With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawaby E. B. Sledge
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 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.
“In all the literature on the Second World War, there is not a more honest, realistic or moving memoir than Eugene Sledge’s. This is the real deal, the real war: unvarnished, brutal, without a shred of sentimentality or false patriotism, a profound primer on what it actually was like to be in that war. It is a classic that will outlive all the armchair generals’ safe accounts of—not the ‘good war’—but the worst war ever.”—Ken Burns
Cold and unflinching, Sledge's account of the neglected Pacific theater takes readers through two of the most hellish battles of arguably any war and the mental journey of the author back from the brink of insanity. The American World War II counterpart to Robert Graves's classic Goodbye to All That.
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Read an Excerpt
Making of a Marine
I enlisted in the Marine Corps on 3 December 1942 at Marion, Alabama. At the time I was a freshman at Marion
Military Institute. My parents and brother Edward had urged me to stay in college as long as possible in order to qualify for a commission in some technical branch of the U.S. Army.
But, prompted by a deep feeling of uneasiness that the war might end before I could get overseas into combat, I wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps as soon as possible. Ed, a
Citadel graduate and a second lieutenant in the army, suggested life would be more beautiful for me as an officer.
Mother and Father were mildly distraught at the thought of me in the Marines as an enlisted man–that is, “cannon fodder.”
So when a Marine recruiting team came to Marion Institute,
I compromised and signed up for one of the Corps’ new officer training programs. It was called V-12.
The recruiting sergeant wore dress blue trousers, a khaki shirt, necktie, and white barracks hat. His shoes had a shine the likes of which I’d never seen. He asked me lots of questions and filled out numerous official papers. When he asked,
“Any scars, birthmarks, or other unusual features?” I described an inch-long scar on my right knee. I asked why such a question. He replied, “So they can identify you on some Pacific beach after the Japs blast off your dog tags.” This was my introduction to the stark realism that characterized the
Marine Corps I later came to know.
The college year ended the last week of May 1943. I had the month of June at home in Mobile before I had to report 1
July for duty at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
I enjoyed the train trip from Mobile to Atlanta because the train had a steam engine. The smoke smelled good, and the whistle added a plaintive note reminiscent of an unhurried life. The porters were impressed and most solicitous when I
told them, with no little pride, that I was on my way to becoming a Marine. My official Marine Corps meal ticket got me a large, delicious shrimp salad in the dining car and the admiring glances of the steward in attendance.
On my arrival in Atlanta, a taxi deposited me at Georgia
Tech, where the 180-man Marine detachment lived in Harrison
Dormitory. Recruits were scheduled to attend classes year round (in my case, about two years), graduate, and then go to the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, for officers’
A Marine regular, Capt. Donald Payzant, was in charge.
He had served with the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal.
Seeming to glory in his duty and his job as our commander,
he loved the Corps and was salty and full of swagger. Looking back, I realize now that he had survived the meat grinder of combat and was simply glad to be in one piece with the good fortune of being stationed at a peaceful college campus.
Life at Georgia Tech was easy and comfortable. In short,
we didn’t know there was a war going on. Most of the college courses were dull and uninspiring. Many of the professors openly resented our presence. It was all but impossible to concentrate on academics. Most of us felt we had joined the
Marines to fight, but here we were college boys again. The situation was more than many of us could stand. At the end of the first semester, ninety of us–half of the detachment–
flunked out of school so we could go into the Corps as enlisted men.
When the navy officer in charge of academic affairs called me in to question me about my poor academic performance, I
told him I hadn’t joined the Marine Corps to sit out the war in college. He was sympathetic to the point of being fatherly and said he would feel the same way if he were in my place.
Captain Payzant gave the ninety of us a pep talk in front of the dormitory the morning we were to board the train for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California.
He told us we were the best men and the best Marines in the detachment. He said he admired our spirit for wanting to get into the war. I think he was sincere.
After the pep talk, buses took us to the railway station. We sang and cheered the whole way. We were on our way to war at last. If we had only known what lay ahead of us!
Approximately two and a half years later, I came back through the Atlanta railway station on my way home. Shortly after I stepped off the car for a stroll, a young army infantryman walked up to me and shook hands. He said he had noticed my 1st Marine Division patch and the campaign ribbons on my chest and wondered if I had fought at Peleliu. When I
said I had, he told me he just wanted to express his undying admiration for men of the 1st Marine Division.
He had fought with the 81st Infantry Division (Wildcats),
which had come in to help us at Peleliu.* He was a machine gunner, had been hit by Japanese fire on Bloody Nose Ridge,
and was abandoned by his army comrades. He knew he would either die of his wounds or be cut up by the Japanese when darkness fell. Risking their lives, some Marines had moved in and carried him to safety. The soldier said he was so impressed by the bravery, efficiency, and esprit of the
Marines he saw on Peleliu that he swore to thank every veteran of the 1st Marine Division he ever ran across.
The “Dago people”–as those of us bound for San Diego were called–boarded a troop train in a big railroad terminal in Atlanta. Everyone was in high spirits, as though we were headed for a picnic instead of boot camp–and a war. The trip across the country took several days and was uneventful but interesting. Most of us had never been west, and we enjoyed the scenery. The monotony of the trip was broken with card games, playing jokes on each other, and waving, yelling, and whistling at any and all women visible. We ate some meals in dining cars on the train; but at certain places the train pulled onto a siding, and we ate in the restaurant in the railroad terminal.
Nearly all of the rail traffic we passed was military. We saw long trains composed almost entirely of flatcars loaded with tanks, halftracks, artillery pieces, trucks, and other military equipment. Many troop trains passed us going both ways.
Most of them carried army troops. This rail traffic impressed on us the enormousness of the nation’s war effort.
*Together with the 1st Marine Division, the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry Division comprised the III Amphibious Corps commanded by Maj. Gen. Roy S.
Geiger, USMC. For the Palau operation, the 1st Marine Division assaulted
Peleliu on 15 September 1944 while the 81st Division took Angaur Island and provided a regiment as corps reserve. The 81st Division relieved the 1st
Marine Division on Peleliu on 20 October and secured the island on 27 November.
We arrived in San Diego early one morning. Collecting our gear, we fell into ranks outside our cars as a first sergeant came along and told the NCOs on our train which buses to get us aboard. This first sergeant looked old to us teenagers. Like ourselves, he was dressed in a green wool Marine uniform,
but he had campaign ribbons on his chest. He also wore the green French fourragère on his left shoulder. (Later, as a member of the 5th Marine Regiment, I would wear the braided cord around my left arm with pride.) But this man sported, in addition, two single loops outside his arm. That meant he had served with a regiment (either the 5th or 6th
Marines) that had received the award from France for distinguished combat service in World War I.
The sergeant made a few brief remarks to us about the tough training we faced. He seemed friendly and compassionate,
almost fatherly. His manner threw us into a false sense of well-being and left us totally unprepared for the shock that awaited us when we got off those buses.
“Fall out, and board your assigned buses!” ordered the first sergeant.
“All right, you people. Get aboard them buses!” the NCOs yelled. They seemed to have become more authoritarian as we approached San Diego.
After a ride of only a few miles, the buses rolled to a stop in the big Marine Corps Recruit Depot–boot camp. As I
looked anxiously out the window, I saw many platoons of recruits marching along the streets. Each drill instructor (DI)
bellowed his highly individual cadence. The recruits looked as rigid as sardines in a can. I grew nervous at seeing how serious–or rather, scared–they seemed.
“All right, you people, off them damned buses!”
We scrambled out, lined up with men from the other buses,
and were counted off into groups of about sixty. Several trucks rolled by carrying work parties of men still in boot camp or who had finished recently. All looked at us with knowing grins and jeered, “You’ll be sorreee.” This was the standard, unofficial greeting extended to all recruits.
Shortly after we debused, a corporal walked over to my group. He yelled, “Patoon, teehut. Right hace, forwart huah.
Double time, huah.”
He ran us up and down the streets for what seemed hours and finally to a double line of huts that would house us for a time. We were breathless. He didn’t even seem to be breathing hard.
“Patoon halt, right hace!” He put his hands on his hips and looked us over contemptuously. “You people are stupid,” he bellowed. From then on he tried to prove it every moment of every day. “My name is Corporal Doherty. I’m your drill instructor.
This is Platoon 984. If any of you idiots think you don’t need to follow my orders, just step right out here and I’ll beat your ass right now. Your soul may belong to Jesus, but your ass belongs to the Marines. You people are recruits.
You’ re not Marines. You may not have what it takes to be
No one dared move, hardly even to breathe. We were all humbled, because there was no doubt the DI meant exactly what he said.
Corporal Doherty wasn’t a large man by any standard. He stood about five feet ten inches, probably weighed around
160 pounds, and was muscular with a protruding chest and flat stomach. He had thin lips, a ruddy complexion, and was probably as Irish as his name. From his accent I judged him to be a New Englander, maybe from Boston. His eyes were the coldest, meanest green I ever saw. He glared at us like a wolf whose first and foremost desire was to tear us limb from limb.
He gave me the impression that the only reason he didn’t do so was that the Marine Corps wanted to use us for cannon fodder to absorb Japanese bullets and shrapnel so genuine
Marines could be spared to capture Japanese positions.
That Corporal Doherty was tough and hard as nails none of us ever doubted. Most Marines recall how loudly their DIs yelled at them, but Doherty didn’t yell very loudly. Instead he shouted in an icy, menacing manner that sent cold chills through us. We believed that if he didn’t scare us to death, the
Japs couldn’t kill us. He was always immaculate, and his uniform fitted him as if the finest tailor had made it for him. His posture was erect, and his bearing reflected military precision.
The public pictures a DI wearing sergeant stripes. Doherty commanded our respect and put such fear into us that he couldn’t have been more effective if he had had the six stripes of a first sergeant instead of the two of a corporal. One fact emerged immediately with stark clarity: this man would be the master of our fates in the weeks to come.
Doherty rarely drilled us on the main parade ground, but marched or double-timed us to an area near the beach of San
Diego Bay. There the deep, soft sand made walking exhausting,
just what he wanted. For hours on end, for days on end,
we drilled back and forth across the soft sand. My legs ached terribly for the first few days, as did those of everyone else in the platoon. I found that when I concentrated on a fold of the collar or cap of the man in front of me or tried to count the ships in the bay, my muscles didn’t ache as badly. To drop out of ranks because of tired legs was unthinkable. The standard remedy for such shirking was to “double-time in place to get the legs in shape”–before being humiliated and berated in front of the whole platoon by the DI. I preferred the pain to the remedy.
Before heading back to the hut area at the end of each drill session, Doherty would halt us, ask a man for his rifle, and tell us he would demonstrate the proper technique for holding the rifle while creeping and crawling. First, though, he would place the butt of the rifle on the sand, release the weapon, and let it drop, saying that anyone who did that would have a miserable day of it. With so many men in the platoon, it was uncanny how often he asked to use my rifle in this demonstration. Then, after demonstrating how to cradle the rifle, he ordered us to creep and crawl. Naturally, the men in front kicked sand onto the rifle of the one behind him. With this and several other techniques, the DI made it necessary for us to clean our rifles several times each day. But we learned quickly and well an old Marine Corps truism, “The rifle is a
Marine’s best friend.” We always treated it as just that.
During the first few days, Doherty once asked one of the recruits a question about his rifle. In answering, the hapless recruit referred to his rifle as “my gun.” The DI muttered some instructions to him, and the recruit blushed. He began trotting up and down in front of the huts holding his rifle in one hand and his penis in the other, chanting, “This is my rifle,”
as he held up his M1, “and this is my gun,” as he moved his other arm. “This is for Japs,” he again held aloft his M1;
“and this is for fun,” he held up his other arm. Needless to say,
none of us ever again used the word “gun” unless referring to a shotgun, mortar, artillery piece, or naval gun.
A typical day in boot camp began with reveille at 0400
hours. We tumbled out of our sacks in the chilly dark and hurried through shaves, dressing, and chow. The grueling day ended with taps at 2200. At any time between taps and reveille, however, the DI might break us out for rifle inspection,
close-order drill, or for a run around the parade ground or over the sand by the bay. This seemingly cruel and senseless harassment stood me in good stead later when I found that war allowed sleep to no man, particularly the infantryman.
Combat guaranteed sleep of the permanent type only.
We moved to two or three different hut areas during the first few weeks, each time on a moment’s notice. The order was “Platoon 984, fall out on the double with rifles, full individual equipment, and seabags with all gear properly stowed,
and prepare to move out in ten minutes.” A mad scramble would follow as men gathered up and packed their equipment.
Each man had one or two close buddies who pitched in to help each other don packs and hoist heavy seabags onto sagging shoulders. Several men from each hut would stay behind to clean up the huts and surrounding area as the other men of the platoon struggled under their heavy loads to the new hut area.
Upon arrival at the new area, the platoon halted, received hut assignments, fell out, and stowed gear. Just as we got into the huts we would get orders to fall in for drill with rifles,
cartridge belts, and bayonets. The sense of urgency and hurry never abated. Our DI was ingenious in finding ways to harass us.
One of the hut areas we were in was across a high fence from an aircraft factory where big B-24 Liberator bombers were made. There was an airstrip, too, and the big fourengine planes came and went low over the tops of the huts.
Once one belly-landed, going through the fence near our huts. No one was hurt, but several of us ran down to see the crash. When we got back to our area, Corporal Doherty delivered one of his finest orations on the subject of recruits never leaving their assigned area without the permission of their
DI. We were all impressed, particularly with the tremendous number of push-ups and other exercises we performed instead of going to noon chow.
During close-order drill, the short men had the toughest time staying in step. Every platoon had its “feather merchants”–short men struggling along with giant strides at the tail end of the formation. At five feet nine inches, I was about two-thirds of the way back from the front guide of Platoon
984. One day while returning from the bayonet course, I
got out of step and couldn’t pick up the cadence. Corporal
Doherty marched along beside me. In his icy tone, he said,
“Boy, if you don’t get in step and stay in step, I’m gonna kick you so hard in the behind that they’re gonna have to take both of us to sick bay. It’ll take a major operation to get my foot outa your ass.” With those inspiring words ringing in my ears,
I picked up the cadence and never ever lost it again.
The weather became quite chilly, particularly at night. I
had to cover up with blankets and overcoat. Many of us slept in dungaree trousers and sweat shirts in addition to our
Skivvies. When reveille sounded well before daylight, we only had to pull on our boondockers [field shoes] before falling in for roll call.
Each morning after roll call, we ran in the foggy darkness to a large asphalt parade ground for rifle calisthenics. Atop a wooden platform, a muscular physical training instructor led several platoons in a long series of tiring exercises. A publicaddress system played a scratchy recording of “Three O’-
Clock in the Morning.” We were supposed to keep time with the music. The monotony was broken only by frequent whispered curses and insults directed at our enthusiastic instructor,
and by the too frequent appearance of various DIs who stalked the extended ranks making sure all hands exercised vigorously. Not only did the exercises harden our bodies, but our hearing became superkeen from listening for the DIs as we skipped a beat or two for a moment of rest in the inky darkness.
At the time, we didn’t realize or appreciate the fact that the discipline we were learning in responding to orders under stress often would mean the difference later in combat–
between success or failure, even living or dying. The ear training also proved to be an unscheduled dividend when
Japanese infiltrators slipped around at night.
Shortly we received word that we were going to move out to the rifle range. We greeted the announcement enthusiastically.
Rumor had it that we would receive the traditional broad-brimmed campaign hats. But the supply ran out when our turn came. We felt envious and cheated every time we saw those salty-looking “Smokey Bear” hats on the range.
Early on the first morning at the rifle range, we began what was probably the most thorough and the most effective rifle marksmanship training given to any troops of any nation during
World War II. We were divided into two-man teams the first week for dry firing, or “snapping-in.” We concentrated on proper sight setting, trigger squeeze, calling of shots, use of the leather sling as a shooting aid, and other fundamentals.
It soon became obvious why we all received thick pads to be sewn onto the elbows and right shoulders of our dungaree jackets: during this snapping-in, each man and his buddy practiced together, one in the proper position (standing,
kneeling, sitting, or prone) and squeezing the trigger, and the other pushing back the rifle bolt lever with the heel of his hand, padded by an empty cloth bandolier wrapped around the palm. This procedure cocked the rifle and simulated recoil.
The DIs and rifle coaches checked every man continuously.
Everything had to be just so. Our arms became sore from being contorted into various positions and having the leather sling straining our joints and biting into our muscles.
Most of us had problems perfecting the sitting position
(which I never saw used in combat). But the coach helped everyone the way he did me–simply by plopping his weight on my shoulders until I was able to “assume the correct position.”
Those familiar with firearms quickly forgot what they knew and learned the Marine Corps’way.
Second only to accuracy was safety. Its principles were pounded into us mercilessly. “Keep the piece pointed toward the target. Never point a rifle at anything you don’t intend to shoot. Check your rifle each time you pick it up to be sure it isn’t loaded. Many accidents have occurred with ‘unloaded’
We went onto the firing line and received live ammunition the next week. At first, the sound of rifles firing was disconcerting.
But not for long. Our snapping-in had been so thorough,
we went through our paces automatically. We fired at round black bull’s-eye targets from 100, 300, and 500 yards.
Other platoons worked the “butts.”* When the range officer ordered, “Ready on the right, ready on the left, all ready on the firing line, commence firing,” I felt as though the rifle was part of me and vice versa. My concentration was complete.
Discipline was ever present, but the harassment that had been our daily diet gave way to deadly serious, businesslike instruction in marksmanship. Punishment for infractions of the rules came swiftly and severely, however. One man next to me turned around slightly to speak to a buddy after “cease firing” was given; the action caused his rifle muzzle to angle away from the targets. The sharp-eyed captain in charge of the range rushed up from behind and booted the man in the rear so hard that he fell flat on his face. The captain then jerked him up off the deck and bawled him out loudly and thoroughly. We got his message.
*“Butts” refers to the impact area on a rifle range. It consists of the targets mounted on a vertical track system above a sheltered dugout, usually made of concrete, in which other shooters operate, mark, and score the targets for those on the firing line.
Platoon 984 took its turn in the butts. As we sat safely in the dugouts and waited for each series of firing to be completed,
I had somber thoughts about the crack and snap of bullets passing overhead.
Qualification day dawned clearly and brightly. We were apprehensive,
having been told that anyone who didn’t shoot high enough to qualify as “marksman” wouldn’t go overseas.
When the final scores were totaled, I was disappointed. I fell short of “expert rifleman” by only two points. However, I
proudly wore the Maltese Cross—shaped sharpshooter’s badge. And I didn’t neglect to point out to my Yankee buddies that most of the high shooters in our platoon were Southern boys.
Feeling like old salts, we returned to the recruit depot for the final phases of recruit training. The DIs didn’t treat us as veterans, though; harassment picked up quickly to its previous intensity.
By the end of eight grueling weeks, it had become apparent that Corporal Doherty and the other DIs had done their jobs well. We were hard physically, had developed endurance,
and had learned our lessons. Perhaps more important,
we were tough mentally. One of our assistant drill instructors even allowed himself to mumble that we might become Marines after all.
Finally, late in the afternoon of 24 December 1943, we fell in without rifles and cartridge belts. Dressed in service greens, each man received three bronze Marine Corps globeand-
anchor emblems, which we put into our pockets. We marched to an amphitheater where we sat with several other platoons.
This was our graduation from boot camp. A short, affablelooking major standing on the stage said, “Men, you have successfully completed your recruit training and are now
United States Marines. Put on your Marine Corps emblems and wear them with pride. You have a great and proud tradition to uphold. You are members of the world’s finest fighting outfit, so be worthy of it.” We took out our emblems and put one on each lapel of our green wool coats and one on the left side of the overseas caps. The major told several dirty jokes.
Everyone laughed and whistled. Then he said, “Good luck,
men.” That was the first time we had been addressed as men during our entire time in boot camp.
Before dawn the next day, Platoon 984 assembled in front of the huts for the last time. We shouldered our seabags, slung our rifles, and struggled down to a warehouse where a line of trucks was parked. Corporal Doherty told us that each man was to report to the designated truck as his name and destination was called out. The few men selected to train as specialists
(radar technicians, aircraft mechanics, etc.) were to turn in their rifles, bayonets, and cartridge belts.
As the men moved out of ranks, there were quiet remarks of, “So long, see you, take it easy.” We knew that many friendships were ending right there. Doherty called out, “Eugene
B. Sledge, 534559, full individual equipment and M1 rifle,
infantry, Camp Elliott.”
Most of us were designated for infantry, and we went to
Camp Elliott or to Camp Pendleton.* As we helped each other aboard the trucks, it never occurred to us why so many were being assigned to infantry. We were destined to take the places of the ever mounting numbers of casualties in the rifle or line companies in the Pacific. We were fated to fight the war first hand. We were cannon fodder.
After all assignments had been made, the trucks rolled out,
and I looked at Doherty watching us leave. I disliked him, but
I respected him. He had made us Marines, and I wondered what he thought as we rolled by.
*Camp Elliott was a small installation located on the northern outskirts of
San Diego. It has been used rarely since World War II. Thirty-five miles north of San Diego lies Camp Joseph H. Pendleton. Home today of the 1st Marine
Division, it is the Marine Corps’ major west coast amphibious base.
Meet the Author
E. B. “Sledgehammer” Sledge was born and grew up in Mobile. In late 1943 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After basic training, he was sent to the Pacific Theater where he fought at Peleliu and Okinawa, two of the fiercest battles of World War II. Following the Japanese surrender, Sledge served in China as part of the occupation force. Upon his return home, he obtained a Ph.D. in biology and joined the faculty of Alabama College (later the University of Montevallo), where he taught until retirement. Sledge initially wrote about his war experiences to explain them to his family, but he was persuaded by his wife to seek publication. Sledge died on March 3, 2001.
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Sledge carried his war experiences around with him for decades before he was able to rehash his experiences, assisted by notes he wrote in the pages of his Bible. He wrote With the Old Breed as a sort of explanation to his family of what he went through. Luckily for the rest of us, it got published--all the grit, blood, death and fear of the battles for Peleliu and Okinawa. It wasn't uncommon for young men of his generation to volunteer for service the day after Pearl Harbor (not that many waited to be drafted, and almost nobody dodged the draft in those days), or as soon as they came of age. Sledge waited a year before enlisting, went through training as a mortarman and arrived just in time for the battle of Peleliu. Sledge witnessed a whole lot, none of it glorious. In short, he saw combat bring out the best and worst of human nature, and you'll see it, too, through his eyes. Some war veterans tend to gloss over the horrific gore of combat, particularly veterans of WWII, but Eugene Sledge holds nothing back. Perhaps that's why many reviewers consider this the best war memoir written. I highly recommend this book.
This is the best first person book on the Pacific war in World War Two that I have ever read. To be fair, I have many more books on the ETO, but this book stands out as a moving account of the miseries of the common soldier who fought eyeball to eyeball with his Japanese counterparts in the steamy jungles. Eugene Sledge is an example of American manhood that I fear is lost. A young man from a good family who was anxious to defend his country, he and his fellow Marines willingly suffered for their country in a way I doubt many young people today would. I hope I'm wrong. I've found the most moving stories of WWII don't come from historians, but from the common fighting man. This is one of the best.
No doubt the greatest book I have ever read. Leaving no emotion untouched, Sledge strips away any notion of glory in battle. I understand war is brutal and senseless, but I now have a new outlook that reinforces that opinion. Should be read by students and anyone who wants to join the military. Praise those who were forced to endure battle. No one can fully grasp the experience, without being there. I do know that I would be very reluctant to.
Sledgehammer describes the two Sosuth Pacific battles he was part of as a Marine in the First Marine Division during World War II. Since I am a Marine who served in the Vietnam War, I am fully aware of how puny our efforts were when compared to the men who served in the Pacific and those who were at the Cosen Reservoir during the Korean War. I had a first hand experience in combat during my two and one-half years with the Frst Marine Division but after reading this book I am left with the understanding of what a real war is like and of what supremen the Marines of those days were. I am very conservative concerning the use of the descriptive noun "hero" and will not use it here. Certainly there were heroes aplenty in that effort just as there were in Korea and Vietnam. What most of you don't seem to understand is that very few of us who served were not heroes. Most of us did nothing heroic. We just did what at the officers told us to do. That is the way this book unfolds. Sledge and his buddies in third battalion of the Fifth Marine Regiment were just ground pounders doing their duty. The unique perspective Sledge uses in this book will put you in a place you will not likely enjoy occupying. I hope you do not have a weak stomach and you have not eaten recently when he describes digging in during the assaults around Shuri on Okinawa. I have had people ask me what combat was like in Vietnam. I have never been able to explain it. I don't suppose I ever will. Since I cannot do it, I can point those curious souls to is book. That is more than enough. As a fellow Marine, I am very glad that EB Sledge took and kept all those notes. If you want to understand there are nor has there ever been any John Waynes or Rambos in combat just give this book a read.
"With the Old Breed" is one of the best books that I have read about WWII. Mr. Sledge put you in the foxhole with him. He even takes time to describe the weapons being used. After reading this book, one has to wonder how a human could do what they did. Being a former Marine, I know about the Marine Corps training and I am sure that it had something to do with what happened on those islands. Semper Fi, Mr. Sledge, Bravo!
The book gives you a personal insight of the Pacific war front from a soldier who lived a breathed all the experiences that impacted his life. The experience and emotion is passed on to the reader in a way that helps you better understand how difficult life was for these heros.
After watching Ken Burns 'The War' and the accounts attributed to E. B. Sledge, I had to read his book. What an amazing story that everyone should read. Concise, well-written, and heart breaking in the sorrow our troops go through in war. Bless everyone in uniform.
These marines did what they had to do. I also had no compassion for the Japanese for what they did to our soldiers during WW II. What these Marines did was retribution for the sadistic way the Japanese treated our wounded and prisoners of WAR Way to go MARINE Eugene Sledge
Most of these war stories are hard to understand unless you are of a military mind. This is one that is easy to read and to understand whether a veteran of combat like myself or not. Knowing that he is one of the characters portrayed in the HBO series 'Pacific" adds to the feeling of being at home with him and a friend of his throughout this book.
If you love the USMC, then you'll love this book. It's a gripping and compelling memoir of a Marine and his life on Peleliu and Okinawa. As a fellow Marine, I definitely have a new respect after reading this non fiction for the pacific theater and the Marines that went through the war. Love this book, and highly recommend if you are a WWII buff or a Marine lover.
Great book! Well written, easy to follow. After I finished reading the book, I flipped through a paperback version in a bookstore. There were lots of photos that were not in the ebook. I contactd BN and the publisher. The publisher doesnt have the electronic rights to the photos, so they are not in the ebook. BN blames the publisher. I blame them both, had I known I would have bought the paperback. There was no warning, however when an ebook is enhanced they are quick to point that out.
I am a veteran of World War II having served as an infantry rifleman in the 328th Infantry Regiment in the European theatre. I am proud of my service in combat against the German Army but after reading this book, I am convinced that what I experienced was child's play compared to the suffering and horrors descibed by the author of this book. His descriptions of the filth and stench of battle are authentic but at the same time beyond belief. This is unquestionably the best anti-war book you could possibly read. Bravo to Sledgehammer and the Marines!
I saw "The Pacific" before reading this book. I loved the mini-series and thought I was moved, then I read Sledge's book. It was real, from a real marine's viewpoint and real feelings and fears. I thank him for passing on his story to me. I will always cherish it as part of my library.
A great recounting of on man’s experiences detailing what he documented during his time in U. S. Marines in the Pacific campaign in WWII. Excellent reading. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down!
This was a well written first hand account of some of the most historic battles in our nations history. Sledge did not glamorize war, but vividly described it as he saw it. This was a great read, and a chance to see these epic battles through a veterans eyes.
As a young man, Eugene Sledge joined the US Marines "to do his bit" in World War II and because of his choice of the Marine Corps, he was sent to fight in the Pacific War against the Japanese. "With the Old Breed" describes his experiences in two of the nastier campaigns in that theatre, Pelelieu and Okinawa. There was nothing civilized about the Pacific war. Lives were thrown away on both sides for possession of tiny islands with a reckless abandon that matches the waste of the Great War. It was fought with a savagery and hate that beggars belief and Sledge pulls no punches in describing the horror. There are notes at the end of each chapter that add a little context, but Sledge wrote the account from the point of view of a young Marine, working from a battle diary that he kept in his pocket bible. He had little or no idea of the big picture and in most cases he had no idea of what was going on. His perspective comes from over the sights of his rifle; all he can see is the wall of his foxhole, the bodies of friends and foe scattered around him. All he can hear is the rattle of rifle fire, the screech and crash of artillery and the screams of the dying. Sledge fully understood his position in all of this. He also understood the horror and waste of what was happening around him and he conveys the brutality and futility very well.
I have been looking for this book for a long time. It is a well written diary of a regular guy and his mates during the two battles in the title. Any one who has served in a combat unit will recognize people from their unit, and perhaps even themselves. I highly recommend it.
Everyone should read this book - you will be enlightened by what our brave men and women go thru to protect us - Highly Recommended - a must read!
Perfect for 10+ great book i loved it
Again, this is a book I had to read for my class on WWII here at school and I absolutely fell in love with it. I'm a sucker for well written account of battles during World War II and life in the military. The detail that Sledge goes into is incredible. He remembers every single detail and the description is so vivid that I actually believe I am there on Pavuvu, Peleliu, and Okinawa. I can really see, after reading this book, why HBO picked it up and made it into a miniseries, just like Band of Brothers. The battles at Peleliu and Okinawa were brutal and some of the worst that occurred in the Pacific. Many men returned scarred for life, refusing to even hear the words "Asia," "Japan," and "war." Many were even put into homes for veterans (some even checked themselves in) and most were young men in their early-late twenties and thirties. I think this book is a great testament to those who fought, died, and survived the horrors in the Pacific. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. I would advise that there are graphic scenes in this book and I would caution those with weak constitutions to avoid this book. Or at least avoid the moments of "graphic"-ness...
A must read for anyone who really wants to know what combat looks like, smells like and feels like should read this book. Sledge writes an honest story and pulls no punches. If you have ever served in combat especially in the infantry you will see that while years pass, weapons evolve and tactics change combat remains the same.
Something you can never understand unless you lived it.
An authentic and amazing account of fighting in the Pacific campaign during world War 2. A definite page turner and a must read if interested in this part of American history
This was a very good book. I received it as a gift from a co-worker after I had read a different WWII memoir and enjoyed it, so he said he thought I would enjoy this one as well. Don't get me wrong, it isn't a fun, happy, uplifting book to read. It is very emotional and some parts are purely gut-wrenching. However, I feel like I never got enough information on the realities of the war during school. This book gave a wonderful perspective of the horrible realities of war. In school you learn about dates and some important people, but the horrible realities of war aren't discussed (with good reason, as I'm sure school kids don't need to be exposed to all of this detail). It was a wonderfully written story and made me feel like I was right there in the mud and muck with them. I am very glad I read this story.