April 4, 2010 in Features

War is hell, and humor

Lynn Elber Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Dr. Sidney Phillips
(Full-size photo)

Dr. Sidney Phillips is the voice of the men of “The Pacific,” HBO’s World War II miniseries.

He’s the survivor among the drama’s four central figures, with the others claimed by the war or the decades that followed.

Phillips, 85, who was 17 when he enlisted in the Marines the day after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, endured four months of brutal fighting on Guadalcanal and joined in the invasion of another Pacific island, New Britain.

He returned to Mobile, Ala., where he raised three children with his wife, Mary, who died in 2000.

“The Pacific,” with actor Ashton Holmes as the young Pfc. Phillips, airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. through May 16.

Q: What is your best memory of that chapter of your life, and what is your worst?

A: There was so much comedy, there was so much joking, there was so much insulting one another … I still don’t know if the public understands that foolishness and nonsense were very important. I think men hid behind that, rather than to say, “I’m scared to death.”

I really think the worst memory was the living conditions – the standing in line for two tablespoons of beans and a tablespoon of corned beef for four hours on a troop ship. … There were two meals a day, and that went on for weeks and weeks and weeks. Then, when we got ashore, we had a whole regiment, which is 3,500 men, with dysentery, diarrhea and no toilet paper. If there hadn’t been an ocean there, we would have been in serious trouble.”

Q: If such a devastating attack like Pearl Harbor were to happen today, could our young people rise up to the challenge as your generation did?

A: I believe they would. I certainly hope they would. People ask me frequently what do I think about the series in general, and I say I hope it will revive patriotism and bring back teaching history to the young people, and what a wonderful country it is and how much blood it has taken to bring us to where we are.

The birthday bunch

Author Maya Angelou is 82. Actor Craig T. Nelson is 66. Actress Christine Lahti is 60. Producer David E. Kelley is 54. Actor Hugo Weaving is 50. Comedian David Cross is 46. Actor Robert Downey Jr. is 45. Actress Nancy McKeon is 44. Singer Jill Scott is 38. Magician David Blaine is 37. Actress Natasha Lyonne is 31. Actress Jamie Lynn Spears is 19.

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