“War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste… 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 espirit de corps sustained us.”
This book is the personal narrative of Eugene B. Sledge’s experiences during WWII. Specifically, from boot camp through the Battle of Okinawa. It was used as part of the basis for the mini-series “The Pacific” on HBO.
This isn’t like most narratives or memoirs I’ve read in that Sledge can go into some amazing detail. Most memoirs seem to gloss over the horrifying parts of war but not Sledge. He even notes that in other books he’s read about war, they don’t seem to mention things like smell of dead bodies decomposing next to the shallow fox hole or how soldiers’ waste is handled. Most books written do seem to fall into one of two categories: either it’s dead on accurate and graphic or they romanticize war. This book falls into the first category.
Sledge explains in great detail the path his Marine division took through the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. He incorporates his feelings into what he witnessed with brutal honesty. There are also italicized sections that highlight what the rest of the Marines were facing and data such as wounded or killed. These sections are spread throughout the book and really help the reader step back and get a glimpse of the bigger picture. But only for a brief moment as he pulls you back into the trials he and his closest comrades are facing.
That being said, I did think the book ended rather abruptly. One page, we’re wrapping up the battle of Okinawa, and a whopping page later, the book is over. I would have liked to know more about how he finished out his service than just a paragraph. But he’s written other books so maybe that’s in those?
There wasn’t anything new I really gleaned from this book about WWII or the Pacific campaign. But I do treasure books that tell the real truth about what a soldier is experiencing during combat and this book excels at that.
I give it 4 stars and would highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already. If you have, what did you think?