With the Old Breed
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa is a World War II memoir by United States Marine Eugene Sledge, first published in 1981. The memoir is based on notes Sledge kept tucked away in a pocket-sized Bible he carried with him during battles he fought at Peleliu and Okinawa. The book formed part of the basis of the material covered by Ken Burns' PBS documentary The War (2007), as well as the HBO miniseries The Pacific (2010), in which Sledge was portrayed by Joseph Mazzello.
|Author||Eugene B. Sledge|
|LC Class||D767.99.P4 S55 1991|
|Followed by||China Marine: An Infantryman's Life after World War II|
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By his own account, Sledge began writing the memoir in 1944, "immediately after Peleliu while we were in rest camp on Pavuvu Island" and continued working on it "as soon as I returned to civilian life" in 1946. Nicknamed "Sledgehammer" by his comrades, Sledge experienced combat during the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa as a 60 mm mortarman while part of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (K/3/5).
The book's working title was A Marine Mortarman in World War II, which Sledge later changed to Into The Abyss. The book was first published under its final title by the Presidio Press in 1981.
Sledge's memoir gives a firsthand perspective on the Pacific Theatre. His memoir is a front-line account of infantry combat in the Pacific War. It brings the reader into the island hopping, the jungle heat and rain, the filth and malaise, the fear of potential banzai attacks, and the hopelessness and loss of humanity that characterized the campaign in the Pacific. Sledge wrote starkly of the brutality displayed by Japanese soldiers during the battles and of the hatred that both sides harbored for each other. In Sledge's words, "This was a brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the islands."
Sledge describes one instance in which he and a comrade came across the mutilated bodies of three Marines, butchered and with severed genitals stuffed into their mouths. He also describes the behavior of some Marines towards dead Japanese, including the removal of gold teeth from Japanese corpses (and, in one case, a severely wounded but still living Japanese soldier), as well as other macabre trophy-taking. He details the process and mechanisms that slowly strip away a combat infantryman's humanity and compassion, in a manner accessible for a general audience.
Sledge describes in detail the physical struggle of living in a combat zone and the debilitating effects of constant fear, fatigue, and filth. "Fear and filth went hand-in-hand," he wrote. "It has always puzzled me that this important factor in our daily lives has received so little attention from historians and is often omitted from otherwise excellent personal memoirs by infantrymen." Marines had trouble staying dry, finding time to eat their rations, practicing basic field sanitation (it was impossible to dig latrines or catholes in the coral rock on Peleliu), and simply moving around on the pulverized coral of Peleliu and in the mud of Okinawa.
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Describing it as an example of "the American procedure at its best, unashamed of simplicity," Paul Fussell said that With the Old Breed "is one of the finest memoirs to emerge from any war."
New York Times writer and editor Dwight Garner describes the book's depiction of war as "surpassingly vivid", adding, "What puts 'With the Old Breed' across is, oddly enough, Sledge’s sensitivity. He offers many small, artful portraits of men he admires. (And a few he despises.) He chronicles small kindnesses and profound acts of friendship."
- 1981: Novato, California: Presidio Press. — 12197607
- 1983: Paperback: Toronto; New York: Bantam Books. — ISBN 978-0-553-23055-0 — 82912620
- (The Bantam war book series)
- (New introduction by Paul Fussell)
- 1990: Novato, California: Presidio. — ISBN 978-0-89141-119-2 — 21718513
- 1996: Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. — ISBN 978-1-55750-747-1 — 35132407
- (Classics of Naval Literature series; introduction by Joseph H. Alexander)
- (Audio-10 cassettes)
- 2006: Princeton, New Jersey: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. — 70684214
- 2007: New York, New York: Presidio Press:
- 2010: London, England: Ebury Press
Translation into JapaneseEdit
- 2008:講談社-学術文庫 (Kōdansya-gakujutu-bunko, Kōdansya Academic books)
- title ペリリュー・沖縄戦記 (periryū-okinawa-senki, a record of the war at Peleliu and Okinawa)
- size of 文庫本 (bunkobon, poket size paperbook)14.8 x 11 x 2 cm
- ISBN 978-4-06-159885-0
Translation into ThaiEdit
- 2010 แปซิฟิก สมรภูมิเดนตาย สหายร่วมรบ by Matichon press
Translation into CzechEdit
- Se starou gardou: na Peleliu an Okinawě, Universum [translation Michal Ulvr]
Translation into GermanEdit
- 2013 Vom alten Schlag: Der Zweite Weltkrieg am anderen Ende der Welt. Erinnerungen, riva Verlag
Translation into FrenchEdit
- 2019 Frères d'armes, Les Belles Lettres [translation Pascale Haas]
- 2007: Ken Burns drew considerably from With the Old Breed for his World War II documentary The War.
- 2010: HBO used With the Old Breed, along with Robert Leckie's Helmet for My Pillow, as the basis for the miniseries The Pacific, the successor to Band of Brothers, during which Sledge (played by Joseph Mazzello) is seen occasionally writing notes in his pocket bible.
- "With The Old Breed draft foreword". Eugene B. Sledge Papers, RG 96, Auburn University Libraries Special Collections & Archives Department. n.d. Retrieved 2008-11-18.
- Garner, Dwight (2017-04-20). "'With the Old Breed,' an Intimate Look at Terror in World War II (Published 2017)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
- With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa. at the Internet Archive
- "Eugene B. Sledge Collection". Auburn University Digital Library.
- Hanson, Victor Davis (July 25, 2007). "Introduction to E. B. Sledge's With the Old Breed". victorhanson.com. Internet Archive. Archived from the original on November 20, 2007. Retrieved November 20, 2007.
- Hiatt, Brian (July 25, 2005). "Book Review: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa". World War 2 Database.
- Terkel, Studs (Interviewer) & Sledge, E.B. (Sledgehammer). "Interview with E.B. (Sledgehammer) Sledge". The Good War: An Oral History of World War II. The Studs Terkel Radio Archive: Conversations About America. Archived from the original on August 9, 2002. Retrieved August 9, 2002.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) 6-part Interview, ca. 1979-1983