The little-known and intense confrontation between the American Marines and Japanese on the island of Peleliu in World War II will be shared by one who experienced and endured it firsthand.
R.V. (Romus Valton) Burgin will speak at the Seventh Annual Louise Young Diversity Lecture at 7 p.m., March 10, in the Ataloa Theatre of East Central University’s Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.
The lecture is free and open to the public.
Burgin’s experiences have been chronicled in the 2010 HBO miniseries “The Pacific” and a book he co-authored with Bill Marvel entitled “Islands of the Damned, A Marine in the Pacific,” which was also published in 2010.
Copies of the “Islands of the Damned, A Marine in the Pacific” book will be on sale at the event for $20. Burgin will be signing the books following the lecture.
The miniseries, co-produced by executive directors Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, tells the true-life stories of the Marines, who endured surprisingly strong resistance from the Japanese on a small, but hilly island which was just six miles long and two miles wide.
“The Pacific is based on the actual stories of the actual Marines who fought on those islands,” said Spielberg in a promotional video.
“The fact that these men told their stories gave us the multi-point of view perspective that you would want of those specific islands,” Hanks said in that same video.
Burgin served as an advisor to Spielberg and Hanks on the making and filming of the series and Burgin was portrayed by Martin McCann.
“You’re here to play a hero. He would never call himself a hero, but in my eyes that is what he is,” said McCann. “Each new scene is a chance for me to show the audience a little more about R.V., about what he experienced and what he went through.”\
In the 10-part series, Burgin (played by McCann) appears in episodes 5-10, including intense battle scenes in episode 7, “The Peleliu Hills.”
Burgin, now 92, joined the U.S. Marines on Nov. 13, 1942, and served as a mortar man in the Pacific Islands as he and his platoon – Company K, Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division – engaged in some ferocious battles from New Britain through Peleliu to Okinawa, where he earned the rank of sergeant.
On Peleliu, he and his company were responsible for completely taking out a bunker-full of 17 Japanese soldiers, who were armed with machine guns, rifles and hand grenades. They did so without American casualties.
Burgin ultimately earned a Bronze Star for his bravery and heroism at Okinawa.