Devil Dogs forced to watch their Corps become a corporation—Total Quality Management, affirmative action, sexual harassment awareness training—will draw inspiration from E.B. Sledge’s book, originally published in 1981 and soon to be reissued. More than any tactical manual, With the Old Breed reveals what success under fire is all about: fortitude, loyalty, discipline, determination—no matter what the odds. Those who most need to read this book, however, are not marines but rather the politicians who have uttered the phrase “New World Order” and meant it. Sledge’s picture of war as “brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste” might make the most committed empire-builder hesitate, if only for a moment, before he votes to pack off another young man to a lonely, dirty death: “The firing continued, and bullets hit the mark. The wounded Japanese subsided into the muddy little ditch. He and his comrades had done their best. ‘They died gloriously on the field of honor for the emperor,’ is what their parents would be told. In reality their lives were wasted on a muddy stinking slope for no good reason.” Now a professor of biology at the University of Montevallo in Alabama, Sledge served at Peleliu and Okinawa as an infantryman with the First Marine Division. Violent, graphic, full of “mud and maggots,” his tale is not for the squeamish: “Kneeling in the mud I had dug the [fox]hole no more than six or eight inches deep when the odor of rotting flesh got worse. There was nothing to do but continue to dig, so I closed my mouth and inhaled with short shallow breaths. Another spadeful of soil out of the hole released a mass of wriggling maggots that came welling up as though those beneath them were pushing them out. The next stroke of the spade unearthed buttons and scraps of cloth from a Japanese army jacket buried in the mud. With the next thrust, metal hit the breastbone of a rotting Japanese corpse.” Learning about the extraordinary endurance of ordinary men who lived from day to day in “hell’s own cesspool” will shame anyone who has ever complained because his plane was 15 minutes late.

[With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, by E.B. Sledge (Novato, California: Presidio Press), 342 pp., $24.95]


Thomas Sowell’s latest book explodes many cliches regarding slavery, “discrimination,” and the wretched conditions of blacks and other minorities. In Sowell’s view, Afrocentric “historians” have turned history on its head in their effort to enlist an ignorant public in a campaign to vilify the West. Sowell illustrates that “racism” and other crimes for which the Afrocentrists denounce Western society are by no means unique to the West. Slavery, a worldwide phenomenon, came to an end largely because of the British navy’s efforts to liberate slaves from their Arab and Asian masters. The Arab slave trade was far more brutal than that practiced in the West; the Arabs forced their miserable subjects to walk barefoot across the Sahara, an ordeal that claimed many more lives than the miseries endured in the Middle Passage. The European imperialists who extended their reign into the Third World were quite humane compared to certain tribes and ideological factions (i.e. the Xhosa or the Khmer Rouge), and some minorities in the colonies, fearing what would happen when their tribal foes gained a free hand, dreaded the departure of the Western imperialists (just as the Hutu of Rwanda dreaded the withdrawal of French forces—and the elimination of the “safety zone” the French established—during the civil war last summer). Although much of this is common knowledge, the Khalid Mohammed school of cultural theory is the new orthodoxy. This assault on historical truth is not unique to our society or our age. On the contrary, groups at the bottom of a social hierarchy have often falsified their history so as to attain a spurious dignity. For example, the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka, less educated and less prosperous than their Tamil neighbors, developed an elaborate mythology which holds, among other things, that their ancestors belonged to the original Aryan race, from which Hitler’s supermen descended. But it is only in our day that Afrocentrist fantasies have gained a widespread and devoted following.

[Race and Culture, by Thomas Sowell (New York: Basic Books), 331 pp., $25.00]