This book is the fourth in the five-volume history of Marine Corps operations in World War II. The story of Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Marine artillery and aviation in the Philippines, as previously narrated in separate detail in preliminary monographs, has been reevaluated and rewritten to depict events in proper proportion to each other and in correct perspective to the war as a whole. New material, particularly from Japanese and other sources that has become available since the earlier monograph series was published, has been included to provide fresh insight into the Marine Corps' contribution to the final victory in the Pacific.
The period covered by this history, essentially from mid-September 1944 to late March 1945, covers the continuation of the United States drive from the Central Pacific to the Western Carolines and the Volcano-Benin Islands at the very doorstep of Japan. Once again it became the task of the Marine Corps to put into practice the amphibious doctrine that had been developed during the prewar years, modified and perfected during earlier operations in the Solomons, Gilberts, Marshalls, and Marianas. The course of events on Peleliu and Iwo Jima demonstrated the basic soundness of Marine Corps tactics and techniques in the face of skillful and tenacious resistance offered by a highly motivated and well trained foe who was determined to defend his possessions to the last.
While the American amphibious assault team fought its way through the Japanese defenses towards the Home Islands, Marine aviation wrote a glorious chapter of its own. Frequently denied the opportunity of flying direct support in amphibious operations, Marine aviators developed and put into practice a doctrine of close air support that more than proved its worth during the recapture of the Philippines. The continuous neutralization of bypassed enemy-held islands in the Central Pacific by Marine air isolated sizable Japanese garrisons from their bases of supply and rendered them powerless to support the enemy war effort until their surrender at the end of the war.
The numbers of men and quantities of matériel employed during the operations narrated in this volume defy the imagination. In this connection it is worth recalling that the successful execution of these operations depended on joint Army-Navy-Marine cooperation, which became ever more pronounced as the war approached its final phase. Combined with improved tactics and weapons on the field of battle was the highly flexible
and efficient Marine command organization designed to meet the requirements of modern warfare.
As on other battlefields before World War II and since, the Marines who fought and died in the Philippines, on Peleliu, and on Iwo Jima wrote with their blood an indelible account of courage and sacrifice that will live on in their country's history, to serve as a guide and inspiration to future generations.
L.F. Chapman, Jr.<,br> General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Reviewed and approved
26 May 1970
In a series of boldly conceived and executed operations, American forces in the Pacific Theater captured and developed a number of strategically placed islands that were to serve as springboards for the inexorable advance towards the Japanese home islands. The Guadalcanal campaign, first offensive step after a year of reverses in this theater, marked the beginning of the American counteroffensive that gathered momentum until a steamroller of unprecedented force smashed its way across the vast expanses of the Central and Western Pacific.
Hand in hand with the accelerating tempo of operations went improvements in the techniques employed in the amphibious assault and the sometimes protracted operations inland. By the time the Peleliu operation was launched in mid-September 1944, the Japanese had changed their tactics of defending the beaches and launching a final banzai once the inevitable end was in sight to a far more sophisticated defense that amounted to an extended delaying action conducted from well dug tunnels and cave positions which had to be taken at great cost to the attacking force. The battle for Iwo Jima, which got under way on 19 February 1945, represented a battle of attrition in the truest sense, with losses in men and matériel far out of proportion to the size of the objective. Aside from its tactical value, Iwo Jima assumed strategic importance in signaling the Japanese government and people that the United States was determined to bring the war in the Pacific to a victorious conclusion and that even the heaviest losses would not deter Americans from this purpose.
New tactics employed by the Marine Corps in the course of the war were not limited to fighting on the ground. The speedy expansion of Marine strength following the Pearl Harbor debacle was accompanied by a proportionate growth of the air arm that had existed in miniature size up to that time. Denied the use of carriers during the early years of the war, Marine aviators discovered through trial and error that they could make an important contribution to the ground troops in furnishing a type of close air support that could be rendered quickly and with devastating results to the enemy. Together with this support came the creation and perfection of the air liaison team which provided a direct and vital link between troops on the ground, whether Marine or Army, and the supporting aircraft. The bombing of bypassed islands in the Central Pacific, as carried out by Marine aviation over a prolonged period of time, underscored
the fact that enemy bastions of considerable strength could be effectively neutralized from the air without having to be subjected to costly ground assault.
A section of this volume has been devoted to the evolution of the organization that had to be created to coordinate the training, flow of replacements and supplies, and overall employment of Marine field components. This was the Fleet Marine Force, which was conceived long before World War II. Its growth and development clearly mirror the organizational demands made on the Corps during the war years. The chapters provide the reader with a better understanding of the command organization that made possible many of the famous amphibious assaults of World War II.
Our purpose in publishing this operational history in durable form is to make the Marine Corps record permanently available for study by military personnel and the general public as well as by serious students of military history. We have made a conscientious effort to be objective in our treatment of the actions of Marines and of the men of other services who fought at their side. We have tried to write with understanding about our former enemies and in this effort have received invaluable help from the Japanese themselves. Few people so militant and unyielding in war have been as dispassionate and analytical about their actions in peace. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Mr. Susumu Nishiura, Chief of the War History Office, Defense Agency of Japan and to the many researchers and historians of his office that reviewed our draft manuscripts.
This five-volume series was planned and outlined by Mr. Henry I. Shaw, Jr., Chief Historian, while Mr. George W. Garand was responsible for Volume IV itself. Mr. Truman R. Strobridge, originally assigned as the author of this volume, wrote the first four chapters of the Peleliu campaign before he left the Marine Corps to become a historian with the Department of the Army. Mr. Garand wrote the rest of this book, revising and editing it for publication. In his research on the Peleliu operation, Mr. Garand frequently consulted the material assembled for the monograph The Assault on Peleliu by Major Frank O. Hough; material dealing with the Philippines was obtained from the monograph Marine Aviation in the Philippines by Major Charles W. Boggs, Jr. In preparing the narrative for Iwo Jima, the monograph Iwo Jima: Amphibious Epic, prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Whitman S. Bartley, served as a valuable guide. Mr. Garand also prepared all the appendices. The Director of Marine Corps History made the final critical review of portions of the manuscript.
A number of leading participants in the actions described have commented on the preliminary drafts of pertinent portions of the book. Their valuable assistance is gratefully acknowledged. Several senior officers, in particular General Oliver P. Smith, Admiral George H. Fort, Admiral
Jesse B. Oldendorf, Lieutenant General Julian C. Smith, Lieutenant General Merwin H. Silverthorn, Lieutenant General Thomas A. Wornham, Lieutenant General Louis E. Woods, Major General Ford O. Rogers, Major General Dudley S. Brown, and Brigadier General John S. Letcher made valuable contributions through their written comments, as did Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller and Brigadier General John R. Lanigan during personal interviews.
Special thanks are due to the historical agencies of the other services for their critical readings of draft chapters of this book. Outstanding among the many official historians who measurably assisted the authors were: Dr. Stetson Corm, Chief Historian and Mr. Robert R. Smith, Head, General History Branch, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army; Dr. Dean C. Allard, Head, Operational Archives Branch, Naval History Division, Department of the Navy; and Dr. Robert F. Futrell, Historian, Historical Research Division, Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Captain Charles B. Collins and his predecessors as Historical Division/ Branch Administrative Officers, Chief Warrant Officer Jo E. Kennedy, Second Lieutenant Gerald S. Duncan, and First Lieutenants John J. Hainsworth and D'Arty E. Grisier ably handled the many exacting duties involved in processing the volume from first drafts through final printed form. The bulk of the early preliminary typescripts was prepared by Miss Kay P. Sue, who, with the assistance of Sergeant Michael L. Gardner, also expertly handled the painstaking task of typing the final manuscript for the printer. Miss Sue, assisted by Miss Charlotte L. Webb, also performed the meticulous work demanded in preparing the index.
The maps were drafted by Sergeant Earl L. Wilson and his successor, Sergeant Kenneth W. White.
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)
Director fo Marine Corps History
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