|Eugene B. "Sledgehammer" Sledge|
Sledge in Peleliu
Battle of Peleliu
Battle of Okinawa
Deceased as of March 3, 2001
Pfc./Cpl. Eugene B. "Sledgehammer" Sledge is the main character of the Pacific miniseries.
Eugene Sledge was born on November 4, 1923 and grew up at Georgia Cottage in Mobile, Alabama. The great-grandson of Confederate officers, Sledge was bookish and frail as a child. However, his physician father brought him up to be accustomed to the outdoors. Having learned to fish and hunt from his father, he was fond of venturing outdoors into the woods with Sidney Phillips, his best friend.
After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Sledge wished to join the marines with Sid, but Sledge could not enlist with his friend because of a heart murmur. He is first seen being checked by his father then he is seen saying good bye to Sid.
The claim that Sledge did not initially enlist due to a heart murmur cannot be verified by his book "With the Old Breed", upon which the series is based. In his book, Sledge states that his father and brother convinced him to go to college and attempt to become an officer. After growing frustrated with being in school while a war was going on, he and several others flunked out of their classes on purpose in order to join the Marine Corps as enlisted men.
Enlisting in the Marines
Regardless of whether or not the heart murmur stops, Eugene immediately decides to enlist in the marines. His father speaks against it, saying that even if Eugene does not get physically scarred, he might be scarred emotionally beyond repair, just like the veterans of WWI. However, his father relents and lets Sledge enlist, and Sledge is then seen training for combat as a mortarman, failing on his first attempts.
Meeting the Veterans
Sledge is next seen with fellow recruits Pfc. Bill Leyden and Pfc. Robert Oswalt meeting veterans of the Battle of Cape Gloucester, including Robert Leckie and his friends. Sledge and Leyden later meet more veterans in their unit, a Private First Class Pfc. Jay De L'Eau, who finds them a bunk after Snafu denies the new recruits beds in theirs. He is later reunited with Sid, who has noticeably changed since he last saw him, greeting Sledge with a tussle. This is seen by Capt. Andrew "Ack Ack" Haldane and his Lieutenant, Edward "Hillbilly" Jones. Sledge and Sid explain that they are friends, and they later talk at the beach, where Sid shows just how much innocence he had lost in Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. Later, Sledge tries to talk to Sid again, but Sid has already left, leaving him to talk to Robert Leckie about religion, to which the latter reveals his abandonment of Christianity.
Sledge is later seen with the rest of the new recruits landing on Peleliu, where he gets his first taste of combat. Immediately he realizes it is not what he expected. It took great willpower for him to get off the beach, and his unit was next seen using the mortar on a Japanese tank, missing several times before the tank finally bursts into flames. Sledge is later seen eating military rations with Snafu and Leyden, and staring in horror as Snafu pries off the jaw of a dead Japanese soldier to obtain some gold teeth.
Sledge is later seen in the Airfield assault, where his mortar squad takes out several Japanese soldiers in a partially destroyed building. When they moved out, Sledge is newly christened "Sledgehammer" by Snafu, showing his acceptance into the marines.
Bloody Nose Ridge
Sledge is later seen fighting in the Bloody Nose Ridge, where he loses yet more of his innocence. During one attack, Leyden is blown back by an explosion, however, Leyden has been confirmed to have survived by Haldane. During another, Hillbilly is killed by the Japanese, traumatizing both GySgt. Elmo "Gunny" Haney and De L'Eau, who Sledge was talking to after Hillbilly's death. Next, when he saw before the latter warns him against disease-spreading germs (and possibly trying to keep Sledge from sinking to his level). Sledge cuts off a patch instead. Shortly after he boarded a ship headed for Pavuvu, Sledge recieved a lighter with the 1st Marine Division symbol on it from Haney. By the time his unit goes back to Pavavu, it is clearly shown that he has lost his innocence as his friend, Sid, did some time ago, much like his father predicted. On Pavuvu, Sledge is not happy and probably more shocked at the juxtaposition of seeing nurses from the army's hospital ship with their 1st Marine Div patches in clean-hospital whites at the rat-land-crab-infested Pavuvu. Sledge asks rhetorically, "What the hell are they doing here?" One hands him a drink, as Sledge slowly stares at her. A replacement officer named 2nd Lieutenant Mac teases Sledge saying he's "had his looksey, so move". Sledge looks at Mac however with a pained look, which wipes the smile off Mac's face as he realizes his mistake. Sledge is later seen swimming naked off the beaches of Pavuvu, along with the rest of the Marines.
During his time on Pavuvu, Sledge is minding his business brushing his teeth, when he notices an officer drop some maps and a book in a trash can. Curious, Sledge walks over and picks up the book. It's called Men at War, and in it is the signature of their late beloved skipper Ack Ack. Sledge gulps and keeps it for himself. Later, he is annoyed by Snafu trying to convince Sledge that he has hepetitis, which Sledge says Snafu doesn't have. Right afterwards, Sledge, Snafu, and Burgin find out that De L'Eau would not be coming with them to Okinawa, due to being transferred to intelligence.
Having already been taking a toll from his experiences on Peleliu, Sledge's unit is eventually called upon once again to assist in the Battle of Okinawa, where Sledge, Snafu, and Burgin meet up with two replacements: Pvt. Hamm and Pvt. Tony "Kathy" Peck. Sledge assists in leading the replacements, all the while showing just how much humanity he has lost when he kills a Japanese soldier even after a cease fire with his revolver.
Some time into the battle, Leyden is once again blown back by an explosion, this time, the wounds are more serious. Eventually, Peck loses it and in a blind rage tries to goad some far off Japanese soldiers to kill him. Instead, however, Hamm is killed and Peck is taken to presumably be incarcerated like Pfc. Gibson.
Sledge and Snafu then enter a house where a crying baby and a dying woman are the sole survivors of a mortar shelling. The baby is taken by one of the officers while Sledge finds the woman alone and comforts her until she dies of her wounds.
Afterwards, Sledge then has a chance to kill a young Okinawan teenager, but denies it, and the teenager is instead killed by one of the other marines. Eventually, the marines leave yet again, with Sledge having gained back some of his humanity. Leyden was confirmed to have survived again and headed back to the states. The destruction of the city of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb was also revealed here as Sledge, Snafu, and Burgin leave via truck. Later, Sledge is seen celebrating Victory in Japan Day with his friends.
Back in Mobile
By this time, Sledge and Snafu were Corporals, and Burgin was a Sergeant. Sledge, Snafu and Burgin go back to their respective homes after they were discharged after some time stationed in China, with Sledge being the last to get home. At the station, he reuinites once again with Sid, who welcomes him home and drives him back to his house, asking about a pipe that Sledge had been smoking since Peleliu. Sledge merely replies that it calms him down, and he is then told that Sid was going to marry, with Sledge accepting the position as best man. Sledge reunites with his brother who got back from the ETO, as well as with his mother and father, who consistantly worry about his nightmares that he keeps having, undoubtably about his experiences in the Pacific. The next day, Sledge joins in the Auburn University (then known as the Alabama Polytechnic Institute), and Sledge continues to experience trauma even into a grand party and halfway into hunting with his father. Sledge is last seen in the series with a flower in his hand a the woods outside of his house then walking back before his final fate is revealed along with the other characters in the series.
Sledge attended the university and recieved a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949. Sledge gave up his hunting hobby, and a key turning point in his life and career followed when his father advised him that he could substitute bird watching as a hobby. Sledge started to assist the conservation department in its banding study efforts, the origin of his well known passion for the science of ornithology. He found his salvation in science, it kept the flashbacks of Peleliu and Okinawa at bay. Close, constant study of nature prevented him from going mad. However, the war stayed with him, and finally at the urging of his wife, he began to write his memiors, "With the Old Breed At Peleliu and Okinawa", at last allowing him to put his horrors behind him. He returned to Auburn in 1953 where he worked as a research assistant until 1955. That same year he graduated from API with a Master of Science degree in botany.
From 1956 to 1960 Sledge attended the University of Florida and worked as a research assistant. He published numerous papers on helminthology and in 1956 joined the Helminthological Society of Washington. He received his doctorate in biology from the University of Florida in 1960. He was employed by the Division of Plant Industries for the Florida State Department of Agriculture from 1959 to 1962. In the summer of 1962, Sledge was appointed Assistant Professor of Biology at Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo). In 1970 he became a professor, a position he held until his retirement in 1990. He taught zoology, ornithology, comparative vertebrate anatomy and other courses during his long tenure there. Sledge was popular with his students, organizing field trips and collections around town.
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Personality and Traits
Before the war, Sledge was frail and bookish, but he enjoyed the outdoors and was a passionate hunter. When the war started, he wanted to join the marines, but his father wouldn't allow him until some time later.
Compared to the veterans at the time, Sledge was more innocent and naive. His innocence would later be forced away by his involvement in Peleliu. By the time of the Bloody Nose Ridge, his humanity was suffering, and he almost sank down to fellow Marine Snafu's level before the latter kept him from doing so. While in Okinawa, his humanity had reached an all-time low when he killed a remaining Japanese soldier despite a cease fire order and the protests of fellow Marine Hamm. He eventually regains his humanity by Victory in Japan Day.
He went back home a changed man, no longer a passionate hunter; he felt guilty every time he shot a bird out of the sky. He often cut himself off from human contact and had recurring nightmares of his experiences. He eventually recovered and found solitude with science and knowledge as well as teaching.