I began reading some of the books I got for Christmas.
Started with ‘With The Old Breed‘ by EB Sledge, an account of the battles of Pellelui and Okinawa in World War Two. It’s a grim, compelling story told in cold, hard prose and it’s a fantastic book. I followed this with Helmet for My Pillow, by Robert Leckie, whose story overlaps Eugene Sledge’s story in that he fought at Iwo Jima, and then Pellelui, where he was wounded.
Where Sledge’s prose is clear and clinical – he was a biologist in later life and his writing is simple and factual – Leckie’s writing is colourful and more consciously ‘literary’ in style – his prose reminds me of that style of sports writing that reached its peak in the 40s and 50s, Leckie was a journalist before and after the war. Overall, as a book I prefer With the Old Breed, but both men endured awful, awful times in those campaigns and both books are well worth reading. These books and others were used as source material for the HBO series The Pacific.
As I’ve said before, both my Grandads were in the armed forces in WW2, one was aircrew the other fought in the desert and ended as a POW in Dresden during the time of the Allied fire bombing of that beautiful city. In later life they were both quiet, gentle men, and they rarely spoke of their experiences during the war.
My respect for that old breed is immense.