Eb Sledge With the Old Breed Essay

Pages: 6 (2080 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

E.B. Sledge, With the Old Breed

There most assuredly are two different representations of the author of With The Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, E.B. Sledge, that the reader can discern while perusing through this memoir. One of these men is the actual soldier, a 19-year-old boy horrified by the ravages of war and the exacting toll it takes on him and his friends. The other, however, is the older, more mature author, who is able to contextualize the events and experiences he lived through and to evaluate them for their true effect upon not just himself, his accomplices, and his enemies, but upon humanity as well. There is very little evidence to denote the fact that Sledge viewed World War II and his involvement in it in Japan as necessary. What is interesting about this assertion is that despite a dearth of evidence supporting the author's belief that such a war was necessary, both of the aforementioned Sledges were proud of the camaraderie and the relationship that they were able to establish with other Marines -- which is actually the general motif that With the Old Breed is based upon. A thorough analysis of Sledge's work, as well as critical works written about this memoir, proves that there is a younger soldier horrified by war and an older author able to draw significance out of what such horror meant regarding war's waste, both of whom adored their companions yet did not view such a war was necessary.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Essay on Eb Sledge With the Old Breed Assignment

Out of all of the salient examples that Sledge offers to support this particular thesis, the one that most readily comes to mind is his account of the time in which he attempted to extract gold teeth out of dead Japanese soldiers. This event is presaged by the author's mentioning that several of his marine comrades had engaged in similar behavior. It is crucial to note that when Sledge first begins to mention such occurrences, he is somewhat repulsed by them. As a young soldier unaccustomed to the dehumanizing effects of warfare, he has not yet become desensitized enough to condone such actions. His loss of innocence, then, is somewhat documented by his compliance in a practice that he previously abhorred. Perhaps even more importantly is the fact that Slade's recounting of this anecdote is emblematic of the narrative technique he uses throughout the entire book. He initially tells a story the way that it happened, with his many impressions and sensations as they struck him while still a young man learning about war. Afterwards, he provides analysis from the perspective of a wizened, wide author. These two perspectives are not the same. The latter individual is a biology professor at Alabama's University of Montevallo (Hiatt), certainly more worldly than the former, a young man who decided to forgo the completion of his officer training in order to serve with the K. Company's third Battalion as a fifth infantry regiment in the first division of the Marines (Gilbert). His initial recollection of his attempt at cutting out gold teeth also proves this point, and is from the perspective of the young soldier.

Stopping beside a corpse with a particularly tempting number of crowns, I took out my kabar and bent over to make the extractions. A hand grasped me by the shoulder, and I straightened up to see who it was. "What are you gonna do, Sledgehammer?" asked Doc Caswell. His expression was a mix of sadness and reproach (Sledge 120).

It is quite clear that Sledge's viewpoint in this passage is that of a soldier who has become desensitized to the humanity of the enemy and is willing to take trophies or spoils from the maw of a dead soldier. His interaction with Caswell is critical to the passage, because it is Caswell who dissuades him from doing it. At the time, Sledge did not quite understand why Caswell was dissuading him -- although he certainly complied with his older companion's wishes. However, it is important to note that in this quotation, one sees the zeal and passion of youth in procuring a prize, and none of the reflection of sagacity and age that give this passage meaning. Such wisdom, of course, is left for the alternate, more experienced Sledge to impart -- which he does immediately after the aforementioned quotation. The important thing about this latter sledge is he is able to extract meaning and significance out of actions that he simply lived through as a young man. The following quotation in which he reflects and rationalizes Caswell's interaction with him, suitably demonstrates this point. Prior to this quotation, Caswell has told the youngster that he might become exposed to unsanitary germs while attempting to cut out the teeth.

Reflecting on this episode after the war, I realized that Doc Caswell didn't really have germs in mind. He was a good friend and a fine, genuine person whose sensitivity hadn't been crushed out by the war. He was merely trying to help me retain some of mine and not become completely callous and harsh (Sledge 124).

Thus, the older Sledge is able to understand the true reason for Caswell's intervention. It had nothing to do with germs, and everything to do with the noxious psychological effects of war on people. This passage indicates that Sledge's humanity was slipping as indicated by his desire to cut out body parts for gold -- simply because he had become so desensitized by the war. It is significant that the older Sledge is able to provide this insight, which actually functions as another of the recurring motifs in this book which is why readers are mistake if they believe that either version of Sledge is condoning war as 'necessary'. The older Sledge provides a great deal of writing in this book about the debilitating effects of war -- not just physically but mentally as well. Other World War II authors, such as Studs Terkel, have referenced this aspect of World War II and war in general, and do not condone it. War has the effect of producing its own unique values that are not based on human life but on survival and partisanship; Terkel recounts an anecdote in which after Japan surrendered U.S. soldiers spontaneously fired into the air in celebration -- and killed 32 of their own men (34). The older Sledge also disparages war for this similar sort of dehumanizing effect it produces in its participants -- which is something the younger Sledge may allude to and have abstract notion of, without the full-fledged understanding of his older counterpart.

Sledge's anecdote about cutting out teeth is also invaluable for the fact that it elucidates the theme that the camaraderie and fellowship between the Marines was a vital part to Sledge's experience. Again, the author utilize the narrative technique to communicate this notion to the reader in which the younger Sledge simply experiences instances of this camaraderie, whereas the older Sledge contextualizes and deconstructs it to give it its due emphasis. For example, the younger Sledge undergoes an experience in which the elevated status of Marines is alluded to yet not fully explored in depth. The young man encountered a couple of army members at one point during the war -- just common soldiers. As a member of the Marines, however, Sledge was distinct from common army soldiers, which the following passage -- in which Sledge is mistaken for an army member, illustrates. Another soldier who witnessed the former soldier refer to Sledge as an army member tells the former soldier "stop calling that guy a soldier. He's a Marine. Can't you see the emblem? He's not in the army. Don't insult him" (Sledge 27). This passage implies the weight that being a Marine carries, and suggests that simply being a part of this group carried an elite sense that elevate Marine personnel above those of the army. Part of being in this elite group enabled Sledge to take part in the camaraderie, love, trust and companionship that the 'old breed' of Marines had for one another. As a young man, of course, Sledge relied on such comradeship to see him through fire fights and other potential dangers -- such as the complete loss of his humanity that cutting out the teeth of the enemy represented. But it is as an old man that he really comes to realize this fact, and to contextualize it to readers.

Thus, it is fairly apparent that the dominant voice in this narrative is actually that of the older, more mature Sledge. A thoroughly convincing means of offering proof to this fact is found in his contextualizing the true value in his camaraderie that was established through the marines. As the previous quotation demonstrated, Sledge was simply living through events in which he experienced some of the benefits of being a vaunted part of this military group. Yet it is his surmising as a more mature professor that allows him to properly extract the meaning that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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