“With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” Book Review

The United States of America engaged in the deadliest battle with Japan in 1941. President Franklin Roosevelt received Congress approval on December 8, 1941, to declare war against Japan. Earlier, Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, angered the government and led to the decision to begin an armed battle against the adversary. The expansion effort by the Japanese government and its conflicts with China made the country initiate decisions that were against the interests of western powers, including the United States. However, the United States had chosen to remain isolated from the conflict until the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan had been at war in Asia, especially with China, long before the war with the US started. The Pacific War ended in August 1945 after the impact of “Twin Shocks,” the atomic bombing of Japan, and the entry of the Soviet Union. The events prompted the Japanese Cabinet to make the “sacred decision” and agree to the Potsdam terms. In his book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Sledge (2007) highlighted his participation in the Pacific Theater. He fought on the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa for decades, which changed his life completely. While the United States could have used other approaches to win the war, American soldiers could not fight in any other way other than emulating the Japanese who fought to win and used the savage, brutal, inhumane, and exhausting approaches.

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The Japanese engaged in the battle to win at all costs. According to Sledge (2007), the Japanese left nothing to chance in terms of using force and the most savage mechanisms against their “enemy.” The quote, “The Japanese fought to win – it was a savage, brutal, inhumane, exhausting and dirty business. Our commanders knew that if we were to win and survive, we must be trained realistically for it, whether we liked it or not” (Sledge, 2007, p. 41) reveals the bloody nature of the war. Hence, such examples show the “savage nature” of the Pacific War.

The author detailed an example of cruel assaults against his troops.  In chapter four, “Assault into Hell,” Sledge (2007) explained the way the Japanese soldiers approached and attacked them on the island of Peleliu. They came in with “long jets of red flame mixed with think black smoke that rushed out of the muzzles of the huge battleships’ 16-inch guns with a noise like a thunderclap. The giant shells tore through the air towards the island, roaring like locomotives” (Sledge, 2007, p. 55). The quote reveals that the Japanese used all the necessary resources to plan the “savage” war against the U.S. soldiers.

The American soldiers experienced extreme violence in the Pacific War. They endured unimaginable terror as observed by a person who has never experienced a battle with such a magnitude. Sledge (2007) narrated the entrapment of American soldiers by the Japanese: He “saw men trapped and unable to do anything but watch as they were hit… I had tasted the bitterest essence of war, the sight of helpless comrades being slaughtered…” (Sledge, 2007, p. 60). He further added that the attacks that occurred in the Peleliu’s airfield were the worst ever. Sledge affirmed that he had never experienced such savage warfare before in his military career. He also used the Goettge patrol incident to show the inhumane nature of the war with the Japanese. For example, they would play dead and then throw grenades to the rivals. They would also play wounded and then call for a corpsman. When the medics came, they could attack them and sneak to attack the marines. They used the tactic to kill marines in this pretentious manner. As a result, the marines hated the Japanese soldiers and were always reluctant to take them as prisoners. The Japanese were prepared to fight using any possible unconventional means to win the battle.

The Japanese soldiers were prepared to die and hence fought to the death. They competed for power and believed that they needed to win the war against the western allies and retain control over the region and globally. The battle ensued during a period when Japan was seeking expansion. They believed in their course with a high level of conviction that they were willing to fight a lengthy and bloody war. The intensity of their commitment to the war was at a level that people could not understand, including the U.S. marines. Therefore, the country had high stakes in the war. As a result, the Japanese developed powerful weapons to fight against the U.S. and the allies: “The technology that developed the rifled barrel, the machine guns, and high-explosive shells” (Sledge, 2007, p. 41). Hence, the Japanese developed weapons, which enabled them to participate in a prolonged, subhuman slaughter against the enemy.

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The US Marines had to respond with force and reciprocate the “savage” nature of the war to save themselves from the deadly attacks. Sledge (2007) revealed that they did not have any choice but to reciprocate the inhumane acts and fight to win or risk death in the hands of the Japanese who meant war. Sledge felt that the marines were forced by circumstances to fight as brutally as they did. He further suggested that those who criticized the soldiers failed to understand the magnitude of their experience during the war. He argued that people who challenged the surviving soldiers were those who were saved from experiencing the horrors of participating in the war. He justified that the American soldiers had to be “trained realistically if they are to survive it without breaking mentally and physically” (Sledge, 2007, p. 41). Overall, the author explained the nature of hatred that existed between the two sides of the war.

The author revealed about his experience during the Pacific War in Peleliu and Okinawa. In his book, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Sledge (2007) noted that the war between the United States and Japan was fought during World War II. The Japanese and US marines were fanatic enemies. The Japanese engaged in “savage” warfare against the enemy. The Japanese fought the war at all costs, while the marine responded with similar force to protect their interests. They created a collective attitude of hatred that led to savage and ferocious warfare. The two sides spared no means in the attempt to win the war. In the end, the war led to massive loss of lives and injuries that left many marines and Japanese maimed for life. According to Sledge (2007), the war was fueled by a brutish, primitive hatred. The book provides essential information for any reader to understand the danger and brutality that the troops endured. Overall, the book is a must-read for any person who intends to comprehend the World War II and the consequences of the most brutal warfare in the history of the world.



Sledge, E. B. (2007). With the old breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa. New York, NY: Random House Digital, Inc.

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