Sunday, March 25, 2007

With The Old Breed...

It's not often I find a book I must read for school absolutely involving. The History of Military Art, however, is a class that has given me more than its fair share of gems. The book I am currently reading for class is titled With The Old Breed and it is a memoir of a Marine in the South Pacific. His experiences were tragic, heroic and amazing. Here are three paragraphs that I just read that made me put the book down for the first time in four hours of reading because it is simply too powerful to not share:
The situation was bad enough, but when enemy artillery shells exploded in the area, the eruptions of soil and mud uncovered previously buried Japanese dead and scattered chunks of corpses. Like the area around our gun pits, the ridge was a stinking compost pile.

If a Marine slipped and slid down the back slope oft he muddy ridge, he was apt to reach the bottom vomiting. I saw more than one man lose his footing and slip and slide all the way to the bottom only to stand up horror-stricken as he watched in disbelief while fat maggots tumbled out of his muddy dungaree pockets, cartridge belt, legging lacings, and the like. Then he and a buddy would shake or scrape them away with a piece of ammo box or a knife blade.

We didn't talk about such things. They were too horrible and obscene even for hardened veterans. The conditions taxed the toughest I knew almost to the point of screaming. Nor do authors normally write about such vileness; unless they have seen it with their own eyes, it is too preposterous to think that men could actually live and fight for days and nights on end under such terrible conditions and not be driven insane. But I saw much of it there on Okinawa and to me the war was insanity.


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