In September 1944 a young Marine name Eugene Sledge landed on the Pacific Island of Peleliu. As a mortarman, stretcher-bearer and rifleman Sledge would fight his way across Peleliu then the Japanese island of Okinawa, arguably two of the fiercest and filthiest battles of the Pacific campaign.
After the war, Eugene Sledge became a professor at Montevallo University and turned his diary notes from the war into a memoir of his experiences titled With the Old Breed. The book relates the dehumanising brutality displayed by both sides and the animal hatred that each soldier had for his enemy. Sledge writes of the conditions on the islands that meant the Marines often could not wash, stay dry, dig latrines, or even find time to eat. Suffering from constant fear, fatigue, and filth, the struggle of simply living in a combat zone was utterly debilitating for the Marines.
With the Old Breed has proved to be highly influential and has been used as source material for the Ken Burns PBS documentary The War (2007), as well as the HBO miniseries The Pacific (2010), where Eugene Sledge was played by Joseph Mazzello.
Joining me today is Henry Sledge, Eugene’s son.
You can also find Henry presenting the podcast What's the Scuttlebutt.