This week, something really exciting happened: we packed our bags and moved to Okinawa, Japan!
It was really, really hard to leave so many good people behind in the United States. We had several going away dinners, and I really did almost cry at one dinner when Carl wondered aloud if this was the last Mexican food we’d be having for the next three years. After an amazing week at home with my family, we were sad to leave but so excited to start our new adventure. We flew for two days on and off, and slept in airport seats along the way. My current book, Eugene “Sledgehammer” Sledge’s With the Old Breed was the perfect read for this trip. Reading about Marines at Okinawa was more meaningful knowing that I was on my way to the very same place he was describing. Sledge describes Okinawa’s beautiful landscapes before the “mud and blood” starts, and I couldn’t wait to see the scenery for myself.
With the Old Breed is not a simple story of a Marine touring a peaceful Japanese countryside, however. Sledge talks about his experiences on Peleliu and Okinawa, particularly a certain emotion. He describes this feeling as a dread of fear itself, combined with a general weariness of horror, as well as all of the physical strains he was experiencing at any given time (ie, lack of sleep/food, diarhea, wet feet, etc.) He also mentions several times the indignity of seeing fellow Marines dead on the battlefield, in various states of decomposition, but being unable to evacuate the bodies due to heavy enemy fire. Similarly, he felt extremely distressed when he would come across American bodies that were mutilated by Japanese soldiers. Sledge says:
“I had heard and read that combat troops in many wars became hardened and insensitive to the sight of their own dead. I didn’t find that to be the case at all with my comrades. The sight of dead Japanese didn’t bother us in the least, but the sight of Marine dead brought forth regret, never indifference.”
At times, Sledge becomes introspective about the purpose of war.
“As I looked at the flotsam of the battle scattered along that little path, I was struck with the utter incongruity of it all. There the Okinawans had tilled their soil with ancient and crude farming methods; but the war had come, bringing with it the most refined technology for killing, It seemed so insane, and I realized that the war was like some sort of disease, afflicting man.”
Although we haven’t even been here a full week, I love it here. I cannot imagine fighting a battle on this beautiful island, and am still trying to make sense of what I’m reading. With the Old Breed couldn’t have been more perfect.
Wish me luck in my new life, readers!