Home / People / War is Hell: Eugene B. Sledge (1923-2001)

War is Hell: Eugene B. Sledge (1923-2001)

Part of TWER’s Veterans Day salute to Auburn’s men and women in uniform.

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Eugene B. Sledge is pictured here sitting on his bunk in his tent soon after the battle of Okinawa in World War II. He is wearing the “thousand yard stare” of combat veterans who have seen serious fighting. Sledge fought in Company K-3-5 of the U.S. Marine Corps in two of the fiercest battles against the Japanese at Peleliu and Okinawa. He was one of the few veterans to come through both battles without a physical wound but his experiences would haunt him for many years. Sledge wrote about his combat experiences in a book titled “With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa” years later. This photograph is reproduced at the end of the book.

For much, much more, visit Auburn’s Euguene B. Sledge Collection.

Timeline (from Wikipedia):

• Eugene B. Sledge was born on November 4, 1923 and grew up at Georgia Cottage in Mobile, Alabama.

• He graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile in May 1942 and entered Marion Military Institute (MMI) in Marion, Alabama, that fall.

• Sledge enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1942 to train as an officer, but in order not to “miss the war” he joined as an enlisted man and was eventually assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (K-3-5). He served as a Private First Class in the Pacific Theater and saw combat at Peleliu and Okinawa.

• After being posted to China after the war, he was discharged from the Marine Corps in February 1946 with the rank of Corporal.

• After the war, Sledge attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in the summer of 1949.

• He returned to Auburn in 1953 where he worked as a research assistant until 1955. That same year he graduated from API with a Master of Science degree in botany.

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• From 1956 to 1960 Sledge attended the University of Florida and worked as a research assistant. He received his doctorate in biology from the University of Florida in 1960. He was employed by the Division of Plant Industries for the Florida State Department of Agriculture from 1959 to 1962.

• In the summer of 1962, Sledge was appointed assistant professor of biology at Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo). In 1970 he became a professor, a position he held until his retirement in 1990. He taught zoology, ornithology, comparative vertebrate anatomy and other courses during his long tenure there.

• In 1981, Dr. Sledge published an account of his experiences during World War II in a book entitled “With the Old Breed.”

• Dr. Sledge died on March 3, 2001. A second memoir, “China Marine: An Infantryman’s Life after World War II”, was published posthumously in 2002.

Sledge on YouTube

From PBS’s “The War.” The narration is based from Sledge’s journal and included in his book “With the Old Breed”

The following links are for a lecture by Eugene B. Sledge presented at the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s “The Costs of War” seminar, the first full-scale war revisionism conference in the post-Cold War epoch. Presented at the Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama, May 1994.

Part One/Part Two/Part Three/Part Four

Photos of Sledge from Auburn’s digital library (a small sampling)

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Some of the men in Company K-3-5, 1st Marine Division. Eugene B. Sledge is in the center of the front row, with his dungaree cap pushed back; his buddy George Sarrett is behind his right shoulder. This is the company that Sledge fought with in the Pacific in World War II.

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Sledge in his winter uniform gear during his posting to Peiping (Beijing), China, at the end of World War II. The picture was taken at Lantienchang or North West Airfield in Peiping on Nov. 23, 1945, to which Sledge’s unit was assigned for a weeklong tour of guard duty.

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Sledge with some of his ornithology students at the University of Montevallo on a field trip to a bird farm outside of Asheville, Alabama. On the back of the photo Sledge notes they were “all excellent students!” From left to right are: Jim Kitson, unidentified student, E.B. Sledge, unidentified student, unidentified student, George Mursphree, Virgil Lugor, Rick Penny, and an unidentified female student in front.

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Sledge with one of his dachshunds. This picture was taken in 1999.

Photos and descriptions from the Auburn University Digital Library’s Euguene B. Sledge Collection.

About J.M. Comer

J.M. graduated from Auburn in 1998 and again in 2000 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. He is currently a copy editor in Washington, D.C., and lives in Baltimore, Land of Pleasant Living. If you find yourself in beautiful Baltimore, he recommends Faidley's crab cakes, a stop at Atomic Books, an O's game at Camden Yards and plenty of Natty Boh.

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