Eugene Sledge was a Marine who served in World War II and later became a renowned author, sharing his firsthand experiences of combat and the horrors of war. His memoir, “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa,” is widely considered one of the best books on the Pacific theater of World War II.
Sledge was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1923. After completing high school, he attended Marion Military Institute and then the University of Montevallo. However, his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. In 1942, Sledge enlisted in the Marine Corps and was assigned to the 1st Marine Division.
Sledge’s first combat experience was at the Battle of Peleliu in 1944, where he served as a mortarman. The fighting was intense, with Japanese forces dug into a network of caves and tunnels, making them difficult to dislodge. Sledge and his fellow Marines faced extreme heat, lack of water, and constant danger from enemy fire. The battle was one of the bloodiest of the Pacific campaign, with over 10,000 casualties on both sides.
After Peleliu, Sledge’s unit was sent to the island of Okinawa, where they faced even more brutal fighting. The Japanese defenders had prepared an extensive system of tunnels and fortifications, making progress slow and costly. Sledge witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire on both the enemy and his fellow Marines.
Throughout his time in combat, Sledge showed incredible courage and resilience. He endured extreme physical and emotional stress, often going without sleep or food for days on end. He also witnessed the deaths of many of his comrades and struggled with the trauma of war long after the fighting ended.
After the war, Sledge returned to the University of Montevallo and completed his degree in biology. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Florida and had a long and successful career as a professor of biology at the University of Montevallo.
In the 1980s, Sledge published “With the Old Breed,” a memoir based on the notes he had kept during his time in combat. The book is a harrowing account of the realities of war and has become a classic of military literature. Sledge’s honesty and vivid descriptions of the brutality and horror of war have made his book a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the sacrifices made by those who serve in the armed forces.
Eugene Sledge passed away in 2001, but his legacy lives on. His courage and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity serve as an inspiration to all who read his story.