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With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa

Sledge, E. B. | Ballantine, 1981


pp. 264 - 265

E. B. Sledge had taken notes of his experience in the Pacific Theater in WWII and had kept them for decades inside a copy of the New Testament that went everywhere with him. His accounts of the conditions under which GIs had to fight on Peleliu and Okinawa is extremely vivid. His conviction, expressed in his war memoir, is that of all the hardships GIs faced, none was worse than being under prolonged shell fire. You could hear the shells fired, you could hear them fly, but you could not know exactly where they would land and, therefore, who or what they would destroy. Shells could kill. They could blow limbs and heads from bodies. Some men were driven mad, or nearly so, from fear, but then also from the actual concussion of the shell blast. Some men after a battle would have to be led. The blast had wholly disoriented them, robbing them of their sense of direction. “Some wore wild-eyed expressions of shock and fear.” Some resembled “idiots or simpletons.” Some of these men never recovered. They went home and entered a VA hospital to stay for the rest of their loves. Some men after battle, or in it, quietly sobbed. Some screamed. Almost nobody was unaffected.