Soldier Dead

What happens to members of the United States Armed Forces after they die? Why do soldiers endanger their lives to recover the remains of their comrades? Why does the military spend enormous resources and risk further fatalities to recover the bodies of the fallen, even decades after the cessation of hostilities? Soldier Dead is the first book to fully address the complicated physical, social, religious, economic, and political issues concerning the remains of men and women who die while serving their country. In doing so, Michael Sledge reveals the meanings of the war dead for families, soldiers, and the nation as a whole. Why does recovering the remains of service people matter? Soldier Dead examines this question and provides a thorough analysis of the processes of recovery, identification, return, burial, and remembrance of the dead. Sledge traces the ways in which the handling of our Soldier Dead has evolved over time and how these changes have reflected not only advances in technology and capabilities but also the shifting attitudes of the public, government, and military. He also considers the emotional stress experienced by those who handle the dead; the continuing efforts to retrieve bodies from Korea and elsewhere; and how unresolved issues regarding the treatment of enemy dead continue to affect U.S. foreign relations. Skillfully incorporating excerpts from interviews, personal correspondence and diaries, military records, and journalistic accounts-as well as never-before-published photographs and his own reflections- Michael Sledge presents a clear, concise, and compassionate story about what the dead mean to the living. Throughout Soldier Dead, the voices of the fallen are heard, as are those of family members and military personnel responsible for the dead before final disposition. At times disturbing and at other times encouraging, they are always powerful as they speak of danger, duty, courage, commitment, and care.

Order Mike’s book and experience what the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs and The Armed Forces Society are raving about.

Reviews of Soldier Dead


Soldier Dead is a timely and detailed investigation into the moral conscience of American society which will be of interest to anyone concerned with the human costs of war. An important and passionate book which deserves a wide readership.

Chris ShillingUniversity of Portsmouth, UK, author of The Body in Culture, Technology and Society

He presents a deeply researched, detailed history.

Publishers Weekly 3/21/05

It is well-researched and respectful in its exhaustive examination of the history of the treatment of U.S. and enemy war dead.

Clay EvansBoulder Daily Camera 4/17/05

The dense and often disturbing book shows the impact of soldiers’ deaths on military staff.

Samantha Sordyl Washington Post 5/17/05

Sledge has meticulously explored how our government treats the remains of fallen soldiers.

Kathryn EastburnColorado Spring Independent 4/28/05

Sledge…has penned a meticulously researched and detailed book that takes a hard–but pensive–look at the traditions and practice of how the U.S. military treats its dead.

John Andrew Prime The Times (Shreveport) 4/3/05

Soldier Dead is not an easy or pleasant book, but it is an important and compelling one.

Jules WagmanSt. Louis Post-Dispatch 5/29/05

Michael Sledge…homes in on the U.S. military’s treatment of its fallen in his groundbreaking Soldier Dead.

John PradosWashington Post Book Review 7/17/05

This splendid book… fills the gap in the literature of war, and does so in an informative and sensitive way.

Lawrence D. FreedmanForeign Affairs 9/1/05

Michael Sledge… has written a daring new book about a topic Americans turn their literal and figurative heads from.

Dan SmithBlue Ridge Business Journal 12/12/05

An engaging but sobering account… a fine work that… should be widely read by military historians.

Timothy K. Nenninger Journal of Military History 1/1/2006

Soldier Dead is a valuable addition to the body of literature on American military history.

Matther J. SeelingerOn Point: Journal of Army History Spring 2006

Edifying and powerful… This timely, yet enduring book deserves a place in the annals of American history.

Amy O’LoughlinMothertown Monthly 11/1/2006

Sledge reminds us that the cost of war in lives must be continually evaluated.

James E. McCarrollArmed Forces & Society

Soldier Dead is essential reading… Sledge presents a clear, concise and compassionate story.

Dan FaingnaertKeystone Motorcycle Press 12/2007

A compelling and emotional history… Soldier Dead illustrates the true cost of war.

Florida Today 3/5/2007

Michael Sledge has produced a work of pathos, dignity and, not least, careful reporting on a subject that could not possibly be more timely.

Jack MilesAuthor of God: A Biography