Read With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge Paul Fussell Online


In his own book, Wartime, Paul Fussell called With the Old Breed "one of the finest memoirs to emerge from any war." John Keegan referred to it in The Second World War as "one of the most arresting documents in war literature." And Studs Terkel was so fascinated with the story he interviewed its author for his book, "The Good War." What has made E.B. Sledge's memoir of hisIn his own book, Wartime, Paul Fussell called With the Old Breed "one of the finest memoirs to emerge from any war." John Keegan referred to it in The Second World War as "one of the most arresting documents in war literature." And Studs Terkel was so fascinated with the story he interviewed its author for his book, "The Good War." What has made E.B. Sledge's memoir of his experience fighting in the South Pacific during World War II so devastatingly powerful is its sheer honest simplicity and compassion.Now including a new introduction by Paul Fussell, With the Old Breed presents a stirring, personal account of the vitality and bravery of the Marines in the battles at Peleliu and Okinawa. Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1923 and raised on riding, hunting, fishing, and a respect for history and legendary heroes such as George Washington and Daniel Boone, Eugene Bondurant Sledge (later called "Sledgehammer" by his Marine Corps buddies) joined the Marines the year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and from 1943 to 1946 endured the events recorded in this book. In those years, he passed, often painfully, from innocence to experience.Sledge enlisted out of patriotism, idealism, and youthful courage, but once he landed on the beach at Peleliu, it was purely a struggle for survival. Based on the notes he kept on slips of paper tucked secretly away in his New Testament, he simply and directly recalls those long months, mincing no words and sparing no pain. The reality of battle meant unbearable heat, deafening gunfire, unimaginable brutality and cruelty, the stench of death, and, above all, constant fear. Sledge still has nightmares about "the bloody, muddy month of May on Okinawa." But, as he also tellingly reveals, the bonds of friendship formed then will never be severed.Sledge's honesty and compassion for the other marines, even complete strangers, sets him apart as a memoirist of war. Read as sobering history or as high adventure, With the Old Breed is a moving chronicle of action and courage....

Title : With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
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ISBN : 9780195067149
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 326 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa Reviews

  • J.
    2018-12-14 08:54

    With the Old Breed should be required reading in our classrooms, for this is the brutal reality of war at its most horrific. No sensationalism here; E. B. Sledge merely tells it the way it was. There is no glory in war, in the shedding of another man's blood; in digging a foxhole in a torrential downpour only to uncover the badly decomposing body of a Japanese soldier crawling with maggots; in watching helplessly as four of your comrades retrieve, on a stretcher, a wounded Marine amid machinegun fire ("If it were me out there," Sledge recounts, "I would want to know I wouldn't be left behind."); in enduring a night while being shelled by enemy artillery; in stumbling upon fellow Marines that have been tortured, decapitated and butchered in the worst way imaginable; in suffering sleep deprivation, from malaria and jungle rot, and from hunger, thirst, and, alternately, heat and cold. This is why war should be avoided at all costs, and this is why no one man should ever be given the authority, with a flourish of his signature, to risk the lives of young men and women. My dad fought on Okinawa, receiving a citation from the office of the president for his participation in the taking of Shuri Ridge. I never knew my dad as a Marine, as he retired from the Corps before getting married and starting a family. I asked him once, when I was a boy, to tell me about his service, but he refused. I asked him again, about six and a half years ago, during the final year of his life, and he again refused. I had hoped that by sharing his pain a healing could take place. Unfortunately, what he saw, what he endured, died with him. Sledge, in this memoir of his service on Peleliu and Okinawa, told me everything my dad withheld from me. This incredible account, told with frank detachment, is hailed as the best World War II memoir of an enlisted man, and with good reason. Part adventure, part history, "Sledgehammer" not only relates many of the clichés every Hollywood movie depicted on the subject, but also everything they left out. Thanks, Sledgehammer, for sharing your story, and my dad's, with me. He perhaps felt I couldn't understand what he endured. Perhaps no civilian can. Yet after having read With the Old Breed, I understand a little better why he was the way he was. Your generation is truly the greatest generation.

  • Gloria
    2018-12-16 11:30

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eyeWho cheer when soldier lads march by,Sneak home and pray you'll never knowThe hell where youth and laughter go.~Sigrfried Sassoon William Tecumseh Sherman said it. "War is hell."As a veteran of the Mexican War and the Civil War, he should know.What is it about war which makes us glorify it?Little boys tear around with swords and guns fighting off imaginary enemies.Larger boys now sit glued before gaming devices doing essentially the same thing, complete with pixellated blood and gore.I will admit to holding a longstanding fascination with "The Greatest Generation." I've always said if I could time travel back to a specific era, the 1940's would be at the top of the list. The patriotism, the sense the country pulling together, the neighborhoods where people still knew one another, the clothes, the cars, the music...Eugene Sledge's book didn't lessen my love for that time period, nor my awe and gratitude for the men who served ... but, by God, did it slap me in the face.As graphic and as detailed as some more recent movies focusing on WWII have gotten, there always still seemed to be gaps (at least in my mind). I always wondered about goofy specifics of battlefront life and fox hole warfare. Sledge's memoir hit every one of those questions-- and then some. The horrific sights, the deafening noises, the putrid odors, the physical maladies running from annoying to disabling. All encircled by the overarching twist of fear which never quite left their guts while they were on their missions. (I won't even try and relay so much of what he saw and experienced because without it being in the context of the rest of his thoughts, it would come off as a) gratuitous and b) unbelievable. Trust me ... if you read it, you'll never again take for granted things like: eating out of the rain, regular-sized house flies, running water, a bed, a change of clothes, dry socks and shoes, warm food, letters from loved ones, clean water, fresh air).Eugene Sledge takes you with him every step of the way. From basic training, to the pre-launch nervous intestinal visits to the head, to landing in the fray of battle and wondering which bullet was going to kill you.Along the way, he interposes his deeper thoughts. His wonderings at how men can be so cruel and can become animalistic so quickly within the confines of a battlefield.But he laments more for those whose core runs toward tenderness and sensitivity.As I crawled out of the abyss of combat and over the rail of the Sea Runner, I realized that compassion for the suffering of others is a burden to those who have it. As Wilfred Owen's poem "Insensibility" puts it so well, those who feel most for others suffer most in war.As horrific as his experiences were, as often as he had to watch his friends and comrades die, he summed up his thoughts thusly:War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste. Combat leaves an endelible mark on those who are forced to endure it. The only redeeming factors were my comrades' incredible bravery and their devotion to each other.Until the millenium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one's responsibilities and to be willing to make sacrifices for one's country-- as my comrades did. As the troops used to say, "If the country is good enough to live in, it's good enough to fight for." With privilege goes responsibility.To Eugene Sledge, and to the many others who have fought (and many who have died) to preserve for us so many things we take for granted ...thank you seems so not enough.

  • 'Aussie Rick'
    2018-12-03 09:56

    Not much can be added to the previous reviews of this excellent book. I have read many fine books covering the Pacific campaign during WW2 and so many referred to this book that I had to find a copy for myself. It was well worth the time and effort. I have since bought a copy for a friend here in Australia and he also ranks it in his top 10 military history books. The author offers an insight into what its like to be in combat rarely found in most books nowadays. This is an honest, at times sad and occassionaly funny, look at the life of a combat Marine during the final battles in the Pacific. This book cannot be recommended highly enough! This has to be one of the best first-hand accounts of the fighting in the Pacific during WW2. Anyone serious about military history should have a copy in their library. Well done to these brave men who fought and served, may they never be forgotten.

  • Sweetwilliam
    2018-11-22 12:54

    I would give it six stars if I could. This was gripping. I have been reading military history all my life but I have never read anything quite like PVT Sledge’s first-hand account of his war experience as a member of a front-line infantry unit in the 3rd battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. I couldn’t believe what I was listening to (It was an audio book.) This book is considered by many as the best first-hand account, battlefield memoir ever written and I cannot disagree.If you have ever wondered what it was like to be a member of a rifle platoon in the Marines or Army, fighting the Japanese in the Pacific theatre, you need to read this book. If you ever wondered why the men of the greatest generation – the survivors of the Pacific theater – are going to their graves with a deep-seated hatred in their hearts for all things that are Japanese, you need to read this book. The Old Breed is full of stories about Nippon infiltration in the pitch black of night, routing out a fanatical cave-dwelling enemy, being fired at by hidden snipers and machine guns, the accidental killing of fellow Marines, incompetent replacement officers that deserve to be “fragged,” the frustration of dealing with rear echelon troops that do not deserve the same accolades as the sleep deprived, malnourished men of the front line rifle platoons. These are men – mostly teenagers - that literally live for months on end, wet and dirty, in filth and gore surrounded by the smell, sight, and sometimes feel of rotting, maggot infested corpses of both friend and foe.All hail the men of the Marine Corp and Army infantry that fought that ghastly campaign. O-hail, o-hail, o-infantry, the queen of battle....

  • Bou
    2018-11-17 10:37

    A memoir of a soldier of one of the finest and most famous elite fighting divisions of the second World War, the Marine 1st Division, during the Peleliu and Okinawa campaigns. They forged a bond that time would never erase. They were brothers.I don't need to add anything to the other reviews of my fellow Goodreads members. This book should be on everybody's list.Instead, I want to highlight a few sentences from the book that in my mind capture the book as a whole:On the chances of survival and knowing that you would probably not survice the war:Soldiers like me, who never got hit, can claim with justification, that we survived the abyss of war as fugitives of the law of averages.And on hearing of the surrender of Japan and the ending of the war:Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our death. So many death. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Trying to comprehend a world without war.And on war as a whole:War is brutish, inglorious and a terrible waste

  • Lawyer
    2018-12-10 10:48

    Eugene Sledge would seem an unlikely author of what I consider the most powerful memoir of war in the Pacific theater. The son of a Mobile, Alabama, doctor, Eugene began his military career as a candidate in an academic college program that would have made him an officer. However, he deliberately failed to become a Marine assigned to infantry in the Pacific. Sledge's account is told in frank, straight forward and understated language. The Pacific war was a fierce world of barbaric conduct by troops on both sides. Sledge understood the ease with which a man could lose his sense of humanity and recognized how close he came to that outcome.Sledge quietly states the futility of war and the unnecessary sacrifice of life in the Peleliu campaign. The battle had no strategic effect on the outcome of the war. The island could have easily been hopped over as other pockets of Japanese resistance were. He wrote,"To the non-combatants and those on the periphery of action, the war meant only boredom or occasional excitement, but to those who entered the meat grinder itself the war was a netherworld of horror from which escape seemed less and less likely as casualties mounted and the fighting dragged on and on. Time had no meaning, life had no meaning. The fierce struggle for survival in the abyss of Peleliu had eroded the veneer of civilization and made savages of us all."Sledge adjusted to his return to civilian life with great difficulty. He wrote "With the Old Breed" over a number of years, originally intending it to be a memoir to be read by his family. Following the war he became a professor of botany and zoology at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. His students would have been hard pressed to understand the horrific memories that lay beneath his gentle exterior as he led them on field trips identifying native botanical plants.Sledge's story was published in 1981. His story was later central to Ken Burns' series, "The War." His memoir later served as one of the key sources for Spielberg and Hanks HBO series, "The Pacific." Eugene Sledge died in 2001 after a lengthy battle with cancer. His memoir of men at war should be read throughout the coming generations by anyone ever inclined to take the matter of war with an attitude of indifference.Do not think that Sledge should ever be considered a pacifist. He should not. Nor should his work ever be considered a polemic against any war. These are his concluding words: "Until the millennium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one's responsibilities and be willing to make sacrifices for one's country - as my comrades did. As the troops used to say, "If the country is good enough to live in, it's good enough to fight for." With privilege goes responsibility."

  • A.L. Sowards
    2018-12-05 07:38

    This might be the best memoir I’ve ever read. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, because war is very, very ugly, and Sledge doesn’t sugarcoat it. The book follows him through training, then to the Pacific outpost of Pavuvu, then into the battlefields of Peleliu and Okinawa. Warning: this review includes some spoilers. But it’s a first-hand account, so obviously Sledge survived, or he wouldn’t have written the book. The review is also long because the book gave me lots to think about.Imagine yourself stuck in a foxhole. It’s been raining for weeks, so there’s a puddle at the bottom, and you can’t remember the last time your feet were dry. You might get a warm cup of coffee or bullion, if you heat it yourself, but you’ll have to hunch over while you’re heating it so the rain doesn’t put the sterno can out. Everything smells awful, because maggot-infested corpses are everywhere. If you sleep, it’s by the light of the flares the navy keeps sending up so you’ll see the enemy if they try to infiltrate. When you have to get out of your foxhole to haul up more ammunition or to get food, you’ll be shelled and shot at. You’ll also be shot at if you’re carrying someone on a stretcher. If you’re the one who’s wounded, and the Japanese get you, they’ll torture you. And if you get killed, and if the Japanese end up with your body, they will mutilate it. Welcome to Okinawa. Peleliu isn’t much different—only it’s dry and hot and covered in flies, and there aren’t many foxholes, because the coral is too hard to dig into.On one hand, With the Old Breed is a gritty account of island warfare. Sledge (nicknamed Sledgehammer by his fellow Marines) is completely honest. He admits he was scared, he doesn’t hide that fact that Marines often “field-stripped” the enemy dead and the enemy almost-dead (trust me—Marines ripping out gold teeth is mild compared to what the Japanese did to Marine dead), and shows both hatred for the enemy and love for his fellow Marines and their navy corpsmen (with one exception).But With the Old Breed is more than a brutally honest account of Pacific warfare. It’s also the story of one man’s struggle to keep his humanity and his sanity in the face of horrible circumstances. Sledge is a Southern, Christian boy. He doesn’t smoke until he arrives in combat, and he’s the only person I’ve read who says SNAFU stands for situation normal, all fouled up. On some level, he realizes he’s being trained to be cannon fodder, but the shock of combat is still a difficult burden for him to bear: the horrible conditions, the slaughter, the constant fear. I was touched by one scene, when Sledge is about to pull a few gold teeth out of a Japanese corpse (something he had seen others do, but hadn’t done himself). A corpsman tries to talk him out of it. First he suggests that Sledge’s parents wouldn’t like it. When that doesn’t work, the corpsman says “Think of the germs.” Yeah, germs on a battlefield—laughable. But it’s enough to make Sledge reconsider, and keep a little of his humanity.It’s not all dark and depressing. There were funny moments as well—the men reminding their green lieutenant of his earlier pledge to charge the Japanese with his knife and pistol and turn the tide of war all by himself, as said lieutenant is frantically digging a really deep foxhole after his first taste of combat. Or the part when Sledge decides to take a nap on a stretcher while the graves crews are working, and pulls his poncho over his head to keep the rain off. Not surprisingly, the graves crew almost carts him off with the corpses. (I totally saw that coming, but I’ve been sleeping in a dry, warm bed instead of a wet foxhole, and my sleep isn’t interrupted by shells and threats of Japanese paratroopers.)Sledge sums up the book best in his own words: War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste. Combat leaves an indelible mark on those who are forced to endure it. The only redeeming factors were my comrades’ incredible bravery and their devotion to each other. Marine Corps training taught us to kill efficiently and to try to survive. But it also taught us loyalty to each other—and love. That esprit de corps sustained us.A remarkable book, and a vivid reminder that even those who are not killed or wounded in combat pay a terrible price.***update February 2018***Just read it for the second time. It's one of those books that is worth reading more than once, and I still consider it a favorite.

  • Mike
    2018-11-19 15:35

    If you only read 1 book on fighting in the Pacific Theatre in WWII, this should be the one. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa is the classic story of modern ground combat and amphibious warfare. It is so good because E.B. Sledge does not go in for drama, he tells a straightforward story of tragedy and bravery. He explains clearly where he knows what is going on and also explains what he was thinking when it was SNAFU. He covers his first campaign at Peleliu and then his second campaign in Okinawa. If you saw the mini-series "The Pacific" you will recognize some scenes. Belongs on the permanent war history shelf.

  • Tony
    2018-12-02 12:27

    You've read the other reviews, so you already know how good this is. Written by a young Marine, this is a straight forward, no-nonsense, gritty account of life (and frequently death) on the front line in the Pacific in WW2. It's well written, with plenty of insights into military life - the friendships, the stink & grime, the horror & occasional humour. But what really sets this apart are the author's honest descriptions of how he felt and his motivations in combat - comradeship, bravery, anger, fear.

  • carltheaker
    2018-11-29 10:32

    Readable! was my initial impression. On my way to the airport I selected ‘With the Old Breed’ from the to-read pile. Knowing history books can be chewy, I had a bit of apprehension till I began reading on the 2 hour flight to Atlanta. I couldn’t put it down. Sledge tells a flowing tale from an enlisted Infantryman’s perspective, a modest, down to earth, or perhaps I should say corral reef, view of the war.I almost immediately took the return flight so I could finish the book, but since my sister was waiting for me I paused reading the tale, but got back to it as soon as I could.Author Sledge, Sledgehammer, takes you from civilian life to the last days of the war in the Pacific. Occasionally he provides an overall view of the war, but it is primarily his memoir of day to day life, some routine, some in the middle of combat.On another note - the good folks in the Goodreads WW2 group recommended the book so I first gave it to my Dad to read and he loved it. It was also suggested by a friend who was with the Marine First Armored Amphibian Battalion -Marshalls-Guam-Okinawa, so I’d say this book has a good track record.

  • 4triplezed
    2018-11-18 09:26

    A wonderful read. I had trouble putting this brutal but heartfelt book down. It hides nothing about the inhumanity of the Pacific conflict that Sledge was part of but in the end his prose shows a retention of his own humanity.

  • Dj
    2018-12-08 13:45

    Let's start off by saying that in general, I do no care for low-level personal accounts of the war. They tend to be either poorly written (not surprising since most Infantry in the war were the least intelligent of the Branches.) or they tend to be so stylish that it is easy to tell that they were ghostwritten. For me, this tends to detract from my enjoyment of the book. Another loss for my reading enjoyment is they also have such a close order view of what is going on, that you loose any big picture overview. So at times, it is hard to decide where the action is taking place and how it fits in with what is going on around the individual who is writing the account. This is also a symptom of small unit reading, which I also tend to avoid. Happily enough, this book does neither of those things. The author is very literate, more so than myself by any reckoning, but he doesn't have a style that makes it seem like it is being done by a professional writer. While he does pay attention to the day to day grind of the war, he also breaks it up with incidents that in general, he considers to be either humorous or haunting. Thus giving a good insight into the life of the lowest level of a combat soldier in the war. He was in the infantry but wasn't a rifleman, he was a support weapon team member. In his case 60mm Mortars, so he was fairly close to the front line, in some cases on it. So the details he provides are pretty grim on many occasions. On the other hand, he provides an overview after each of his memory revelations that help keep things in context with what is going on around. This makes for a very interesting and informative read. All in all, I would consider this a must read for anyone that is into the first person revelation of the war and for those how are interested in combat in the Pacific. For anyone else, it is still a very good, very enjoyable read.

  • Susan
    2018-12-01 14:27

    This is a great memoir if you want to understand what it was like to fight in the Pacific in WWII. It affected me very much as my reading of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead did when I first read that. I could feel the pain—the dirt or worse yet on Peleliu the coral one couldn’t dig into—the bad food and dirty water, dirty and wet clothes, the fear. It’s painful to read though and if you won’t want to know the gory details faced by young men barely out of school and inexperienced with the world, then you don’t want to read this book. I hate war, but I feel compelled to know what it’s like so I don’t take for granted what we ask young people to experience in war. Eugene Sledge (who became Sledgehammer to his buddies) had had one year of college when he joined up—as did most of his generation (few in fact staying to finish college which is one reason why we needed the GI Bill). He joined the Marines (the “old breed” of the title).This book is different from other memoirs because of the detail. It’s not brilliantly written or “literary”. That’s its genius says Paul Fussell who reviewed it for a 1990 edition (Fussell has written about both WWI and WWII and was a soldier in the Pacific himself). Sledge explains how comradeship worked with soldiers to form lifelong bonds. He talks about officers they admired and those they hated and feared. He details the hardships and how hatred of the Japanese developed and hardened even the most sensitive among them. He explains how everything happened, from the human waste in foxholes they couldn’t leave, to stripping a Japanese corpse for souvenirs, to descriptions of wounds and dead Americans lying covered up on the battlefield until they could be retrieved, to water that was dirty because those in the rear had put it in insufficiently cleaned oil drums, to how the mortar he used worked and the problems placing it in the muddy ground of Okinawa. He explains how everyone was afraid and how some handled it differently from others. He explains how Japanese soldiers who spoke English tried to move in on their foxholes at night and how occasionally a buddy was mistakenly shot for an enemy. Sledge never romanticizes war. The only good was the friendship and interdependency men developed, but he doesn’t romanticize that either.

  • Adrian
    2018-11-16 15:30

    This is without doubt one of the best first-hand-accounts i've ever read about the war in the pacific during world war two.A book that you just can't put down. It will stop in your memory long after you have read it. If you want to read about the true horror's of war then this book is a must read.A truly epic read.P.s I don't go into much details about what is contained under it's covers(so-to-speak) as I don't want to give anything away.

  • Kate
    2018-11-22 07:49

    The best books I have read have been found through the bibliographies of other writers I have appreciated....this book is no exception. It is a humble story of a Marine and his battle experiences, told without self censure and speaking to the awesome horror that is war.I always look with wonder at the young faces, these virtual boys who struggled in horrid conditions and sacrificed so much. It is with the same amazement I look at my own father's face smiling at the camera from someplace in the Philippines, lanky and skinny with his barely shaving 20 year old face looking at me, years before he met my Mom, before he returned stateside in 1941 to train in the Army Air Corps. I am always stunned that these young men fought so hard for us, and most stayed so silent, barely sharing what they had seen with anyone.So it is with a sense of indebtedness to Eugene B. Sledge that he left us with this chronicle of his preparation for war, and his memories of the Battle at Peleliu and Okinawa.. I think of the young men and woman of today that have served in country and how some do not understand the trauma they experience...and wonder if they had read this book would they have been kinder on themselves as they struggle with memories.I think sometimes that as civilians we always keep in mind images of war that come from film, that romanticized view of battle, where rather clean and always handsome men in their late 20s or 30s who play young soldiers or Marines in sterile battlefields with no suffering from the silent wounded, made war look like an awesome adventure. Sledge brings us to the brutal reality of the grime of war that no one speaks of. He speaks of how hard it is to hold onto your humanity when surrounded by such inhumanity, and to extend patience and understanding in his words to those who at times loose their sense of self. I am so glad that I picked up this book and will appreciate that Eugene B. Sledge left us this legacy and small glimpse into the world experienced by himself and the men of K/3/5. They really were extraordinary young men.

  • Peter N.
    2018-12-17 13:30

    A great read. Straight forward, not overly sentimental or harsh. Just a man who survived two of the worst battles in the Pacific telling us what happened. As I read it two things struck me. First, the invasion of Japan would have been the most costly battle in the history of mankind. There are problems with dropping the atomic bomb. After Nagasaki and Hiroshima the world was never the same. And as a Christian I am adamantly opposed to civilian deaths. But reading this book one begins to realize that the Japanese had no intention of surrending. The toll on American soldiers, Japanese soldiers and Japanese civilians would have been astronomic if America had been forced to invade. So all the armchair generals who think we messed up by dropping the A-Bomb need to read this book and remember that it took more than 80 days and over 110,000 dead Japanese to get a six mile island named Okinawa. Second, I realized that if our generation (I am thirty-three)was called upon to do what these men had to do there is little doubt we would fail. As a culture we do not have the backbone or courage to fight like these men did.

  • Ctgt
    2018-11-20 12:52

    When E.B. Sledge wrote down thoughts, feelings and notes and tucked them in his small copy of The New Testament that he carried, he didn't intend them for the public at large, only for his family. Fortunately for us, this memoir was made public and I found it to be an moving account of one mans journey through his time as a Marine and his experiences of two brutal battles, Peleliu and Okinawa.Just a bit of background, I have read quite a few books on WWII but they have been mostly historical, political or strategic in nature not memoirs. Except in a general sense, I am woefully unfamiliar with the war in the Pacific Theater. I'm not sure if this was the best book to start expanding my knowledge from a strategic point of view but it is certainly a book I will not forget.Sledge was a freshman at Marion Military Institute when he enlisted in the Marine Corps. His family urged him to stay in school to qualify for a commission but he, like many others, felt that the war would end before he had a chance to enter combat overseas. We travel with Sledge as he works his way through basic training, combat training and becomes a 60mm mortarman in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division. We follow his path through Bloody Nose Ridge in Peleliu to the Shuri Line in Okinawa; from the oppressive 110 degree heat and coral rock on Peleliu to the almost constant rain and mud of Okinawa.The heart of this book is the honesty of Sledge concening himself, his fellow Marines, the enemy and his God.It was hard to sleep that night. I thought of home, my parents, my friends-and whether I would do my duty, be wounded and disabled, or be killed. I concluded that it was impossible for me to be killed, because God loved me. Then I told myself that God loved us all and that many would die or be ruined physically or mentally or both by the next morning and in the days following. My heart pounded, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Finally, I called myself a damned coward and eventually fell asleep saying the Lord's Prayer to myself.As I passed a shallow foxhole where Robert B. Oswalt had been dug in, I asked a man nearby if the word were true about Oswalt being killed. Sadly, he said yes. Oswalt had been fatally wounded in the head. A bright young mind that aspired to delve into the mysteries of the human brain to alleviate human suffering had itself been destroyed by a tiny chunk of metal. What a waste, I thought. War is such self-defeating, organized madness the way it destroys a nation's best.On 8 May Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. We were told this momentous news, but considering our own peril and misery, no one cared much. "So what" was typical of the remarks I heard around me. We were resigned only to the fact that the Japanese would fight to total extinction on Okinawa, as they had elsewhere, and that Japan would have to be invaded with the same gruesome prospects. Nazi Germany might as well have been on the moon.He watched the chaplain with an expression of skepticism that seemed to ask, "What's the use of all that? Is it gonna keep them guys from gettin' hit?" That face was so weary but so expressive that I knew he, like all of us, couldn't help but have doubts about his God in the presence of constant shock and suffering. Why did it go on and on?There are so many passages I highlighted, too many to include. If you have even a passing interest in WWII or just enjoy reading about the human spirit as it is tested in the worst of circumstance, you have to read this book.

  • Lee
    2018-11-18 10:39

    Firsthand account of a Marine in the Pacific during World War II, Sledge's book is devastatingly unflinching in its examination of close quarters combat against a fearless and dedicated enemy. What did I learn from this book? Using nuclear weapons on Japan was not wrong but overdue.

  • Lady Jane
    2018-12-03 08:41

    Prompted to read With the Old Breed by watching HBO's The Pacific, I was unprepared for Sledge's unflinching, simple honesty in reporting and processing his WWII experiences as a Marine infantryman. Sledge discusses not only the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa, but the transition from being a sensitive young man to becoming a hardened, battle-weary veteran. His descriptions provide insight into these battles, and war in general, that have so far escaped more graphic, visual mediums--including The Pacific. The Pacific showed us that on Okinawa, Marine casualties were left to decompose around their live, foxhole-entrapped replacements. It never before occurred to me that under those conditions, there is no way to dispense of human waste. So, under constant shelling, threat of infiltrating, nighttime attacks, surrounded by decomposing bodies--some of whom were friends--with rotting feet, hungry, constantly wet from relentless rain, these poor babies also had to stew in their own poop.Sledge's memoirs also depict a fanatical, military enemy--much like today's fanatical "Islamsists"--that is difficult for post WWII generations to connect with Japan, our current friend, ally and trading partner. I am convinced that Truman's decision to use atomic weapons on Japan must be evaluated in its historical context and not within a contemporary framework.I'm a history buff, but not a military history buff. Consequently, I'm glad that I watched The Pacific before reading With the Old Breed, because the images I retained from the miniseries helped me to visualize the technical details and battle scenes that Sledge describes in his memoirs.

  • David
    2018-11-25 13:30

    An appropriate read for Memorial Day weekend.Since I became interested in World War II history, particularly in the Pacific Theater, largely through WWII wargames, I have been reading and playing a lot of books/games that cover the war from the grand strategic level. Most history books are written at a general's eye level, covering the fleets, the armies, the movement of troops across vast distances, major battles and their outcomes summarized in a few paragraphs. We know, abstractly, that "a fierce and bloody two-month battle for Pelelieu" means thousands of troops spending months in hellish conditions fighting for their lives, a level of discomfort and fear few of us can imagine. But in most history books, that's all waved away with a brief description of casualty figures - in a wargame, it's a roll of the dice and a flipped cardboard counter.Eugene B. Sledge wrote what is now considered a classic among World War II memoirs, a description of Pacific fighting from an enlisted man's view. He was never an officer, or even an NCO, just a line troop with the 1st Marines. So while he is able to note the strategic significance of the battles he was in with historical hindsight, mostly what he is describing is what he perceived at the time (produced from notes he took as he was there), the view of an enlisted man who often had no idea why they were being told to go to this particular island or take that particular hill.EB Sledge (called "Sledgehammer" by his comrades) was with the 1st Marines, "the Old Breed," through the campaigns of Peleliu and Okinawa.Physical DiscomfortThink about the worst discomfort you've ever felt. Maybe some time when you were extremely hungry or thirsty and there was no food or water immediately at hand. Or maybe you were stuck in traffic and you really, really needed to pee. Or maybe (if you are into the outdoors) you have been on a miserable hike when you suddenly had a case of the runs. Use your imagination, but add "hungry, tired, exhausted to the limits of your endurance, need to shit and there is no toilet or TP or privacy or even a trench anywhere and several thousand men are all crowded together in the same situation and also you're under heavy shelling and your buddies are getting blown to bits right and left."Let that sink in again - you're on a jungle beach being shot at, and you and everyone around you also has diarrhea and there is no TP.Few books really convey how hellish war is like this one, and even in his years-later narration, EB Sledge can't really convey to his readers the visceral horror he felt, and still remembers. It wasn't just the danger they faced in all their many battles, but the physical deprivation and hellish conditions. On those Pacific islands no one had ever heard of before the war, there was malaria and vicious biting insects and no facilities at all, and he describes beaches that have become open cesspools, in which the Marines had to sleep and fight, with little cover. Peleliu was 120 degrees when the 1st Marines hit the beaches to take on an entrenched enemy that was waiting for them with withering mortar and machine gun fire.Individual moments Sledge describes kind of get at what they endured every single day - it's not just the battles, but the truck that brought water to a remote unit, except the water was in a 55-gallon drum. Imagine a bunch of men standing around looking at a 55-gallon drum of water at the bottom of a truck bed, on a tilting coral slope, in 120-degree heat, thinking "How the fuck are we supposed to get this out of there?"It's not surprising Sledge describes more than once how a brave, tough veteran marine will suddenly snap and lose it, behaving suicidally, hysterically, or just collapsing, unable to go on.EB Sledge is one of ten men in his regiment who survived Peleliu and Okinawa without ever being wounded. He reports the moment, while on Peleliu, that he suddenly heard a voice saying "You will survive the war." He looked around and asked his buddies if they'd heard someone speaking. They hadn't. He believed it was God speaking to him, and like Private Ryan, decided this meant he had to make his life somehow worth his surviving.Death TrapBy Peleliu, the Marines were used to taking islands from the Japanese. They knew what to expect - they'd come ashore and the Japanese would try to swarm them in suicidal "Banzai charges" that were Japanese infantry doctrine up to that point, no matter that it had repeatedly proven ineffective against disciplined troops.But Peleliu was different. The Japanese were finally (too late) realizing that they needed to change their tactics, and so they set up Peleliu as a death trap. The commander of Japanese forces spent weeks preparing the island beforehand. They dug a small city of tunnels and caves beneath the coral mountains of this island, and set up pillboxes and machine gun nests to cover every approach, so no matter where the Marines landed, they would immediately be exposed to withering fire. No Banzai charges this time.The ironic thing is that Peleliu was made a strategic objective by the Americans because of its airfield, which was thought to be a possible threat to Allied shipping. So it was decided Peleliu needed to be taken as a first step in MacArthur's campaign to retake the Philippines. But the admiral in charge thought, based on previous experience, and overconfidence, that after softening the island up with heavy shelling (in fact, the Navy poured ordnance on Peleliu until they ran out of targets) the Marines could clear out the Japanese in a couple of days. He did not know about the underground fortifications, and the shelling, for all the noise and destruction, which should have practically scoured the island of Japanese, in fact barely touched them. So when the Marines landed, they found themselves in a death trap that eventually inflicted upwards of 65% casualties and took two months of heavy fighting before it was considered secured.(Even Sledge did not know that in fact, some Japanese remained hidden beneath Peleliu until 1947...)Afterwards, military historians generally were of the opinion that the Peleliu campaign was unnecessary - the Americans could have simply bypassed it and ignored the entrenched Japanese, who didn't have much air power left to threaten them with anyway.Losing Your HumanitySavagery was evident on both sides, though far more so on the Japanese. Sledge initially is able to feel some empathy for the Japanese troops who he knows are men like him, fighting in conditions just as miserable as his own. But the Japanese are suicidally brave and murderous. They do not surrender, they will lure American medics to their wounded and then blow themselves and the medics up with grenades. Their snipers will deliberately target men on stretchers and medical corpsmen, and Sledge describes finding the corpses of American Marines who'd had their penises cut off and stuffed into their mouths.It doesn't take long before the Marines are incapable of pity for the enemy. They start collecting war trophies, and gold fillings out of the teeth of Japanese corpses. Sledge witnesses one young Marine cut open the face of a fatally wounded Japanese soldier to pry his gold teeth out of him. Sledge yells at the Marine to put the Jap out of his misery. The Marine just curses him, until someone else puts a bullet in the Japanese soldier's head.Then one day Sledge himself starts pulling a gold tooth out of a corpse. A medical corpsman tells him "You shouldn't do that - he could be carrying diseases." Sledge says he hadn't thought of that. He only realizes afterwards that the corpsman wasn't really worried about disease - he recognized that Sledge was about to cross a moral threshold, and talked him out of it. Sledge sees another Marine start collecting severed hands, which is too much for him, and the ghoulish collector is finally forced to bury his prize when other Marines tell him they don't want it stinking up the place.Men tumble to the bottom of ravines and have to climb out, covered with maggots because the bottom of the ravine was filled with rotting corpses.Okinawa - digging in among the corpsesAfter Peleliu, the Old Breed went on to Okinawa. This was the final rolling up of the Empire of Japan - by now, the war was clearly lost for Japan, and yet the miserable, bloody fighting continued.There are corpses everywhere, as on Peleliu, often left unburied and putrefying in the hot sun. At one point, Sledge is ordered to dig a foxhole at the specified five yards apart, and upon digging, pulls up swarms of maggots. Then there is a stench, and then he discovers he is literally digging through a Japanese corpse. He calls his NCO over and says he can't do it. The NCO orders him to keep digging. Sledge is on the verge of vomiting and cannot continue, until a senior NCO finally comes by, and tells him to dig a few feet over. He does so, but still smells the rotting Japanese soldier.Sledge encounters an elderly Okinawan woman in a hut, who opens her kimono to reveal a hideously infected, gangrenous wound in her abdomen, no doubt from the shelling that happened during the initial invasion of the island. Then she grabs his rifle and points it at her forehead, begging him to pull the trigger. He doesn't, and goes to find a medic, only for another Marine to walk into the hut and calmly shoot her.The book is full of small stories like this, decent men snapping, breaking, going feral, or just losing their will to live, and then afterwards having to live with what they have been through.With the Old Breed is a gripping war memoir that won't tell you much about the war on a large scale, but a great deal about the war as it appeared to a grunt, and just how awful it was. The remarkable thing is that despite the horrors Sledge endures, he writes like someone who emerged basically intact, mentally and physically. He doesn't talk much about his own nightmares or PTSD, if he had any, only about the horrible loss he felt when his friends died, the horrible waste of life he perceived all around him, the regret that any of this had to happen at all. He does not analyze the causes of the war or why they were fighting, or evaluate the competence or planning of the general and admirals. The only officers who mattered to them were their unit commanders, who could make day to day living miserable or less miserable, as well as having enormous impact on their morale. When FDR dies, it's of little significance to the 1st Marines - all they care about is whether Truman will prolong the war or shorten it. Likewise, when they hear that Germany has surrendered, it has little meaning for them - they are still fighting the Japanese, and fully expect that they will have invade Japan itself in what is sure to be the bloodiest battle yet.With the Old Breed is highly recommended for anyone who is interested in World War II history, but especially for anyone who find war memoirs interesting and would like to know what war looks like to someone who's just another rifleman, not a general or a destroyer captain or a pilot, but a Marine whose job was to hack through jungles and shot and get shot at until the shooting is over. Read this book, and be grateful you will never have to go through that.

  • Mark Mortensen
    2018-11-27 07:44

    I am always drawn to historical accounts of the Marine Corps 5th Regiment from WWI to present. The best writings are usually through first hand accounts. E. B. Sledge served in 3/5 during WWII and managed to survive his entire tour without injury. Like a true Marine, Sledge possessed gifts and talents beyond fighting. Sledge kept a diary of information and when the war was over he put his skills to work and wrote a very fine piece full of emotion and personal endeavor. The book transcends WWII as it is an overall testament of the basic Marine Corps values of Semper Fidelis and camaraderie along with tradition, which makes the title “With the Old Breed” so appropriate.

  • John Nellis
    2018-12-07 12:37

    One of the all time best war memoirs ever written. I have read this book twice, it is a classic account of one Marines experiences in the Pacific during World War 2. Very personal and moving memoir of the horrors and fighting experienced during the Peleliu and Okinawa campaigns. The narrative presents a very detailed and gripping account. The bitter fighting and suicidal Japenese resistance make these campaigns a couple of the worst during the Pacific campaign. Anyone seeking to learn of the experiances of a frontline Marine in World War 2, there is no better account.

  • Silvana
    2018-12-16 14:42

    Have y'all seen the HBO miniseries, The Pacific? It's not as great as Band of Brothers but it is good. My favorite parts were Eugene Sledge's stories (I somehow dislike Leckie, but probably because of the actor hehe).This book is his memoir and I loved every single part of it. It is as good as William Manchester's masterpiece Goodbye, Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War. The following may not be a review after all, it's me pouring my thoughts on this book. A professor of biologySometimes we forget that once a trooper, you're not always a trooper. There is always an "after-life" and it is often the hardest part. Eugene Sledge, after the war, became a professor of biology at a university in Alabama. If you remember the last scenes of Band of Brothers, it included stories on the post-war occupations of each member of Easy. Very colorful. But these people had one thing, one job that they would never forget. Battlefield. Does it define each of them as a person? I believe it does. One does not simply forget about the hardship endured and the brotherhood forged. Oops, getting more sentimental here, let's continue..."Scared? Are you kidding?"Everybody gets scared and anybody says he doesn't is a damn liar. I like the way the old salts (i.e. marines with battle experience) "educate" the newbies. They don't hold back truth, no matter how gruesome. Sledge bestowed a lot of praises to the vets; he clearly worshiped them. I noted however, that the new recruits/replacements sometimes disregard the warnings and obviously nothing good came out of this. Being lulled into a false sense of security is never a good recipe to survive a war. Vital, essential, classified workWell, this work sometime included collecting rotten coconuts. I chuckled reading Sledge's frustration when doing this chore - pretty sure that he and his buddies had not imagined they would be doing that glamorous task during the war. I also like the way he described the non-battle hardship. How hard it was to take a bath, for example. Imagine the rain is your only option and you wish that it will last long enough or else you wouldn't be able to rinse the soap. Or imagine that you have to chase land crabs who would got into your shoes, boxes, bags, cots and whatnots. A marine seemed to always have something to do in the Pacific campaign.Gone AsiaticAsiatic is a Marine Corps term denoting a singular type of eccentric behavior characteristic of men who had served too long in the Far East.One of them was Haney, a gunnery sergeant, who was very Asiatic apparently with his antics (won't spoil them here - you have to read it yourself!). Sledge's description about him was hilarious. One of them : "I felt that he was not a man born of a woman, but that God has issued him to the Marine Corps"."The NCOs run things when the shootin' starts"Well, NCOs seem to be the best position if you're in the army or marines, based on this book and every other books I read on World War II. You are well respected, you know your company/squad well, you're usually battle-hardened, you have authority but not too much responsibility compared if you're an officer. "Corpsman!"I always love reading about medics/corpsman. They are almost always among the bravest and most dedicated part of a unit. Sledge told about a corpsman, Ken Caswell, who continued to treat his patient although his face just been stabbed by a knife to the bone. Yikes! Earlier this year, I read Medic: Saving Lives From Dunkirk To Afghanistan, a splendid book about combat medics earlier this year and it was highly recommended.Analysis on PeleliuSledge the professor made some bullet points of his analysis on the battle at Peleliu. My fave is this one: "Peleliu was proof that the critical factor in combat stress is duration of the combat rather than the severity." Agree on that. I can imagine that going through intense artillery attacks for a prolonged period or staying knee-deep in the mud and constant rain for days can make anyone go crazy."Why the hell did we have to take Peleliu?"The risk of going to war is sometimes not knowing you have to be in a particular place that might be your grave. Peleliu campaign is debatable: was it useful? could it have been bypassed? I'm certain it sucks if you're in that situation and I'm amazed that there were no riots or mass disobedience from the marines. I guess: 1) deep inside they know they'll be able to face hell and back after all 2) they are numb already 3) they trust their buddies and officers 4) all of the above"On 8 May Nazi Germany surrendered. So what?"Hahaha. Poor marines. It took two atomic bombs before the Japanese surrendered. They really couldn't care less about what happened in Europe. (Although the European troops did care about what happened in the Far East because they might be deployed there!).***All in all, this is very insightful book. Easy to read, very detailed (but not boring) about the daily life of a marine in the Pacific. I like that he told stories about the land crabs and the (now) silliness of the war. And the gore, oh how could I ever forget about the gore of souvenir hunters. As for the marines, I have a new found respect for all of them. Semper fi!

  • Chad Bearden
    2018-11-21 07:30

    Pacific theater veteran and author E.B. Sledge gives such a wide-eyed and earnest account of his combat experience in two of the worst battles of WWII, that his hyperbolic language almost threatens to undermine the impact of his story. But then a funny thing happens: you realize that there is so much respect and honesty in his memories, that hyperbolic though it may be, it all probably happened and felt exactly the way he records it.Each time he describes a war-blasted landscape and claims its the more destruction he's ever seen in his life, you can't help but believe him. Even if he describes another landscape the exact same way a few dozen pages later. Each time he claims a battle drive him closer to insanity than anything else in the entire war, you accept it, because at no point does Sledge appear to be glorifying or manipulating in his descriptions. You really don't sense that this guy would blow smoke about something that had such a profound influence on his life. There is something very enlightening in the raw sentimentality of his accounts, and it is, much of the time, very moving, even when its not really trying to be.This is all helped along tremendously by the very fact that Sledge is such a likeable guy. When he feels hatred or frustration, he's willing to lay out the ugly side of his nature, but it always seems understandable why a guy as nice as this might be pushed over the edge in these circumstances. When he's not being forced into extreme emotions due to extreme contexts, Sledge shows nothing but unadorned respect for his fellow marines, the army soldiers he fought alongside, and every once in a while, however begrudgingly, the Japanese soldiers he fights againts.As fairly as he dishes out respect, he also shares an appreciable amount of disgust, mostly directed as the Japanese soldiers who shoot at medical corpsmen trying to save the wounded or who desicrate some of the American soldiers they capture and kill. But he also shows great disdain for fellow Marines who don't show respect for the dead Japanese they come across, or his military superiors who make questionable ethical or strategic decisions. Sledge is a straight-shooter and he calls it like he sees it, regardless of which side of the battle-field they are on.Interestingly, having now read "With the Old Breed", I've found myself viewing differently the elderly men I come across while out and about. I don't know if these various men were in the military or if they ever fought in WWII (or any war for that matter), but a few times I've almost been overwhelmed with an urge to confront this old gentleman or that, and to shake their hand and vigorously thank them for the sacrifices they gave. I really don't consider myself military material and would probably chose diplomacy to armed confrontation 99 times out of 100, but my father and grandfathers were in the armed forces, so I've alway had a healthy respect for soldiers. Reading Sledge's first hand account of what he went through has only strengthened that respect.

  • Courtney Umlauf
    2018-12-07 08:44

    From the introduction by Paul Fussell One cause of this book's distinction is that its author is not an author. Sledge wrote this memoir less for strangers than to tell his own family what his war had been like. It was his wife who persuaded him to submit it to a publisher. The book is devoid of the literary expediencies and suavity's that may occasion skepticism or disgust in more artistically self-conscious war memoirs. Sledge is so little an author in the pejorative sense that his eye seems never to wander from his subject to contemplate the literary effect he's creating. His style is like window glass - you don't pause to notice it, you look through it to the actuality it discloses. It is this honesty, simplicity, and modesty that gives Sledge's book its extraordinary power.”The actuality” that Sledge’s book shows is horrifying, to the point that I considered including quotes regarding the most gruesome parts of his story and decided not to. It’s best to read those sickening details within the context of his entire experience. Suffice it to say, if you’ve seen the HBO mini-series The Pacific, don’t have any doubt that the most cringe-inducing parts of the show are accurate.If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.from “Dulce Et Decorum Est” ~ Wilfred Owen, World War I

  • Holly
    2018-11-27 09:52

    Brutal, raw, and honest. This is a guy with an eye for horrifying details, the little things I found a surprise to read. I like to understand people and this left the door wide open for me to walk through and observe a WW2 Pacific grunt's experience and feelings. There were more than a few scenes leaving a strong impression on me...more like a few horrifying images I cannot forget. He talks about battle fatigue..walking that line between "cracking up" and maintaining; his description is apt and fascinating. He also wrote something about veterens that stood out to me. Average American citizens left veterens feeling quite at a loss upon their return home...he writes; "It was hard to believe some of our old friends who had wanted so much to return home actually were writing us that they thought of volunteering again for overseas duty...They had had enough of war, but they had greater difficulty adjusting to civilians or to comfortable Stateside posts. We were unable to understand their attitudes until we ourselves returned home and tried to comprehend people who griped because America wasn't perfect, or their coffee wasn't hot enough, or they had to stand in line and wait for a train or a bus...But the folks back home couldn't understand what we experienced, what in our minds seemed to set us apart forever from anyone who hadn't been in combat. We didn't want to indulge in self pity. We just wished that people back home could understand how lucky they were and stop complaining about trivial inconveniences."He adds a few lines by SassoonYou smug faced crowds with kindling eyesWho cheer when soldier lads march bySneak home and pray you never knowThe hell where youth and laughter go

  • Patrick McCoy
    2018-12-14 10:33

    E.B. Sledge's account of his tour of duty with the 5th Marines in WWII, With The Old Breed is the second account of the Pacific theater that I have read. It is also one of the primary source materials for HBO's compelling miniseries The Pacific. Sledge's account is full of colorful accounts of his experience of WWII, much like John Leckie's book (another primary source for The Pacific) Helmet For My Pillow. I think what sets Sledge's account apart from others like it are his honest and thoughtful introspective musings on the inhumanity of war, fear, his anger and resentment against the Japanese, and many other heartfelt opinions. Furthermore, Sledge provides notes in italics describing the importance of battles and/or retroactive opinions about the validity of such battles. For example, one of the bloodiest, The Battle of Peleliu, has been suggested to have been superfluous since MacArthur was able to take the Philippines without that support from the western flank in some people's opinions. Also, he gives details about people who figure in his reminisces, whether they survived and what they went onto to do in civilian life or what awards they earned. His account is equally harrowing and full of details that were mined for the HBO series. I am inspired to read an overview of the Pacific theater and the battles to gain a greater understanding of the decision for some of these battles that were in obscure places like the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Overall, it was a compelling and informative account of life as soldier in some of the most brutal battles in WWII.

  • Laura
    2018-11-21 08:33

    I recalled some of the eloquent phrases of politicians and newsmen about how "gallant" it is for a man to "shed his blood for his country" and "to give his life's blood as a sacrifice," and so on. The words seemed so ridiculous. Only the flies benefitted.This is a fabulous book. It is about a marine serving in the Pacific during WWII. His description of the life of a marine in wartime is direct, brutal, and honest. You get a glimpse of what life was like in the foxholes, trying to kill and not be killed, to be wet and cold for days, to be tired and exhausted beyond reasonable limits, to see death, loss, and the waste of youth. Through all of this, Sledge doesn't lose his compassion or his humanity.The most poignant moment in the book is when Sledge is saying goodbye to a man who who has just been fatally wounded. He knows he is dying, but talks about the good times the man will have in the hospital and back home in America. The boy could be safe at home, but instead he simply isn't, anymore.I don't think it's possible to understand what a soldier experiences during war, but this book gets you as a close to it as a book can.

  • Vheissu
    2018-12-10 07:39

    I think the most incredible thing about this book is that it was written at all. The author was a mortarman in K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division for the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa in the Pacific War. Of the 235 Marines in K Company who invaded Peleliu on September 15, 1944, only 26 remained in active duty at the end of the battle of Okinawa on June 22, 1945. One can only speculate about the possible contributions to art, literature, and the sciences that were lost to the ages because of the carnage of World War II (or any war, for that matter).World War II produced some of America's greatest writers in the second half of the twentieth century: Kurt Vonnegut, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Herman Wouk, Joseph Heller, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, even John F. Kennedy, to name just a few. While Sledge's book does not rank among the literary heights of great authors, the book is, in its own way, a classic: a straightforward, unadorned, personal narrative of the unimaginable terror and unforgivable human indecency of war.The book provided source material for the HBO miniseries, The Pacific. Suffice it to say, the miniseries registers down the carnage and indignities that Sledge provides in unrelenting detail in his book. For those of us who never experienced war and close-in combat, this is surely as close as we can get. It is certainly as close as I'd like to get.

  • Jeff Shelnutt
    2018-12-11 10:38

    The horror and futility of war can never accurately be conveyed in words. Plenty have tried. Some authors choose to highlight the emotional toll, others the absurdity, some the waste and still others the gore. Those who actually fought in a war obviously come the closest to presenting an accurate appraisal.Still, how can it be conveyed?Eugene Sledge does a masterful job. He dropped out of officer's training school and enlisted as a private in the Marine Corps. Like many young American men his age, the call of WWII and the beckoning of a patriotic ideal lured him into a world of madness, evil and loss. He fought and survived in two of the bloodiest and costliest battles the US engaged in: Peleliu and Okinawa. Sledge, as a mortar-man with Company K, made copious notes that he kept tucked away in his New Testament. Years later, as a tenured professor at a small university in Alabama, he drew on these notes and his memory to write his story, a day by day account of his experiences, along with the thoughts and feelings that accompanied them.He neither embellishes nor downplays what he saw and did. He tells it like it was.Sledge brings the reader along as he suffers through boot camp, boards a ship bound for the Pacific Theatre, and anticipates his first battle at Peleliu. As the amtrac approaches the beach on d-day, he describes in detail his feelings of terror---the fear of being found a coward and the fear of death as explosions shook the world to its very core.He falls backwards onto the beach while his buddies drop dead around him. He looks back to see other marines, struggling through knee-deep water,showered by bullets, and sure to die before they will even fight.I shuddered and choked. A wild desperate feeling of anger, frustration and pity gripped me. It was an emotion that always would torture my mind when I saw men trapped and was unable to do anything but watch as they were hit. My own plight forgotten momentarily, I felt sickened to the depths of my soul. I asked God, "Why, why, why?" I turned my face away and wished that I were imagining it all. I had tasted the bitterest essence of war, the sight of helpless comrades being slaughtered, and it filled me with disgust.Sledge opines repeatedly, at various times and in different ways, "War is such a self-defeating, organized madness the way it destroys a nation's best"Day followed dreary day. Constant fighting, deafening explosions, sleepless nights, death and decay, near-paralyzing fear, temptations toward insanity.Slowly the reality of it all formed in my mind: we were expendable!It was difficult to accept. We come from a nation and a culture that values life and the individual. To find oneself in a situation where your life seems of little value is the ultimate in loneliness.It wasn't that Sledge ceased fighting for his country or for some abstract vision of patriotism. It's that everything became irrelevant except for staying alive and keeping his buddies alive.As I looked at the [blood] stains on the coral, I recalled some of the eloquent phrases of politicians and newsman about how "gallant" it is for a man to "shed his blood for his country," and "to give his life's blood as a sacrifice," and so on. The words seemed so ridiculous. Only the flies benefited. War stripped him of all of his preconceptions and naive assumptions about life.None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepted as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure war's savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure itSledge's final appraisal after it all reads, "War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste. Combat leaves an indelible mark on those who are forced to endure it. The only redeeming factors were my comrades' incredible bravery and their devotion to each other."I'm giving this book five stars because of its eyewitness, realistic and unadorned telling. There is violence and gore. This is to be expected. Sledge told it as it was. For those who can handle such detail and tragedy, it is well worth the read.Can war be conveyed in words? I think "Sledgehammer" comes as close as one dares.