E. B. Sledge was born and grew up in Mobile, Ala. His father, a physician, taught him to hunt and to accurately observe and describe his surroundings. After graduating from high school, he spent a year at Marion Military Institute and a brief period at the Georgia Institute of Technology in an officers’ training program. Sledge left the program in late 1943 to enlist in the US Marine Corps. After basic training, he was sent to the Pacific Theater. He fought at Peleliu and Okinawa where some of the fiercest battles of WWII took place. Despite heavy casualties in his unit, he survived without being physically wounded. It took him years, however, to recover from the psychological wounds from that experience. After the Japanese surrendered, Sledge was assigned to serve in China as part of the occupation force.
Sledge returned to Mobile after his tour of duty in 1946 but found it hard to readjust to civilian life. He earned a BS degree in 1949 from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) and attempted to establish a career in the insurance business. On his father’s advice, he returned to Auburn for an MS in botany. In 1960, he graduated from the University of Florida with a PhD in zoology. After spending two years working for the Florida State Department of Agriculture, Sledge joined the biology faculty of Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo), where he taught until his retirement. Sledge initially wrote about his war experiences to explain them to his family, but he was persuaded by his wife to seek publication. The second book was published posthumously, twenty-one years after the first.
In his memoirs, E. B. Sledge attempted to engender respect and gratitude for the sacrifices made by combat veterans. His books are frank and detailed, and they convey the reality of the combat experience.
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Photo courtesy of the E. B. Sledge Papers, Special Collections and Archives, Auburn University Libraries.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.