Eugene B. Sledge was born in Mobile November 4, 1923, the grandson of Confederate officers. Bookish and frail as a child, he had been taught to hunt and fish by his physician father and spent much of his free time roaming the woods on the outskirts of town with his best friend, Sidney Phillips. He was a freshman at the Marion Military Institute, studying to become an officer, when he decided to sign on as a private in the Marines instead; he was afraid that if he waited for graduation he might not get a chance at combat.
He was assigned to the 1st Marine Division as a replacement, and trained as a mortarman. He fought on Peleliu in September of 1944, and on Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Throughout the many brutal months he spent overseas, Sledge kept an unauthorized journal, jotting down his impressions of the fighting and slipping his notes between the pages of his bible. He later turned those notes into a memoir, With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa. After the war he returned to Alabama, married Jeanne Arcenaux, had two sons, and became a biologist and teacher at the University of Montevallo. Sledge’s voice is read by Josh Lucas.