Educator, Biologist, Author
Born into a prominent Mobile family, Eugene B. Sledge could have found shelter from the carnage of World War II, at least as an officer if not a civilian. Instead, he chose to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantryman.
He was no ordinary Marine, as it turns out. Although he took part in some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific theater, Sledge emerged without a single significant physical injury.
The war haunted him, though, as he returned to a quiet civilian life and completed his interrupted education. After earning degrees at Auburn University (B.S., M.S.) and Florida State University (Ph.D.), Sledge joined the biology faculty of University of Montevallo, where he spent the rest of his career. Generations of Alabama biology students knew and admired him only as a dedicated scholar and teacher.
As he published his scholarly articles, his memories and his wife urged him on to a new writing project that would give full voice to the formative experience of his generation and speak for those who wouldn't or couldn't. Sledge revisited the notes he made while at war and shaped them into the memoirs, With The Old Breed: At Pelelieu and Okinawa (1981) and China Marine: An Infantryman's Life After World War II. The former, a painfully honest and graphic account of this experience in the Pacific, now stands as one of the great achievements of war literature. It is required reading for Marine officer candidates and has influenced many other works of writing and film.
This quiet lover of nature, science, music, philosophy and literature helped us understand and appreciate the experience of combat before it was too late to honor and learn from those who survived it.
Eugene B. Sledge was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 2013.