Bryan Riegel 12/13/2012

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Annotation Project

History 290-01, Fall 2012

Bryan Riegel


Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Letter from Eugene Sledge to his Mother 5

Letter from Eugene Sledge to both Parents 8

Letter from Eugene Sledge to his Mother (2) 11

Letter from Eugene to his Father 13

Letter from Eugene Sledge to both Parents (2) 15

Appendix 1 (Letter Extras) 18

Appendix 2 (Images) 19

Epilogue 23

Conclusion 24

Bibliography 25


This project is an interpretation of the Eugene B. Sledge Collection of the Auburn University Digital Library. After the devastation of Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941, the United States was ready to jump into the conflict of World War II. Eugene was eighteen at just the right time to join, but a simple heart condition was the only thing holding him back in Mobile, Alabama. His father, a medical doctor that served during the First World War, kept his son from leaving. The young men at his age left to surf across the vast Pacific Ocean to meet the enemy face to face. Eugene was left behind, but with the inevitable O.K. from his father, Eugene enlisted as soon as possible to join his brothers in combat. The following letters in this project are selected out of a collection of letters Eugene had written during the War. Due to length constraints and a specific context, I selected a collection of five letters. (EBS COLLECTION, 2000)

The letters are in chronological order, and are from Eugene Sledge to either his mother or father, and sometimes both. I decided to leave Eugene’s letters mostly unaltered, as I wanted for you the viewer, to read them in his voice and mind set. There are a few portions of the letters that were either damaged or missing, which are clearly labeled, as well as many references to footnotes and the appendices. Eugene mentions many names of friends and family that are familiar with the Sledge family, but I was unable to find out who the majority of those names were as well.

While reading the letters, notice that Eugene hardly mentions the terrors of war. Some would speculate it is because he was trying to keep his mother from becoming too concerned, or maybe Eugene tried to focus on other topics with his parents to avoid his reality. The letters start with Eugene at his officer’s training camp at Georgia Tech, which he promptly flunked, like the rest of his friends did, just to be able to enlist instead of sitting in class. (EBS COLLECTION, 2000)

Letter from Eugene Sledge to his Mother

August 18, 1943

Georgia Tech V-12 Officer Training Program1

Dear Mother,

Oh, Mother take down your service flag,

Your son's at Georgia Tech.

Instead of fighting battles, He's raisin'

A lot of heck.

He's either playing softball or swimming

In the pool.

Mother take down your service flag,

Your son's gone back to school.

Oh, Mother take down your service flag,

Your son's gone back to school.

He's not out fighting like he ought to do.

He's never seen the ocean,

He's never swabbed a deck,

Oh, Mother take down your service flag,

Your son's at Georgia Tech.
Oh, Mother take down your service flag,

Your son's gone back to school,

Instead of carryin' a new M-12

He carries an old slide rule,

He's raisin' Hell in college,

He's just a Ramblin' Wreck,

Mother take down your service flag,

Your son's at Georgia Tech.3

There's more truth than poetry in the above. The Marines here made it up to show our attitude towards the college training program. It goes to the tune of "Ramblin Reck."4

I received the towels and stick candy today. Thanks a million. The candy was fine and the towels will be put to use. I wrote Father and told him about my trip to Stone Mountain5. I hope I'll have a bigger tale to tell after my trip to Henesaw Mt. this Sunday. I will take my camera again and take some pictures. Don't worry about sending any film, there is a photo shop up on the corner that sells it cheap. But I would like the pictures of Cricket6 and of me shooting my cap & ball revolver.

I send my shirts and ties to the laundry and when I get them back I starch and iron them myself. I am getting pretty good. Tell Liela7 when I get back I'll really be particular about my shirts, etc. The laundry is supposed to starch but it doesn't, so I do it myself.

How is everything at home? I miss everything a lot, but I guess I'd better get used to it. Give my love to Father.

I got a letter from William King8. Said he was sending a book with pictures of all British Regimental insignias. Did the canteen ever come?

Please write, I haven't heard from you in quite awhile. Please send me some chocolate candy that you make. Even if you can't get any marshmellows just send the candy anyhow. A friend got some from his mother and he gave me a piece. Since then I haven't been able to get my mind off your chocolate candy. When you can please make me some.

Write soon.


P.S. Thought you'd like to see the two clippings.9

Love, Gene

Letter from Eugene Sledge to Parents

November 9, 1943

Marine Corps Boot Camp, Camp Elliott, Near San Diego, CA10

Dearest Mother & Father,

Well I finally found a minute to write to you. As I said before, I was really sick when I wasn't allowed to call you'll when we came through Mobil.

My trip was really an interesting one. We passed through southern Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. To me Louisiana looked beautiful because it was so close to home. But I think Arizona was the most picturesque of all the states we passed. The mountains were beautiful with many different types & colors of rocks. Mom, I know you would enjoy the beautiful country we passed. I sure wish you, Pop, Ed, and I could take such a trip after the war.11


I'm getting along fine and dandy. I never thought I could eat so much and hussell so fast. Boy I don't know what I would do without that year I had at Marion. The D.I.12 shows you once how to disassemble the MI and says do it, clean every part and fallout in 5 minutes. I sure feel sorry for the boys that have never had military training. Our D.I. is very pleased with us. There are about 1,000 college training boys like myself here.13 Many of them were gyped like I was and I hear the program is being revised and a lot of other boys are comming here. For yours and Father's sake I will always be sorry I was a failure. But I have one consulation, that is if I had passed everything I would be here anyway. So you see I'm really not a failure. They said no one could transfer schools and they wouldn't allow me to take the courses I had been taking at Tech. As I hadn't had any preparation for engineering; I was just out of luck. If Col. Baer had done what you asked him to do, I wouldn't be here. However, I'm doing nicely and I applied for Sea School yesterday. If I get that, you can be well proud of me for only the best marines are put in Sea School. My interviewer said I had an excellent chance and to do my best on the rifle range. I sure hope there are enough openings and I get in.

We were issued rifles, bayonets, packs, etc. and again I thank God, you and Pop for my year at Marion. I doubt if I'll ever go back there, but if I have to sell eggs and chickens to do it, I'm going to get a degree in History or Business after the war.

(Letter page incomplete)

I really look funny with my G.I. haircut. But it is comfortable and no trouble. There is a B-2414 base next to our area and those big bombers pass over all day. We live in tents next to the parade ground. It is the select place of the whole Marine base. Well I must close and go to chow. I pray that you will believe me about why I'm here.

Please write, Love, Gene

Letter from Eugene Sledge to his Mother15

P.F.C. Eugene B. Sledge

Co. K, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines

C/O Fleet PO, San Francisco, Calif.

June 22, 1944

Dear Mother,

I got a V mail from Bill Wacker16. He is in Wisconsin. Says he is going with a nice girl who's grandad owns a huge tract of timber. Bill has hunted pheasant and quail and caught rainbow trout and bass on expeditions with the girl's grandpop. Some people really get wonderful breaks, Bill is really lucky. Here Sid17 and I sit on an island of coconut palms, slap insects, and watch the parrots fly around. But it will really make me appreciate home and the U.S. when I get back.18

What is the latest news from Edward19? When you receive any word from him send me a cable gram or something saying he is all right. Now I know how you and Pop worry over us for I'm the same way about Ed.

Sid and I are planning a trip, post war, to the eastern battlefields of the Civil War. We want to get a model "A" Ford and make our destination Bannerman. But it will come after I have been to Natchez with you. Where I'm going to get all this time for trips and college, I haven't found out yet. But I figure Sid and I are entitled to a little vacation after this so I hope it will be all right with you and Pop. We will each get $300 when discharged from the service so our Bannerman trip is all ready paid for. However, remember I promised I'd go to Natchez & Williamsburg with you so you can be planning on that.

You asked if I wanted you to send me any money, thanks Mom but I don't need any here. We get paid once in awhile and if I do draw it I send it right home. Occasionally, we have a chance to purchase Hersheys, and right now I'd gladly give $5.00 for one, but that is all there is to use money for. However I'm hoping you will send me some candy and cookies real soon.

I hope Pop got my letter asking about college etc. I really am anxious to see what he says.

Nothing much else. Oh yes, I still spend every evening with Sid and he is doing O.K. Give Pop my love. Devotedly,


(Letter Continues with more desired orders from Eugene. See Appendix 1A.)

Letter from Eugene to his Father

Co. K, 3rd Bn., 5th Marines

First Marine Div.

c/o FPO San Francisco, Calif.

December 7, 1944

Dear Pop,

Just got yours of Nov. 23 with the woodpecker on the back. Remember three years ago today you and I were dove hunting at the Wares. When we started home in the Plymouth we heard of the "dastardly sneak attacks on U.S. bases." When in truth it was just a well planned military thrust by underated enemies. Thank God our country has awakened and is now on the road to peace.

I received the packages of nuts and laundry, powder, and brushes. They really make my washing a lot easier. The Hershey’s, cheese crackers, more cookies, cocoa, and Georgia Cottage earth arrived. The latter I sprinkled around my bunk and I feel like I'm once again on family ground. I really certainly got a kick out of the crow foot and feathers and attached cards.

I read "Song to Remember"20 in a movie magazine this morning. It was the gist of the movie of the life of Fred Chopin. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it. Everyone in my tent gets a lot of pleasure from the magazines you & Mummie have sent. I lay in my bunk by the hour and read. You & Mummie can rest assured that I've enjoyed your packages equally as much as you did sending them. I certainly appreciate it and all the love they represent.

If you can't find me some sort of 98 cent watch and if my wrist watch is repaired please send the latter to me as I do need some sort of watch. Be sure and insure it. Do you remember the small pipe you had with the metal filter and shaped21.I liked it for its strait, screw on stem, small squatty bowl and metal filter. I thought if you could find it I'd like it if you don't use it. The pipe I have [picture of pipe] is from Sid and pretty nice but I prefer a metal filter and don't like a tall bowl. I guess I'm lowly for asking for anything after all the wonderful packages. I hope you don't think I'm greedy. Tell Mom all the contents of the packages have been fresh and good and all the packages arrived in fine shape. All the boys say I'm really blessed with devoted parents. I inform them that’s very very true.

Well Pop I have run out of news. As I look over at my bunk with a copy of Field & Stream and a box of cookies on it I feel the need to remove my shoes and relax. This rest snows me but I guess we really earned it. My love to you & Mummie.



(Letter continues with more requests and follow ups from received packages. Appendix 1B.)

Letter from Eugene Sledge to both Parents


Pfc. Eugene B. Sledge,

Co. K., 3rd Bn., 5th Marine Reg

First Marine Division

c/o Fleet Post Office

San Francisco, Calif.

Dear Mom and Pop,

This is the first change to write since my last letter. We have been getting mail surprisingly well under these conditions. We are on the Southern end of the island22 now -- last few days haven't been too bad but for a while things were pretty tough. Naturally we all hope things don't get rugged again. I can't see how the beasts stand the terrific pounding we give them day and night.23 They can't be human and are probably doped up to the fullest.24

We just heard a news dispatch and everything sounds pretty good. The news I'm waiting for is when I receive a letter from you that Ed is on his way home. I don't think you need worry about him coming over here. I'm pretty sure he will go stateside for good, and I sure hope its soon too.

The last time I saw Jay he was fine. We had quite a nice visit in a rice paddie drainage ditch one day when we were both taking shelter from a machine gun. I haven't had a chance to see Ken Strange25 but I know every time our artillery starts its sweet music that he is helping throw them in.

The weather continues agreeable and the only squawk is the flies which are always thicker at the front than in a 19th century livery stable.

The news about Deacon26 (spaniel) was really a sad tiding. Honestly I shed tears over it. I really loved him as you did. One thing I was looking forward to, plus many others, was when I could again have Deacon with me. He was surely one of my truest friends and I'll always remember him. Ta Ta sure gave us a wonderful thing in him and I'm glad you were with him when he died. I certainly appreciate the way you cared for him when he was sick and need inoculations etc. I certainly have a lot of happy memories in connection with him.

I did want to write you on Mother's Day, Mom -- but I wasn't able to. I certainly pray that next one we are all together again. I thank God for caring for Ed and I and giving us such wonderful parents. I love you both more than anything and I have certainly been homesick for you both these fifteen months over here. There has never been a minute you aren't on my mind and in my prayers and the sun will truly shine when we are together again. I couldn't ask for a better name or finer heritage and I know my parents are the two most loveable Christians in the world. So you see I have a lot to be thankful for and when we are together at Georgia Cottage again, God will have fulfilled all my prayers.

Well, I will close now and write as often as possible. My love to you both and I'll write when I have the opportunity.

Devotedly, Gene.

Appendix 1

A: Here are two addresses I got out of an Outdoor Life magazine. Please have the catalogs sent to me for they make good reading for me. 1. Illustrated antique firearms catalogue from Robert Abels, 860-L Lexington Ave. N.Y. price 25[cents]. And 2. Catalogue from House of Guns, Belleville 9, New Jersey, catalogue illustrated 25[cents].

When you send magazines to me take about 5 or 6 and wrap them, flat, into a package. They get here quicker and cheaper than by sending them rolled up separately. When rolled they get all frayed and I have an awful time unrolling them. The other boys get them wrapped as packages and it’s the best way. Please send me some of those issues of "American Rifleman" that are all ways at Pop's office.

I hope I'm not asking too much with all the magazines and candy.


Letter June 22-44

Ordered July 3-44

B: Give Floyd my regards and the same to the Wares. Tell them I hope I'm back home hunting with you in the big field next Dec. 7. I got a nice letter from Ed yesterday and I wrote last nite. I hope the rest of the little ducks get along O.K.



Two packages just arrived. One from Mom and one from Mrs. Butler. Some cheese crackers and a flashlight and some lifesavers were in the boxes. Pop please cease sending baby canned food. It's too rich for me and besides the mortar section takes great glee in "Say Sledgehammer did you get any baby food today?" I can take teasing but that’s too much. Be careful how you tell Mummie because I don't want to hurt her and besides everything else is swell. I wrote you about it for I know you'll understand. Now don't let Mummie misunderstand and get her feelings hurt. Tell her it’s too rich for me, it really is. Everything else is just what I like.



Appendix 2

“The Sledge family in Mobile, Alabama in 1942”

Pictured Left to Right: Dr. E.S. Sledge, Mrs. E.S. Sledge, Eugene B. Sledge, Edward S. Sledge, Mrs. Wooding Wynn.


“984th Training Platoon, U.S. Marine Corps”

Eugene’s Training Platoon in San Diego, 1943. Eugene is pictured third from the left on the bottom row.


Map of Japanese occupied territory (Red)

(Black Hills, 1997)

“Eugene B. Sledge on his bunk after the Battle of Okinawa”


Allied island Hopping in the Pacific

(USA, 2009)


Eugene Sledge saw heavy combat for the first time on the island of Peleliu on September 1944. Sledge’s unit went into combat against on Okinawa, after a rehabilitation on Pavuvu. The Battle of Okinawa started on April 1, 1945. Eugene was sent into the costliest single campaign of the War in the Pacific. (EBS COLLECTION, 2000)

From the Encyclopedia of Alabama, after the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, Eugene served as part of a U.S. occupational force in Beijing, China for a number of years. He was then honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in February of 1946. Once Sledge returned home, he entered the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now known as Auburn University, and earned his Bachelors in business administration. (Trehub, 2000)

After years of trying to make a career in real estate, sledge married Jeanne Arceneaux in Mobile in 1952. Eugene had two children by 1965, John Sledge in 1957, and Henry Sledge in 1965. Sledge returned to Auburn and earned his master’s in botany. After working for Florida State teaching, he joined the biology department of Alabama College where he retired in 1990. Eugene became a very well-known author after writing two World War II memoirs: “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa (1981) , and “China Marine: An Infantryman’s Life after World War II (2002). Eugene B. Sledge died of stomach cancer on March 3, 2001, and was buried in his home town of Mobile, Alabama. (Trehub, 2000)


It was a time of sacrifice, courage, and nationalism. These men didn’t wait for the call, they were the first ones to enlist and the first ones on the beach of every enemy-occupied Pacific island. Eugene was just another soldier, but he turned out to be more than that.

The journey that Eugene Sledge made has forever changed the idea of your average infantryman. His recorded and unique story, combined with the convenience of the Auburn Digital Library, has made this project a window right into history. Thanks to his relatives for submitting the last surviving documents, we can truly enter the time period of Sledge and his brothers to see what they were going through and their daily lives while facing the Japanese.

Did Eugene ever believe he would be one of the most famous Marines our country has ever seen? He just did what he thought was right and we can now forever remember him. Thanks to the EBS Collection provided by the Auburn University Digital Collections I was able to give an in-depth look at the experience of a young man in one of the most hostile environments known to man. Eugene truly is the story for an average boy turned hero, just by doing what he thought was right. It is stories like these that keep history alive and a chance for us to experience it ourselves.


Alabama's Literary Landscape. 30 May 2008. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. .

Black Hills Veterans Group. 1997. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. .

City of Stone Mountain. 13 Nov. 2012. .

(EBS COLLECTION) Eugene B. Sledge Collection. 2000. Auburn University Digital Library. Web. 2 Nov. 2012. .

Georgia Tech Archives and Records Management. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. .

History of the NROTC Unit at Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2012. .

IMDb. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. .

Seijas, Bob. "History of the M1 Garand Rifle." The Garand Collectors Association. Web. 14 Nov 2012. .

Koichi, Tofugu. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. .

USA In the Pacific. 25 Feb. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2012. .

Trehub, Aaron. Encyclopedia of Alabama. 29 Sept. 2008. Web. 3 Nov. 2012. .

calvin college hekman library openurl resolver

1 The V-12 program went into effect at Tech to give experienced enlistees the opportunity to complete college degrees and earn commissions in the Navy. (History of NROTC, 2010)

2 Reference to the United States Carbine, .30 cal., M1 (Seijas, 2012)

3 A song many of the Marine candidates had written to sum up their feelings about being safe in college while others were doing the fighting in World War II. (EBS Collection, 2000)

4 Lyric of the Georgia Tech Fight Song. (Georgia Tech Arch, 2012)

5 The largest exposed granite dome in North America, contains a large carving commemorating the military leaders of the Confederacy. (City of Stone Mountain, 2012)

6 Unknown, friend of Eugene’s while attending Georgia Tech.

7 Maid in the Sledge home. (EBS Collection, 2000)

8 Unkown, assuming a family friend of the Sledge’s.

9 Clippings not provided.

10 Sledge enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he was sent to Camp Elliott for basic training. (Trehub, 2008)

11 I decided to cut a portion off due to length and unnecessary information.

12 Abbreviation for Drill Instructor.

13 Many boys, including Eugene, purposely flunked out of the V-12 program to enlist instead of sitting in a college classroom. (EBS Collection, 2000)

14 Main air bomber of WWII.

15 Eugene doesn’t disclose their whereabouts in this letter, only his name and company information.

16 Unknown family friend of the Sledge’s.

17 Eugene’s good friend from Mobile, Alabama. Sid shipped out months before Eugene, but they later ran into each other overseas.

18 I decided to cut a portion off due to length and unnecessary information.

19 Edward Sledge Jr., Eugene’s older brother enlisted in the Army and served in the European Campaign. (EBS Collection, 2000)

20 “A Song to Remember” is a biography of Frederic Chopin released in 1945. (IMDb, 2012)

21 Eugene draws a small representation of the pipe he is speaking about. Eugene picks up smoking out of this pipe through the rest of the War and his life.

22 This letter is towards the end of the war. Eugene is currently on the island of Okinawa, fighting the last of the Japanese resistance.

23 Note: This is the first time Eugene mentions the Japanese, or combat for that matter, in the letters provided by this collection during War time.

24 Theory says the Japanese were heavy into drug use for stimulants during battle. Sources suggest they used Philopon, a type of methamphetamine, to stave hunger and stay focused and awake. (Koichi, 2012)

25 Unknown family friend of the Sledge’s.

26 The Sledge’s family dog, died in 1945 while Eugene was at war.

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