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With the Old Breed
Cover of With the Old Breed
With the Old Breed
At Peleliu and Okinawa
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"Eugene Sledge became more than a legend with his memoir, With The Old Breed. He became a chronicler, a historian, a storyteller who turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific—the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary—into terms we mortals can grasp."—Tom Hanks
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In The Wall Street Journal, Victor Davis Hanson named With the Old Breed one of the top five books on epic twentieth-century battles. Studs Terkel interviewed the author for his definitive oral history, The Good War. Now E. B. Sledge's acclaimed first-person account of fighting at Peleliu and Okinawa returns to thrill, edify, and inspire a new generation.
An Alabama boy steeped in American history and enamored of such heroes as George Washington and Daniel Boone, Eugene B. Sledge became part of the war's famous 1st Marine Division—3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Even after intense training, he was shocked to be thrown into the battle of Peleliu, where "the world was a nightmare of flashes, explosions, and snapping bullets." By the time Sledge hit the hell of Okinawa, he was a combat vet, still filled with fear but no longer with panic.
Based on notes Sledge secretly kept in a copy of the New Testament, With the Old Breed captures with utter simplicity and searing honesty the experience of a soldier in the fierce Pacific Theater. Here is what saved, threatened, and changed his life. Here, too, is the story of how he learned to hate and kill—and came to love—his fellow man.
"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
From the Trade Paperback edition.
"Eugene Sledge became more than a legend with his memoir, With The Old Breed. He became a chronicler, a historian, a storyteller who turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific—the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary—into terms we mortals can grasp."—Tom Hanks
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
In The Wall Street Journal, Victor Davis Hanson named With the Old Breed one of the top five books on epic twentieth-century battles. Studs Terkel interviewed the author for his definitive oral history, The Good War. Now E. B. Sledge's acclaimed first-person account of fighting at Peleliu and Okinawa returns to thrill, edify, and inspire a new generation.
An Alabama boy steeped in American history and enamored of such heroes as George Washington and Daniel Boone, Eugene B. Sledge became part of the war's famous 1st Marine Division—3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. Even after intense training, he was shocked to be thrown into the battle of Peleliu, where "the world was a nightmare of flashes, explosions, and snapping bullets." By the time Sledge hit the hell of Okinawa, he was a combat vet, still filled with fear but no longer with panic.
Based on notes Sledge secretly kept in a copy of the New Testament, With the Old Breed captures with utter simplicity and searing honesty the experience of a soldier in the fierce Pacific Theater. Here is what saved, threatened, and changed his life. Here, too, is the story of how he learned to hate and kill—and came to love—his fellow man.
"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
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One 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'
    training.

    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...

About 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 WW 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.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2016

    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.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Tom Hanks "Eugene Sledge became more than a legend with his memoir, With The Old Breed. He became a chronicler, a historian, a storyteller who turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific --the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary--into terms we mortals can grasp."
  • Ken Burns "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."
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