Friday, November 26, 2010

Things I've been reading.

I had not, up until now, ever read With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa.

People had told me that it was one of the best memoirs of infantry combat ever, and they were right.

The prose is clear and direct. The recollection is straightforward, with no side trips into autobiography, dream sequences, poetry, or pontification. Two thumbs up.

In an interesting note to me as a shooter, during his description of marksmanship training at MCRD San Diego, he notes as an aside that all the way through the campaigns on Peleliu and Okinawa, he never once saw anybody shoot from the "sitting position"...

Having finished it, I'm now about halfway through The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000.

16 comments:

genedunn said...

Have you read "We Were Soldiers Once.."? I thought it was very good and, as you said, an excellent memoir of infantry combat... although parts of it read a bit like an AAR. Anyway, curious how it compares to "Old Breed"?

Tam said...

It's a very different flavor.

E.B. Sledge was a private in an infantry company, not a light colonel.

He's not working with a journalist to give an overview of a battle, just writing what he personally experienced.

Ancient Woodsman said...

Sledge's book was excellent. I read it twice before seeing 'The Pacific' and once again after.

I also recommend 'The Ghost Mountain Boys' by James Campbell about the New Guinea campaign. For yet another 'forgotten' phase, 'The Day of Battle' by Rick Atkinson about Sicily & Italy.

No one forgets such things who was there, but for the rest of us it can be hard to get more of the picture beyond the 'official' stories, especially when the 'official' stories are either written by - or simply sure to make - the popular & prettyboy Important Ones look good; officially damning the stories that don't.

John said...

One of the top reports on front line reality that I have in my library. One should salute the book before reading, after reading and whenever you pass it on the shelf.

Ed Foster said...

I'll pick it up today. I'm so old I remember some of those guys as senior NCO's back in the late 60's.

I have seen people work from sitting with a sling when the grass height or intervening terrain was a problem. The snipers liked it when there was concealment, because you could cover more area and shift position more easily.

Another answer to grass, if it's not too high, is the wierd looking high prone the Aussies used. They would roll all the way over on their side and kick their off leg out for balance.

It took a little getting used to, but it often got you high enough to do the job, was almost as solid as a real prone, and kept you from being silhuetted.

Justthisguy said...

Oh yeah. I read Private/Professor Sledge's book years ago and was seriously impressed. I mind the passage in which he tosses the silly book by that dilettante Hemingway.

Montie said...

Tam,

Having bought "The Pacific" when it became available on DVD (missed it on HBO, since I don't subscribe) I have been thinking of getting "with the Old Breed..." and "Helmet for My Pillow" as a follow-up. Your recommendation has heightened my desire so I will be ordering both immediately.

BTW, I trust your recomendations enough that I rented "The Good, The Bad and The Weird" a couple of days ago, something I might not have done otherwise. Very entertaining! After a couple of minutes I forgot I was even reading subtitles (probably due to reading so much that it just seems natural).

Anonymous said...

Re Sledge: Maybe it's just me, but the maps purporting to show the location of units described in the narrative did not match. Otherwise a terrific read.

It has been many moons since I read Goodbye Darkness, but it, and the Sledge Pacific island campaign descriptions have left a strong impression.

Gordon R. Durand said...

You will also enjoy The Barbarians: A Soldier's New Guinea Diary by Peter Pinney. I guarantee.

Steve Skubinna said...

I'd also recommend George MacDonald Fraser's Quartered Safe Out Here, about his experience as a rifleman with the 14th Army in Burma (Border Regiment). I put it up with Sledge's as the best combat memoirs of WWII.

Both written by enlisted guys, although Fraser was commissioned at the end of the war and spent a few more years postwar as a platoon leader in the Gordon Highlanders (lightly fictionalized in the McAuslan books). And later, of course, he wrote the Flashman books.

DirtCrashr said...

Read it last year. Maybe mortartmen don't get to sit much? Judging from some of the appalling and horrific conditions he describes, sitting may not have been on anybody's mind - standing puts your nose further from the stench.

roland said...

I don't believe I've ever read a blunter account of the miserable, maggot-riddden horror that was the Pacific Theater.

Robert said...

My father was in the 1st Marines at Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester and Peleliu. Just got the box edition of the Pacific and need to start watching it soon.

deadcenter said...

If you haven't, "The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat" by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, is an excellent account of a marine company in Korea.

Tangentially, the episodes in Victory at Sea covering the island hopping campaign in the Pacific in general and Peliliu in particular are magnificent, as is the entire series which is available on Netflix.

Tennessee Budd said...

Welcome to the club, Tam. I've had Sledge's book in my collection for years. Better late than never.
WV = upesque; French for "above."

gandalf23 said...

He wrote another book, or more correctly they split his memoir into two books, about his time after the Japan surrendered in China. "China Marine" is the name, I think.