McKenna ’84 Talks on Campus about Writing HBO’s The Pacific

A streaming video of his talk is now available online here.  Note, this is a 270MB video and may take a moment to load in your browser. Quicktime is required to view the video. You also may download the video to your desktop.

Bruce McKenna ’84 returned to campus on March 30 to talk about his work on the new HBO mini-series The Pacific, which debuted on March 14 and continues on Sundays at 9 p.m. through May 16.

Bruce McKenna '84 presented the world premiere of the fourth episode of The Pacific at the Center for Film Studies' Powell Family Screening Room March 30. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett Drake)

The sprawling show tracks the intertwined real-life journeys of three U.S. Marines—Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge, and John Basilone—across the vast canvas of the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Gary Goetzman were executive producers for the project.

McKenna was a writer for seven of the 10 episodes, and he took on additional responsibilities on the mini-series by crafting the overall narrative arc for the project and overseeing the writing staff. He also served as co-executive producer and showrunner.

McKenna presented the world premiere of episode four of The Pacific at the Powell Family Screening Room at the Center for Film Studies. This episode shows the brutal conditions of the 1st Marine Division’s battling the Japanese at Cape Gloucester, and the physical and mental effects of combat on Robert Leckie, who is sent to a naval hospital on nearby Banika for psychiatric observation.

McKenna participated in a Q&A after the screening and talked about his seven years devoted to the project. He did extensive research for the show, reading everything he could find about the historical period, and he also talked to many soldiers about war memories. He discussed how the mini-series reveals a darker and perhaps less glorious side to World War II, which was necessary to show because of the relentless Japanese enemy forces and the brutality of the battles.

McKenna previously worked on the celebrated HBO World War II mini-series Band of Brothers, for which he won a Writers Guild of America Award for his contribution to the “Bastogne” script.

David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: