Corporal Eugene Sledge was a United States Marine who fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
He is best known for his memoir, "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa," which details his experiences as a combat infantryman.
The book is considered one of the most accurate and personal accounts of the war in the Pacific. Sledge and his comrades were known as the "Old Breed" because they were among the first Marines to fight in the Pacific campaign.
The title of the book refers to the brutal and grueling conditions the Marines faced during the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa, which Sledge describes as "hell."
Early Life and Joining the Marine Corps
Eugene Sledge was born on November 4, 1923, in Mobile, Alabama, United States.
He grew up in a middle-class family and was raised in a strict Christian home. Before joining the Marines, Sledge attended Murphy High School in Mobile and then Auburn University for a year before transferring to Marion Military Institute.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sledge felt compelled to join the military, and in 1942 he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps.
He completed basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina and then advanced training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina before being sent to the Pacific theater to fight in World War II.
Battle of Peleliu
The Battle of Peleliu, also known as Operation Stalemate II, was a major battle of World War II that took place between September 15 and November 27, 1944. It was fought on the island of Peleliu, located in the Palau Islands, which were part of the Japanese-held Caroline Islands in the western Pacific.
The United States Marine Corps, under the command of General William Rupertus, was tasked with capturing Peleliu's airfield, which was considered a strategic location for future operations in the Pacific.
The Marines encountered fierce resistance from the Japanese, who had heavily fortified the island and were well-prepared to defend it.
The battle was notable for its intense and brutal fighting, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The Marines faced fierce resistance from the Japanese, who had dug themselves into a network of caves and underground tunnels, making it difficult for the Marines to root them out.
The Marines had to fight their way through the rugged terrain, and the heavy fighting lasted for two months. The battle was finally declared over on November 27, 1944, after the Marines had secured control of the island.
The battle of Peleliu is considered to be one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history, with over 10,000 Marines and sailors killed, wounded or missing.
Eugene Sledge, who fought in the battle, wrote in his memoir that Peleliu was a "tough, bitter, and costly battle" and that the men had to fight for every inch of ground.
Battle of Okinawa
The Battle of Okinawa, also known as Operation Iceberg, was a major battle of World War II that took place on the island of Okinawa, located in the Ryukyu Islands, Japan, between April 1 and June 22, 1945.
It was the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific War and one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
The United States, under the command of General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr, was tasked with capturing the island of Okinawa, which was considered a key strategic location for future operations in the Pacific. The battle was fought by a combined force of United States Army, Marine and Navy troops.
The Japanese, under the command of Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, had heavily fortified the island and prepared for a fierce defense.
The battle was marked by intense and brutal fighting, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The Japanese used a combination of conventional and guerrilla tactics, including the use of underground caves and tunnels to attack the American forces.
The battle was finally declared over on June 22, 1945, after American forces had secured control of the island. The battle was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific War, with over 12,000 American soldiers killed and 36,000 wounded.
More than 100,000 Japanese soldiers and Okinawan conscripts were killed, along with an estimated 150,000 Okinawan civilians.
Eugene Sledge, who fought in the battle, wrote in his memoir that Okinawa was a "hellish, nightmarish experience" that was even worse than Peleliu.
The death toll of the battle was staggering and the fighting was so intense that the soldiers had to deal with the constant fear of death.
The battle of Okinawa was also the last major battle of the Pacific War, and after the Battle, American forces were able to launch air raids on the Japanese mainland, which led to the end of the war.
The Old Breed
The phrase "the old breed" is a term used to refer to the United States Marines who fought in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
It was used to describe the Marines who were among the first to fight in the Pacific campaign and had been battle-hardened by the brutal and grueling conditions of the island-hopping campaign.
The "Old Breed" Marines were known for their toughness, endurance, and fighting spirit.
They had been tested in some of the bloodiest and most intense battles of the war, such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, and Okinawa, and had proven themselves to be among the most skilled and experienced soldiers in the US military.
They had seen and experienced the worst of the war, and their reputation as a elite fighting force had been established.
In his memoir "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa" Eugene Sledge wrote about his experiences as a combat infantryman and the hardships of the Pacific War, he also used the phrase "the Old Breed" to refer to himself and his comrades who fought alongside him.
The book was published after the war, and it is considered one of the most personal and accurate accounts of the war in the Pacific.
After the War
After the war, Eugene Sledge returned to civilian life. He attended Marion Military Institute on the G.I. Bill and then graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Biology.
He went on to earn a Master's degree in Zoology from the University of Montevallo. He then joined the faculty of Alabama College (later the University of Montevallo), where he taught biology for over 30 years.
Sledge wrote "With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa" during his time at the University of Montevallo, basing it on the notes he kept while serving in the Pacific War.
The book was first published in 1981, and it quickly became a classic of World War II literature, praised for its honest and personal account of the war in the Pacific.
Sledge was married to Frances D. Sledge for over 50 years and had two children. He passed away on March 3, 2001, at the age of 77.
His legacy as a Marine and author lives on, and his memoir continues to be read and studied by military historians and WWII enthusiasts.
His book is considered a classic and a primary source of the Pacific War, and it has been used as a reference in many books and documentaries about the Pacific War.
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