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Eugene Sledge in 'Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific'

Eugene Sledge, as portrayed in the HBO miniseries, The Pacific, describes the landing in Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific, as the "turning point in my life."

Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific, recipient of 1993 Telly Award and 1992 Columbus International Film Festival Citation as Best Documentary (re-released on DVD in 2009), tells the true story of the men of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (K-3-5) and the ferocious Battle of Peleliu, called "an island on fire", during World War II in the Pacific Theater.

Against a backdrop of archival footage and photographs, the Battle of Peleliu is told by Eugene B. ("Sledgehammer") Sledge, Bill Leyden, R.V. Burgin, Jay De L'eau (all characters, including Sledge, in the HBO mini-series, The Pacific, March 2010, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, producers) and Roy "One-Shot" Kelly is as harrowing as any in the history of modern warfare.

Eugene Sledge Biography

Eugene B. Sledge, author of With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, the esteemed memoir of his service with U. S. Marines during World War II published in 1981, was born November 4th, 1923 in Mobile, Alabama.

After graduation from Murphy High School in May 1942, he entered Marion Military Institute in the fall, and then enlisted in the Marines in December. He saw combat as a PFC mortarman in Company K-3-5 through the battles for Peleliu and Okinawa. Following a posting to China after the war’s end and his discharge from the Marines as a Corporal in 1946, he returned to Alabama where he received BS and MS degrees from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). Following four years in Florida where he earned a PHD in Botany from the University of Florida, he returned to his home state as a Professor at the University of Montevallo where he taught zoology, ornithology, and comparative vertebrate anatomy and other classes until his retirement in 1990.

E.B. Sledge died after a long battle with stomach cancer in March 2001.

Originally published in 1981, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa was reissued in 1990 with an introduction by Paul Fussell, author of Wartime, and again in 2007 with an introduction by Victor Davis Hanson. Ken Burns used excerpts of Sledge’s work in his documentary series, The War, seen on PBS in 2007. In March 2010 Eugene will be portrayed by Joseph Mazzello in the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks $150,000,000 production, The Pacific, to be aired on HBO. With the Old Breed is one of the books optioned as the basis for the series along with Robert Leckie’s Helmet for My Pillow.

In 1992, Sledge was interviewed alongside Bill Leyden, R. V. Burgin, and Jay de L’eau in The American Hero Film Series' Peleliu 1944: Horror in the Pacific, a documentary film on the battle for Peleliu.

In addition, he published a second memoir, China Marine: An Infantryman’s Life after World War II. It was published posthumously in 2002. The book covered his extended tour and posting to Beijing and his return home to Alabama.

Photo: Eugene Sledge on Bunk in Okinawa. Used with permission from Auburn University Libraries.