“The Pacific, Bloody Mary and World War II” : Historical Backstory


The History Behind the Musical South Pacific

While this is a review of a production of the musical, the author, Bruce Chadwick, holds a PhD in history and often lectures on the historical back story of various musicals and plays.

Since South Pacific is set in the Pacific in World War Two, he tells us the actual islands, details etc which form the backdrop of the musical. I thought it was quite interesting.


from the History News Network 4.27.2014


by Bruce Chadwick, PhD

“There are a number of productions of the Oscar Hammerstein – Richard Rodgers musical South Pacific lately. Lincoln Center in New York staged it in 2008 and it was quite successful….It is part renewed interest in a great musical and continued interest in World War II, that has been with us since the 50th anniversary of the war in the 1990s….

“South Pacific” is based on novelist James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” printed in 1948….Michener was a Lt. Commander in the New Hebrides in World War II……

In actual history, the work of the Navy and Seabees, and Michener’s colleagues, paved the way for the Battle of the Coral Sea, but in the book the action stops when that invasion starts. The play also limits the activity to two love stories and camp life, but the book tells a more complete and sprawling story. In real history, the island where the base was located was Espiritu Santo.


The New Hebrides are northeast of Australia. America had to control them to provide a sea route from Hawaii to Australia. Thousands of Naval personnel and Seabees were sent there for that purpose.”


The entire review is here.




The author of the review is Bruce Chadwick, who lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at bchadwick@njcu.edu.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/