“The men digging in on both sides of me cursed the stench and the mud. I began moving the heavy, sticky clay mud with my entrenching shovel to shape out the extent of the foxhole before digging deeper. Each shovelful had to be knocked off the spade, because it stuck like glue.
I was thoroughly exhausted and thought my strength wouldn’t last from one sticky shovelful to the next.
Kneeling on the mud, I had dug the 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 up 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 were pushing them out. I cursed and told the NCO as he came by what a mess I was digging into.
‘You heard him, he said put the holes five yards apart.’
In disgust, I drove the spade into the soil, scooped out the insects, and threw them down the front of the ridge. The next stroke of the spade unearthed buttons and scraps of cloth from a Japanese army jacket in the mud—and another mass of maggots. I kept on doggedly.
With the next thrust, metal hit the breastbone of a rotting Japanese corpse. I gazed down in horror and disbelief as the metal scraped a clean track through the mud along the dirty whitish bone and cartilage with ribs attached. The shoved skidded into the rotting abdomen with a squishing sound. The odor nearly overwhelmed me as I rocked back on my heels.
I began choking and gagging as I yelled in desperation, ‘I can’t dig in here! There’s a dead Japanese here!’
The NCO came over, looked down at my problem and at me, and growled, ‘You heard him; he said put the holes five yards apart.’”
– Eugene Sledge, US Marines. World War Two
As we always say here at Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.