It took thirty years, but I finally got around to reading William Manchester’s Out of Darkness. It’s his personal story of fighting in the South Pacific told from the memories of a 56 year old man returning to the scenes of battle to exorcise the nightmares that have haunted him all this time. If you love war stories chock-a-block with action, bravery, heroism and patriotism, this is not the book for you. If historical insights into the broad sweep of strategies and tactics are the thing for you, this is not your book either. If you are a nut like me who is fascinated with most anything in Oceania, it might be a book for you.
Manchester’s memories, and the memories of others that he wove into the telling, are those of individual men, boys really, having little knowledge of where they were and what was going on beyond their own range of vision that was often limited by fear, darkness, mud and confusion. Abundant bravery had little place for patriotic heroism. Too much was taken up with staying alive, if possible.
More to the point for people who spend some part of their time counseling those who have suffered from deep psychological trauma, he illuminates the haunting terror of memories that live in the body of a healthy, mature, successful, happily married person esteemed by the public as a rock solid sort of guy. Toward the end, his ghost (the reluctant young sergeant he had been) banished, there had to come the final reconciliation of what he had done, felt and believed with his deeply professed Christian faith. I would like to have known more about that because it was clear that the healing to wholeness could not happen without it. Maybe that was more than he was ready or able to divulge.
In any case, if counseling in any form is a part of your ministry, get a copy and read it.