With the Old Breed

Posted: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 by Travis Cody in
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I want to share one final passage from the book With the Old Breed, by WWII Marine E.B.Sledge.

On 8 August we heard that the first atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan. Reports abounded for a week about a possible surrender. Then on 15 August 1945 the war ended.

We received the news with quiet disbelief coupled with an indescribable sense of relief. We thought the Japanese would never surrender. Many refused to believe it. Sitting in stunned silence, we remembered our dead. So many dead. So many maimed. So many bright futures consigned to the ashes of the past. So many dreams lost in the madness that had engulfed us. Except for a few widely scattered shouts of joy, the survivors of the abyss sat hollow-eyed and silent, trying to comprehend a world without war.

In September, the 1st Marine Division went to North China on occupation duty, the 4th Marines to the fascinating ancient city of Peking. After four and a half months there, I rotated Stateside.

My happiness knew no bounds when I learned I was slated to ship home. It was time to say goodbye to old buddies in K/3/5. Severing the ties formed in two campaigns was painful. One of America's finest and most famous elite fighting divisions had been my home during a period of the most extreme adversity. Up there on the line, with nothing between us and the enemy but space (and precious little of that), we'd forged a bond that time would never erase. We were brothers. I left with a sense of loss and sadness, but K/3/5 will always be a part of me.

It's ironic that the record of our company was so outstanding but that so few individuals were decorated for bravery. Uncommon valor was displayed so often it went largely unnoticed. It was expected. But nearly every man in the company was awarded the Purple Heart. My good fortune in being one of the few exceptions continues to amaze me.

War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste. Combat leaves an indelible mark on those who are forced to endure it. 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 esprit de corps sustained us.

This was one of the more difficult books I've ever read, and I highly recommend it.

6 comments:

  1. Trav: Thanks for sharing excerpts of the book. I told my supervisor about it when you first started posting and she bought it for her dad who served on Peleliu. She just told me that he's getting done with the book and loved it.

  1. Jamie says:

    That is such a poignant ending. The shared sacrifice and trials coming to an end but with the men forever.

  1. JohnH985 says:

    I know what you mean. I read Columbine by Dave Cullen about a month ago and it was a great book, but one of the hardest books I've read. There were many times I had to put the book down, it was so intense. Words can be pretty powerful.

  1. Travis says:

    GGG: That's great to hear. I'm going to check out another book by WWII Marine Robert Leckie.

    Jamie: Well said.

    John: Mr Sledge uses such simple language to describe what he went through. I think that really makes it even more poignant.

  1. Thanks for sharing this with us, Travis. My husband and I are watching The Pacific on HBO, and these excerpts were synchronistically timely.

  1. "Uncommon valor was displayed so often it went largely unnoticed."

    Incredibly sobering.