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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa 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 EB Sledge s memoir of his experience fighting in the South Pacific during World War II so devastatingly powerful is its sheer honest simplicity and compassionNow 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 inand 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 fromtoendured the events recorded in this book In those years, he passed, often painfully, from innocence to experienceSledge 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 severedSledge 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 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 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 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 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 clich s 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 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 wi 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 musicEugene 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 somerecent 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 lamentsfor 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 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 tro 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

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