With the Old Breed

by

E.B. Sledge

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Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge Character Analysis

The narrator and protagonist of With the Old Breed, Sledge undergoes a personal transformation over the course of the years and his combat experience. Sledge’s innocence and enthusiasm for the war as a nineteen-year-old recruit is soon replaced by a hands-on understanding of the strict discipline, physical exertion, and emotional trauma that fighting entails. However, despite his initial fears about how he might react in combat, Sledge (nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades) soon proves a deeply reliable combatant, devoted to helping his companions and performing his duty to the best of his ability. He is transformed by the friendship and solidarity he experiences in Company K, in the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (K/3/5), and proves capable of showing deep kindness toward his comrades. Sledge is also characterized by sincere patriotism, a belief in his individual responsibility to defend the country he loves. In addition, he is attached to his identity as a Southerner, which he embraces with pride. As a narrator, Sledge proves compassionate, thorough, and honest, unafraid to address even the most disturbing, inglorious aspects of war in order to paint a sincere picture of his experience in World War II.

Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge Quotes in With the Old Breed

The With the Old Breed quotes below are all either spoken by Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge or refer to Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of With the Old Breed published in 1981.
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

Official histories and memoirs of Marine infantrymen written after the war rarely reflect that hatred. But at the time of battle, Marines felt it deeply, bitterly, and as certainly as danger itself. To deny this hatred or make light of it would be as much a lie as to deny or make light of the esprit de corps or the intense patriotism felt by the Marines with whom I served in the Pacific.

My experiences on Peleliu and Okinawa made me believe that the Japanese held mutual feelings for us. They were a fanatical enemy; that is to say, they believed in their cause with an intensity little understood by many postwar Americans and possibly many Japanese, as well.

This collective attitude, Marine and Japanese, resulted in savage, ferocious fighting with no holds barred.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

To be under a barrage or prolonged shelling simply magnified all the terrible physical and emotional effects of one shell. To me, artillery was an invention of hell. The onrushing whistle and scream of the big steel package of destruction was the pinnacle of violent fury and the embodiment of pent-up evil. It was the essence of violence and of man’s inhumanity to man. I developed a passionate hatred for shells. To be killed by a bullet seemed so clean and surgical. But shells would not only tear and rip the body, they tortured one’s mind almost beyond the brink of sanity. After each shell I was wrung out, limp and exhausted.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

I wondered also about the hopes and aspirations of a dead Japanese we had just dragged out of the water. But those of us caught up in the maelstrom of combat had little compassion for the enemy. As a wise, salty NCO had put it one day on Pavuvu when asked by a replacement if he ever felt sorry for the Japanese when they got hit, “Hell no! It’s them or us!”

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Fear and filth went hand in hand. It has always puzzled me that this important factor in our daily lives has received so little attention from historians and often is omitted from otherwise excellent personal memoirs by infantrymen. It is, of course, a vile subject, but it was as important to us then as being wet or dry, hot or cold, in the shade or exposed to the blistering sun, hungry, tired, or sick.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 92
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Heading into the thick scrub brush, I felt pretty lonesome, like a little boy going to spend his first night away from home. I realized that Company K had become my home. No matter how bad a situation was in the company, it was still home to me. It was not just a lettered company in a numbered battalion in a numbered regiment in a numbered division. It meant far more than that. It was home; it was “my” company. I belonged in it and nowhere else.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

I had the sensation of being in a great black hole and reached out to touch the sides of the gun pit to orient myself. Slowly the reality of it all formed in my mind: we were expendable!

It was difficult to accept. We come from a nation and a culture that values life and the individual. To find oneself in a situation where your life seems of little value is the ultimate in loneliness. It is a humbling experience. Most of the combat veterans had already grappled with this realization on Guadalcanal or Gloucester, but it struck me out in that swamp.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Reporters and historians like to write about interservice rivalry among military men; it certainly exists, but I found that front-line combatants in all branches of the services showed a sincere mutual respect when they faced the same danger and misery. Combat soldiers and sailors might call us “gyrenes,” and we called them “dogfaces” and “swabbies,” but we respected each other completely.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 5 Quotes

This standard procedure in combat on the front line was based on a fundamental creed of faith and trust. You could depend on your buddy; he could depend on you. It extended beyond your foxhole, too. We felt secure, knowing that one man in each hole was on watch through the night.

Sam had betrayed that basic trust and had committed an unforgivable breach of faith. He went to sleep on watch while on the line. As a result his buddy died and another man would bear the heavy burden of knowing that, accident though it was, he had pulled the trigger.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker), Bill, Sam
Page Number: 108
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I had just killed a man at close range. That I had seen clearly the pain on his face when my bullets hit him came as a jolt. It suddenly made the war a very personal affair. The expression on that man’s face filled me with shame and then disgust for the war and all the misery it was causing.

My combat experience thus far made me realize that such sentiments for an enemy soldier were the maudlin meditations of a fool. Look at me, a member of the 5th Marine Regiment—one of the oldest, finest, and toughest regiments in the Marine Corps—feeling ashamed because I had shot a damned foe before he could throw a grenade at me! I felt like a fool and was thankful my buddies couldn’t read my thoughts.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

To the noncombatants and those on the periphery of action, the war meant only boredom or occasional excitement; but to those who entered the meat grinder itself, the war was a nether world of horror from which escape seemed less and less likely as casualties mounted and the fighting dragged on and on. Time had no meaning; life had no meaning. The fierce struggle for survival in the abyss of Peleliu eroded the veneer of civilization and made savages of us all. We existed in an environment totally incomprehensible to men behind the lines—service troops and civilians.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Related Symbols: Gold Teeth
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

As I looked at the stains on the coral, I recalled some of the eloquent phrases of politicians and newsmen about how “gallant” it is for a man to “shed his blood for his country,” and “to give his life’s blood as a sacrifice,” and so on. The words seemed so ridiculous. Only the flies benefited.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

I learned realism, too. To defeat an enemy as tough and dedicated as the Japanese, we had to be just as tough. We had to be just as dedicated to America as they were to their emperor. I think this was the essence of Marine Corps doctrine in World War II, and that history vindicates this doctrine.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

Despite these momentary lapses, the veterans of Peleliu knew they had accomplished something special. That these Marines had been able to survive the intense physical exertion of weeks of combat on Peleliu in that incredibly muggy heat gave ample evidence of their physical toughness. That we had survived emotionally—at least for the moment—was, and is, ample evidence to me that our training and discipline were the best. They prepared us for the worst, which is what we experienced on Peleliu.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 9 Quotes

As I looked at the flotsam of battle scattered along that little path, I was struck with the utter incongruity of it all. There the Okinawans had tilled their soil with ancient and crude farming methods; but the war had come, bringing with it the latest and most refined technology for killing. It seemed so insane, and I realized that the war was like some sort of disease afflicting man.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

On 8 May Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. We were told this momentous news, but considering our own peril and misery, no one cared much. “So what” was typical of the remarks I heard around me. We were resigned only to the fact that the Japanese would fight to total extinction on Okinawa, as they had elsewhere, and that Japan would have to be invaded with the same gruesome prospects. Nazi Germany might as well have been on the moon.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

The troops often expressed the opinion that whether an enlisted man was or wasn’t recommended for a decoration for outstanding conduct in combat depended primarily on who saw him perform the deed. This certainly was true in the case of Redifer and what he had done to get the ammunition across the draw. I had seen other men awarded decorations for less, but Redifer was not so fortunate as to receive the official praise he deserved. Just the opposite happened.

Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

The stench of death was overpowering. The only way I could bear the monstrous horror of it all was to look upward away from the earthly reality surrounding us, watch the leaden gray clouds go skudding over, and repeat over and over to myself that the situation was unreal—just a nightmare— that I would soon awake and find myself somewhere else. But the ever-present smell of death saturated my nostrils. It was there with every breath I took.

I existed from moment to moment, sometimes thinking death would have been preferable.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

Viewing that picture made me realize with a shock that I had gradually come to doubt that there really was a place in the world where there were no explosions and people weren’t bleeding, suffering, dying, or rotting in the mud. I felt a sense of desperation that my mind was being affected by what we were experiencing. Men cracked up frequently in such places as that. I had seen it happen many times by then. In World War I they had called it shell shock or, more technically, neuresthenia. In World War II the term used was combat fatigue.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker), “Kathy”
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 13 Quotes

We didn’t want to indulge in self-pity. We just wished that people back home could understand how lucky they were and stop complaining about trivial inconveniences.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste. Combat leaves an indelible 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 to try to survive. But it also taught us loyalty to each other—and love. That esprit de corps sustained us.

Until the millenium arrives and countries cease trying to enslave others, it will be necessary to accept one’s responsibilities and to be willing to make sacrifices for one’s country—as my comrades did. As the troops used to say, “If the country is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for.” With privilege goes responsibility.

Related Characters: Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge (speaker)
Page Number: 315
Explanation and Analysis:
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Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge Character Timeline in With the Old Breed

The timeline below shows where the character Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge appears in With the Old Breed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Foreword
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Lieutenant Colonel John A. Crown gives an introduction to Eugene Sledge’s description of the battle in Peleliu. He explains that, although this battle was extremely deadly... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 1: Making of a Marine
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Eugene Sledge (nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his fellow Marines) recalls the decisions that led him to enlist in... (full context)
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During Sledge’s interview for officer training, the recruiting sergeant asks him many questions about any particular physical... (full context)
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After finishing his first year of college, Sledge goes to Georgia Tech for Marine officer training. Once there, however, he is disappointed by... (full context)
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...start boot camp, they all sing and cheer, excited about what awaits them. Looking back, Sledge realizes that they were all naïve, completely unaware of the dangers and horrors that lay... (full context)
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...tone, that they are mere recruits and might not actually be capable of becoming Marines. Sledge describes Corporal Doherty as a New Englander and the meanest man he has ever met.... (full context)
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As a recruit’s day begins at 4 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m., Sledge does not understand his superiors’ cruel practice of interrupting their sleep to make them perform... (full context)
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One day, the recruits are sent to the rifle range. There, Sledge receives training in rifle marksmanship that he describes as exceptionally thorough and effective. The men... (full context)
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During this period, Sledge finds that the particular mental and physical harassment he has become used to is replaced... (full context)
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After eight weeks of training, Sledge realizes that Corporal Doherty and the other DIs have successfully turned the recruits into mentally... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 2: Preparation for Combat
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When Sledge enters the barracks at Camp Elliott, he notices that the atmosphere there is entirely different... (full context)
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When asked to choose a weapon, Sledge picks the 60 mm mortar. His training instructor, a sergeant, appears self-confident and detached, exhibiting... (full context)
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...the 60 mm mortar should be used, and demonstrates the various movements one should make. Sledge puts a lot of effort in performing gun drills well. One day, when he first... (full context)
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...capable of fighting off a Japanese soldier in a foxhole. Although this training is thorough, Sledge explains that neither his companions nor he truly realized that they were about to take... (full context)
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...the island, they suffered heavy losses, for which they were heavily criticized. Nine months later, Sledge and other young Marines would fight an equally vicious battle on Peleliu, suffering twice as... (full context)
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In February 1944, Sledge and fellow Marines board a ship to the Pacific. Sledge is disturbed by the thought... (full context)
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Over the course of the next few days, Sledge finds the routine on ship boring. The Marines take part in daily exercises and drills,... (full context)
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After nearly three weeks at sea, Sledge is relieved to finally reach New Caledonia. There, they receive training on fighting strategies with... (full context)
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After weeks of physical training, Sledge’s Replacement Battalion is told that they will be sent up north. The Marines board a... (full context)
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The next day, Sledge watches as some Marines are sent home, visibly tired but relieved to be leaving combat.... (full context)
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...division chose Pavuvu as a base camp. The island is muddy and its facilities inadequate. Sledge takes part in work parties that attempt to build drainage to keep the men from... (full context)
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Although veteran fighters remind Sledge that he should not complain about anything until he has seen battle, Sledge still finds... (full context)
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Sledge also notes that the men’s hatred for the Japanese keeps them motivated. The Japanese are... (full context)
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...in which they are meant to exit amphibious tractors as fast as they can. When Sledge practices firing a flamethrower, he is appalled to realize that this could be used to... (full context)
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To illustrate the influence of the “old breed” on young Marines, Sledge describes Gunnery Sergeant Haney. He recalls Haney’s idiosyncrasies, such as washing his genitals with a... (full context)
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Sledge also mentions that, unlike other Marines, Haney does not have a buddy but spends most... (full context)
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Sledge describes another much-admired officer: Company K’s commanding officer, Capt. Andrew “Ack Ack” Haldane. Haldane takes... (full context)
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...so that they’re more capable of handling the intense stress and violence of Peleliu, which Sledge describes as “savage” and “dirty business.” The officers’ job, therefore, is to prepare the Marines... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 3: On to Peleliu
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...involve using an amtrac, an amphibious tracked vehicle. During these few days of training, as Sledge explains to sailors that Haney is not “Asiatic,” he realizes that, from the outside, Marines... (full context)
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In anticipation of landing, Sledge explains that Peleliu, in the Caroline Islands chain, has the shape of a lobster’s claw,... (full context)
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Sledge then chats about what he wants to do after the war with his companion Oswalt,... (full context)
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As dawn arrives, Sledge stays close to Snafu, who makes Sledge feel safe because he is a Gloucester veteran.... (full context)
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Sledge interrupts his narrative to explain that most historians now believe that the battle of Peleliu... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 4: Assault into Hell
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At 8 a.m. on D Day, Sledge and his companions watch as American ships shell the island of Peleliu, filling the air... (full context)
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When the amtrac is given the signal to move forward, Sledge feels as though they are moving toward the surreal scene of an exploding volcano, as... (full context)
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As Sledge reaches the end of the beach, he turns around to see an amphibious truck, hit... (full context)
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When Sledge reaches a group of veterans, he asks for a cigarette and Snafu teases him for... (full context)
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Moving through the scrub, Sledge and his companions try to avoid snipers. There, Sledge sees his first enemy corpse, a... (full context)
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At the end of the day, Sledge finds that he is completely dehydrated, and that no one knows when they will receive... (full context)
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Sledge then watches the green light of shells exploding during the night, noting that they make... (full context)
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...the men despair about having no water. Finally, someone arrives with a water supply and Sledge fills his canteen, even though he is disgusted by the brown color of the water.... (full context)
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...The Marines thus move in various waves, bending down as low as they can, and Sledge finds this whole process scarier than the landing because, this time, they are completely exposed... (full context)
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At one point, Sledge and Snafu stumble and fall down. Snafu is hit by the fragment of a shell... (full context)
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Sledge explains that, in such circumstances, anyone who moves around at night without calling out the... (full context)
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The man then appears—it’s Jay de l’Eau, one of Sledge’s best friends and a Gloucester veteran, who has come to ask for water. Shaking and... (full context)
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The next day, Sledge learns that his friend Robert Oswalt has been killed, and concludes that the war is... (full context)
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...hours of fighting, as evening approaches, the men set up their holes for the night. Sledge goes to the beach to help an NCO unload a tractor full of supplies, including... (full context)
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...the company lines, enjoying a warm meal for the first time in three days, which Sledge finds refreshing despite the heat. The next day, they receive fresh water, which makes Sledge... (full context)
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That night, Sledge has a conversation with Company K’s machine-gun platoon leader, a man nicknamed “Hillbilly.” Sledge describes... (full context)
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As Sledge and Hillbilly begin chatting about their childhoods in the South, Sledge feels comforted by Hillbilly’s... (full context)
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In that moment, as silence settles, Sledge suddenly hears a voice say: “You will survive the war!” When Sledge asks the other... (full context)
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That night, Sledge realizes that he has not showered in days and stinks. He explains that keeping oneself... (full context)
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...18, Company K pursues its rifle attack against the eastern side of Bloody Nose Ridge. Sledge explains that the worst job during such attacks is that of the riflemen, who spearhead... (full context)
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...the 1st Marines (2/1), attacking the end of the ridge, suffer heavy casualties. One of Sledge’s friends in Company K tells him he has heard from a friend in 2/1 that... (full context)
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That day, the Marines walk through stifling heat, Sledge’s pack causing him to sweat profusely. His small New Testament is safely tucked away inside... (full context)
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...need to keep the enemy from advancing. Severed from the tight-knit group of Company K, Sledge feels a little lost, and realizes that he sees Company K as his family, the... (full context)
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As the men move through the growth, Sledge notices two man-o-war birds nesting in a tree. He takes a minute to watch them,... (full context)
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...noise as possible, to ensure a surprise effect if the Japanese attempt to move forward. Sledge is amazed by how black the night is and, as he observes the dark world... (full context)
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The next day, Sledge discovers that the man is dead. Noticing the agony on the faces of veteran officers... (full context)
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...achieved significant strategic gains by securing crucial territories. When he runs into men he knows, Sledge is appalled to see their defeated, resigned faces, deeply affected by the horrific fighting they... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 5: Another Amphibious Assault
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The 5th Marines go to secure the northern section of Peleliu. One night, when Sledge is sent to bring water to the company’s command post, he sees Haldane deeply concentrated,... (full context)
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That night, in the foxhole, Sledge keeps guard while his buddy Snafu sleeps. Suddenly, Sledge sees two figures emerge from the... (full context)
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Sledge then sees the Japanese soldier jump into the foxhole in front of him. After hearing... (full context)
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When dawn arrives hours later, Sledge notices that the figure on the ground is not Japanese. Rather, he discovers that it... (full context)
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...not make his actions excusable. As the men begin to move out of their positions, Sledge learns that the man who killed the Japanese who had gone toward the right did... (full context)
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On September 28, the company makes a new beach landing, which terrifies Sledge given his experience of the last one. However, American planes bomb the area by the... (full context)
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However, Sledge soon has to dive for cover with a buddy to avoid a Japanese machine gun.... (full context)
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...company then moves inland and reaches a pillbox which they are told is empty. When Sledge hears Japanese voices emerging from the pillbox, Cpl. Burgin initially disbelieves him. However, when he... (full context)
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...amtrac finally arrives, it fires three shells at the pillbox. However, as the dust settles, Sledge sees a Japanese man about to throw a grenade. In reaction, Sledge raises his carbine... (full context)
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After the fight, the Marines search the Japanese dead for souvenirs. Sledge finds this practice repulsive, brutal, and uncivilized, but accepts that it is typical of wars... (full context)
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The next day, Sledge sees a fellow Marine throw bits of coral into the mouth of a dead Japanese... (full context)
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As tanks begin to pull back because Sledge’s battalion is going to be relieved by an army battalion, the sound and concussion of... (full context)
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That afternoon, Sledge and his companions find themselves looking blankly into space. Remembering the words of the officer... (full context)
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As Sledge’s battalion is replaced by an army battalion, the men are able to rest for a... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 6: Brave Men Lost
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...a period when most of Peleliu is under American control except for the central ridges, Sledge’s battalion is sent to relieve the 7th Marines, who are experiencing casualty figures almost as... (full context)
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Sledge describes taking part in an attack on a rugged hill, the Five Sisters, and having... (full context)
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Sledge also describes the agonizing nights in which the Marines have to fight against Japanese infiltrators,... (full context)
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Sledge and two companions fight for a few days in a mortar squad separate from the... (full context)
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...from sight, the intense heat makes the bodies smell and rot within a few hours. Sledge describes the horror of being constantly surrounded by the smell of decaying corpses and human... (full context)
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One night, as Company K is relieving certain troops, Sledge learns that a Japanese infiltrator recently killed two Marines in the gun pit he is... (full context)
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...around him, made muddy by rain and gray and forlorn by the destruction of war, Sledge realizes that the strange outline of Peleliu’s coral ridges seem surreal, as though they belonged... (full context)
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One day, Sledge and a friend come across three dead Marines lying on stretchers, left there after the... (full context)
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...15, three days after learning about Haldane’s death, Company K is relieved by army troops. Sledge and his comrades are exultant. They move to a northern defense zone overlooking the sea... (full context)
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...they are told to shave and clean up. The day before they leave the island, Sledge is sleeping in a hammock when he hears machine-gun bullets zip by underneath his hammock.... (full context)
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...ship that will take them away from Peleliu. Too accustomed to seeing death and destruction, Sledge cannot convince himself that they are actually leaving, and expects to be killed or wounded... (full context)
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Sledge concludes that none of the men involved in this battle would ever be the same... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 7: Rest and Rehabilitation
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As the Marines move toward Pavuvu, Sledge realizes that most of his friends in rifle companies have been wounded or killed. When... (full context)
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When Sledge steps off the ship, a new lieutenant who has visibly not been in combat yet... (full context)
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...in which he praises their behavior, saying that they have proven they are “good Marines.” Sledge is impressed by such compliments from such a severe, experienced officer. (full context)
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After being on Pavuvu for a week, Sledge has a deeply rewarding experience. One night, when everyone is in bed, a Gloucester veteran... (full context)
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...Eve, the Marines attend a special church service, sing carols, and eat roast turkey. Although Sledge finds these activities deeply enjoyable, they also make him homesick. On New Year’s, a can... (full context)
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Sledge finds Howard’s attitude admirable, as Howard demonstrates a capacity to remain cheerful in the face... (full context)
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...join parades in which some Marines receive decorations for their actions in battle. One day, Sledge is called to the company headquarters, where he is offered the position of officer. Instead... (full context)
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...leader, Mac, is a New Englander who has just graduated from an Ivy League college. Sledge notes that Mac is meticulous but has the irritating habit of bragging about all the... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 8: Prelude to Invasion
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After a few weeks of practicing maneuvers on Guadalcanal, during which Sledge and some friends sneak into the chow line of the naval construction battalion, the Marines... (full context)
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Although Sledge feels nervous about landing, he realizes that he does not experience the same panic as... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 9: Stay of Execution
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As Sledge’s company is on its way toward the beach, they learn that, apart from some shelling... (full context)
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When Sledge wakes up to start his watch in the foxhole he shares with Snafu, he grabs... (full context)
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...next day, the Japanese enemy remains invisible. The Marines do see some Okinawans, civilians whom Sledge finds sad and miserable because they are so terrified by their invaders. The Marines, however,... (full context)
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Sledge is grateful for patrol sergeant’s Burgin’s presence, as he mistrusts Mac’s orders. One day, Sledge... (full context)
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...through a footpath on a low hill where traces of the vicious ambush are obvious, Sledge is shocked to grasp the absurdity of war. He realizes that the Okinawans have cared... (full context)
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Sledge and a friend, a Gloucester veteran, are then sent to investigate a section of road... (full context)
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Sledge explains that Mac is not incompetent, but does not understand the gravity of war. Although... (full context)
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During patrols in April, Sledge learns a lot about local Okinawan customs. Sledge is particularly fascinated by the horses and... (full context)
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...last meal around a fire when Mac suddenly yells “Grenade!” and the men all crouch. Sledge sees Mac throw the grenade, which explodes only slightly. Everyone looks at Mac with surprised,... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 10: Into the Abyss
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When Company K arrives at their new position, Sledge notices many artillery shells on the ground, concluding that the American soldiers they are relieving... (full context)
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Sledge and his companions then experience the chaos of battle. They run through an open field... (full context)
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...attack fails, and the Marines are forced to retreat because of the enemy’s heavy fire. Sledge remains in his foxhole under heavy rain, hoping that he will not have to serve... (full context)
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From his foxhole, Sledge witnesses the pathetic sight of four stretcher bearers struggling to save a wounded comrade in... (full context)
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Company K then learns that they will launch another assault the next day. One of Sledge’s friends, overwhelmed by despair at the thought that he might never make it home, comes... (full context)
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...large counterattack to isolate the 1st Marine Division and cause confusion in the American organization. Sledge and his fellow companions are forced to stay awake all night, hearing the sound of... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 11: Of Shock and Shells
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...while the men are carrying ammunition, a Japanese machine-gun begins to fire at them and Sledge is able to hide behind some supplies. Redifer then intervenes, throwing a grenade to shield... (full context)
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Sledge describes the debilitating and demoralizing next days and weeks, as the Marines are overwhelmed with... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 12: Of Mud and Maggots
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...is so fierce that Company K is told to take cover and wait for instructions. Sledge then learns that “Doc” Caswell is hit and, forgetting about the intense shelling, Sledge suddenly... (full context)
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...the next few days, the Marines are exposed to such constant heavy artillery fire that Sledge develops a deep headache. During that period, as Company K moves from fight to fight,... (full context)
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...sleep. The exposed cadavers cause flies and maggots to multiply, and dysentery breaks out. When Sledge looks around him, he feels as though he is in hell. The decay and destruction... (full context)
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...This severs the last tie the men had to their beloved officer Capt. Haldane, and Sledge recalls this as a demoralizing turning point on Okinawa. When this commanding officer is replaced... (full context)
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During a lull in an intense battle, Sledge chats with a Marine everyone calls “Kathy” because of the name of his lover. “Kathy”... (full context)
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This episode leads Sledge to realize that he no longer fully believes in a world outside of war. He... (full context)
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During the following attack, after Sledge’s conversation with Kathy, Marines shoot an already-wounded enemy soldier who is crawling in the mud.... (full context)
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Sledge mentions that sliding down one of these muddy slopes could drive any Marine to vomit... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 13: Breakthrough
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As the fighting drags on, Sledge describes increasing cases of combat fatigue: men whose faces go blank, as though they have... (full context)
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Sledge also describes the surprising experience of receiving letters from former Marines who have been lucky... (full context)
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...shelling in a section of the island called Shuri. After this exhausting ordeal, which keeps Sledge from sleeping, he recalls falling asleep one day on an empty stretcher placed on the... (full context)
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...raised the Confederate flag in celebration of this victory. The Southerners in Company K, including Sledge, cheer enthusiastically, while Americans from other areas of the country feel hostile or indifferent to... (full context)
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...the eve of a battle in Shuri that all Marines know is of crucial importance, Sledge digs his foxhole straight into a Japanese corpse full of maggots. An NCO tells Sledge... (full context)
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Later, when Sledge’s foxhole buddy slips and falls in the mud, the man’s body becomes entirely covered in... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 14: Beyond Shuri
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...prisoners places himself in the middle of the path on which the Marines are advancing. Sledge assumes that the soldier’s action can be explained by the shame he must feel at... (full context)
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One day, during a period of sporadic opposition, Sledge walks up to an old Okinawan woman sitting in front of her house. Although Sledge... (full context)
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As Sledge and the corpsman walk back, they hear a shot and notice a Marine emerge from... (full context)
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In early June, the seemingly endless rain finally stops, and Sledge is able to wash his feet, which are almost bleeding all over. He finds instant... (full context)
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One day, Sledge and a fellow mortarman are sent on a routine mission to give someone information about... (full context)
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During the next few days, Sledge takes part in a seven-day battle on Kunishi Ridge whose viciousness reminds him of Peleliu.... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 15: End of the Agony
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The successful battle of Kunishi marks the end of organized Japanese resistance on Okinawa. Sledge’s company is soon relieved by Marine replacements, who seem unprepared for battle on Okinawa, as... (full context)
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...by eating two fresh oranges and looking out at a beautiful sunset on the sea, Sledge and his companions receive the instructions to move north, where they will need to kill... (full context)
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Sledge and his companions cannot comprehend such orders, which they find unacceptable after all the fighting... (full context)
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After a few days, Sledge and a friend are finally able to rest in a beautiful, wooded area overlooking a... (full context)
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...buddy’s shock and horror at having killed his best friend is evident on his face. Sledge explains that this man later went through a general court-martial, but that his greatest punishment... (full context)
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Finally, Sledge is sent in a small group to guard some of the company’s gear and, as... (full context)
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Sledge later spends four months on occupation duty in Beijing and finally returns home. Although he... (full context)
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Sledge notes that it is ironic that, in such an elite company, so few members received... (full context)
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Sledge concludes his narrative by insisting on how savage and wasteful war is. He explains that... (full context)