Download With the Old Breed Online by E.B. Sledge
Click Here to Download the Book 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.
Reviews I've meant to read this book for a long time, since hearing about it in various places and since seeing Eugene Sledge portrayed in the series "The Pacific". What horrors he wrote about in this book regarding his participation in the invasions of Peleliu and Okinawa in WWII. He's a person to be admired for making it through these horrors without turning into a monster or a vegetable, and in telling it like it was. This is yet another book of someone having personal experience with the inhumanity of the Japanese in the war. Were we inhumane as well? Of course, but Mr. Sledge and his buddies knew very well that if they were captured, they would be tortured by the Japanese. Marines in these battles hated the Japanese for what they did, over and beyond just killing. "What a waste, I thought. War is such self-defeating, organized madness the way it destroys a nations's best", Eugene Sledge says in his book. And there was this about his fellow Marines killed on Peleliu: "The bodies were badly decomposed and nearly blackened by exposure. This was to be expected of the dead in the tropics, but these Marines had been mutilated hideously by the enemy. One man had been decapitated. His head lay on his chest; his hands had been severed from his wrists and also lay on his chest near his chin. In disbelief I stared
at the face as I realized that the Japanese had cut off the dead Marine's penis and stuffed it in his mouth. The corpse next to him had been treated similarly. The third had been butchered, chopped up like a carcass torn by some predatory animal.....My comrades would fieldstrip their packs and pockets for souvenirs and take gold teeth, but I never saw a Marine commit the kind of barbaric mutilation the Japanese committed if they had access to our dead." To this day the Japanese deny the things they did in World War II. But it's really war itself that bothered Eugene Sledge so much that he could not even participate in hunting after the war. This was such a good book about the horrific thing that World War II in the Pacific was.
To put it bluntly, so much of this book reaffirms the disgusting nature of warfare as well as the daunting tasks many young men of WWII were asked to perform in the midst of sheer terror that most would wither and succumb to. Does a survivor become a hero for facing likely death and cheating it? Or does a soldier simply do what they are ordered and hope they get lucky? There were many scenarios the author, E.B. Sledge, described that made me eternally grateful I had not been born 50 years earlier than when I was. And I struggled with the feeling that that makes me a coward somehow. The book gave birth partially to the HBO series "The Pacific", and it is a chronicle of Sledge's missions upon the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa. There, some of the most grueling and sorrow-filled scenes unfolded as the Japanese dug in amid their encampments while the U.S. military relentlessly and systematically removed them by sheer force and numbers. It was part of a campaign to inch closer to Japan's mainland, interrupt Japan's imperialism of the Eastern world and ultimately, to end WWII. Sledge transposed the notes he scribbled into his pocket Bible into a memoir of his experiences. What is primarily absent is the survivor guilt he lived with for the rest of his life, ending in 2001. Despite what many of them claim, these men were heroes for simply going far beyond the normal human capacity for bloodshed and violence (which is typically zero) in the name of preserving a world rife with freedom and self-determination. Those with interests in WWII, the Pacific Theater, U.S. Marine Corps, amphibious invasions, and/or the inside of the mind of a soldier, this book is a must read.
As a narrative piece on the daily life of a marine foot-solider in the Pacific in WWII, this contribution by E.B. Sledge is unparalleled. The reader is exposed to the minute details and horrors of island and jungle warfare, and the effects of the carnage on the soldier's mind. One is left with the senselessness and futility of war, with so many lives blown into oblivion fighting for their country. As this account is told from the perspective of an enlisted mortarman, I found that you never fully saw the bigger picture - often times the author would be supporting the advance with mortars from the rear, and would only find out what happened second hand when the fighting was over. Being a junior rank as well, he was never privvy to the strategy and macro view of the actions the company was taking part in - time and time again, they just did what they were told by their NCOs as they moved from one place to another. That said, you will find details mentioned in the book that are often omitted from other historical accounts that paint broader strokes. The writing is rich in detail, unassuming presented with no pretense and one can't help but be drawn into world of the author.
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