With the Old Breed Summary and Study Guide

E.B. Sledge

With the Old Breed

  • 30-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 15 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English instructor with a Master's degree in English
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With the Old Breed Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 30-page guide for “With the Old Breed” by E.B. Sledge includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 15 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Valor and Endurance and War Ethics.

Plot Summary

E.B. Sledge’s memoir recounts his experiences fighting in the South Pacific during World War II. Serving in the First Marine Division, he was present at the some of the deadliest battles of that war. The book begins with the author’s experiences being trained as a new marine recruit, enduring boot camp and mortar man training. He then vividly describes his participation in two seminal conflicts of the Pacific campaign: Peleliu and Okinawa. Written in a vivid and objective voice, the memoir seeks to record what the First Marine Division saw, faced, and ultimately conquered. Sledge notes both bravery and fear, loss and triumph. While recording the grueling physical details of the job, he also examines the psychological impact of warfare. Human nature and physical nature are each considered at points, as Sledge explores how warfare impacts morality as well as man’s relationship with the natural world. After chronicling his experiences in full detail, the author concludes by commending military valor and decrying the waste that is war.

Sledge’s narrative of his combat service at Peleliu and Okinawa touches upon military strategy but also includes details that the author feels historians frequently miss in their chronicling of war. Sledge viscerally captures the sounds, smells and feel of combat. The noise of sirens, the putrefaction of bodies, and the sensation of maggot-filled, waterlogged foxholes are all vividly rendered. His attention to the natural landscape and its impact on the troops reveals a future biologist’s eye. (Post-war, Sledge went on to achieve a doctorate in biology and was noted for his expertise in the fields of conservation and ornithology).

Sledge’s memoir does not truly vilify anyone, the enemy included. Instead, Sledge condemns what war does to humanity. He notes soldiers cut down in their youth and describes the ways war warps all those who serve, whether they survive or perish. He is disgusted when he sees men becoming callous towards the sight of dead bodies, or, worse yet, desecrating corpses. He views the looting of corpses for watches or gold teeth as an indication of how distorted one’s mind can become when subjected to prolonged and extreme violence. In addition to being critical of war, Sledge also expresses his irritation with politicians who initiate conflict and send others into harm’s way.

The narrative concludes matter-of-factly, ending with the victory at Okinawa. Sledge celebrates the bond between Marines, a loyalty to one another that he believes helps them endure the horrors they experience. Sledge’s highest praise is reserved for the men he calls “the old breed,” officers such as Captain Haldane, who teach others how to retain their humanity no matter what they face.

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Chapters 1-2