With The Old Breed is the intense biography of a Marine infantryman who fought against Japan in World War II. A doctor’s son from Alabama, the 135-pound Eugene B. Sledge was an intelligent and modest young man who evolved into a ruthless killing machine that survived the hellish Pacific War. Fellow Marines would nickname the mortarman “Sledgehammer.” This moving and graphic book follows his nightmare journey through the meat grinder battles of Peleliu and Okinawa.
The Battle Of Peleliu
After he completed basic training, PFC Sledge went to the Pacific. He tasted combat at the amphibious landing on Peleliu. The battle to win this tiny island was supposed to take several days. It lasted over two months. Peleliu consisted of jagged coral that shredded flesh, shoes, and clothing. The coral made it almost impossible to dig defensive positions. The Marines faced flies, maggots, filth, giant land crabs, jungle rot, and baking heat. Of course, they also experienced near constant gunfire, shelling, and explosions.
Peleliu had almost no soil. It was impossible to bury the dead or bodily waste. Thousands of corpses and body parts in various stages of decay piled up and lay rotting in the sun. Human excrement covered the island. The Marines drank foul, contaminated water from used oil barrels. Sledge found many dead Americans badly desecrated by the Japanese. He described a Marine who culled trophies from a mortally wounded soldier:
The Japanese’s mouth glowed with huge gold-crowned teeth, and his captor wanted them. He put the point of his kabar on the base of a tooth and hit the handle with the palm of his hand. Because the Japanese was kicking his feet and thrashing about, the knife point glanced off the tooth and sank deeply into the victim’s mouth. The Marine cursed him and with a slash cut his cheeks open to each ear. He put his foot on the sufferer’s lower jaw and tried again. Blood poured out of the soldier’s mouth. He made a gurgling noise and thrashed wildly.
Later, Sledge came close to collecting teeth before a corpsman talked him down. He barely survived Peleliu with his humanity intact:
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.
The Battle Of Okinawa
Sledge then participated in the brutal assault on Okinawa. By this time, he was a combat hardened veteran. This battle lasted almost three months and over 12,500 Allied forces died. The Allies killed 95,000 Japanese soldiers. Some estimate that up to 140,000 civilians perished as well.
The misery continued. Sledge witnessed a Marine casually murder an old, unarmed Okinawan woman. He saw another man lose his mind; a sobbing comrade who repeatedly smashed a rifle butt into the destroyed skull of a dead Japanese soldier until gently led away. The Marines did not sleep because at night the enemy silently crept past their lines and knifed them in the dark.
Unlike Peleliu, Okinawa had mud, which dragged the Allies down but at least allowed them to dig defensive fortifications. Even this small blessing would come at a cost:
In disgust, I drove the spade into the soil, scooped out the insects, and threw them down the front of the ridge. The next stroke of the spade unearthed buttons and scraps of cloth from a Japanese army jacket in the mud—and another mass of maggots. I kept on doggedly. With the next thrust, metal hit the breastbone of a rotting Japanese corpse. I gazed down in horror and disbelief as the metal scraped a clean track through the mud along the dirty whitish bone and cartilage with ribs attached. The shovel skidded into the rotting abdomen with a squishing sound. The odor nearly overwhelmed me as I rocked back on my heels. I began choking and gagging as I yelled in desperation, ‘I can’t dig in here! There’s a dead Nip here!’ The NCO came over, looked down at my problem and at me, and growled, ‘You heard him; he said put the holes five yards apart.’
The Allies prevailed, and Sledge lived through Okinawa. They began to prepare for the inevitable invasion of the Japanese homeland. The troops were obviously ecstatic when the atomic bomb attack ended WWII, eliminating the need for another bloody offensive.
After The War
Sledge witnessed the rise of the Chinese Communists while stationed in Beijing post war. He documented those experiences in China Marine. After his discharge, he retired to a quiet civilian life in Alabama. He got a PhD, had a family, and became a biology professor at the University of Montevallo. E.B. Sledge passed away in 2001.
Military history books typically offer an impersonal, big-picture perspective. With The Old Breed presents the compelling and very personal narrative of a combat soldier. This man lived through some of the most vicious battles in recorded history. It is hard to fathom the horrors that Sledge endured. The book stuck in my mind for weeks after I read it. It reminded me not to take things for granted. When life gets tough, I remember this story and put things in perspective. I am thankful for men like him, and all those who sacrificed their lives to destroy tyranny. They are part of the reason we are free to pursue our own selfish goals. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
Read More: “With The Old Breed” on Amazon
35 thoughts on “Shredded Flesh, Jungle Rot, And The Sledgehammer”
It stuck with me, too. Hell of a book. Highly recommended.
What tyranny? Do you think Japan would have ruled the USA unless you beat them? Yeah, I can see Tojo as regent in Washington while the emperor remained in Japan.
Have you read anything about what the Japanese did to POW’s?
One doesn’t have to rule over all nations to be a tyrant, jackass.
“sacrificed their lives to destroy tyranny”
LOL. No, just sacrificed. The “red pill” ain’t just about seducing babes… it ain’t a lollipop… swallow it whole. You’ve been lied to, and are responsible for learning why. Then you can really honor their sacrifice… and pitch in so as to prevent another WW.
Tyranny is a type of rule. You’re confusing cruelty wuth tyranny.It does not follow from the fact that Japs were cruel ( and arguably some GIs too) that Japan wanted to establish a tyranny in America. That was Roosevelt’s job! LOL!
Cruelty is a function of tyranny. One doesn’t have to look far to realize Japan would have been tyrants over whomever they subjugated.
But I do agree that the US is becoming a nation not all that much different in terms of tyranny.
Ignorant bastard. Read the book and say that again to a veteran’s face. I’m pretty sure a 95 year old could beat the shit out of you.
Projection exhibit 101
Your link is to an Aryan Nation white supremacist website. Projection? Go away racist troll.
You are arguing in the style of an emoting feminist with your histrionic attack. The fact that brave veterans died fighting World War II says nothing about the merits and realities of the war and it’s motivations. Taking the red pill means questioning taboos and deeply held beliefs and seeing if they withstand the criticism. I guess you still hold a blind spot for “The Good War”, WWII.
See my comment below:
Yes, the Red Pill involves questioning history with logic, historical knowledge, and understanding. Not with your reflexive, defensive love of all things Aryan, Mein Herr.
This reads as someone who is doing some needless America bashing for no good reason.
Trust me, there are lots of reasons to bash america, back then (internment camps, dresden etc), nowadays (gulf wars, etc) but you’re off your head if you didn’t think Japan did not propose a long term threat to the United states and the rest of the allied powers, during WW2.
They had a near fundamentalist devotion to the emperor, a divine belief they were superior to other people, and were gobbling up as much land in east asia as possible, raping killing, and brutally murdering their way through china, thailand and beyond.
The Japanese at the time, had no qualms about doing all manner of abhorrent things to their percieved enemies (see korean comfort girls, the rape of nanking, unit 731 to name a few.
They did acted on american POWs with a medievil style of treatment and torture techniques. no these were not the happy go lucky peace signs up at the camera, otaku, gentle japanese citizens of today.
they had fealty to their bloodthirsty murderous emperor, who they would do anything for.
It’s true the A-bombs were pretty much unforgivable, but they cut the war short incredibly fast. A lot lot more blood would have been spilled if they did not use them.
in short, you know nothing of what you’re talking about. I’m the last person to stick up for the good old US of A, but you’re a complete fool if you didn’t realise just how threatening WW2 Japan was as a nation.
Yeah, damn Japs! They wanted a little piece of the action, Guam, the Philippines, anything. Some respect.Uppity gooks! The yellow bastards even offered armistice before things turned nasty! The fast and humane solution was to nuke the hell out of them.It was either that or we turned the Red Army loose on them.’Let Stalin get medieval on their yellow asses. That will teach them to respect the Geneva convention even though they never signed it.
Now Japs are lucky to have American troops on their soil: that will teach those wannabe imperialists a lesson.
My country right or wrong.
@BB dude don’t conflate being accurate, about history with being racist or imperialist. if you want to go back to a time, when you were ruled by a feudal despot that shunned technology fine by me
Japan have refused time and time again to apologise for the rape of nanking, the comfort girls of korea, and a dozen other offences under some sort of national pride. they shouldn’t be fucking proud, they did horrible things
Rape of Nanking 350,000 dead civilians. Use of biowarfare. Murder of POWs. Corpse Mutilation. Doctrine of divine descent and racial superiority.
For the Marine experience in Vietnam, I recommend a recent book, “Matterhorn,” by Karl Marlantes.
Just a heads-up: the links to the book’s Amazon page are broken.
Another good one is “I’m Staying With My Boys”, the story of John Basilone. He fought on Guadalcanal and died in battle on Iwo Jima.
It would probably make us better men if we stopped reading the 24 hour current events horror stories and read more about heroic men of the past, like the Sledgehammer and John Basilone.
Fyi, both soldiers were portrayed in a hbo mini series about the pacific theater.
i’ve still yet to watch this, is it any good?
Most of the friends whose opinions i value, say it paled in comparison to band of brothers, so i’ve kind of avoided it, and got my WW2 fix through films like thin red line
Very good. Not as good as Band of Brothers but still an excellent mini series. Worth watching.
I love The Pacific and Band of Brothers… If you like this book you’ll like Helmet For My Pillow by Robert Leckie. Highly recommended.
Remind me to never attempt sarcasm anymore.
I’m neither Japanese or American. My point, simply put, is tha America went ahead and did those very things in Asia and elsewhere that they pretended to be fighting Japan for: genocide, invasion, tyranny,imperialism, etc
Finally the heroics of soldiers have nothing to do with the rightfulness of the side they fight on.
Arguably, the nazi Gewehr was the best army in history.
Make that Wehrmacht or Heer.Sorry.
This book is a god example of what pisses me off about our feminized society. For centuries, American men have laid it all on the line to do what they felt they should. Our fathers, uncles, brothers, and sons have stared certain death in the face for so long its become practically a given and have been wrecking shop on anyone who wanted a shot a the title ever since we split from that little bitch the King of England.
….but a couple split tails get killed serving coffee in a mess tent and suddenly we’re the “brave men and women” of America’s Armed Forces….killin’ is man-work, and every fem-bot who has boldly declared that a woman can soldier-and-die “just as well as a man” should read this thing under penalty of death.
“I am thankful for men like him, and all those who sacrificed their lives to destroy tyranny. They are part of the reason we are free to pursue our own selfish goals. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.”
This is rich coming from a Red Pill website. Japan had no interest in war and the United States and FDR provoked them into attack at Pearl Harbor. Later, they indicated they wanted to surrender before the US dropped the bombs, as long as they could keep their emperor as a sacred deity, but the US refused this modest request.
Sledge’s story sounds fascinating and a good example of bravery and the horrors of war, but it’s not going to provide a value judgment on the merits of World War II and the betrayals that led to American involvement.
Read some Red Pill history, and start with
Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath
Here is an overview: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/did-fdr-provoke-pearl-harbor/
another good book is Pat Buchanan’s Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War” http://www.amazon.com/Churchill-Hitler-Unnecessary-War-Britain/dp/0307405168
that’s complete and utter horseshit, and you know it.
Yeah, it’s almost like we fought a whole war for the expansion of communism. But who would want that?
Awesome if anyone saw the series the Pacific, it’s basically sort
Awesome, does anyone saw the series “the Pacific”, it’s basically sort of the sequel to the series “Band of Brothers” and sledge is one of marines portrayed in it. It’s such an intense show
Awesome, does anyone saw the series “the Pacific”, it’s basically sort of the sequel to the series “Band of Brothers” and sledge is one of marines portrayed in it. It’s such an intense show of warfare.
Bah. Thats soft shit. The shit the soviets went through, months and years of constant shelling, holding buildings against hordes of nazis with only 5 men and no ammo, fighting tanks with grenades and surviving the bloodiest battle of history where every building could be a death trap where men would fight for every room, floor and block in Stalingrad. Now thats some hardass shit. Japan was soft in comparison.
Japan was 100% right in WW2. Too bad this fat donut eating Alabama fuck didn’t get killed. A shame.