Two Legionnaires got a special look at the new HBO series "The Pacific," which focuses on World War II's Pacific Theater of Operations,at the White House with President Obama. National Archives

Legionnaire: HBO series 'pretty accurate'

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Dick Eldridge was a hospital corpsman with the Seabees in World War II, while Karl Koles served as a yeoman in the Marshall and Gilbert islands. Both 84-year-old men were guests of President Obama Thursday at the White House to watch an advance screening of the HBO series, "The Pacific," which chronicles the bloody, island-hopping combat that American troops endured from Guadalcanal to Okinawa in World War II.

"Being invited to the White House - that was one of the great highlights of my life," said Koles, a member of Post 108 in Cheverly, Md. "Eldridge and I were the only World War II veterans there."

"President Obama came right over and shook our hands, and we had a little conversation with him. He asked us where we had served, and he also thanked us for serving at a time when America really needed us," Koles said that meeting the president was "a very sincere moment. It wasn't just one of these ‘shake your hand and move on down the line' kinds of things."

Eldridge, a member of Post 248 in Oxen Hill, Md., said Obama came into the White House screening room with actor Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg - key members of the production team for "The Pacific" and the earlier "Band of Brothers" series.

"Mr. Obama went through each aisle and greeted everyone who was there, chair by chair," Eldridge said. "And when he shook hands with us, he used both hands and thanked us for doing our duty in wartime. It was a hearty, welcoming handshake."

Although the two World War II veterans did not get to meet Hanks or Spielberg, they got another warm welcome from Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "He came over to us, shook our hands, and gave us each a JCS coin," Eldridge said. Koles said that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was sitting right next to him.

Koles and Eldridge watched one hour of the first episode in the series and said they were quite impressed by the production, which premieres Sunday on HBO.

"When the movie started, I got all tingly, because I knew it was going to be about all of us who went through that experience," Eldridge said. "I thought it was pretty accurate on how the Pacific War was fought. How they landed on the island, how it was real quiet for a while, and then all hell broke loose."

Eldrige said he would definitely recommend the film to his fellow Legionnaires.

Earlier in the day, Hanks and Spielberg spoke to a crowd at the World War II Memorial in Washington, honoring about 250 veterans gathered there for their service to America.

"The Pacific" series focuses on the lives of three U.S. Marines fighting their way through several battles, including Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Research for the program was based mainly on two books: "With the Old Breed" by Eugene Sledge, and "Helmet for My Pillow" by Robert Leckie.


  1. I saw the first installment last night and found it to be most interesting, and pretty much dwelling on the historical aspects of WWII and the WHY of it. I have to disagree with the commentor who was upset because, as he claimed, Tom Hanks said it was a 'racist' war. Actually, Hanks is quite correct, and if you look at ANY of the propaganda put out about the Japanese during the era, it was indeed 'racist' up to and INCLUDING how the AMERICANS who were of Japanese descent were treated. As 'racist' as Japanese were about us. IF you simply watch the film series for what it is, historical war information as seen through the eyes of people who fought and many died doing so, then you will be, in my humble opinion, watching some very scared, yet very brave young men fighting an enemy who refused to honor others who they may have taken prisoner (killed them) or treated them like cattle and slaves, because they did not recognise the Geneva Conventions and were not a signing party to them.
  2. I was angered over repeated remarks that Tom Hanks recently made in which he alledges the US war against Japan was because of RACISM.He stated that the US was out to "kill them all".Hanks decided to leave out the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, or that the racist US rebuilt Japan after the war, and fought the KOrean and VIetnam Wars.He left out the Bataan Death March,the occupation of Korea for 45 yrs during which countless war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed, the torture/experimentation on US troops (referred to as logs),numerous war crimes in the Philipines and everywhere they invaded. WHy? because the Imperial Japanese believed all non-Japanese were inferior and not worthy of consideration.I watched Pacific for 20 or so minutes, and than changed the channel.I could NOT watch something produced by someone who makes these kinds of anti-American attacks.Others "claim" that he supports the troops, maybe so. But these attacks negate any good he may have done in the past
  3. There was some racism by some of the American service members in WWII. That is true then and a claim could be made that there is some racism amongst the military today. That said, the Japanese did act with a lot of racism too. The inhumane treatment that the Japanese inflicted upon POWs, the harsh occupation that the Japanese inflicted on the populations in many of the countries that they controlled and the (mistaken) beliefs about their own inherent superiority in military matters (Guadalcanal, Coral Sea and Midway) cost them many a battle.
  4. I am proud to be a member of The American Legion. These two Legionnaires represent what is great about our country and for The American Legion to honor them by enabling them to attend a screening of The Pacific at the White House is the least we can do as a nation to thank them. Good job Legion!
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