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

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  5,175 ratings  ·  195 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 e ...more
Paperback, 401 pages
Published April 12th 2002 by Back Bay Books (first published September 17th 1980)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,175 ratings  ·  195 reviews


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M. D.  Hudson
Feb 21, 2013 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 instance ...more
Wanda
May 06, 2012 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 e ...more
Erik Graff
May 09, 2010 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
...more
Nooilforpacifists
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.
carl  theaker
Oct 21, 2015 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 the Pacific, a little of everything. Manchester was a renown historian of his day, 60s-70s, with pop
...more
Kelly
Aug 14, 2012 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
Gayle
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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
Jack
Another WWII Pacific campaign book done. I enjoyed this one even though I usually do not go for memoirs. Guadalcanal, Betio, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa were all discussed. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of Okinawa of which I am woefully uneducated upon. Some of the fiercest fighting occurred during the island campaigns. However these battles were necessary to defeat the air and naval forces of Imperial Japan. I found the discussion an excellent insight into these ruthless actions to conclude W ...more
Maria Mazzenga
Aug 10, 2008 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
...more
T. Fowler
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
This book must have sat on my shelves for over ten years. I finally got around to reading it and regret
now that I had not done so sooner. I now understand why this book must be regarded as one of the classic memoirs of World War 2. The author's story is especially intriguing as he sets out to visit the major battle sites of the US Marines in the Pacific, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa, and describes how they looked long after the war ended. He then takes us back to each of these the battles and r
...more
Peter
Nov 23, 2013 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.

Caveat

There has been
...more
Fergie
Feb 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A deeply profound, moving memoir by a WWII marine who also happened to be a fantastic, successful writer after the war. William Manchester's GOODBYE, DARKNESS: A MEMOIR OF THE PACIFIC WAR often reads like a first person account novel. It's a page turner written with respectful care and insight. Through the pages of the book, the reader sees the evolution of a naïve boy turn man. You feel for Manchester as he begins his search for peace when he goes back to the Pacific islands upon which he had f ...more
Brian Eshleman
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The fourth star borders on being awarded on an emeritus basis because I'm so fond of William Manchester's other work. The narrative could have been more straightforward. Intertwining his experiences as an older man with his memories of his fighting days tended to be distracting. Nevertheless, he is William Manchester, and his capacity to lead the reader into profundity through reflection on daily experiences remains intact.
Roger
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a book! I came to this work thinking that it was the recollections of Manchester's time in the Marines during the War: it is that, but so much more besides. It is a potted history of the island-hopping campaign run by Nimitz, along with a current-day (1980) view of some of the most infamous and bloody battles in history.

Manchester, a veteran of the Battle of Okinawa - where he was seriously wounded - decided in his middle-age to revisit the Pacific, to try and make sense of his time there,
...more
T-bone
Feb 20, 2013 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
Peter
Nov 26, 2008 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.
James Reagan
Jul 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
I had just finished this book and thought it was terrific. Then I read the American Spectator article showing that Manchester faked his heroics. He was in a Marine staff position on Okinawa during the battle. Now I wonder how honest ANY of his other books are.
Andrew Breza
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Goodbye Darkness is simultaneously a memoir of war, an elegy to fallen comrades, and the author's attempt decades later to come to terms with what it all means. Manchester's writing is infused with a stunning disappointment with what America became in the late 20th century. Like his two-volume masterpiece The Glory and the Dream, Goodbye Darkness forces the reader to reckon with what it means to be an American.
Scottnshana
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot of people assail this book because of the battles he describes in it, Manchester only personally fought at Okinawa. I don't agree with this perspective; it would have been impossible to find someone who survived every engagement he describes here--Tarawa, Peleliu, etc.--to get all of them down on paper. If you could find such a person (even right after the war, when there were certainly more of them amongst us), there are few with Manchester's talent to narrate the Pacific War in this mann ...more
David B
Nov 28, 2013 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
...more
Todd
Aug 26, 2007 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
...more
Chad Simons
I really enjoyed the perspective this author took in writing this book. It was written from a revisit to the many battle sites of the pacific, and whether the author was there or not, he transcended into a first person account of the battles, though really focused in on individual stories. The pain and hatred of this author is evident. He doesn't sound like one of the proud soldiers from the greatest generation, and after reading his tales of battle I can picture this guy as a protestor of futur ...more
Tony Ludlow
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
William Manchester was a brilliant and gifted writer and one of my favorite biographers. He was also a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. It is this experience that occupies him in this memoir as he tells of his life as an active duty Marine in the 1940s and then his return trip in 1979 to the islands he fought on in an effort to exorcise the demons of that darkness from the war.

As a Marine myself, I was captivated by his experiences. As a freelance writer and lover of books, I loved r
...more
James
Dec 17, 2007 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
Matt
Feb 01, 2011 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
Jul 17, 2012 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.
Steve
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.
Corto
Jul 29, 2011 added it
Excellent memoir. Rough, tough and raw. Liked it better than EB Sledge's. Though Sledge's was pretty good too...
Hans Guttmann
Feb 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fine memoir of the war in the pacific.
Francis Gahren
Apr 18, 2013 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
...more
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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.
“A man is all the people he has been. Some recollections never die. They lie in one's subconscious, squirreled away, biding their time.” 2 likes
“Inside his second-rate mind, one felt, a third-rate mind was struggling toward the surface.” 2 likes
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