Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: With the Old Breed at Pelelieu and Okinawa, E.B. Sledge

      This book has been around for many years.  It is a personal account on one man's experience and what he saw as a Marine infantryman during World War II in the Pacific.  The man took notes!  And he was able to save them.  Both feats are remarkable in themselves.  Sledge dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps after Pearl harbor was attacked by the Japanese naval air forces. 
      He decided to publish his notes in book form and found a publisher in Novato, California to do the job.  Presidio Press found a wide audience for this memoir.   John Keegan, a noted military historian, called the book "one of the most important personal accounts of the war that I have ever read".
     The battle of Pelelieu is not a well known incident of the war: a small coral island occupied by an entrenched Japanese force was attacked by Marines for dubious reasons.  Many Marines died for little strategic value.  The battle for Okinawa is well known: known as the last battle of WW II.  It was a grim affair that was fought on land and sea.  Kamikazes attacked US Naval forces at sea, sending many ships to watery graves.  Many others were severely damaged and limped home to the West Coast for repairs. 
     The land battle was even worse.  Marines had to deal with numerous Japanese troops hold up in caves that were deep and well defended.  Many caves were just blown up at the entrance, sealing the occupants to a death in the dark.   The Mayor has spent time on Okinawa and he has walked the ground at various locations.  It is a place not easy to forget, even if the experience came years after the battle.
      After Okinawa, Sledge was posted to China with the marines to assist in the protection of civilians caught up in the civil war between Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-Shek.  Not a good outcome from that experience.   His book served as a core reference for the HBO mini-series; The Pacific, which featured several former Marines as actors.
     This book is one that any historian should have to get an accurate account of one man's wartime activity. 

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