Nineteen-year-old Eugene B. Sledge, from Mobile, Alabama, joined the U.S. Marines on December 3, 1942, and shipped out to the Pacific 14 months later as a private first class with the 1st Marine Division. On September 15 he joined in the assault on Peleliu, a tiny island that had been highly fortified by the Japanese with caves and pillboxes that extended into its interior. Although the island proved to be of questionable strategic value, the battle for Peleliu was one of the bloodiest of the war, with the well-entrenched enemy fighting to the last man. Sledge later wrote about his wartime doings in With the Old Breed (1981), widely regarded as the best battle memoir of World War II. Sledge’s experiences, from which the following account of his arrival on Peleliu was adapted, made up one of the three story lines in the recent HBO miniseries, The Pacific.
Click the image below to view a slide show of National Archives images of the battle in progress, as Sledge would have seen it coming ashore, with excerpts from his memoir.
Excerpt from With the Old Breed, by E. B. Sledge ©1981, published by arrangement with Presidio Press, a division of Random House, Inc.