As HBO prepares for a fitting marathon of "The Pacific" on Memorial Day weekend, star Joe Mazzello said the horrors portrayed in the network's stunning mini-series about the hardships WWII vets had to endure as they served their country are still seared into his memory.
"It was actually even worse in real life, far worse that you saw on screen," said Mazzello when asked if there was exaggeration in the gruesome battle scenes.
"There were things we had to take out of the show because of budget or logistical reasons. We couldn't show the total reality."
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Many of these lessons became clear to him as he researched and shot his role as Pfc. Eugene Sledge.
For example, the producers had no way to show a major problem Marines faced -- that locals on the island of Okinawa were told by the Japanese soldiers that Americans were cannibals and ate their captured prisoners.
"That was a huge problem the Marines had," said Mazzello. "The locals were so afraid of the Americans that they would rather die and throw themselves and their children off of massive cliffs into the ocean."
"That was in the original script, but we couldn't find a way to get into the show," he added. "The war in the Pacific was so brutal that it's hard to comprehend."
Mazzello's own grandfather, who died while his grandson was shooting the series, fought in the Pacific for four years. But most of the stories he told of the war were of the light-hearted moments between battles. He never dwelled on the horrors.
"I had no idea the other side, the true experience that he had," Mazzello said. "I had no idea how brutal it really was. I don't know how that man could have experienced that and still remained the person he was. How did he find a way to live a normal life? That always strikes me now."