Audiobook Review: Bringing Mulligan Home

mullA heartfelt thank you to Audiobook Jukebox and HighBridge Audio for sharing this title with us. I have to say that I knew that Bringing Mulligan Home was a book that would share the Pacific war stories of the men of Love Company, but I didn’t realize how much it would affect me.

In his efforts to unearth what troubled his father about an old wartime photograph, author Dale Maharidge began a discovery process that would take 12 years. The photograph in question was of the author’s father, Sgt. Steve Maharidge, and fellow soldier Herman Mulligan. This item seemed to haunt the retired Veteran, but the reason for this was not clear. What resulted from the author’s quest to determine the source of his father’s pain was a narrative that offers readers a new glimpse of the Battle of Okinawa. By researching the stories of his father and Herman Mulligan, Dale Maharidge not only listened to the stories of many Veteran Marines, but he gave them the long overdue opportunity to share the high cost of war.

First, a little history for you regarding the fight on Okinawa, with thanks to Wikipedia:

Excerpts from Wikipedia:

The Battle of Okinawa was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland.

The battle has been referred to as the “typhoon of steel” in English, and tetsu no ame (“rain of steel”) or tetsu no bōfū (“violent wind of steel”) in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Japan lost over 100,000 soldiers, who were either killed, captured or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of local civilians were killed, wounded, or committed suicide. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender just weeks after the end of the fighting at Okinawa. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Okinawa

To be a little more specific, there were 150,000 civilian deaths on Okinawa. There were over 12,000 U.S. soldier deaths. There were over 110,000 Japanese soldier deaths.

What becomes readily apparent in Bringing Mulligan Home is the gruesome ferocity of the battle. The fighting was relentless, as were the deaths. Too many of the men who were sent to fight were in their late teens. Too many of the men were asked to serve repeatedly. Too many soldiers on both sides of the fight lost their lives. Those who didn’t were either injured or affected in such damaging psychological ways that they would never be the same for their families.

And how in the world could these men have escaped mental scars? I listened in horror to men recounting their experiences on the battlefield. These men bore witness to atrocities that no one should have stored in their memories. Murder. Suicides. Children slain. Grenades being tossed into caves. Japanese soldiers using civilians as cover. Americans taking “souvenirs” from the battlefield, such as swords, pistols and gold teeth from their enemies. How can anyone emerge from such a situation in tact? More importantly, what is being done to support soldiers (past and present) when they return? Let’s be clear – war follows these people home.

The people who were faced with the forever-changed soldiers were those who the soldiers needed the most: their families. Dale Maharidge wanted to figure out why his father returned from World War II so angry. He wanted to determine what haunted him, and what followed him. By visiting surviving Veterans, the author not only peeled some of the layers of the story back, but he got some men talking who had never breathed a word about their experiences before. Some of these men can move you to tears. Some are heroes. One in particular, is not. Regardless, you can’t help but admire Dale Maharidge for his determination. 12 years is a long time to devote to the truth.

After recounting several stories from survivors, Bringing Mulligan Home then takes the time to share some of the experiences of the people of Okinawa. The author traveled to Okinawa to see some of the war sites first hand, and speak to various members of families of Japanese soldiers. Some of the people he met were actual survivors of the Battle, having only been children when the horrors of war took place. So many families had to flee their homes. So many were in grave danger by the hands of their own soldiers. The meetings were touching. The conversations were sincere. The sentiment radiated from both sides: no more war.

I learned a great deal about the Battle of Okinawa, albeit the author humbly advises that if we want to know more, there are a several sources that we can use. Personally, I think that hearing the stories of the men who were there does more for history than perusing a textbook. What I came away with after listening to this audiobook was a much greater understanding of the Battle, and of the soldiers. For that, I thank the author. His devotion to the truth was remarkable, and he was tireless in its pursuit. This book is the ultimate tribute to the soldiers who served.

The author notes at the end that it would take 100 years to get rid of all of the unexploded bombs that are still on Okinawa. He also notes that his narrative is a departure from a history text, as there is a marked difference between a written round-up of those who perished in war, and actually learning their stories. In Bringing Mulligan Home, Dale Maharidge does just that.

No more war.

This audiobook was narrated by Pete Larkin, and I found him to be the perfect choice. His character voices were distinct, and he breathed emotion into the book at every appropriate moment. He did the book terrific justice, and I would certainly look for his work again.

5 stars for Bringing Mulligan Home, and a special thanks to the author for this very special book. And a very special thanks to the men and women who risk everything when they serve.

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