With the Old Breed – E. B. Sledge

“If the country is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for.” With privilege goes responsibility. —  E. B. Sledge

This is an excellent book on the life on the firing line in the Pacific in WWII.  Sledge was a recruit who joined the 1st Marine Division after Guadalcanal, and served with the unit during the capture of Peleliu and Okinawa.  He fought with the old Marines from the pre-war period and later was the veteran trying to emulate the help they gave him in the later battles.

These were savage battles.  Peleliu cost about 50 percent casualties in the riflemen on the front line, while the enemy had to be killed to nearly the last man.  Sledge lists the 26 remaining men of the 65 veterans of Peleliu who landed at Okinawa that were still with the unit.  There was time for numerous replacements to be brought into line and knocked right back out.  The replacements didn’t have the same luck or survival skills that the veterans had.

The book doesn’t try to make the battles pretty, but rather the reverse.  Not every book on warfare has to stay down in the mud and blood with the line troops, but every reader needs to keep in mind that the cost of war is paid by the front line soldier.

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