Report on With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa is a book written in memory of World War II by a United States Marine, professor and writer Eugene Sledge in 1981. It is based on Eugene’s notes that he wrote in a small, pocket-sized Bible during the battle in the Pacific. This book is considered to be one of the finest and the most honest memoirs of World War II.
Eugene Sledge was born in Mobile on November 4, 1923. After graduating from High School in 1942, he entered Marion Military Institute in Marion and later was enlisted in the U.S. Marion Corps. After that, Eugene had basic training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego and Camp Elliott. Besides, Sledge had additional training in New Caledonia and on Pavuvu in the Solomon Islands. In the army, he got a nickname Sledgehammer. Then, there were months of fighting. Eugene Sledge managed to survive without any physical damage. Nevertheless, it took him years for his soul to be healed.
After the war, in 1949 Sledge entered Alabama Polytechnic Institute. There he earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration. In 1952, he married Jeanne Arceneaux. The couple had two sons. After that, he became a Master of Science in botany. In 1960, he graduated from the University of Florida with a doctorate in zoology. However, Eugene Sledge is famous not as a good scientist but as the author of the World War II memoir With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa.
Sledge devoted his book to a memory of his commanding officer Andrew Haldane and the Old Breed. The book starts with a foreword, prologue and gratitude. The main events take place in the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa. The work depicts the campaigns that were held on these islands. The author began his story with giving some details about his life and training he had before combat.
After months of training, Sledge was assigned to the first Marine Division, fifth Regiment, third Battalion, Company K. Eugene recalled that once while training they were shooting at an empty oil barrels, and when the bullet hit the target, it flew apart into thousands of shards. At that moment he realized with what kind of dangerous weapon they were dealing. Mortar sergeant told him:”Yeah, it’ll tear their asses up all right. But don’t forget they’re gonna be throwing stuff at you as fast as they can” (Sledge 18). Sledge became aware of the main difference between war and hunting. After having survived the former, he rejected the later for the rest of his life.
At the end of August, they were on their way to Peleliu. At that time soldiers could not even imagine what horrifying things they would have to face. This campaign did not get wide recognition. It did not receive publicity, but still it was one of the most bloody and painful battles during the whole WWII in the Pacific. As they were approaching the island, soldiers watched frightening scenes. Huge geysers of water sprang up around them. The whole coastline was on fire. There was a thick wall of smoke. Then Lieutenant cried, “Here it is guys. Just like movie” (Sledge 68). What was happening seemed to be unreal. Eugene found himself in the middle of the battle. Bullets were flying from everywhere. There were lots of snipers in the bushes. The comrades were dying every second. The most important thing was just to survive.
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A deafening roar of exploding shells was heard everywhere. The island was overwhelmed with disgusting smell of decaying corpses and dysentery. Tropical blistering heat, lasting heavy rains, annoying flies, deep mud made their stay there impossible. Eugene was praying all the time, sometimes aloud. There were also other things that made Sledge feel disgust. It was his comrades’ inhumanity. He saw them extracting gold teeth from sometimes still alive Japanese. However, he had to fight further.
Eugene and his comrades made a conclusion that their battalion would not leave the island till they killed all the Japanese or till they themselves all were executed. They just existed there from hour to hour, from day to day. The only glimmer of hope was to be wounded and sent to hospital or a fast ending of combat. Nevertheless, it continued, and the number of victims was increasing. No one could imagine his death. In the combat in Peleliu, they had lost their commander Andrew Haldane. They had never even dared to think that it could happen. Finally, one of the comrades said that they had to move further. On October, 15 they were finally replaced by other soldiers. And on October, 30 they packed their backpacks and were happy to abandon this hell. The total loss at Peleliu was 6526 people (1252 killed and 5274 wounded). However, it was not the end of the war for those exhausted soldiers. The battle in Okinawa happened without any distinction. Its outcome was decided the same way as in any other combats. The soldiers determined the end of the battle.
In Part two of With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Sledge shows the unique experience of seeing and feeling the war on its most important level, the level of the ordinary soldier. On June, 22 in 1945, the battle for Okinawa was over. They won it. However, memory of those horrifying events stayed with the men for their whole life.
In his book Eugene Sledge tells the readers about his experience of fighting in the South Pacific during World War II. He writes in a comprehensible style. Perhaps, Sledge’s narration is rather unemotional, but still, Eugene Sledge deserves to be recognized as one of the best wartime biographies writer. Sledge had to live through that nightmare once again to bring the story to us. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa is unpleasant to read as it is full of horrifying scenes, but we must respect those soldiers and know their stories.
Personally I was shocked after reading this literary work. It showed me a war from another, previously unknown for me side. It does not glorify the war. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa affected me very much. Author’s descriptions gave me the opportunity to see the insight of the battles. I started thinking about all those events and numerous people who shed their blood for our future. I also began to realize the importance of every soldier. In my opinion, this book gives us memory that will continue to live in hearts of future generations for ages.
To sum up, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa really takes the reader in the war time; people can imagine themselves real soldiers and outlive all those terrible events. War memoirs are usually very general, but Sledge’s work is very sharp on details. That is why it has wide recognition from historians and veterans. This book is not for vulnerable people. It uncovers the worst aspects of the war. It shows that there is no glory there, but only men’s blood, violence, brutality, and horrors. The Sledge’s work reveals real combat. It shows everything without false patriotism, sympathy, and sentimentality. The book describes the brutal reality of war. This victories cost many lives, and they must be remembered and appreciated in human’s memory.