37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Into the Abyss,
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This review is from: With the Old Breed: The World War Two Pacific Classic (Pacific TV Tie in) (Paperback)
The decision of HBO to use `With the Old Breed' as one the key sources for their $ 200 million mini-series ` The Pacific' has brought Eugene Sledge's war memoirs has a whole new global readership. First published in 1981 but using notes taken at the time of the battles in 1944/5, this is an account of the author's recruitment and training in the US Marine Corps and his participation in two of World War Two's most brutal and horrific battles . The original working title of was `Into the Abyss' and nothing comes closer to describing the particular forms of hell that were the battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Whilst the author refers to the wider strategic picture, that is only reference events and this remains a very personal account.
Sledge doesn't shy away from describing in detail the horror of the battlefield with its rotting corpses, mangled body parts and human excrement. Too often in other literature comparisons with the First World War's trenches are drawn, yet on Okinawa the combination of multiple assaults against a well entrenched enemy and a rain saturated battlefield lead to a repeat of those conditions. It was only the lack of Japanese re-enforcements that ensured this campaign did not develop into the same stalemate.
Despite all the horror around him and the killing he had to do, Sledge's own humanity, whilst tested, survives and shines through. There is no sense of blood lust for the death of the Japanese, even though their conduct is often appalling, and Sledge finds no glory in war even in the eventual US victory.
The writing is one of the great strengths of this book. The author was well educated and after the war went on to become a Professor of biology. The narrative is always clear, events are easy to follow and there is the avoidance of poetic prose and unnecessarily over descriptive passages but still you are carried along by the events.
I have no doubt that Spielberg, Hanks and HBO will try to do justice to this book and Sledge's story. However, they can never cover all the events and detail it contains. This is highly recommended for anyone interested in the frontline combat experience of war.