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China Marine: An Infantryman's Life after World War II

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  • Posted November 5, 2010

    A bit dissapointing, but enriching nevertheless

    Eugene B. Sledge, 'Sledgehammer,' to his Marine Corps buddies, wrote one of the most powerful books about combat in his With the Old Breed on Peleliu And Okinawa. It has become a wartime classic, and tells the raw story of fighting from the combat infantryman's level. Sledge was a PFC in a mortar company with the 5th Marines during those two vicious encounters with Japanese troops as the war wound down in the Pacific. Together, the battles would leave 14,000 marines dead or wounded and an indelible scar on Sledge's mind. Of the 240 men in his platoon, only he and nine others would be alive after those two battles.
    Rather than being shipped home, the First Marine Division deployed to mainland China to repatriate Japanese troops, protect citizens, guard the railroads and present a physical U.S. presence as the Communists forged southward during 1946. The 5th Marines were sent to Peking, and here's where Sledge's book picks up the story. He was not your ordinary Marine. He tells of liberties, spent on a more cultural level, rather than the endless rounds of bars and whorehouses. Sledge hooked up with a Chinese family and spent time with them, a perspective few of us got to enjoy in China during that period. He learned the language, at least enough to get along.
    Curiously, he complains of slights from senior NCOs resentful of the combat- hardened regulars, having missed the experience themselves. I say 'curiously,' because during my tour in the Corps and especially in China, we held these troops in awe and showed the utmost respect for them and what they had gone through. One reviewer called the writing as 'bumpy,' a good description. I would add that trying to convey accents in quotes merely gets in the way, and putting into quotes things that happened decades ago is a stretch. I hate to say it, but the writing is a bit of a disappointment.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2010

    Forgotten History

    This book is an excellent companion piece to the author's With the Old Breed. Actually, it reads more like the final couple of chapters which should have been in the latter book. China Marine is very short, so I guess the publishers didn't want to add it to With the Old Breed, since they'd lose $17.98 a copy. That gripe aside, the book is a wonderful read, written by a truly remarkable man. I found it to be full of fascinating history - I've read about WWII all my life, but never really recognized that the US had two Marine divisions in China after Japan surrendered, including one regiment in Beijing itself. As he did with With the Old Breed, Mr Sledge gives a heartfelt, personal account of his time recovering from the horrors of Okinawa and Peleliu, and how he was assisted in that by meeting several Chinese people he developed relations with. The writing style was a bit bumpier than with his earlier book, but then as he died just before the book was published, I think that's understandable. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in WWII, Marine history, but especially those who would like to learn about an amazing man and truly Great American.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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