Bringing Mulligan Home
The Other Side of the Good War
Dale Maharidge‘s Bringing Mulligan Home: The Other Side of the Good War (PublicAffairs, 2013) is something of a departure from our regular offerings. Normally our authors are established academics specializing in the field of military history. Dale Maharidge, however, is an award-winning journalist who, prior to Bringing Mulligan Home, has had only limited exposure to the subject of the Pacific Theater in World War II. What he does bring however is a personal stake in the topic – his father Steve Maharidge served in the Sixth Marine Division, and took part in the assaults on Guam and Okinawa. As a child and then as a young man, Dale was both enthralled and frightened by his father’s regular accounts of the war – enthralled as a son learning more about his father’s experiences in combat; frightened by the storm of emotions and anger that often accompanied his stories. Inspired to learn more about his father’s service, Dale came to understand how Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury shaped his father’s post-war life, as well as that of the dozen other Marines he interviewed who served alongside him.
Though written in a journalistic style, Dale Maharidge reserves the bulk of the text for the personal testimony of his twelve interview subjects. The account they weave spares no word or emotion as it offers a harsh testimony of the power and violence of the Pacific War. The collected narratives present a visceral account of combat that rivals Eugene Sledge’s classic With the Old Breed, while also bearing witness to John Dower’s conclusions in his groundbreaking monograph, War Without Mercy. While the book does occasionally lag, caught up in inconsistencies and missed conclusions, in the larger perspective these flaws are minor. Bringing Mulligan Home captures the ugly, nightmarish side of the Pacific War, but never at the expense of the humanity of his father, or his compatriots (well, there is one exception – but more on that in the interview).