Posted by: koolwine | August 5, 2018

Palau: With the Old Breed

Enlisted Marine E.B. Sledge recalls the hellish battles of Peleliu (in the Palau Islands) and Okinawa in an unforgettable memoir that succeeds in conveying—as much as mere words can—the absolute horror of war on the front lines.

Country Focus: Palau

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
By E.B. Sledge (1923-2001)
Published by Presidio Press, 1981.
326 pgs.

Genre: Military memoir

About the author:  Sledge was a 60mm mortarman in K Company in the much celebrated 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division. The highly decorated Marine returned safely home only to battle what we would now call PTSD; he wrote With the Old Breed and China Marine: An Infantryman’s Life After World War II to help heal his emotional wounds. He also delved into the study of the natural world and became a biologist and university professor at Alabama College.  Sledge’s combat experiences were shared in Ken Burn’s documentary The War, and formed the basis of the HBO miniseries The Pacific.

World Lit Up Rating:
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and 5 books = lit up)

E.B. Sledge


I walked under a low tree that had a pair of man-o-war birds nesting in its top. They showed no fear as they cocked their heads and looked down from their bulky stick nest. The male saw little of interest about me and began inflating his large red throat pouch to impress his mate. He slowly extended his huge seven-foot wingspan and clicked his long hooked beak. As a boy, I had seen similar man-o-war birds sailing high over Gulf Shores near Mobile, but never had I seen them this close. Several large white birds similar to egrets also perched nearby, but I couldn’t identify them.

My brief escape from reality ended abruptly when a buddy scolded in a low voice, “Sledgehammer, what the hell you staring at them birds for? You gonna get separated from the patrol,” as he motioned vigorously for me to hurry. He thought I’d lost my senses, and he was right. That was neither the time nor the place for something as utterly peaceful and ethereal as bird watching. But I had had a few delightful and refreshing moments of fantasy and escape from the horror of human activities on Peleliu.

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