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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Discussion in 'Land Warfare in the Pacific' started by texson66, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. texson66

    texson66 Ace

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    [FONT=&quot]A book review.....

    With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]E. B. Sledge[/FONT]


    [FONT=&quot]“Rifles were high and holy things to them, and they knew five-inch broadside guns. They talked patronizingly of the war, and were concerned about rations. They were the Leathernecks, the Old Timers..They were the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and viewpoint to the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade…”[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]-[/FONT][FONT=&quot]“The Leathernecks” in [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Fix Bayonets[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]By John W. Thompson, Jr.[/FONT]


    [FONT=&quot]My wife got me a Kindle for this Christmas. It’s an amazing little gadget, but it needed some reading material. I must admit that most of my reading has been of the war in Europe and Africa. I needed something to read concerning the war in the Pacific. So I came across this title in Amazon.com and decided to download it. I don’t think I could have done any better.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]This is not a grand strategy or even a fire and maneuver book. It is not a about clever flanking operations, but about a personal war through the eyes of a young nineteen year old from Alabama. His relationship to the Corps and his fellow USMC recruits and his admiration of the Old Breed are artfully spread throughout the book. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]E. B. (“Sledgehammer”) Sledge’s personal account of his WWII experience is told at the very deepest personal level. This book brings you right into the very essence of combat with all the emotions and horrendous sights, sounds, and odors under the worst of conditions and for long periods of time. The emotional roller coaster of going into combat the first time and the return to combat after an R&R period are all captured and laid out for the reader. Sledgehammer is an astute observer of the human condition under the most trying of situations. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]“War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waster. Combat leaves an inedible mark on those who are forced to endure it. The only redeeming factors were my comrades’ incredible bravery and their devotion to each other. Marine corps training taught us to kill efficiently and try to survive. But it also taught us loyalty to each other – and love. That spirit de corps sustained us.”[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]Sledgehammer laments about the terrible toll of war and the effects on those that fight and survive it. Yet he understands that is a necessary thing that must be done, but perhaps not at Peleliu.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]At one point Sledgehammer and his buddies, come to question the real need for taking Peleliu. It is a chilling moment.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]His narrative is akin to a word “movie camera” taking in all it sees and distilling the horror and sorrow of mortal combat. He describes how intensely just the local environment could He also sees responsible leadership in his CO as well.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]Night time was a particularly unnerving to the newly combat immersed Marines on Peleliu. Just south of the Bloody Nose Ridge on Peleliu, K Company 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (K/3/5) was dug in and facing a Japanese defense in depth build into the island’s coral ridge system. From this position, Japanese soldiers always tried to infiltrate the American lines at night.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]His description of his CO, Capt Haldane in action, is just such a movie: [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]“I was ordered to carry a five-gallon can of water over to the company CP. When I got there, Ack Ack (Capt Haldane) was studying a map by the light of a tiny flashlight that his runner shielded with another folded map. The company’s radioman was sitting with him, quietly tuning his radio and calling an artillery battery of the 11th Marines.

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Putting the water can down, I sat on it and watched my skipper with admiration. Never before had I regretted so profoundly my lack of artistic talent and inability to draw the scene before me. The tiny flashlight faintly illuminated Captain Haldane’s face as he studied the map. His big jaw, covered with charcoal stubble of beard, jutted out. His heavy brow wrinkled with concentration just below the rim of his helmet.

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]The radioman handed the phone to Ack Ack .He requested a certain number of rounds of 75mm HE to be fired out to Company K’s front. A marine on the other end of the radio questioned the need for the request.

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Haldane answered pleasantly and firmly, “Maybe so, but I want my boys to feel secure.” Shortly the 75s came whining overhead and started bursting in the dark thick growth across the road.

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Next day I told several men what Ack Ack had said. “That’s the skipper for you, always thinking of the troops’ feelings,” was the way one man summed it up.”[/FONT]


    [FONT=&quot]Sledgehammer traces the hellish combat and loss of his friends all the way through the Peleliu campaign which took more than four months versus the predicted 4 days. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]And he graphically describes another type of hell found on the island of Okinawa. I personally thought that “What could have been worse than Peleliu?” until I read Sledgehammer’s book on Okinawa. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]One final passage reveals the true nature of Sledgehammer. He wasn’t a glory hound or slacker. He did his duty especially on that first amphibious landing at Peleliu and his baptism under fire. He never won a medal for gallantry, but one of the Gloucester vets had a quiet conversion with Sledgehammer after K/3/5 left Peleliu for refit and rest at Pavuvu.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]“After we had been back on Pavuvu about a week, I had one of the most heartwarming and rewarding experiences of my entire enlistment in the Marine Corps. It was after taps, all the flambeaus were out, and all my tent mates were in their sacks with mosquito nets in place. We were all very tired, still trying to unwind from the tension and ordeal of Peleliu.

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]All was quiet except for someone who had begun snoring softly when one of those men, a Gloucester veteran who had been wounded on Peleliu, said in steady measured tones, “you know something, Sledgehammer?”

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]“What?” I answered.

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]“I kinda had my doubts about you,” he continued, “and how you’d act when we got into combat, and the stuff hit the fan. I mean, your ole man being a doctor and you havin’ been to college and being sort of a rich kid compared to some guys. But I kept my eye on you on Peleliu, and by God you did OK; you did OK.”

    [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]“Thanks ole buddy,” I replied, nearly bursting with pride. Many men were decorated with medals they richly earned for their brave actions in combat, medals to wear on their blouses for everyone to see. I was never awarded an individual decoration, but the simple, sincere personal remarks of approval by my veteran comrade that night after Peleliu were like a medal to me. I have carried them in my heart with great pride and satisfaction ever since.”
    [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]I highly recommend “With the Old Breed”. You’ll never forget it.[/FONT]
     
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  2. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Yep, Sledge's book is outstanding. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the war in the Pacific. I bought it when it first came out years ago when I was in the Marines. A chance encounter in a Waldensbooks bookstore in Panama City 2 years ago got me to dig it out and read it again. It was as good that time as originally. Now with the HBO miniseries "The Pacific", based partially on Sledge's book, I'll have to read it again.
    The chance encounter:
    I was in Waldensbooks, in Panama City Florida, looking for some reading material on the Marines in WWII. There was a little old man, kinda confused looking, standing next to me. I asked if I could help him find anything. He said he was looking for a book put out by the History Channel, he couldn't remember the name but he was interviewed in it. I asked him if he was a WWII vet. He said yes, he was a machinegunner in the 1st Marine Division. I said really, I spent some time as a machinegunner in the 1st Marine Division, with 5th Marines. I said, my uncle Charle served as a machinegunner in the 1st Marine Division at Chosin Reservoir. He said something about how those Marines had really upheld the traditions. I said check this out and pulled down this big book, "The Marines" by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and handed it to him. I said open the book to page 79 and you'll see his picture, he did.
    This is the picture:
    [​IMG]

    He then told me he'd had his picture made on Okinawa in Death Valley. I said are you Paul Ison? Then started looking for the picture. Here it is:
    [​IMG]

    He said no but he and Ison had been friends, later on. I asked if he'd read Sledge's book. He said old Sledgehammer, we were good friends, me, him and Ison go to all the 1st Marine Division Association reunions. We even went back to Okinawa visited the sites where we fought and Ison and I had our pictures made in the spots where they'd been made during the war. He told me Sledge had died in 2001 and I think he said Ison was dead also but I don't remember for sure. Anyway he found his picture and showed it to me, it was taken on Wana Ridge on Okinawa. here it is:
    [​IMG]
    He said yeah that's me with the Thompson, I was shooting at a jap that had popped up while my BAR man moved around to get an angle on him. I shook the guys hand and said, I know this picture, it's one of the most famous Marine photos of WWII. He introduced himself as D.T. Hargraves, former Platoon Sgt. USMC, Co. F, 2dBn/1st Marines. He then gave me his business card, invited me to attend the next 1st Marine Division Association convention in Nashville. Then we talked some more about how my oldest son had just recently returned from Iraq where he served with the 1stMarDiv and he told me some more stories about the Marines in WWII. Then his wife came up and asked if he'd found the book, he admitted that he hadn't so I decided to take him up to the registers and see if the clerk could help. The clerk was a big, fat, kinda scruffy looking guy and didn't want to be bothered with helping us. He then made some disrespectful remark and I went off. I said this man is a genuine war hero, and I don't appreciate your showing him this kind of disrespect. You have about 30 seconds to get your manager up here before I drag your nasty azz across that counter and beat you to fuggin death. He called the manager, he helped us find the book, I apologized to Mr. and Mrs. Hargraves for losing my temper with the clerk. We shook hands and I left. I got back to the house we were renting and my wife started questioning me about why it had taken me nearly three hour to go to the bookstore. I told her the story and showed her the picture, she was kinda like oh well. I told my son and he thought it was incredible, he wanted to go to the reunion, take a couple of copies of the picture and get him to autograph them. I didn't go to the reunion, I hope PltSgt Hargraves, USMC, is still doing well, I still have his business card and I will always feel fortunate to have met him.
    File:Ww2 158.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Back to books. You need to read, "Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa" by Joseph H. Alexander. Another excellent book.
    :)
     
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  3. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    With the Old Breed is one of my favorite books. I find myself re-reading it, at least in part, quite often.
     
  4. Greg Canellis

    Greg Canellis Member

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    I did not do well my first attempt at reading Sledge's book. I think I was expecting too much from all the hype. My first impression was that this book was like the old combat addage: "Combat is long periods of boredom, broken up by moments of shere terror!" On the other hand, it was just that style that convinced me that every sentence was real. I revisited the book, and was able to appreciate the sincerity of Sledge's prose. For some reason, I have to take Sledge in, and walk away, only to return. Each time I get more out of it.

    Greg C.
     
  5. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    I read "With the Old Breed" a few years ago and have to agree it is one of the best.
     
  6. 1986CamaroZ28

    1986CamaroZ28 Member

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    His book and things his friend says is used heavily in Ken Burn's The War.
     
  7. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    I saw a copy for sale at work yesterday that said some of his story will be told in the upcoming "Pacific" mini series.
     
  8. mappy

    mappy recruit

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    Hey guys, just starting this book and I am really loving it. Unfortunately I will not be able to read the entire book by tomorrow late evening when my essay is due :/. Just wondering if you guys could help since you all have read it. My question to you all is: What does the book tell about the nature of warfare? what happens to men in battle? and what actually sustains them? Many of you may have experience or have seen first hand what horrific events occur. Any way you can help that would be great, thanks. Have to get back to the bloody ridge, cheers. :)
     
  9. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    Okay the whole premise of the book is................Wait a minute. You're just starting to read it and your essay is due tomorrow? Try this; it's early afternoon and if you read through until, oh about 4am you should have a good idea of how things go. That will leave you time for a brief outline, breakfast and then write like the wind! I was in your position a few times but alas we didn't have "on-line forums" way back then I had to do it all by myself. Good luck and let us know how you do on your essay.
     
  10. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    Honestly I hope you fail. I cannot stand it these days when kids will put off reading a book because the damned internet is around and they think they can skimp by on that. Read the book...you had a month to do it (at least, I'm sure) and you were too lazy. Simple as that. Believe me, I have one of those kids. I deal with this BS constantly.
     
  11. texson66

    texson66 Ace

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    Doubtful you'll get any sympathy here for your "crisis". One lesson from this is to be prepared (at school, on the battlefield, in life). Waiting to the last minute and expecting "help" is the Freeway to failure. Luke 's comments are right on!
     
  12. Boozie

    Boozie Member

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    Hmmm. The first time I started reading this book I finished it in the same day from pure enjoyment. I have to agree it is one of the best reads from a Marine that served in the Pacific. I could not put it down after starting it and have re-read it several times.

    Mappy, please don't tell me your a college history major.
     
  13. Biak

    Biak Adjutant

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    He hasn't been back and it's pass the deadline. Betting on a failing grade.
     
  14. Lieutenant Hopkin

    Lieutenant Hopkin Member

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    Great review! I appreciate it because I was planning on buying the book myself. Thank you so much!!!
     
  15. cliff's daughter

    cliff's daughter Member

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    that was a great read. i felt so connected to the soldiers that when i was done reading the book, i actually missed their story. i felt like i was a part of their lives, just briefly while reading it. i wished the tale went on and on.
     
  16. ddaly5

    ddaly5 Member

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    I bought this book the other day while shopping for a Mother's Day gift for my wife. I'm only a few pages past boot camp and that is as close as I will be able to relate. I am looking forward to reading on because I can not come close to imagining what this part of the war was like. My heart and thanks go on to all who know all to well what it was like...
     
  17. Cinematic

    Cinematic Member

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    What's particularly interesting is the paragraph where Sledge describes hearing a voice tell him that he's going to survive the war. A voice that no one else heard..except for him. I'm not much of a religious person either but it is interesting to say the least.
     
  18. Keystone Two-Eight

    Keystone Two-Eight Member

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    If nothing else good comes from the HBO series "The Pacific", at least Sledges book is back in popularity again.

    I personally think they should have stuck to his story and his story alone. His experience was commonplace, yet the images and memories are so vivid, hauntingly so, that the rest was just fluff in the mini-series. I'm in no way trying to insult John Basilone or Robert Leckie, but I think Sledges story should have been told on it's own. His book is one of the most moving I've ever read on the subject.
     
  19. Fury 1991

    Fury 1991 New Member

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    I just purchased this book a few days ago and it is very good and I agree that Sledge is worthy of his own story. I did not find Leckie that interesting and Basilone was a good story with a tragic ending.
     
  20. ddaly5

    ddaly5 Member

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    I finished this book rather quickly and found it educational, motivating and horrifying. I have not read much on WW2, but am looking for more. I am hoping to find a good book about the Bataan March and related reading. I would definitely appreciate any recommendations, thank you.
     

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