“The Japanese fought to win – it was a savage, brutal, inhumane, exhausting and dirty business. Our commanders knew that if we were to win and survive, we must be trained realistically for it whether we liked it or not. In the post-war years, the U.S. Marine Corps came in for a great deal of undeserved criticism in my opinion, from well-meaning persons who did not comprehend the magnitude of stress and horror that combat can be. The technology that developed the rifle barrel, the machine gun and high explosive shells has turned war into prolonged, subhuman slaughter. Men must be trained realistically if they are to survive it without breaking, mentally and physically.”
E.B. Sledge, With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
“What you don’t know going in is that when you come out, you will be scarred for life. Whether you were in for a week, a month, or a year—even if you come home without a scratch—you are never, ever going to be the same.
When I went in, I was eighteen. I thought it was all glory and you win lots of medals. You think you’re going to be the guy. Then you find out the cost is very great. Especially when you don’t see the kids you were with when you went in. Living with it can be hell. It’s like the devil presides in you. I knew what I sighed up for, yes, and I would do it again. But the reality of war—words can’t begin to describe it.”
“In each succeeding war there is a tendency to proclaim as something new the principles under which it is conducted. Not only those who have never studied or experienced the realities of war, but also professional soldiers frequently fall into the error. But the principles of warfare as I learned them at West Point remain unchanged.”
John J. Pershing, My Experiences in the World War
“The only detail I knew about my dad’s experience in World War II was that he liked when they served chicken-fried steak.
I was probably 13 when he told that story, and with the unblinking sanctimony that only a teenager can wield, I remember saying, “Wasn’t that really unhealthy?” In a look that I can only describe as for-a-smart-kid-you’re-remarkably-stupid, my father replied, “We were in planes carrying bombs, and enemy planes were shooting at us. Fried food was not a problem.”
“Wars may be started by the failings of humanity
But they are won
By the craft
Of the keen and intelligent minds that fight them”
Brendan Bigney, War What Comes After