With the Old Breed Book 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 With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa is a book that was written by Eugene B. Sledge. It is a personal memoir of his time serving in the marines during WWII especially the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. It has a distinct feel because it was written by an infantryman that was often on the front line in battles. Despite this is has been compared to Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose because it like Band of Brothers it was the inspiration for a HBO mini-series called The Pacific. This is a book that does a great job of informing the reader about exactly went on during the war. It does not glorify or romanticize war, but instead basically reiterates that war is one of the closest things to hell on earth. Throughout the book Sledge focuses in on how the Americans viewed the Japanese and how the Japanese viewed the Americans. He shows that it would be accurate to call the war between the US and Japan as a “race war” because both sides thought that the other was racially inferior. Also unlike the war against the Nazis, the war against Japan was a war of revenge. The United States especially wanted to get revenge for what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. This led to particularly violent and cruel fighting by both sides in which Sledge commented “This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the
horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands.” Sledge also made frequently noted about how the men would try to cope with living on the front lines. They would constantly be hot, thirsty, dirty, hungry, and worried that it was just a matter of before they were killed. To conclude, With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa is a well written memoir of Eugene B. Sledge. It tells how the war in the Pacific was full of hatred and brutality on both sides. It focuses less on the big picture of the Pacific campaign but rather focuses mainly on the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Therefore, if one wants to know what the Pacific theater during WWII was really like, I would highly recommend With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene B. Sledge.
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.
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