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Answer this Question: 9) What role did conditions at the front play in shaping Sajer and Sledge’s experience of war
Critique these Answers:
1. Sledge explains his first combat encounter in great detail and shows how distraught and nervous he had become in that time. Sledge talks about how he comes under fire when exiting an Amtrak on the beaches of Peleliu. He would quickly find cover and he explains the sort of surreal feeling he was having the whole time he was ducking down to avoid being tore apart by bullets. Sledge would go on to give many more accounts of his encounters with the Japanese and tense firefights. He gives one account of an incident involving a tank and how the training he received did prepare him for combat and life or death situations, however it did not prepare him for the terror that sort of firepower can strike in one’s self. His most terrifying account was when his platoon needed to take the airfield of Peleliu, and he explained the sheer terror he would experience on that day. He tells about how him and his platoon sprinted across the airfield in the open as the Japanese opened fire and he could do nothing but run and pray he would not be hit. He also goes into his landing on the beaches of Okinawa and explains the mental toll that took on him. When he exited his vehicle, he came under heavy fire from mounted machine guns and heavy artillery fire from the inner jungle and cliffs of Okinawa. He tells about the toll that took and how dazed he would become. He talks about becoming sick of the fear and pain he would see his fellow marines in and the more he saw the more it affected him. Sledge gave great accounts of his negative and terrifying experiences of the true brutality of war and tense firefights.
Guy Sajer talks about his terrifying and scaring experiences on the eastern front with the entanglements and battles against the Red Army of Russia. His first experience is explained as his first battle when he is in a firefight with Russian soldiers. He explains how he collapsed to the ground and came face to face with a comrade that was already struck with a bullet. He talks about the fear and surrealism this experience gave him seeing another soldier no different than him clinging to life. He goes into detail with his experiences of being bombed and the rain of artillery fire. He compares it to as if the world was ending, he talks of the shell shock he received and the constant ringing and daze he seemed to have slipped into. During the Belgorod Offensive, Sajer explains the awful gut-wrenching sights he had seen and the true terror he was experiencing. He talks about the way the Germany army ran their army and how even in victory there was no rest and they must always push on. He explains how the fear froze in their throats as they began to advance through Belgorod (Sajer,192). As they advance, he talks about how the bullets whistling by and the screams of fallen soldiers echoed in his head and made him think of the worst depths of hell. When the Germans began shelling the Russians, he talks about how the bombardments and shells hitting the ground started to pound in his head and he couldn’t focus or think straight. Both stories involving Sajer and Sledge are amazing accounts and no doubt capture the horrors of war however, I believe Sajer as far as fear and terror had it worse than Sledge. I say this Strictly because of the constant artillery bombardments and heavy guns constantly fired at Sajer and his fellow soldiers. Sajer gives amazing accounts of the die-hard nature of the Nazi Army and how mentally draining and damaging war can be, also giving detail about the brutalization soldiers in the second World War had to endure psychologically.
2. 8) How did Sajer and Sledge’s describe those physically and psychologically wounded in combat
Very early on into With the Old Breed, Sledge describes a sequence of events where he walks upon a dead comrade. The man had been killed and then his genitals were removed from his body and shoved back into his mouth. He identified this moment as the instant that he developed his undeniable hatred from the Japanese people. In the same quote, Sledge describes another American soldier taking a “souvenir” like a gold tooth of a living Japanese soldier’s mouth. Then relating the ritual to Native American scalping.(Sledge, xxii-xxiii) Another look at mental health in Sledge’s With the Old Breed can be found on pg. 100. He describes one of his fellowmen “in the shit” who had a psychotic episode. The man cracks under the pressure of just being in the atmosphere of war, the constant fear of being attacked, killed or captured. The man that his panicking is causing the other men in the company to become anxious, not only is moral being lost because of the episode but their location could be revealed to nearby enemy troops. The confrontation ends when another marine hits the manic one with a flat headed shovel. Sledge even practices the “souveniring” after he spots a couple in one Japanese man’s mouth. Then the Doc persuades him not to, not by moral code but because of germs. (Sledge, 123)
Sajer wrote about a time when German soldiers would be surrendering. The men would be exiting bunkers hands above their heads when Allied men would open fire killing them. He talks about a young man that was either laughing hysterically or crying in anguish after murdering two men who had surrendered in a fox hole, and how another marine was in such a “paroxysm of uncontrollable rage” he did not stop firing until the scene became quite. (Sajer, 186) A page later two men discuss how a mans facial hair grows so quickly when he is dead. The two men flip over bodies and gawk at the idea of the men shaving the day before only to have beards the next. In the same scene, one of the men pick up a severed head.
Both Sledge and Sajer had moments of emotional and physical distress. The men faced brutal scenery and emotional tasks that would make most modern men piss in their boots.