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Archive for November 27th, 2008

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoying family, friends, and food.  We had lasagna that was outstanding…not necessarily a “traditional” meal for this holiday, but still an excellent choice.

It’s been a couple months since we’ve talked about Peleliu, so let’s visit that little island once again.  Having begun in the middle of September, the Battle of Peleliu had, just a month later, really ceased to be “the news.”  General Douglas MacArthur’s landings in the Philippines and subsequent wiping out of the Japanese fleet at Leyte Gulf were all the rage.  In fact, U.S. naval leadership had called Peleliu secure.

But that was far from the truth.  While it’s true that most of the island’s 13 square miles were in the hands of the U.S. Marines and Army, the area still held by the Japanese (an area about 5 or 6 football fields in size) was the scene of continued bloodshed.  Fanatical resistance by a supremely-entrenched foe made reducing this pocket a 6-week test of will.

On November 27, 1944 (more than 2 months after fighting began), the last Japanese strongholds were eliminated.  For perspective, the Battle of Okinawa (fought 4 months later) was waged over a vastly larger area against an enemy more than 10 times the size, yet lasted just 3 months.  The brutality of the fighting on Peleliu was rarely matched and never eclipsed.

In total, nearly 1,800 U.S. soldiers (Army and Marine) perished in Peleliu, with another 10,000 injured.  The 11,000-man Japanese garrison saw just 202 prisoners by battle’s end.  In his book “Brotherhood of Heroes“, Bill Sloan writes that statisticians at the 1st Marine Division HQ calculated that it took, on average, more than 1,589 rounds of light and heavy ammunition to kill each Japanese soldier…each one.

PFC Arthur Jackson, who we met earlier, would give a great postlude to the Battle of Peleliu when he said, “…only a Marine who was on the scene at Peleliu can understand what took place during that period of time.  It was a nightmare, to say the least.  Every man there deserved a medal.

Recommended Reading: Brotherhood of Heroes

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