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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa Paperback – May 1, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 2,196 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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
“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

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 World War 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891419063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891419068
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Benis M. Frank on August 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
As I found outshortly after I first read With The Old Breed...Gene Sledge and I were in the same replacement draft which joined the 1st Marine Division on Pavuvu, British Russell Islands, but were in different units in the division. We both made the Peleliu and Okinawa landings, and his account of both battles--the savagery and bloodletting is exactly as it was. Coinicidentally, I was a stretcher bearer supporting Company K, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, Gene's outfit but I didn't know that until long after the war. Gene became a close friend after his book was published and we exchanged experiences. With The Old Breed deserves every commendation it has received over the years, from Marine veterans and others We lost Gene to cancer several years ago, but his memory and memoir will live on and be an inspiration to Marines of this and future generations, as will the exploits of the 1st Marine Division in all of its combat operations. Benis M. Frank, Chief Historian of the Marine Corps, Retired.
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Although the cover and the title may not sound that eloquent or poetic, make no mistake, Sledge's elegy stands along perhaps 10 other wartime biographies written this century. He not only recounts war and the charnel houses of these two battles, but does it in a way that is both extremely moving in a prose style that is very reminiscent of the Robert Graves' WWI "Goodbye to all That" or WWII's Farley Mowat's "And No Birds Sang."

Sledge, who is not a professional writer like the above gentleman but writes, in my opinion, equally as well. As such Sledge has written the quintessential experience of the Marine in the Pacific War. it is one of the best, eloquent, haunting, and poetic reads I have every come across, and more than most war memoirs it is very, very scary.

I think that one should be able to read through it quickly. I also liked it cause I ended up clawing through the jungle in the Horseshoe region on Peleliu and seeing nothing but gun positions, caves, and small human shaped holes in the coral landscape with Sake Bottles and used and unused cartridges in the holes.

I took this book to Peleliu in 1998. The Jungle has mostly come back and there are few tourists on the Island, and none off the very few trails. The caves are littered with broken Japanese Army helmets, some rusted badly, others with the green in good condition.

One can see nothing but jungle cleaved coral. After passing the usual "squid pots" (what the Japanese called the small coral caves and holes the dot the island), I was suddenly standing on an old oil drum, now rusted the same colour as the brown moss of the jungle. Then another drum.... rows of drums filled with coral. About at least 50 of them lined to a depth of three of four-deep covering the entrance to a coral cave.
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Format: Paperback
This account by E.B. Sledge, a Marine PFC who landed on Peleliu and
Okinawa, details the violence and brutality of these two battles so
realistically that it is a disturbing and haunting book. Peleliu was
supposed to last 3 to 4 days, but went on for 2 months and cost the
Marines 1,262 dead and 5,274 wounded. The statistics from Okinawa
contain a action, and 26,221 neuropsychiatric "non-battle
casualties." At Peleliu, Sledge "had tasted the bitterest
essence of war, the sight of helpless comrades being slaughtered, and
it filled me with disgust." Peleliu was a jagged coral island
which caused cuts and tears on contact with human flesh, and there was
a lot of such contact. "It was almost impossible to dig a
protective foxhole in the rock." Once inland one's senses were
overwhelmed by the sight and smell of corpses filled with maggots,
human excrement on top of coral everywhere, dysentery, rotting
American and Japanese rations, huge flies, knee deep mud, rainstorms,
tropical oven heat, snapping bullets, and exploding shells. More than
once Sledge saw a Marine slide down a ridge into rotting Japanese
corpses to find himself covered with maggots and vomiting from the
smell. Peleliu was an "assault into hell;" the landscape
"hell's own cesspool." After the landing, with Marines
suffering from heat prostration, even the water came from hell --it
came in old oil drums, and the oil residue caused the troops to retch
in the broiling sun. When Sledge sees his comrades cutting gold teeth
from the Japanese--some while they are still alive--he is disgusted
and sickened.
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"With The Old Breed" is a stunning eye witness account of one Marines trip from Boot Camp to the South Pacific during World War II. Sledge writes an autobiographical and historical account of his own experiences as a member of K Company, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division. Coming late to the war in 1944, Sledge "only" participates in two of the famous 1st Marine battles - Peleliu and Okinawa. Throughout his account he speaks of his training, the closeness of combat and the horrors of war.
After initially enlisting in the Marines in 1942, Sledge enrolled in Marine ROTC but like may others in his class, he felt the call of the war and after a semester he went to boot camp. It was here that he got his first taste of Marine training. By this time the Marines had plenty of combat veterans who had been rotated home to fill the ranks of instructors. The effect of having veterans train the newest can be measured by their initial survival in combat. The instructors prepared Sledge and his peers well with tough, realistic training - training that would keep them alive in the first days in combat. His state side training was followed up with more once he reached the Pacific and a healthy dose of iron discipline. Again, the hard training paid off for Sledge. Later in the war the Marines ran out of time for proper training and integration of new troops. The result was dead Marines, to new to know what to do. Training and discipline were the difference between life and death in the initial days in combat. Sledge received and absorbed his training and went home without a scratch.
Though Sledge does not specifically address it, I was struck by the closeness of the combat he faced. Peleiu was a only 12 square miles - 6 miles long by 2 miles wide.
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