Sailors' memories of war in the Pacific

The Pacific War Remembered, an Oral History Collection, by John T. Mason Jr. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. 368 pp. $28.95. This collection of oral histories has the tension of a Ken Follett novel: secret flights between San Francisco and Pearl Harbor, rescues from deserted islands, aircraft returning from bombing missions, the planning of the raid over Tokyo, the captain who is last to step aboard a life raft. This all sounds like John Ford's film ``They Were Expendable,'' but it is the Navy, telling its story of the Pacific war.

Historian John T. Mason spent five years compiling this oral history, traveling thousands of miles to record the stories of these Navy personnel. Their book is not history but a memory of the war and the small part they played in it. Studs Terkel's ``The Good War'' is an epic by comparison, but Mr. Mason and the men he recorded have gotten a little closer to the truth.

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