific. For anyone interested in an intensely personal narrative ...more
Feb 01, 2011 Matt rated it it was amazing
Wow...moving, horrifying and humorous account of Marines experiences in the South Pacific during WWII. He provides a frank, and eloquent account of his life leading up to and during his time with the Marines. This is also mixed with his experience of going back to the shores that he fought on 30 years later. then
Charlie Newfell
Feb 19, 2015 Charlie Newfell rated it it was amazing
Powerful memoir of a marine's experiences in the South Pacific. He revisits the battlefields 35 years after the events (written in the late 70's). The war has stayed with him all of those years. The story of the experiences will stay with you.
Jul 29, 2011 Corto added it
Excellent memoir. Rough, tough and raw. Liked it better than EB Sledge's. Though Sledge's was pretty good too...
Probably one of the most heart-felt, and authentic accounts of the Pacific War that I've ever read. The utter lethality of those last island battles really comes home.
Hans Guttmann
Feb 28, 2016 Hans Guttmann rated it it was amazing
A fine memoir of the war in the pacific.
Francis Gahren
Apr 18, 2013 Francis Gahren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military, nonfiction
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.

In typ
Apr 30, 2010 Gary rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: WWII Pacific theater history buffs, Marines, veterans
William Manchester’s Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War is fantastic. Manchester, who served as a Marine sergeant in combat on several islands in the Pacific “island hopping campaign,” including Guadalcanal and Okinawa, as a middle-aged survivor of the vicious fighting makes a trip back to the places where he engaged in mortal combat with the troops of “Dai Nippon” – The Imperial Japanese Empire. He effortlessly weaves together his combat experiences with the larger context of the ...more
Michael David Cobb
Aug 24, 2013 Michael David Cobb rated it really liked it
William Manchester sounds to be the source of much of today's ambivalent confusion about war, and is writing a fact filled, yet soppy emotional memoir / history of compelling stuff. Writing in 1978 or thereabouts, he illustrates perfectly a Me Generation dream sequence which is absent the conviction of necessity. Manchester writes as if, and clearly you can hear it in his articulation, the war was a great revelation to him and thus to everyone. In this regard he displays a kind of shocked ...more
Steve Smits
Aug 22, 2013 Steve Smits rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Manchester, one of the premier writers of the post-war era, was a combat Marine in the Pacific theater. He, along with other members of his unit, was among the comparatively few college students, many from Ivy league schools, who served as enlisted soldiers in the Marines.

Manchester writes a deeply moving memoir of his experiences. He describes the lives of common soldiers who were part of the island-hopping campaigns from Guadalcanal through Okinawa. (He states in the afterword that he
Steve Woods
Apr 30, 2012 Steve Woods rated it really liked it
This is a very personal memoir and I really enjoyed it. Not because it was the best account of fighting in the Pacific I have read or because it was good history but because it was for me, one old soldier sitting with another and hearing his account of what it was like for him. Like many of us who have seen combat, Manchester in his later years was troubled by dreams, and again like many of us he felt that returning to the site of his experiences would somehow help, to complete things, to tie up ...more
Jan 14, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military
William Manchester was among the most popular biographers and historians of the 20th century. His trilogy on Winston Churchill is wonderful, his history of the Age of Exploration (A World Lit Only by Fire) is stirring, and this memoir of his service as a U. S. Marine Sergeant on the Pacific islands in 1944 is a great read. You won’t find scholarly footnotes in most Manchester books, but you will find beautifully crafted stories of his subjects—stories that make them breathe.

This 1980 memoir is a
Dec 21, 2013 Harry rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully conceived and written book about re-integrating and healing the wounds of war. Against the backdrop of the author's personal account of his pilgrimage to the islands of the Pacific theatre of World War Two, a parallel story emerges. That story contains an excellent account of the Pacific War and an accounting of the troops that fought that war, and their mindset and camaraderie of that era.
Disturbing memories of his war come late in life, over thirty years after V-J Day. An
Oct 05, 2015 Fred rated it it was amazing
This is a moving, honest, well written memoir of a Marine in the Pacific Theater of WW2. There are many, many good things about this book and only one small caution. First it is a great idea for a book about the war in Asia. Here is a man, plagued by nightmares from his time as a sergeant in the Marine Corp during some of the most brutal jungle fighting of the war. In dreams his younger self challenges the now middle aged man about what it all means, and why so many died. Manchester knows that ...more
Nov 03, 2013 Larry rated it really liked it
William Manchester was a noted newspaper reporter, biographer and historian. Yet, in the late 1970s he's disturbed by dreams of his younger self as a Marine sergeant in WWII. What disturbs Manchester is not so much reliving combat experiences, as a sense that the young sergeant is disappointed in the soft, chubby sedate man of letters he has become. It's as if the young sergeant is asking what have you done for the past 30 years to make this war time experience worthwhile?

So, Manchester sets out
Nick Johnson
Dec 10, 2011 Nick Johnson rated it really liked it
William Manchester will be more familiar to most history enthusiasts as the author of several seminal volumes concerning the history of the 20th Century. "American Caesar", his magnum opus on the life of Douglas MacArthur is one of my favourites.

This is something of a gear change for Manchester, a tight volume describing his life as a young US Marine in the Pacific War and his trip thirty years later to all the key sites of the War. He took this trip to exorcise the nightmares he was having at
Mar 26, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing
This book came to me after I had read the Churchill series (0ne and two of the trilogy) and I was waiting for number three ( ultimately written by someone else after Manchester's death from his notes).

It has been maybe eight to ten years since I read goodbye darkness. My review has to be general, my remaining feelings for having read it and kept it in my own personal literary background.

I am glad I found it. War gets romanticized. The bravery is real. The goals are of only the best intentions.
David B
Nov 28, 2013 David B rated it liked it
Labeling this book as a memoir is a bit misleading. It is more an old man's travelogue as William Manchester visits WWII battlegrounds in order to come to terms with his experiences as a combat Marine in the Pacific War. There is a lot of description of these sites as they appeared at the time of writing and quite a bit about the local lifestyle. Some of this is interesting and all of it is well-written, but it is not what brought me to the book in the first place.

Manchester's accounts of life o
Dec 08, 2014 Gerry rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
This author is nothing short of brilliant in his previous work on General MacArthur "American Caesar". In this book he is clearly trying to ward off the personal demons that had haunted him from the time of his being wounded and finished with war during the Battle for Okinawa. What is interesting is he follows the Second World War in the Pacific by chronologically attending to each major battlefield/island to which American Marines and Army service men fought. With other well written authors of ...more
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Goodbye, Darkness 4 44 Jun 11, 2014 06:09AM  
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William Raymond Manchester was an American author and biographer, notable as the bestselling author of 18 books that have been translated into 20 languages.He was awarded the National Humanities Medal and the Abraham Lincoln Literary Award.
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