With the Old Breed


E.B. Sledge

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Themes and Colors
Death, Horror, and Trauma Theme Icon
Patriotism and Morality Theme Icon
Leadership and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship and Camaraderie Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in With the Old Breed, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Death, Horror, and Trauma

Eugene Sledge’s memoir With the Old Breed relates his experience as a Marine infantryman in World War II. As part of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (K/3/5), he is sent to fight against the Japanese and takes part in harrowing battles on the Pacific Island of Peleliu and on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Despite his intensive training, Sledge soon realizes that war is infinitely more gruesome than he could have imagined. Exposed…

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Patriotism and Morality

Eugene Sledge’s desire to take part in World War II derives from his patriotic attachment to the U.S. Moved by a strong commitment to protect the country he loves, which he views as a moral duty, Sledge also finds that combat experience causes him to develop a visceral hatred of the Japanese enemy. This hostility derives less from political considerations than from the Japanese’s vicious fighting techniques, which Sledge considers unnecessarily cruel. Throughout the…

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Leadership and Courage

Although With the Old Breed often praises the valor of American Marines, it does not necessarily recognize all fighters as equal in combat. Like any other infantryman, Eugene Sledge is forced to respect the hierarchical nature of the U.S. military. However, this does not keep him from noticing that some of his superiors are sometimes cowardly and ineffective, whereas some of his peers’ bravery goes unacknowledged. Sledge’s various experiences in combat thus reveal that, although…

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Friendship and Camaraderie

After witnessing so many horrors on Peleliu and Okinawa, Eugene Sledge concludes that war is savage and uncivilized. However, he also realizes that he has formed special bonds with his companions, established in a context of intense solidarity and emotional turmoil. He concludes that fighting would have been impossible without the support he drew from his comrades in Company K. Paradoxically, though, these special bonds of friendship, based on a commitment to each other’s lives…

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