Chapter 8
To the Bitter End1

Major General Mueller, commanding general of the 81st Infantry Division, took charge of the continuation of operations on Peleliu on 20 October. On this date, in addition to elements of the 1st Marine Division still on Peleliu, General Mueller commanded RCT 321, 1/323, which had recently arrived from Ulithi, the 710th Tank Battalion, and elements of the 154th Engineer Battalion. During the period 23 September to 20 October, RCT 321 had lost 98 men killed and 468 wounded, while killing more than 1,500 Japanese and capturing 108.

When the 81st Infantry Division assumed responsibility for the Umurbrogol Pocket, 3/321 was deployed at the eastern perimeter along the crests of Walt and Boyd Ridges with positions extending southward to the entrance of the Horseshoe; 2/321 occupied Hill 140 along the northern perimeter. The 1st Battalion was deployed along a line generally paralleling West Road. Manning the ring of encirclement along the southern perimeter of the pocket, in the vicinity of the Five Sisters and Death Valley, was 1/323 (See Map 15).

General Mueller's plan for the reduction of the Umurbrogol Pocket and for the final elimination of all Japanese resistance on Peleliu was to tighten the ring of encirclement slowly and methodically into a relentless vise that would stifle all further resistance at a minimum loss of life to his command. This idea was not an original one. In fact, it closely resembled the tactics that Colonel Harris, commanding officer of the 5th Marines, had advocated several weeks earlier. The latter regiment, now under control of the 81st Infantry Division, spent its final days on Peleliu on the northern portion of the island and on those islands to the north of Peleliu that had previously been garrisoned by RCT 321. The defense of the beaches along the southernmost sector of Peleliu was assigned to the 726th Amphibious Tractor Battalion. The 81st Infantry Division artillery, which also exercised operational control over 4/1 1, the 3d Field Artillery Battalion, and the 8th Field Artillery Battalion, was assigned the mission of supporting RCT 321 in the defense of Peleliu and adjacent islands.2

For the remainder of 20 October, the 81st Infantry Division engaged mainly in reconnaissance for an attack scheduled for the following morning. Following a napalm bomb strike at 0800, 21 October, against Japanese positions in front of 1/321, the battalion jumped off


Map 15: Final 81st InfDiv Operations
Map 15: Final 81st InfDiv Operations


from its positions along the northwestern edge of the pocket and advanced almost 100 yards towards the northern end of the China Wall and the northwest corner of the valley separating the China Wall from the Five Brothers. Subsequently, this valley was to become known as the Wildcat Bowl. During the afternoon, elements of the 2d Battalion seized the crest of the northernmost of the Five Brothers (hereafter referred to as Brother No. 1). Despite heavy fire from the enemy on Brother No. 3 and the northern end of the China Wall, the soldiers were able to consolidate their gains with the help of sandbags, which had to be manhandled up the ridge. They offered effective protection from Japanese small arms fire. During the night, the Japanese attempted to drive the soldiers from Brother No. 1, but were repulsed with grenades. A similar attempt, to scale the west wall of Walt Ridge and drive the soldiers from the crest, ended in failure. The Japanese were somewhat more successful in infiltrating a small group into the rear areas of 1/321 and 1/323, but aside from causing considerable excitement and confusion, the infiltrators did little damage and were forced to retreat.

Operations on 21 October began again when Corsairs of VMF-114 dropped napalm on Japanese positions in the vicinity of the Horseshoe, The frequent calls for air support from the Army division came as something of a surprise to the Marine aviators, who as early as 17 October had thought "that no further call would come for Napalm bombs--so short appeared our lines."3 But in the days that followed, calls for air support increased. The soldiers asked for unfused bombs to be dropped over specifically designated areas of the pocket. The napalm was subsequently fired by mortar shells. These tactics were successful, and machine gunners on the ground were able to destroy a good many Japanese trying to get away from the resulting inferno. In order to assist the aviators in pinpointing targets, the soldiers marked the end of the Horseshoe and its western approaches with smoke pots. Sixteen aircraft participated in this pinpoint bombing in the early morning and 12 more in the late afternoon. In the words of the Marine aviators: "We were using up a goodly supply of belly tanks, but everyone was being satisfied and Japs exterminated without commensurate losses to ourselves.4

During the morning of 21 October, 1/321 attacked southward upon completion of their air strike. Japanese automatic weapons from caves on the western slope of Brother No. 3 forced the soldiers to halt their advance after a gain of less than a hundred yards. A patrol from 2/321 attempted to capture Brother No. 1, but the attack faltered because of heavy enemy fire from the eastern slope of the hill. During the afternoon a combat patrol succeeded in seizing the northern part of Brother No. 1 and immediately sandbagged the position in anticipation of an enemy counterattack.

Meanwhile, men of 3/321, supported by tanks and flamethrowers, entered Horseshoe Valley from the south under


cover of a smoke screen laid down on the area between Walt Ridge and Brother No. 5. This force attacked Japanese lurking in caves along the base of the Five Brothers and Walt Ridge. Upon completion of their mission, the soldiers withdrew from the valley.

On 22 October, 2/321 seized Brothers No. 1, 2, and 3. The 3d Battalion launched another sortie in Horseshoe Valley supported by 2 tank platoons, 3 tank destroyers, and 2 LVTs equipped with flamethrowers. The combined infantry-armored force swept into the valley through the gap between Walt and Boyd Ridges and blasted caves along the bases of the remainder of the Five Brothers and the northeastern slopes of the Five Sisters. At least 34 Japanese were killed in this action, and others were sealed in caves. At the end of the day, the soldiers established a line of defense along the western base of Walt Ridge and during the night held this position against determined Japanese counterattacks in which an estimated 20 of the enemy were killed.

For the next two days, there was little change in the lines, though on 23 October 2/321 seized Brother No. 4 and fortified it with sandbag emplacements. In an effort to confine the Japanese further, a company of 3/321 blocked the south exit from Horseshoe Valley, while another company occupied positions around Grinlinton Pond to deny the Japanese access to fresh water. The toughest resistance encountered during 23 October was in the zone of attack of 1/321, whose advance towards the very heart of the pocket ran into such heavy defenses that gains had to be measured in feet. The difficulties facing the battalion at this juncture were a combination of extremely unfavorable terrain and determined resistance. The division historian described the situation graphically:

The limited avenues of approach to the Japanese positions and their strength made it necessary to construct sandbag fortifications along the route of advance as fast as the advance was made. In effect, the sandbags had to be used instead of armor in ground too rough and steep for tanks. Without sandbags the troops, on the sides and tops of ridges and peaks, were completely exposed to accurate enemy rifle fire. At times, it was necessary to push sandbags forward with poles so that a first layer could be placed which would protect the men who crawled forward to finish the work, Advance in this manner was slow and tedious but accomplished with a minimum of casualties.5

On 25 October, RCT 323, which had arrived from Ulithi, relieved the 1st and 2d Battalions, RCT 321. Control of operations against the Umurbrogol pocket passed from Colonel Dark to Colonel Arthur P. Watson, commander of RCT 323. The 1st Battalion, RCT 323, occupied positions at the western and southwestern perimeter of the pocket. The 2d Battalion took over the lines south of the Five Sisters. A company of 1/323 took up station on the Five Brothers, while the remaining two companies moved into sandbagged positions along the northwest perimeter of the pocket. The men of 3/321 remained in sandbagged emplacements along the base of Walt Ridge and Horseshoe Valley. Effective 25 October, 3/321 was attached for operations to RCT 323.


For the continuation of the attack against the Umurbrogol, two field artillery battalions and an engineer battalion would provide the necessary support.

During the remainder of 25 October the men of RCT 323 familiarized themselves with the terrain over which they were to operate. They also hauled supplies and strengthened defensive positions along the perimeter of the pocket. Two prisoners taken after nightfall revealed that 500-600 Japanese still remained in the pocket. Of this number, approximately half were sick or wounded and without medical care; the remainder were under orders to fight to the death.

In the course of 26 October, RCT 323 patrolled along the entire perimeter and blew caves in rear areas to prevent their reoccupation by the enemy. Shortly after noon a company engaged in searching out Japanese-occupied caves along the southern perimeter of the pocket suffered 4 killed and 29 wounded when a Japanese aerial bomb used as a land mine went off. A closer inspection of the area revealed that it was littered with aerial bombs, some of them cleverly booby-trapped by the Japanese. The night of 26-27 October was marked by numerous enemy probing attacks at various points within the perimeter. In a furious engagement at Brother No. 4, which the Japanese seemed determined to recapture, a hand grenade duel ended in the death of 30 Japanese. A party of seven Japanese hauling water from Grinlinton Pond was wiped out when soldiers from RGT 321 suddenly illuminated the area with improvised floodlights and opened fire with machine guns. The quantity of pyrotechnics expended at that time in an effort to foil Japanese attempts at infiltration led at least one observer to make this comment:

Both day and night there was constant firing. At night the area was kept under constant illumination. I counted as many as three 60mm illuminating shells in the air at a time.6

During the period from 26 October to 1 November, operations on Peleliu stagnated because of heavy rain, fog, and poor visibility. The men of the 81st Infantry Division utilized this time to improve their positions further. According to Colonel Nakagawa, "our units were encouraged by the rain which fell all through the day of the 28th."7 On the following day, the Japanese commander reported the strength of his garrison unit on Peleliu as approximately 590 men.8 Throughout the period of inclement weather, there was little ground action in the daytime, though the Japanese became aggressive after nightfall. For several nights in succession the Japanese main effort was directed against the Americans on Brother No. 4, but the infantrymen repulsed every attack and held their positions.

Some unusual activity around and over Peleliu developed at the end of the month. During the night of 28-29 October, a Japanese landing craft carrying torpedo tubes was sunk just off PURPLE Beach, after it had fired a torpedo at the beach without doing any damage. It could not be clearly established what the mission of this craft


had been. There were reports of additional enemy landing craft in the vicinity, though this information remained unconfirmed.9

Other evidence of unusual enemy activity from outside of the pocket persisted for the remainder of October. American surface craft sighted a midget submarine near Peleliu and speculation arose that the submarine, in conjunction with the landing barge sunk during the preceding night, might be attempting to evacuate personnel from the Umurbrogol pocket. Shortly after dark on 29 October and again on 31 October, Japanese float planes dropped parachutes to which were attached baskets and cylinders containing hand grenades and signal equipment. Most of the parachutes fell outside of the perimeter and were recovered by the Americans. When questioned about this incident after the end of World War II, Lieutenant General Sadae Inoue, IJA, commanding Japanese forces in the Palaus, volunteered the following information:

General Murai requested that radio batteries be sent because his were almost run clown, and complete breakdowns were frequent. We knew his position was somewhere on the ridge running along the west coast of Peleliu but we didn't know the exact location.10

At night the interception of enemy aircraft over Peleliu was made difficult because of poor ground radar coverage. Nevertheless, on 31 October Major Norman L. Mitchell, a member of VMF(N)-541 intercepted and destroyed a Japanese floatplane over Peleliu Island. This was the only Japanese aircraft destroyed in the air by Marine aviation squadrons in the Palaus.11

Surprise encounters with isolated Japanese outside the Umurbrogol were not rare. In one instance, during the night 28-29 October, two enlisted men of VMF-114 thought that there was a "slant eyed gopher" outside their pup tent. In fact, the flaps were ripped open and buttons torn off. When the Marines reached for their weapons, the visitor became alarmed and fled. Another roving Japanese--or perhaps the same one--was spotted the following night near the airfield and killed when he failed to answer a challenge. A Japanese medical officer decided that continued resistance held little future for him and turned himself in to the Americans. This Japanese was "effusive, wanting to talk and to help--anxious to survive, he said, for the sake of science and research, to which he had always devoted himself. He spoke English fluently, although he had never been in the States."12

Because the Japanese were so unpredictable in their actions, General Mueller decided to take no chances. Beach defenses on Peleliu were manned at all times and certain units, including RCT 323 in the central combat zone, were required to furnish mobile reserve forces on call from division headquarters. Field and coast artillery units were prepared to fire antiboat missions


and to assist in the beach defense in the event of an enemy landing. Amphibious patrols carried out repeated reconnaissance of the outlying islands. A number of observation posts, surface search radar stations, and searchlights were established on Peleliu and the outlying islands from which all approaches to Peleliu could be kept under constant observation. General Mueller established within the 81st Infantry Division a Ground Defense Headquarters with a mission of coordinating the activities of all organic and attached units in safeguarding Peleliu. The Ground Defense Headquarters received reports from all units charged with the operation of observation posts and radar stations and disseminated intelligence about the enemy and information about friendly ground, air, and naval forces.

When weather conditions improved on 1 November, General Mueller ordered the offensive against the Umurbrogol pocket to be resumed. Before an attack could be launched against the very heart of Japanese resistance, the area encompassing Wildcat Bowl and the China Wall, Hill 300, and the Five Sisters had to be secured.13 The mission of seizing both objectives was assigned to 2/323. The attack was to begin on 2 November and would be preceded by an air strike and a 25-minute mortar preparation.

The 2d Battalion attacked at 0630. Resistance was surprisingly light and consisted only of sporadic sniper fire. Within two hours after jump-off, the soldiers had seized the top of Hill 300 and all of the Five Sisters. For the remainder of the day and part of the following night, the men consolidated the newly captured positions and erected sandbag fortifications. Japanese reaction remained feeble until shortly after midnight, when the enemy made an attempt to recapture the Five Sisters. The counterattack was repulsed, and 38 Japanese were killed in the action.14

Colonel Nakagawa, forced to concede that the situation for the Japanese on Peleliu was becoming more difficult, observed:

Fifty days have elapsed since the enemy landed on Peleliu. . . . Part of this enemy unit which entered Mt. Kansoku and the southern extremity of Mt. Oyama were observed strengthening their positions


with sandbags and wire entanglements. Our defense unit attacked this enemy unit every night but to no avail.15

At approximately noon, 3 November, 2/323 dispatched an infantry-tank patrol into Death Valley. This time the Japanese were prepared for the Americans, and the infantry was caught in the crossfire of enemy snipers hiding in the caves and holes along both sides of the valley wall. The advance halted, and the patrol returned to its starting point.

Lack of progress on the part of the Americans during 3 November did little to relieve the shortage that the Japanese inside the pocket were beginning to feel. Despite the rains of late October, there was an acute shortage of water, aggravated by the alertness of the Americans in preventing Japanese water-carriers from gaining access to Grinlinton Pond. For the first time since the beginning of the campaign, a shortage of ammunition was beginning to make itself felt, causing Colonel Nakagawa to cut the normal allowance of small arms ammunition by half. Even so, the Japanese commander glumly observed, "it was tentative as to whether it would last until 20 November."16 The attrition in the Japanese ranks also had reached a critical point. Japanese personnel in the pocket still fit for combat numbered approximately 350. This figure included men that had suffered minor wounds. In addition to these, there were 130 heavy casualties incapable of taking part in combat.17

During the period 4-9 November, operations on Peleliu once again came to a virtual standstill. Heavy rains inundated the island, beginning on 4 November. Two days later a typhoon struck Peleliu and continued unabated until the morning of 8 November. During this time of enforced idleness, General Mueller ordered pack howitzers emplaced in the vicinity of the Five Sisters to support subsequent operations in Wildcat Bowl and along the eastern slopes of China Wall. Aside from isolated and feeble attempts to infiltrate the American lines, enemy activity within the pocket dropped sharply during this period. During the height of the storm a number of Japanese managed to slip out of the Umurbrogol Pocket and headed north, intent on escaping from the island. Members of RCT 321, stationed on the northern tip of Peleliu, spotted and killed a number of these infiltrators.

The ever-present danger of Japanese counterlandings on and around Peleliu was underscored once again on 9 November when a Japanese force estimated at 100 men stealthily crept ashore on Ngeregong, a small island about 9 miles northeast of the northern tip of Peleliu. A skirmish with a small Army force that was garrisoning the island ensued, following which the American soldiers withdrew under cover of 20mm and 40mm fire. For the remainder of the day, and throughout the following night, American patrol craft and destroyers shelled the island. In addition, a flight of 47 Navy aircraft bombed Ngeregong after dark. Most of the Japanese force had withdrawn to an adjacent island by this time, though one of the attacking aircraft was downed by enemy machine gun fire.


During 10 November, 51 Navy aircraft dropped a total of 3,900 pounds of bombs on Ngeregong. As added insurance against similar Japanese incursions, General Mueller ordered his troops to seize Gorokottan Island, located halfway between northern Peleliu and Ngeregong. Gorokottan Island was seized on 11 November. No Japanese were found on the island. After extensive preparations, elements of the 81st Infantry Division recaptured Ngeregong Island on 15 November. The landing came as an anticlimax. There was no opposition, and the only evidence of recent Japanese occupation of the island consisted of three dead Japanese in an advanced state of decomposition and some enemy ordnance equipment.

The final drive into the Umurbrogol Pocket resumed on 13 November, when 1/323 and 2/323 launched simultaneous attacks into Death Valley. The 1st Battalion, attacking out of the ridges to the west of the valley, made few gains. The advance of 2/323 was somewhat more successful, and the soldiers gained about 75 yards while moving northward along the eastern ridge of the China Wall. Though the enemy was still offering bitter resistance, his time in the Umurbrogol was running out. Colonel Nakagawa gloomily informed his superior on Babelthuap that ammunition, food, water, and radio batteries were running low. In describing the action on 13 November, the Japanese commander reported:

The enemy began attacking our defense line at Mt. Oyama. A part of the enemy force attacking from the west and south, the main force from the east. Our Defense Unit put up a stubborn resistance but the enemy force successfully penetrated the defense line. This enemy force attacked the men of our Defense Unit hidden in shelters with flamethrowers and guns.18

The Americans advanced slowly and steadily between 14 and 21 November, compressing the Umurbrogol Pocket. As a means of reducing the last Japanese defenses on Peleliu, ingenious soldiers set up fuel tanks in covered positions about 300 yards from the Japanese caves, then hooked up a hose to the tanks and poured oil into the most prominent enemy caves. This oil was ignited by white phosphorus hand grenades lobbed into the caves after the spraying. This method yielded good results and henceforth became an effective improvisation. As the drive through the Wildcat Bowl and Death Valley continued, flamethrowers, demolition teams, and armored bulldozers followed by tanks and LVTs, eliminated as many enemy caves as could be reached. Colonel Nakagawa, watching the Americans gradually approach his command post, reached some valid conclusions, observing:

. . . It is our guess that the enemy in the northern part of Mt. Oyama are planning to capture our Defense Unit Headquarters. . . . The enemy on the east side of Oyama Mountain penetrated our defense line and advanced towards the Defense Unit Headquarters, at the same time attacking our men, who were hidden in shelters, with flamethrowers. In this attack the casualties of our Defense Unit were heavy. . . . The men of our Defense Unit still capable of fighting number approximately 150. This includes light casualties.19


Up to this point, Major General Kenjiro Murai, advisor to Colonel Nakagawa, had remained completely in the background, though on occasion he acted as liaison between Colonel Nakagawa and General Inoue. In fact, General Murai remained so inconspicuous throughout the fighting that many Japanese were unaware of his presence on Peleliu. Once before, in early November, General Murai had attempted to obtain General Inoue's permission to launch an all-out attack against the Peleliu airfield, At the time, General Inoue had issued the following order:

It is easy to die but difficult to live on. We must select the difficult course, and continue to fight because of the influence on the morale of the Japanese people. Saipan was lost in a very short time because of vain Banzai attacks, with the result that the people at home suffered a drop in morale.20

Now that the end for the Japanese on Peleliu was approaching, General Murai informed General Inoue that he was going to make a final, all-out attack against the Americans. Once again General Inoue dissuaded Murai from this course of action, pointing out that such an attack would only waste his men. Instead, General Murai was to hole up, play it safe, wait for the Americans to approach more closely, and then kill off as many as possible.21

Attrition of the Japanese remaining in the pocket increased at a rapid rate. During the night of 17-18 November the enemy made widespread attempts to escape from the pocket, and 33 were killed. By 20 November, Japanese resistance stiffened, and American combat patrols drew heavy fire from enemy snipers and machine guns in caves that had not been destroyed in previous attacks. Throughout the night and during the early part of the next day, the Wildcats attacked these caves. As a result, by noon of 21 November, patrols were able to operate without opposition throughout Wildcat Bowl and in the southern portion of Death Valley. On 22 November a company of infantry succeeded in scaling the north end of the China Wall; another company approached the Japanese command post from the west-northwest and gained 75 yards; a third company advanced 25-50 yards at the southern end of the China Wall. By the end of 22 November, the Japanese pocket had been reduced to an area approximately 285 yards in length from north to south and 125 yards wide. To enable tanks and LVT flamethrowers to bring their fire to bear on the last Japanese defenses in the center of the China Wall, engineers began the construction of a ramp up the east wall at the northern terminus of the Wildcat Bowl.

The battle for the last Japanese redoubt on Peleliu began in earnest on 22 November. Colonel Nakagawa reported that an enemy force was attacking the main point of the Japanese line with flamethrowers, and that his men were on the verge of collapse. The Japanese held on during 23 November, but by the next day the end had become imminent. As the Americans closed in


on his command post, Colonel Nakagawa made his last report to Babelthuap, saying:

Our Defense Units were on the verge of being completely annihilated. Therefore the unit destroyed the 2d Infantry regimental colors which they had in their possession. . . . All documents were burned. . . . Since 1800 the personnel left in this Defense Unit were Captain Nemoto and 56 men. This number split into 17 teams and decided to put on a last raid. . . . Splitting of men into 17 teams was completed at 1700 hours of the 24th. Following the Commander's wishes, we will attack the enemy everywhere. This will be the last message we will be able to send or receive.22

During the night 24-25 November both General Murai and Colonel Nakagawa committed suicide. The attempts of the remaining Japanese to break out of the tight ring of encirclement were doomed to failure, and the Wildcats killed 45 Japanese, including two officers. Additional Japanese were killed during the following days, though the men of RCT 323 noticed as early as the afternoon of 24 November that resistance had vanished almost completely. on 26 November, tanks and LVT flamethrowers moved up the newly finished ramp and began to fire on caves and other defenses along the center of the China Wall. On the morning of 27 November, eight rifle companies gingerly converged on the center of the China Wall. There was no resistance and only silence greeted the advancing soldiers. At 1100, Colonel Watson, commander of RCT 323, reported to General Mueller that organized resistance on Peleliu had come to an end. The enemy had fulfilled his determination to fight unto death.

Even the end of organized resistance on Peleliu did not mean that peace had finally returned to the island. During the weeks and months that followed, individual Japanese that had previously escaped annihilation were either captured or killed. There were bizarre overtones to an unusual operation. Both General Murai and Colonel Nakagawa were posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant general effective 31 December 1944.23 On 13 January 1945, Major General Mueller turned over responsibility for ground defense of Peleliu to the Island Command. Five days later Japanese landing craft discharged troops at PURPLE and WHITE Beaches. Mission of the Japanese landing force was to destroy aircraft, ammunition dumps, and the American headquarters on Peleliu. Even though the attackers succeeded in making their way inland, the attempt failed.24 In a series of skirmishes reminiscent of the heavy fighting of the past months, the enemy had to be routed once again from caves by infantrymen of the Peleliu Ground Defense Force, supported by flamethrowers.

The Ground Defense Force, composed of elements of the 81st Infantry Division


and the 12th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, was under the command of Marine Brigadier General Harold D. Campbell, the Island Commander. The action ended in the death of 71 and the capture of 2 Japanese.25 Barely eight\ months later, Lieutenant General Inoue, Commanding the Japanese Forces in the Palaus, surrendered unconditionally to General Campbell's successor, Marine Brigadier General Ford O. Rogers. At the time of the Japanese surrender in the northern Palaus, 39,997 persons came under American control. This number consisted of 18,473 Japanese soldiers, 6,404 Navy personnel, 9,750 civilians, and 5,350 natives.26 Following the Japanese surrender, personnel of the Peleliu Island Command assumed responsibility for the evacuation and repatriation of Japanese military and civilian personnel from the Palau Islands, though as late as February 1946 a thorough search of Babelthuap Island had to be carried out in order to apprehend and return all Japanese recalcitrants and stragglers attempting to avoid repatriation.27

It was thought that peace had finally returned to Peleliu on 21 April 1947, when a Japanese lieutenant and 26 men formally gave up in one of the last surrender ceremonies of World War ll.28 Around 1949 or 1950 a group of Peleliu natives went to hunt wild pigeons and wild chicken with .22 rifles and U.S. carbines on one of the islands three miles north of Peleliu. What they flushed out, in addition to birds, has been described by the principal of the Peleliu Elementary School:

During this hunting there was a Japanese Army man who was at the time hiding in a cave of N'gercheu Island, who became frightened by the explosions of rifles and carbines. He then ran out from the cave to the seashore where an old Peleliu man by the name of Sisior was fishing nearby in his canoe. The Japanese ran up to him and asked him to save him from the enemy who were firing their guns in the forests and mountains. After the Japanese man came out his clothings were made out of rice sacks of Manila fiber. His beards have grown and hanged down to his hips. This man was captured and turned over to the District Administration to be sent to Japan.29

Five years later, a cave-dwelling Korean was seized on Peleliu by natives who had occasionally found food missing from their gardens. The Korean, a former civilian employee of the Japanese Navy, was likewise turned over to the authorities.30 At the time of this writing, one can only guess that these were the last survivors of the Japanese garrison on Peleliu. Twenty years after the end of World War II, the debris of battle still litters the island, and a few Japanese may still be hiding in the Umurbrogol ridges, awaiting the command of the Emperor to fight their way to total extinction.



A number of factors combined to set the Peleliu operation apart from the others that had preceded it and those that were to follow. First, there was a poorly developed staging area on Pavuvu with all the inherent disadvantages of muddy roads and inadequate water supply and camp facilities. Nevertheless, the 1st Marine Division did not recommend staging to another area from Pavuvu because the time required would have cut deeply into the training period. Another factor of great concern to General Rupertus was the shortage of matériel, which persisted during the division's stay on Pavuvu. Critical equipment, such as armored amphibians, amphibians tractors, flamethrowers, demolitions, BARs, bazookas, engineering equipment, tank and tractor spare parts, signal equipment, and waterproofing equipment did not reach the division until the last stages of the training schedule, and, in some instances, upon completion of loading.

At the time it embarked for the Peleliu Operation, the 1st Marine Division consisted of 843 Marine officers and 15,616 enlisted Marines, not including the rear echelon of 103 officers and 1,668 enlisted, which remained on Pavuvu. The division departed form the staging area with a five percent personnel overage, the first time that this Marine division embarked overstrength for an operation.32 Prior to embarkation, changes were made in the assignment of medical personnel by increasing the number of hospital corpsmen organic to the infantry battalions from 32 to 40, which made it possible to attach two corpsmen to each platoon. Each infantry battalion assigned 32 men as stretcher bearers. These Marines were trained in casualty evacuation and first aid procedures. Normally, division bandsmen acted as stretcher bearers in combat. On Peleliu and later on Okinawa, however, the 1st Division band was trained to man part of the division CP defense perimeter and to serve as stretcher bearers. These assignments were expected to raise the efficiency of the combat troops and improve the morale of the fighting forces.33

Even during the planning phase of Operations STALEMATE, it was apparent that the 1st Marine Division was embarking on a campaign that differed from previous operations in the jungles of Guadalcanal and New Britain. The division initially would have to cross a 600-700 yard reef all along the prospective beachhhead, a process that the 2d Marine Division had found costly in earlier Central Pacific operations. The division on Peleliu could expect to operate in terrain that was completely at variance with anything previously encountered, for Peleliu contained some of the most rugged and easily defended ground yet seen by American forces in the Pacific. Beyond the rugged terrain, the 1st Marine Division faced a determined enemy, who exploited almost


impregnable defenses to the utmost. In contrast to earlier campaigns, the Japanese on Peleliu conserved manpower and materiel. The traditional, reckless banzai charge, the final symbol of defiance in the face of certain death in earlier operations, had gone out of style. The enemy, well trained and dug in, no longer expended men and equipment in such heroic but useless gestures.34

The Japanese had prepared themselves thoroughly to repel a landing on the beaches. Careful planning of the static beach defenses was evident not only from their effectiveness but also from detailed sketches, which fell into American hands as the campaign progressed. Colonel Nakagawa made and rehearsed several plans for counterattacking assumed landings. He also reorganized several Japanese companies into special counterattack units. The Japanese commander further improvised a company trained to swim out to the landing craft and sink them with mines or destroy their occupants with hand grenades. One platoon of infantry had been trained to ride tanks into battle. Several teams of two or three men were taught to infiltrate and attempt to blow up American tanks or amphibian tractors. Among new Japanese weapons, a 150mm mortar was found on Peleliu. The Japanese had stored four of these mortars behind a hastily constructed position. In appearance, the weapon was an oversized 81mm mortar, similar to the American version. Fifty rounds of ammunition were found.

There was no evidence that the Japanese ever made use of the new 150mm mortars on Peleliu. On the other hand, a new development in Japanese weaponry was observed with the capture of a 200mm rocket, which was eight inches in diameter and 43 inches in length. At least four of these new rockets were fired from an unknown position. Three of them exploded with minor effect. The fourth was a dud because the enemy failed to replace the shipping plug with the fuze. The rocket closely resembled an obsolete German type. It was fired electrically, probably from a simple launching platform or cage. The head consisted of 8 by 25-inch thin-walled explosive container filled with picric acid and flaked TNT, and an 18-inch propellant case closed by a tube plate. The propellant charge probably was black powder. There was no evidence of fins or of a gyro-stabilizing device. The rocket was easily observed as it wobbled in flight like a poor football pass. Its velocity was slow and its range was estimated to be less than 1,500 yards.35

The Japanese on Peleliu were adequately clothed, and scattered clothing dumps were found in the southern and extreme northern part of the island. Food, particularly canned fish, canned meat, and rice was abundant. Ammunition was plentiful for all weapons except the 200mm short-barreled naval gun and the 150mm mortar. Enemy supply dumps were small and well-dispersed. As on Saipan, the dispersal of supply dumps became a major disadvantage for the Japanese, for once they had been pushed back into small pockets, they


were effectively cut off from most of these dumps.

The enemy defensive plan for Peleliu was one of defense in depth in all sectors. All pillboxes and casemates were in logical commanding positions, and all were linked in a system of mutual support. When driven from his coastal positions along WHITE and ORANGE Beaches, the enemy was able to fall back to prepared positions on the high ground to the north. Coastal installations on some of the beaches were protected by pillboxes and casemates, whose firing ports were sited for fire on the Americans attempting to wheel northward from the landing beaches. Even after the Marines had overrun the Japanese secondary lines and seized commanding ground, the enemy was able to withdraw to positions, both natural and prepared, that enabled him to continue organized resistance.

On the high ground separating WHITE and ORANGE beaches, two casemates and a large number of pillboxes had been established in such a way that they provided a field of fire covering both beaches. Most of the Japanese defensive installations were in defilade from the sea, particularly the two casemates, which were 30 yards apart and sited to fire south on ORANGE Beach and north on WHITE Beach. Inland from PURPLE Beach, the Japanese had dug into the coral and echeloned three casemates containing respectively one 75mm mountain gun, one 37mm gun, and one 25mm ground-mount automatic antiaircraft cannon depressed for horizontal fire. There were at least one casemate and six well-constructed pillboxes on the southern peninsula of PURPLE Beach. The casemate was equipped with a 37mm gun to cover the entrance to the southern mangrove swamp.

To further impede progress of the American landing force, the Japanese had buried numerous aircraft bombs on all paths leading inland from PURPLE Beach, as well as elsewhere on the island. The island also abounded in antitank ditches and obstacles. In the vicinity of the airfield, tile Japanese used some scarecrows. They were made of fronds from coconut palms, with a coconut stuck on the top. The dummies were so constructed that the coconut was just visible over the parapet of the trench.

in view of their defensive preparations and high state of morale, it is not surprising that the Japanese felt that they had an excellent chance to beat off any American attack. For the Marines, Peleliu offered an opportunity to prove again the soundness of the amphibious doctrine developed over a period of many years. The very fact that an amphibious force was able to establish a beachhead in full view of the enemy on a heavily defended island in an operation lacking the element of surprise speaks for itself.

Preparations for the operation were thorough and extensive as every supporting arm and staff section applied the lessons previously learned at Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester. Prior to D-Day, no amphibious scout patrols or reconnaissance landing parties went ashore on Peleliu. In their place, underwater demolition teams, attached to the naval task force, reconnoitered the reef and offshore waters near the landing beaches and destroyed obstacles and


mines. Data pertaining to the reefs, water depths, tides, currents, and surf, location and nature of mines, obstacles, and barriers was promptly forwarded via radio dispatch to all ship and troop commanders in the 1st Marine Division convoy.

Few American offensive actions in the Pacific Theater were as dependent on the use of amphibian vehicles in assault and supply as was the operation at Peleliu. The crossing of the wide barrier reef surrounding the island was accomplished entirely by these vehicles. LVTs were practically the only means of getting American troops, equipment, and ammunition ashore during the initial landing. They continued to be the primary means of supply even after portions of the island had been secured. They were of great value in evacuating the wounded and performed excellent service in carrying water and ammunition to the front lines from beach supply dumps. DUKWs provided the primary transport for artillery, in addition to carrying 37mm guns, radio jeeps, and other equipment required for the assault. Even though 26 LVTs were knocked out by enemy fire on D-Day, the value of this amphibian to the landing force was inestimable. LVT(A)s saw extensive night patrol work in the waters to the north of Peleliu and were prepared to engage any barges or similar surface craft that might attempt to reinforce the enemy or evacuate him from the island.

Two types of LVTs, the LVT(2) and the LVT(4), were used at Peleliu. of the two vehicles, the latter proved to be much more versatile and useful. No mechanical failures of the ramp were experienced; the position of the engine in the LVT(4) facilitated its maintenance, and the vehicle afforded more protection for the assault troops who disembarked from the rear. The only disadvantage observed in the LVT(4) was an inadequate cooling system which caused the engine to overheat.35 From observations made during the Peleliu landings it became apparent that DUKWs should not be employed as assault vehicles unless they were provided with some armament. The DUKWs proved more vulnerable to enemy fire than the amphibian tractors and required ideal terrain to operate at peak efficiency. They were unsatisfactory as prime movers for amphibian trailers, but could be used to advantage in carrying small rolling stock, artillery, and in ship to shore movement where the reef was not too rugged or the enemy fire too heavy.

The landing of artillery on Peleliu was delayed by heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire on the beaches, which seriously depleted the number of LVTs available. As a result of the holdup, the firing batteries came ashore in a piecemeal fashion, though all 75mm batteries were in position by H plus 7. Reconnaissance for the 105mm howitzer battalions proved difficult because their prearranged position areas were still in enemy hands. On D-Day, the 3d Battalion, 11th Marines, was able to land only one battery, which fired southward in direct support of the 7th Marines. The remaining two batteries came ashore, but remained in DUKWs. Both batteries were dispatched to sea to reembark


on LSTs for the night. During these two trips across the reefs, three DUKWs sank during the night, along with the 105mm howitzers and other material aboard. For the remainder of the Peleliu operation, 1st Marine Division artillery performed very satisfactorily, subject to a temporary shortage of ammunition and limitations imposed by the terrain. During the later stages of the campaign, high angle fire was out of the question because of the restricted area in which the Japanese were trapped.

During this period, batteries and single guns of all calibers were employed so that they could fire in several directions. These weapons were used for sniping at individuals and small groups of Japanese, as well as for closing caves, obstructing paths and roads, and interdicting the waterholes. It became evident during the very first day of the Peleliu operation that a need existed for a short-range, high-angle weapon that could be employed as artillery. Subsequently, wherever action was limited to a small pocket, this need became critical. The 60mm and 81mm infantry mortars proved inadequate. Furthermore, the latter was too unreliable to furnish the volume of controlled fire required under the circumstances. On the other hand, illuminating shells, fired from 60mm mortars, were called for by all units in unexpectedly great quantities. A new type of ammunition, it furnished needed illumination and appeared to provide a feeling of confidence and security to the troops of the using units.36

During the final reduction of the Umurbrogol Pocket, Army 4.2-inch mortars were used with great success; a 60mm shoulder mortar employed for the first time by the 1st Marine Division on Peleliu was not so well received. Despite its effectiveness in reducing caves and pillboxes, the latter weapon proved too heavy, and certain of its components exhibited structural weaknesses. The recoil of the mortar was so great that it became necessary to replace the gunner after two to four rounds had been fired.37

Difficulties were encountered with the offensive hand grenade, whose very name was considered a misnomer because of its relative ineffectiveness. The grenade was constructed to detonate on impact, but since it had no fragmentation effect, it was ineffective against materiel and useful against personnel only to a very limited extent. It was dangerous to handle, and two men of 1/1 had their hands blown off in the act of throwing a grenade of this type. Since fuzes for the grenade were supplied separately, it proved difficult to keep grenades and fuzes together in equal numbers.38

In contrast to the dubious performance of the shoulder mortar, another new weapon, the Navy Mk 1 flamethrower, proved vastly superior to anything of this type the 1st Marine Division had used on previous occasions, The weapon, modelled after the Canadian Ronson flamethrower, had been modified at the Navy Yard, Pearl Harbor, to


eliminate mechanical and technical difficulties. Prior to the Peleliu operation, the 1st Marine Division received three of these flamethrowers, together with four LVT(4)s for mounting the weapons. A fourth LVT(4) was used as a supply carrier for the flamethrowers. The new weapons were assigned to the 1st Amphibian Tractor Battalion. Initial tests indicated that the range of the flamethrower was 75 yards with gasoline and oil mixture, 150 yards with napalm. Duration of fire was 55 seconds for gasoline and oil mixture, and 80 seconds for napalm.40 Because of the shortage and late arrival of pack-type or portable flamethrowers, no distribution of them was prescribed for the regiments. One method was to retain 19 portable flamethrowers and three bazookas under battalion control. To these were added a heavy demolitions unit. This group, called in some cases Battalion Weapons Platoon, was composed of 60 men drawn from the rifle companies. This left the companies 10 or 15 men understrength, but the rifle platoons were generally unimpaired in strength.

Flamethrowers were used tactically in pairs, operated by 5-man flamethrower groups. Two men were assigned to each flamethrower and the fifth man was group leader. Each group had a machine gun cart on which it mounted and transported two flamethrowers and refilling equipment consisting of two cylinders and two expeditionary water cans. Flamethrowers were waterproofed and rigged so that they could be dragged through surf and put into action in a few seconds. Assault companies each had a flamethrower group to start with and received additional flamethrowers from the battalion. During the operational phase on Peleliu, flamethrowers, both portable and vehicle-mounted, played an extremely important part in eliminating troublesome caves, pillboxes, and other enemy obstacles.

Combat engineer units landed with the assault waves and proceeded under the control of combat team commanders. All organizational equipment was landed during the assault phase, though some difficulty was experienced in landing priority items, such as water purification and distillation units. Combat engineer companies performed demolition tasks as well as other normal functions. On occasion, regimental commanders used engineers as infantry.

Prior to the Peleliu landings, intelligence reports had indicated that water supply would be the greatest engineer problem and that there was no source of fresh water. On the basis of this information, additional distillation units were carried ashore and only five purification units. Subsequent to the landings, it became apparent that wells left by the enemy and those dug by the engineers were sufficient to provide for the needs of the 1st Marine Division. Water loaded in drums by the division quartermaster on Pavuvu was unpalatable because drums and cans previously had been used to store petroleum and had not been thoroughly cleansed before being filled with water. The condition of these containers, combined with condensation and rust, resulted in much misery to the Marines ashore during the first two days of the campaign. Heavy engineer equipment arrived on


Peleliu on D plus 4, though unloading was not completed for an additional six days. The 33d Naval Construction Battalion immediately began work on the existing fighter strip and by D plus 20 had also completed work on a bomber strip.

Armor played an important part on Peleliu, and its presence afforded considerable support to the Marines even in terrain that normally did not favor armored operations. Prior to the departure of the division from Pavuvu, .30 caliber machine guns were substituted for the .50 caliber guns on all tanks. As a result, the tank antiaircraft machine gun could be dismounted and used on the ground, while the .30 caliber regular ammunition was handy in an emergency. All tanks landed had been waterproofed by installation of standard deep water fording kits. As installation of these kits was an innovation unfamiliar to tank maintenance personnel, one tank was first waterproofed and tested. After two unsuccessful attempts, a correct procedure was established. During the third test the pilot tank remained in seven feet of water for 20 minutes with no leakage.

Another improvisation was made when it was found that the LCT ramp would frequently fly up as the tank ran off the LCT. In doing so, it ripped off the exhaust waterproofing on the rear of the tank. Two tongue-like metal extensions, each four feet long, 18 inches wide, and made of one-half inch steel plating were welded on the LCT ramp. These extensions were so placed that as the tank ran off the ramp, the vehicle tracks ran over the extensions. Thus the ramp was held down until the rear waterproofing was clear of the ramp. The commander of LCT Flotilla 6 effected this improvisation on all LCTs employed in the operation. Tank-infantry telephone extensions were improvised and mounted on the right rear bustle of all tanks. The telephone and cord were carried in a .30 caliber machine gun ammunition box welded on the rear armor face. The telephones were generally unsatisfactory in combat. Most of them soon became inoperative due to water damage, enemy fire, and lack of any self-winding feature necessary to retract the telephone extension.40

The 1st Tank Battalion resorted to an innovation during the assault on Peleliu. Each of the six LCTs, in addition to carrying five tanks, also had an LVT loaded on the rampway. The guide LVTs disembarked first, with a tank NCO aboard equipped with a portable radio for communication with the tanks. Each LVT led its tank platoon in column formation to the shore, detouring underwater potholes, shell craters, and coral obstacles. This innovation proved highly successful since no tanks were lost in crossing the reef due to underwater hazards, and the tank landing was accomplished without delay. Guide LVTs for tanks, as pioneered at Peleliu, were used in subsequent operations.41

Throughout the reef crossing, all tanks drew heavy artillery and mortar fire. Over half of the tanks received from one to four hits during the 10- minute reef crossing, though none was put out of commission. The fact that


the suspension systems and lower hulls were under water and therefore protected at this time no doubt prevented the loss of several tanks. All tanks were landed by H plus 18. This was much earlier than in any previous Marine operation. The early tank landing proved most wise, because tanks lent early impetus to the assault inland. The timely landing of tanks gave infantry commanders the means to destroy many direct fire weapons on tile beaches, including gun emplacements and numerous beach machine guns.42

The 1st Marine Division had initially requested ships to land all of its tanks for the seizure of Peleliu, but the shipping made available permitted employment of only 30 tanks. Sixteen had to be left with the rear echelon. In the course of the Peleliu operation these tanks were badly needed, and the division was handicapped by their absence during the early phase of the operation, when a particular requirement for armor existed. The insufficient number of tanks that went ashore delayed complete seizure of the airfield. Tanks could have prevented additional casualties during the early days of the campaign.

For the fighting on Peleliu and Ngesebus tanks were used to support the general advance and destroy pillboxes, bunkers, and automatic weapons directly impeding the advance of the infantry. Tank-dozers proved valuable in filling antitank ditches and clearing logs and debris. Of the three tank-dozers landed, only one remained in operation throughout the campaign. A modified light tank, the E4-5 Mechanized Flamethrower, proved a good small-capacity weapon, but its use was limited. The tank was required to expose itself at a time when it was least able to protect itself because of the displacement of the bow machine gun. As a result, little use was made of the tank-mounted flamethrower in the reduction of bunkers and pillboxes, because its range was too short and its capacity too low to be really effective.

Tank supply and maintenance was a sore point during the Peleliu operation. The only tank supplies landed on D-Day were those that accompanied the tanks in the six guide LVTs. Additional ammunition and fuel, which was to have been landed by the second and third trip amphibians assigned to regimental combat teams, never arrived. Ammunition supply for tanks at the end of D-Day was critical, and only the salvaging of shells and bullets from 10 disabled tanks enabled the armor to resume the attack on the following day. An overly optimistic logistic concept of the Peleliu operation resulted in an entirely inadequate amount of spare parts and maintenance equipment being taken forward. As a result, the chief supply of spare parts were those that could be salvaged from completely knocked out tanks. Maintenance personnel suffered considerable casualties in stripping tanks in exposed positions, Maintenance was also handicapped by the fact that only one tank retriever was taken forward.

Of the 30 tanks that went ashore on Peleliu, only one remained completely unscathed; each of the remainder was put out of action at one time or another.


The number of operational tanks never fell below 18 and averaged 20. All operational tanks were used continuously for 16 consecutive days of heavy combat. Only nine were a total loss. Tank reconnaissance personnel were landed with each assault infantry battalion headquarters, in advance of the tanks, and were intended to meet the tank unit commander and guide him to the landing team command posts. The tank reconnaissance teams did not function in this manner. They either became casualties or were pinned down by the heavy fire falling on the beaches at that time. The tanks moved inland to positions offering maximum protection. Crews then dismounted long enough to remove waterproofing while tank officers oriented themselves to locate their infantry units. Time required to locate landing team command posts, become oriented, receive orders, and move up to join in the attack varied greatly between landing teams and ranged from five minutes to two hours.

On the whole, the medical planning for the Peleliu operation proved its worth. Medical companies varied from three to five percent above authorized strength in hospital corps personnel and medical officers. Organic medical units accompanied the 81st Infantry Division to Peleliu. Hospitalization for the soldiers was provided by 1st Marine Division medical companies. There were sufficient ambulances to carry the average daily number of casualties. On occasions when more transportation was required, cargo trucks were used. DUKWs proved invaluable for evacuating patients from inland medical facilities directly to ships.

In less than an hour from the time the first troops landed on Peleliu, casualties were being received aboard APAs from the beaches. The beach and shore party medical sections worked in close coordination. The latter remained on the beaches as aid and evacuation stations. They were consolidated when evacuation was discontinued on White Beach. When evacuation was begun on Purple Beach a shore party medical section was established on the latter beach for evacuation.

Each Marine combat team had 96 men assigned as stretcher bearers. These personnel had previously received instruction in first aid and actual practice in the handling of litter cases in the staging area. Although this number was not sufficient to handle all litter cases, these men formed a trained nucleus to which additional personnel could be assigned. As far as the 1st Marine Division was concerned, before the operation was concluded, stretcher bearers were detailed from all supporting and garrison units--artillery, aviation, amphibian tractor, construction battalions, special CBS, and Navy communications units.43

On Peleliu there was practically no illness that could be directly attributed to flies or mosquitoes, though there was more than a lingering suspicion that their presence endangered the health of the troops. Mosquitoes were prevalent in the swamps adjacent to and north and northwest of the airfield, but were of the pest variety only. At the time the Marines went ashore on Peleliu,


there were few flies present. Three weeks later the fly population had reached proportions that made strenuous control methods essential. About two weeks after the initial landings, mild cases of gastro-intestinal disease appeared among frontline troops. Gradually the disorder spread to the rear echelon Marines. Even though the exact cause of this outbreak was never definitely established, the superabundance of flies on the island, caused by breeding in bodies, waste food, Japanese dumps, deposits of uncovered human feces, and non-flyproof latrines pointed to the source of the infection.

Maladies peculiar to the tropical climate causing acute discomfort were prickly heat and heat rash. Since water was scarce and dirt prevalent, scratching caused infection which spread rapidly. There were also numerous cases of multiple open sores, about the size of a dime which formed under the arms, around the belt, and on the inner parts of the legs.44

Prior to the actual landings, photographic intelligence was inadequate and until the end of August the photographs available were insufficient for beach defense study. Good photographs taken a week before the landing reached the task force while it was en route to the objective, but they were not made available to the troop commanders. Because of inadequate photography, maps were deficient, particularly insofar as the configuration of terrain was concerned. As an official Army Air Forces report was to put it later:

Whether or not more frequent and more careful photographic coverage of an island prior to the time of attack would reveal appreciably more than we now find is questionable. Certainly the number of suitable targets on the islands which have been located and listed for destruction were very few compared to the total which existed. Many of those which were undiscovered would have been effectively dealt with by the Navy's guns or by aerial bombardment. It is true, however, that photographic coverage, while complete, has been spasmodic. It is possible that had photographs been taken at more frequent intervals some of the defensive work would have been spotted in progress before work trails could have been covered and piles of spoil from the diggings had been dispersed.45

The Marines enjoyed certain advantages, however, in evaluating the enemy situation. American troops on Saipan had reaped a windfall with the capture of documents indicating that the total number of enemy troops on Peleliu exceeded 10,000 men.46 The close similarity between the estimated figure of between 10,320 and 10,700 Japanese and the actual figure of about 10,900 was so striking that the IIIAC intelligence officer subsequently remarked "that the documents captured on Saipan provided a source of information which may be unparalleled in future operations."47

Unlike the campaign at Cape Gloucester, the 1st Marine Division


captured few documents on Peleliu that were of immediate tactical value. Whether the dearth of captured documentary material was due to the fact that the Japanese had holed up in elaborate caves, many of which were sealed shut, or whether the enemy was becoming more security conscious was open to speculation. Nevertheless, a number of maps showing defensive sectors, the location of mine fields, and gun positions were captured. In one instance, the 7th Marines found a sketch showing the number and location of mines on a peninsula still in enemy hands. Subsequently, the same regiment turned in a captured ration statement for Japanese Army and Navy personnel stationed on Peleliu and Ngesebus. Since the document was dated 1 September, it provided excellent information about the strength of various Japanese units on Peleliu, which closely paralleled the intelligence previously obtained from documents seized on Saipan.48

Enemy materiel seized was not limited to documentary sources. Capture of the Peleliu airfield, for instance, yielded 130 aircraft, including spare parts and equipment. Even though these aircraft were not operational, an analysis of this materiel provided information of new developments, especially the discovery of a new model of the Type I medium bomber "Betty" and a model of another new medium bomber dubbed "Frances."49

American propaganda on Peleliu was generally ineffective because the Japanese maintained a high state of morale throughout the operation. A breakdown of enemy personnel captured on Peleliu up to 20 October showed that of the total of 302 captured, 92 were Japanese, including 7 Army, 12 Navy, and 73 laborers. The remainder of the prisoners was composed of non-Japanese laborers, including one Chinese, one Formosan, 206 Koreans, one prisoner who died before identification could be made, and two others whose physical and mental condition precluded identification.50

It was evident that most of the non- Japanese laborers, and in fact, some of the laborers of Japanese nationality, did not share an overpowering sense of loyalty to Japan and its military traditions. Many laborers stated that even though, as a rule, the American leaflets gave a time and place for surrendering, they felt that they could not get there safely and obtained better protection by remaining in their caves. One more reason has been advanced for the enemy's reluctance to surrender:

. . . the understandable but extreme bitterness of Marines in not wishing to take any prisoners but to kill every Jap sighted was just as much a factor in the prolonged resistance of the defenders as any fanatical, suicidal last ditch stand by the Japanese.51

That the above is not the isolated speculation of one individual was emphasized in an official report echoing the same sentiment:

The lack of prisoners during the first several days was probably due as much to the bitterness of the fighting as to the apparent


reluctance of both troops and unit commanders to effect captures. It is believed that a more serious and sustained attempt to indoctrinate all personnel with the value and importance of taking prisoners would pay increasingly larger dividends as the war progresses.52

In one respect at least, the 1st Marine Division on Peleliu did not encounter the problems faced by other divisions on Guam, Saipan, and subsequently on Okinawa. This was in the field of civil affairs, where prior evacuation of natives from Peleliu by the Japanese proved advantageous to the Americans also. The Marines thus were relieved of the responsibility of controlling and caring for members of a civilian Populace whose presence would have constituted a liability far in excess of any assistance they might have been able to render to the invasion force.

Signal communications on Peleliu did not present any undue problems, and the performance of radio and other signal equipment did not differ materially from that of other campaigns. During the first two days of the campaign, radio remained the primary means of communication, and both the SCR-300 and the SCR-61O performed excellently in corps and division nets. Two radio-equipped DUKWs were landed and operated moderately well until moisture affected the equipment and its performance became marginal. An experimental armored amphibian equipped with various types of communications gear was landed at H plus 90 minutes with the advance division message center. It was discovered at that time that the battery charging circuits were inoperative, and, as a result, no use of this equipment was made until D plus 10.53

One of the innovations in the field of communications on Peleliu was to encourage officers to talk directly over voice radio circuits, since this speeded communications and relieved crowded telephone circuits. Visual communication by blinker lamp was not used during the operation, nor were telegraph or teletype employed. In maintaining radio contact with tanks, frequency modulation equipment proved most rugged, reliable, and flexible. The only defect found in this equipment appeared to be its limited range. It became necessary to set up a relay station for transmissions from northern Peleliu to the vicinity of the airfield. When peaks intervened, the effective range dropped to as low as two miles.54

In connection with communications on Peleliu, the activities of the 4th Joint Assault Signal Company are of special interest. Upon arriving at the staging area at Pavuvu, the 10 communications teams, 9 shore fire control parties, and 13 air liaison parties were at once attached to battalions and regiments with which they were to operate. The greatest difficulty was experienced in the control of the communications teams which were attached to each battalion. The teams themselves worked well, although difficulty was experienced in coordinating them since they were not landed as a tactical unit. Air liaison parties and shore fire control parties worked very well, even though in many instances these teams went ashore too


soon on beaches where assault troops were pinned down by fire.55

The quantity, quality, and thoroughness of naval gunfire are an extremely important factor in any amphibious assault, This held particularly true for a heavily fortified and strongly defended island like Peleliu. Because this particular phase of the Peleliu operation has since become the object of considerable controversy, a detailed discussion of naval gunfire support during the prelanding phase appears in order.

The pre-bombardment of Peleliu had a threefold objective: to knock out enemy aircraft and artillery installations; to destroy as many enemy strongpoints as possible and to eliminate all enemy ships, barges, and small craft capable of reinforcing the enemy garrison from the north. To achieve these objectives, fires were scheduled not only against known enemy positions but also against areas that a study of the terrain and a knowledge of Japanese tactics would indicate enemy use for fortified positions, assembly areas, communications centers, or ammunition dumps.

The importance attached by the Navy to the STALEMATE operation was underscored by the personages in attendance, whose presence has been described as follows by a naval historian:

Peleliu was honored by the participation of a large number of flag and general officers. Vice Admiral Wilkinson and Major Generals Julian Smith and William Rupertus were on board Rear Admiral Fort's amphibious command ship Mount McKinley. General Geiger was on board Mount Olympus, to which Wilkinson shifted at Eniwetok. Rear Admiral Blandy and General Mueller were in Fremont. Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf in Louisville commanded a formidable fire support group of five battleships, five heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and fourteen destroyers; and they had two more flag officers, Rear Admirals Ainsworth and Kingman, embarked. Rear Admiral Ralph Ofstie commanded between seven and eleven escort carriers to provide combat air and antisubmarine patrol, and Rear Admiral William D. Sample had a carrier division under him. Admiral Halsey dropped in on Peleliu 17 September; in the entire chain of command, only Admiral Nimitz stayed away.56

Surely, with such a large number of critical observers present, there was a great opportunity to show what preliminary bombardment could accomplish in support of an amphibious operation. Based on experience in similar operations, the Navy conducted the customary preliminary aerial and naval bombardment before the landing. As early as 6 September, fast carriers of Halsey's Third Fleet took the islands under aerial bombardment. After three days of bombing it was determined that the B-24 attacks had already inflicted serious damage on many of the enemy


installations, and the carriers moved off towards the Philippines.

With the arrival of the task force off Peleliu on 12 September, the prebombardment of Peleliu began in earnest:

The original plan had called for only two days of preparatory naval bombardment. Geiger objected that this was too little and asked for four. He finally got three for Peleliu and five for Angaur . . . Five old battleships, eight cruisers, and fourteen destroyers, most of them veterans of shore bombardment and under the command of Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf, USN . . . arrived off Palau on September 12. Oldendorf was handicapped in the execution of his mission both in the facilities he had on hand and in the size of his staff. His flag was an old battleship, not one of the new head. quarters ships whose superior communications equipment had been one of the reasons for the increased effectiveness of naval gunfire support in the Marshalls and on Guam. Also he was short on staff Personnel. In spite of many previous recommendations to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington he had only a cruiser division staff, consisting of four officers, To add to his difficulties all of these but one were on the sick list during the preliminary bombardment.57

The ammunition expenditure in the tactical employment of naval gunfire amounted to 3,490 tons prior to H-Hour and 2,359 tons thereafter.58 The naval bombardment obliterated much of the dense vegetation on the ridge immediately north of the airfield, subsequently to become known as Bloody Nose Ridge. What this naval gunfire could not and did not eliminate were the numerous Japanese defenses in caves and underground shelters, which enabled the enemy to remain safely underground until the bombardment lifted.

The Japanese on Peleliu did not at any time disclose their presence prior to the amphibious landing of the Marines. The total absence of Japanese counterbattery fire during the preliminary bombardment and the dense pall of smoke that soon hung over Peleliu like a shroud, combined to embue Admiral Oldendorf with a deceptive sense of optimism. In contacting Admiral Fort on the evening of 14 September, Admiral Oldendorf made the unfortunate remark that he had run out of targets. This statement, followed shortly by a rash prediction by General Rupertus of a short but tough campaign, subsequently cast a pall of disappointment, consternation, and bitterness that has at times tended to obscure the planning, effort, valor, and heroism which far surpassed interservice or interarm quibbling and reproach.

The bitterness of the Marines who had reason to assume that the landing would not be an extremely difficult one is understandable when it became apparent that some of the most important enemy defenses were still functioning during the amphibious assault. Typical of this feeling is the following comment, made long after the guns had become silent, though still filled with passionate reproach:

There was never any question of the importance of the southwestern promontory,


the unnamed island, the left flank of the 1st Marines and the high ground to the north of the airfield, nor was there any question as to the necessity of knocking out enemy positions in those areas the provisions for continuous support to be delivered. This fact was impressed upon the staff of RAdm Fort on many occasions.

Preliminary bombardment plans, air and naval gunfire, were made with the above consideration. Before the Advance Force sailed, great emphasis was placed on the necessity of thoroughly covering these areas. In this connection . . . the dispatch sent by Admiral Oldendorf was not only a surprise but was not understood by any of us on the Division Staff in view of the study, and requirements we had submitted, and the plans which had been so carefully prepared and agreed to as essential and necessary for the accomplishment of the Division mission. . . . What happened on D-Day is a matter of history. . . . I have asked of the unit commanders many times for an explanation of just what happened. No one is certain of anything except that the enemy was not knocked out.59

In this connection, Rear Admiral Oldendorf's comments may be of interest, for they reflect the problems and difficulties which beset him at the time:

My Gunfire Support Plan called for all known or suspected enemy strong points to be destroyed. . . . The preliminary bombardment was, 1 thought at the time, one of the most thorough that could be devised considering the lack of intelligence concerning enemy strong points. The prelanding gunfire support was, I thought, superior to anything which had been put on heretofore. My surprise and chagrin when concealed batteries opened up on the LVTS can be imagined. . . . Under these circumstances, no matter how many shells you fire or their caliber, you cannot destroy enemy gun emplacements on an island the size of Peleliu, unless the enemy will oblige by disclosing the position of his guns. . . . The best that can be done is to blast away at suspected positions and hope for the best.60

In commenting on naval gunfire at Peleliu, Rear Admiral George H. Fort deplored a tendency on the part of the Marines to set up the naval gunfire at Guam as the standard and to judge other operations by it. Instead, the "deluxe" bombardment of Guam, which had not been originally planned when the Marianas operation was first plotted, in the long run increased the difficulties of the Peleliu operation. Rear Admiral Fort expressed his views on this subject as follows:

I think it is a grave error to set up the Guam operation as the standard for the future. It is erroneous to lead the Marines or other troops to expect any such support prior to landing. It never happened anywhere else and probably never will again. . . . The original plan was for two days' bombardment at Peleliu which was subsequently increased to three. Whereas this increase permitted somewhat more deliberate bombardment, it did not increase the weight of metal in the slightest. The same amount of ammunition was to have been used in the originally scheduled two days as was subsequently used in three. If Admiral Oldendorf broke off fire before he had used up his allowed ammunition on the grounds that there were no more targets, he was entirely correct. The idea which some people seem to have of just firing at an island is an inexcusable waste of ammunition.61


Many accounts of the Peleliu operation have dwelled so extensively on what was wrong with the prelanding bombardment that little has been said of naval gunfire support after the landings. Of this support in the hours following the landing on Peleliu, the following was noted:

Naval gunfire support, by now an essential feature of amphibious assaults, was very little used on D-Day at Peleliu because of the confused nature of the fighting. Cruisers Louisville, Portland and Indianapolis were idle most of the day. But Admiral Ofstie's eleven escort carriers flew 382 sorties on D-Day in support of the troops, besides making interdiction strikes on the airfield at Babelthuap and bombing enemy ships in Malakal and Koror harbors. No Japanese aircraft appeared in opposition.62

For the remainder of the Peleliu operation, naval gunfire provided close and deep support fire as well as harassing, interdiction, and night illumination fire. The lack of suitable observation points precluded the use of close supporting fires in many instances, so that they were not used as extensively as in other operations. Air spotting for deep supporting fire was used extensively in neutralizing enemy reserves, gun positions, supply and ammunition dumps, and observation and communication points. Air spotting proved to be one of the best and most effective means of fire control.

Harassing fire was used rather extensively. It was employed principally at night and was delivered in areas well clear of the front line. Ships firing night harassing fire also doubled for emergency call fire or illumination. Interdiction fire was employed in the areas at the north end of Peleliu and on the nearby island of Ngesebus to prevent enemy reinforcements from being brought up. Star shell illumination was used extensively. It was regulated, as were other fires, so that it would not illuminate friendly units and produce casualties among friendly troops. The rate of fire varied from 1 round per minute to 10 or 15 rounds per hour.63

One lesson that could be learned on Peleliu was that tanks could survive a pre-landing bombardment, and that naval gunfire and air could not prevent hostile tanks from closing on the landing force, "What the enemy achieved with thin-skinned, obsolete tankettes, a potential enemy possessing powerful tanks in great numbers might presumably also accomplish, thus posing a grave potential threat against a landing force."64 On the other hand, no two tactical situations are exactly alike. During the Sicily operation, for instance, naval gunners were the major factor in breaking up a tank attack on the beaches near Gela.65

The 1st Marine Division did not have a Marine naval gunfire officer, and no officers in the division had been trained for such an assignment. As a result of its experiences on Peleliu, the 1st Marine Division recommended the selection of artillery officers for naval


gunfire training. Another recommendation was the addition of a division naval liaison officer with a team, and three regimental naval gunfire liaison teams to the JASCO. Naval gunfire was stopped during practically every air strike. The 1st Marine Division felt that this practice should be the exception rather than the general rule, if in the opinion of the commanding officer such fire did not endanger friendly aircraft.66

Aside from a temporary halt to the unloading of supplies during periods of stormy weather, the Peleliu operation was not beset by any major supply difficulties. The pioneer battalion, using one company of engineers, formed the framework for the division shore party. The commanding officer of the pioneer battalion was the division shore party commander. The shore party was responsible for handling supplies on and behind the beach and for processing casualties recovered from division units.

Initially, the operation of the shore party was decentralized, i.e., a detachment of the regimental shore party went in with each assault battalion. When the infantry regimental headquarters landed, the regimental shore party commander took over and consolidated battalion shore party operations for the regimental beach. In turn, the division shore party commander took over shore party operations on all beaches and determined what beaches were to continue as supply beaches. Operations of the shore party were closely coordinated with those of the naval beach parties. By the time that all assault troops, equipment, and supplies had gone ashore, the 16th Field Depot, a supply agency of the Island Command, took over the supply dumps. Subsequently, the field depot also supplied those components of the 81st Infantry Division operating on Peleliu.

The distribution and forwarding of supplies caused little difficulty, because distances were extremely short and amphibian tractors and DUKWs, in many instances, were able to move directly from the water to regimental dumps. During the last days of September, bad weather caused unloading difficulties. When the ration level reached four days' supply, the troops were put on two meals per day, and MAG-11 flew in 42,000 Ten-in-One Rations.67 The rugged ground in which the troops had to operate caused excessive wear and tear on clothing. When organizational supplies became exhausted, a total of 1,000 suits of utilities, 5,000 pairs of socks, and 1,000 pairs of shoes were flown in from Guam.68

The attachment of a field depot unit to the 1st Marine Division was an innovation that worked extremely well. As expressed by the Commanding Officer, 1st Service Battalion:

. . . this subjected the depot to the direct orders of the Division Commander and resulted in excellent assistance and cooperation without the necessity fo dealing with them through a Corps Headquarters. All the difference between ordering and asking.69

All air strikes immediately preceding D-Day and for 13 days thereafter were


flown by Navy pilots from fast and escort carriers. The 1st Marine Division was able to make certain recommendations and requests for air strikes against specific and important targets to Commander Support Air after the arrival of the Western Attack Force in the staging area. These requests and recommendations were followed as closely as possible within the limitations of the already existent air plan. This was the only opportunity offered the division to participate in or make recommendations regarding planning for air support.70

As a result of planned missions and call missions requested by battalion, regimental, and division air teams, over 300 missions were flown from D-Day through 28 September. During this period of time, carrier-based aircraft dropped 620 tons of bombs of all types including napalm. After D plus 13 it was felt that carrier-based air could no longer be profitably employed, so naval air support was secured at the end of 28 September.71

The efficiency of naval air support was readily apparent while fighting was in progress in the level terrain on the southern portion of Peleliu, where it was relatively easy to spot targets and mark and distinguish front lines. When the fighting moved into the rugged hills on the northern half of the island, the effectiveness of air support diminished greatly. This decrease was due to the difficulty in marking friendly and enemy terrain, inaccuracy of available maps, and the control of all missions directly from the headquarters ship. In no instance was any battalion air liaison party permitted to control or direct missions, even though by reason of its forward location, the party was in possession of the latest information. On the basis of these experiences, the 1st Marine Division recommended that in subsequent operations, the battalion and regimental air liaison teams be allowed to "control aircraft directly from the ground. The advantage of this was obvious, since the man on the spot would be able to coach the strike on the target better than an air control officer on board the headquarters ship.72

In contrast with the more effective aerial bombing, the strafing missions carried out by support air were considered to have little or no value. Naval aircraft began and completed strafing runs at too high an altitude: they seldom made pullouts under 1,800 feet.73

The ineffectiveness of such procedure was particularly apparent during the pre-landing attacks on the Peleliu beaches and subsequent strafing runs in the hills. On the basis of this experience, the 1st Marine Division felt that at most, such strafing could result in keeping the enemy pinned down for the duration of the strafing run.

The employment of VMF-114 on Peleliu on and after 28 September put an end to the deficiencies of the available


air support. The close support given by the Corsairs flown by Marine aviators proved extremely effective during the landing on Ngesebus. The effectiveness of subsequent bombing missions against the Umurbrogol Pocket was limited only by the difficult terrain and the relative invulnerability of underground Japanese defenses to aerial attack. General Rupertus, often reticent and sparing in praise, found the close air support furnished by VMF-114 to be "executed in a manner leaving little to be desired."74

The Peleliu operation was unique in that it featured the first Marine aviation support of a Marine landing since Bougainvillea. It was also the first time since Guadalcanal that the 1st Marine Division had received close air support by Marines. Peleliu, in addition, had the distinction of featuring the very first Marine air support of a Marine amphibious operation in the Central Pacific.

Results of the napalm strikes carried out during the Peleliu operation were generally disappointing, probably because of an erroneous concept about the proper employment of this weapon. This lack of understanding of the capabilities and limitations of napalm is best illustrated by the following account:

A few days before D-Day, while we were at sea, our regimental intelligence officer spoke at a conference of all officers of BLT 1/7. We had been told that a certain aircraft carrier, loaded with napalm bombs, was to plaster the southwestern peninsula (our battalion objective) to burn out the Japs with this sticky, inflammable substance. But until the date of this conference, the report had come in that the fuses for these bombs had not arrived. At the conference, however, we were told that the fuses had finally arrived, had been delivered to the carrier by air, and at that very moment were being affixed to these wondrous bombs. The Intelligence Officer announced with some excitement and eloquence, and with sincere belief in what he was saying, that these remarkable bombs, even though they may not splatter each Jap, gave such intense, prolonged heat that they would literally suffocate any holed-up Jap because of their huge appetite for oxygen. Furthermore, this peninsula would be denuded of vegetation. Now, what infantryman would not relish an objective stripped of concealing vegetation and devoid of live enemy soldiers? Incredible as it may sound now, it was generally believed to be quite truthful. We had not seen these bombs. Napalm was a war wonder. And there is the human tendency to enfold any and all optimism at a time like this. This information . . . was quickly disseminated to the troops and was received with cheers.75

The capture of Peleliu and Angaur was very costly in American lives. At the end of the Peleliu operation the 1st Marine Division (Reinforced) listed its casualties sustained on Peleliu as 1,121 officers and men killed in action, 5,142 wounded in action, and 73 missing in action.76 For the period of 23 September to 27 November 1944, the 81st Infantry Division listed its casualties on Peleliu as 277 killed in action or dead of wounds and 1,008 wounded or injured in action.77 Casualties of the 81st Infantry Division on Angaur for the period of 17 September-30 October 1944, were 260 killed or died of wounds and 1,354 wounded or injured in action.78


Subsequent tallies show certain revisions and deviations from the earlier findings. A later figure for Marine casualties on Peleliu lists 1,252 as dead (killed in action, died of wounds, and missing presumed dead) and 5,274 wounded.79 In a later compilation, casualties of the 81st Infantry Division on Peleliu, Angaur, and the smaller islands off Peleliu totalled 542 killed and 2,736 wounded or injured in action.80 The subsequent revisions of figures contained in the earlier official after-action reports are the result of additional information not included in earlier reports. This would include a number of wounded who subsequently died of wounds sustained in the operation.81

The exact number of Japanese killed on Peleliu will presumably never be known, though a reasonably close figure can be obtained through the process of deduction. Even prior to the landings on Peleliu, Japanese strength on that island had been estimated at between 10,320 and 10,700. If the 302 Japanese captured are deducted from a median of 10,500, it follows that at least 10,200 of the enemy must have died on the island, even when allowance is made for a small number that may have escaped to Japanese-held islands to the north. Since an additional 600 Japanese went ashore on Peleliu while operations there were in progress, a total of 10,900 could be considered a reasonably conservative figure, which is generally supported elsewhere.82


More than two decades have passed since the 1st Marine Division assaulted Peleliu. From those that had participated in the campaign, there has been no lack of superlatives in its description. A former Commandant of the Marine Corps has called it ". . . one of the least publicized and most difficult campaigns of World War II."84 The official U.S. Army history calls the Palaus operation ". . . one of the bloodiest battles of the war. "85 In commenting on the Peleliu campaign, Admiral Fort expressed himself as follows:


I think those who have taken the trouble to investigate are in general agreement that the capture of Peleliu was the most difficult amphibious operation in the Pacific War. . . . I believe that the Palaus operation has been underestimated. Were it not for the untimely deaths of Generals Geiger and Rupertus so soon afterwards, I feel sure that they would have helped to clarify the situation, Iwo Jima was done by the so-called Central Pacific "First Team" and received widespread publicity and acclaim. As General Geiger once said, "The only difference between Iwo Jima and Peleliu was that at Iwo Jima there were twice as many Japs on an island twice as large, and they had three Marine Divisions to take it while we had one Marine Division to take Peleliu."86

The above statement, made by the commander in direct tactical control at Peleliu and Angaur, bears closer scrutiny. It not only lends emphasis to what others have said about the severity of the fighting on Peleliu, but also adds a new note with respect to the numerical adequacy of the force committed. General Geiger's comment, as quoted by Admiral Fort, leaves little doubt that he was referring to a failure to provide an adequate reserve for the 1st Marine Division. Of three regiments employed to assault Peleliu, only one battalion remained in division and another in regimental reserve. Had the 81st Infantry Division been committed on Peleliu when it became apparent that Japanese resistance there did not permit the speedy conquest of the island, the landing on Angaur could have been postponed until completion of operations on Peleliu. This conclusion is supported by General Inoue, who subsequently stated ". . . .it was estimated that at least three American divisions would land on either the southern or the eastern beaches. . . ."87

In view of the heavy American casualties on Peleliu, opinion has been divided whether the gains derived from the capture of the island were worth the heavy cost in American lives. Comments from historians and military leaders alike question whether the results were worth the effort. In the words of one historian:

. . . doubts are easily raised in the light of the fact that eleventh-hour changes in plans for subsequent operations--notably the invasion of the Philippines--made it impossible to fit the Palaus into the operational role originally planned for them. p. . . Nevertheless, with the information available to them in the summer and early fall of 1944, Admiral Nimitz, General MacArthur, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all believed that only by securing the Palaus could the Allies dominate Japanese bases in the western Pacific and insure the safety of forces moving toward the Philippines.88

Among the military leaders who felt strongly that Peleliu should not have been invaded, Admiral Halsey perhaps is best qualified to voice his opinion, for it was he who opposed the operation from the very outset. In commenting on Peleliu, Admiral Halsey had this to say:

I had been weighing this operation ever since it had been broached to me, early in May, at a conference with King and Nimitz in San Francisco, and the more I weighed it, the less I liked it. Ulithi had a useful anchorage, but I saw no need for any of the other islands. Yap's only value was as a minor staging


point for aircraft. The Palaus threatened the route between New Guinea and the Philippines, but although they also offered an anchorage--Kossol Roads--and several sites for airfields, I felt that they would have to be bought at a prohibitive price in casualties. In short, I feared another Tarawa--and I was right.89

By far the most outspoken comment comes from another naval officer who was deeply involved in the Peleliu Operation. In reviewing the campaign he forthrightly came to the conclusion that:

. . . if military leaders (including naval) were gifted with the same accuracy of foresight that they are with hindsight, undoubtedly the assault and capture of the Palaus would never have been attempted.90

On the surface, the above comments carry considerable weight, the more so if it is considered that the airfields on Peleliu and Angaur, the primary objectives of the assault, ultimately played only a minor part in the liberation of the Philippines. The airfield on Angaur was not ready for use by bombers until 21 October, the day after American forces had landed on Leyte, and it was 17 November before the first bomber mission was flown against a target in the Philippines from a field in the Palaus.91

What, then, were the advantages, if any, that accrued to the United States through the capture of Peleliu and Angaur? First, the seizure of these islands prevented their use as bases by enemy aircraft and submarines. By late November, Angaur-based bombers rendered vital support to American forces on Luzon. Beyond that, some 43,000 Japanese were effectively neutralized in the northern Palau islands, where they remained until their unconditional surrender at the end of the war, of no more use to the Empire or the beleaguered Japanese forces in the Philippines than if they had been stationed at the North Pole. Ulithi Atoll in American hands provided an excellent fleet anchorage and assumed major importance during subsequent operations in the Pacific Theater, particularly as a staging area for forces destined for Okinawa.

In retrospect, it appears idle conjecture whether an invasion of the Philippines could have been successful had there been no invasion of the Palau Islands. Military planning is based on a sound appraisal of strategic and tactical factors. It is a logical process of reasoning by which a commander considers all the circumstances affecting the military situation and arrives at a decision which determines the course of action he should take to accomplish his mission. On the basis of the information available to the planners of STALEMATE II during the spring and summer of 1944, the situation called for an operation against Peleliu, Angaur, and adjacent islands. Changes in the basic plan were instituted as necessary to conform to changes in the overall situation.

Peleliu vindicated the amphibious doctrines developed by the Marine Corps in many years of careful study and analysis. The operation proved once again that an amphibious assault on a


heavily fortified island was feasible. In a way it closely resembled previous landings in the Gilberts and Marshalls and gave a preview of things to come on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. At least one source has commented that ". . . the most valuable contribution to victory of this costly operation was to prepare the Army and Marine Corps for what they would experience at Okinawa."92

The operation against Peleliu had one more similarity with the Battle of Tarawa. At the conclusion of both campaigns, the Marine Corps received considerable criticism because of the high number of casualties. The truth applying to the cost of such operations has been set forth so aptly by a former Commandant of the Marine Corps that his reply to similar criticism after Tarawa bears repeating in this context:

. . . A landing attack is recognized by all military experts as being the most difficult and costly of all forms of attack. Losses at Tarawa were heavy, and losses will be heavy in future attacks of this nature. . . .

. . . In the case of a heavily defended small island such as Tarawa . . . the defender can concentrate his forces against any landing attempt. . . . The attacker attempts to "soften" resistance by naval gunfire and aerial bombardment. Where the defenses are very strongly constructed, as at Tarawa, the gunfire and aerial bombardment have only partial effect. Many of the hostile installations will remain operative and fire from them must be faced.

No one regrets the losses in such an attack more than does the Marine Corps itself. No one realizes more than does the Marine Corps that there is no royal road to Tokyo. We must steel our people to the same realization.93

In the overall picture of a global conflict, Peleliu was merely a stepping stone towards the ultimate objective, a battle not slated for fame in the outside world, yet an event that left its permanent mark on the men who fought it. In conclusion, it seems fitting to quote an echo from the past; words uttered long ago in a different war, and on another battlefield, yet singularly appropriate in this context. Let it be said of the once cruel and inhospitable soil of Peleliu that ". . . the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add and detract. . . ."


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (III-7) * Next Chapter (IV-1)


1. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: 81st InfDiv OpRpt; Historical Committee, 81st Infantry Division; Smith, Approach to the Philippines; Morison, Leyte; Hough, Assault on Peleliu.

2. 81st InfDiv FO 22, 20Oct44.

3. VMF-114 WarD, Oct44,

4. Ibid.

5. Historical Committee, 81st Infantry Division, pp. 175-177.

6. Smith, Narrative, p. 117.

7. Japanese CenPacOps, p. 162.

8. Ibid.

9. VMF-114 WarD, Oct44.

10. MajGen Paul J. Mueller, USA, ltr to Dir, MCHist, dtd 9Aug50, in Peleliu Comment File, Encl, 2dLt James J. Wickel, USA, interrogation of LtGen Sadae Inoue, IJA, dtd 23May47, hereafter Inoue Interrogation.

11. VMF(N)-541 Hist, p. 7.

12. VMF-114 WarD, Oct44.

13. Army units on Peleliu frequently renamed ridges and valleys on Peleliu from earlier designations by the Marines. Army records refer to Hill 300 as Old Baldy, though the Marines had previously designed a ridge north of the Umurbrogol Pocket as Baldy Ridge. Horseshoe Valley appears as Mortimer Valley in Army records. For the sake of continuity, Marine designations are used in this narrative. Army designations are given only to identify those terrain features not previously named by the Marines. For the sake of simplicity, Japanese designations for terrain features in the Umurbrogol Pocket have been omitted from the narrative whenever possible, though they occasionally appear in quotations from Japanese records. The most frequently named hills were as follows:

Oyama -- northern portion of China Wall harboring Japanese command post on Peleliu
Nakayama -- central and southern portion of China Wall
Tenzan -- Five Sisters
Higashiyama -- Walt Ridge
Suifuyama or
-- Boyd Ridge and northern perimeter of pocket
Kansokuyama -- Hill 300

14. 81st InfDiv OpRpt, p. 75.

15. Japanese CenPacOps, p. 181.

16. Ibid., pp. 181-182.

17. Ibid.

18. Japanese CenPacOps, p. 197.

19. Ibid., pp. 197-198.

20. Maj Gen Paul J. Mueller, USA, ltr to Dir, MarCorpsHist dtd 9Aug50, Encl, 2dLt James J. Wickel, USA, interrogation of Col Tokechi Tada, IJA, dtd 24May47, hereafter Tada Interrogation.

21. Inoue interview, dtd Mar50, in Worden ltr.

22. Japanese CenPacOps, p. 200.

23. Ltr, Japanese Demobilization Bureau, Repatriation Relief Agency to Headquarters, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, dtd 14Apr50.

24. "This force failed to reach our planes, but was armed with spears and plenty of fire producing grenades." BGen M.B. Bell, USA, ltr to Head, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 24Jun66, in Peleliu Comment File.

25. Peleliu Island Command WarD, Feb45.

26. Ibid., Sep45.

27. Ibid., Feb46.

28. McMillan, The Old Breed, pp. 340-341.

29. Kulas Sengebau Itr to Head, HistBr, G-3 Div, HQMC, dtd 28Sep65, in Peleliu Comment File.

30. Ibid.

31. Unless otherwise, noted, the material in this section is derived from: IIIAC OpRpt; 1st MarDiv SAR; VMF-114 WarD, Sep 44; Smith, Narrative; Isely and Crowl, U.S. Marines and Amphibious War; Sherrod, Marine Corps Aviation in World War II.

32. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase I, Anx A, p. 2.

33. Ibid., Anx D, p. 2.

34. Ibid., Anx A, p. 1.

35. Ibid., Anx B, p. 24.
Footnote #35 duplicated: Ibid., Anx F, p. 4.

36. IIIAC OPRpt, Encl H, P. 5.

37. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase 11, Anx A, p. 4.

38. IIIAC OpRpt, Encl H, p. 6.

39. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx A, p. 6.

40. Ibid., Anx J, p. 2.

41. Stuart ltr.

42. Ibid.

43. Col Harold O. Deakin ltr to CMC, dtd 10Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File.

44. LtCol Spencer S. Berger Itr to CMC, dtd 19Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File.

45. Report No. 2, AAF Evaluation Board, Pacific Ocean Areas, (USAF Historical Archives File 138,6-2), p. 6, as cited in official USAF HistDiv comments, dtd 22Jun66, in Peleliu Comment File.

46. Expeditionary Trps, ThirdFlt, Encl B to Palau Rpt; IIIAC, Encl C to Palau Rpt.

47. Ibid.

48. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx B, p. 9.

49. Ibid., p. 25.

50. Ibid., p. 5.

51. Capt Clyde L. Bozarth, MC, USN, ltr to CMC, dtd 13Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File.

52. IIIAC OpRpt, Encl B, p. 2,

53. 1stMarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx E, p. 2.

54. Ibid., Anx J, p. 10,

55. Ibid., Anx E, p. 1,

56. Morison, Leyte, p. 34. There appears to be some controversy as to who boarded what ship. According to other sources, Admiral Fort and Generals Geiger and Julian Smith, with the staffs of the higher echelons, were embarked in USS Mount McKinley, while General Rupertus and the bulk of the division staff embarked in USS DuPage; General O.P. Smith and the remainder of the staff were on the USS Elmore. Hough, Peleliu Monograph, pp. 21-22. This version is concurred in by the former chief of staff of IIIAC, LtGen Merwin H. Silverthorn (Ret) ltr to Head, HistBr, dtd 26Jun66, in Peleliu Comment File.

57. Col Donald M. Weller ltr to Philip A. Crowl, dtd 22Mar50, as quoted in Isely and Crowl, U.S. Marines anal Amphibious War, p. 402. RAdm Jesse B. Oldendorf ltr to Dir, MarCorpsHist, dtd 25Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File, hereafter Oldendorf ltr.

58. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx K, p. 4.

59. LtCol Lewis J. Fields ltr to CMC, dtd 17Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File.

60. Oldendorf ltr.

61. RAdm George H. Fort Itr to BGen Clayton C. Jerome, dtd 20Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File, hereafter Fort ltr.

62. Morison, Leyte, p. 39,

63. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx K, p. 6.

64. Stuart ltr.

65. For a detailed account of this incident, see Samuel Eliot Morison, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio (January 1943-June 1944)--History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, v. IX, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962), pp. 103-104,

66. Ibid., p. 9.

67. Smith, Narrative, p. 77.

68. Ibid., p. 78.

69. Col John Kaluf ltr to CMC, dated 7Mar50, in Peleliu Comment File.

70. According to Navy sources, the selection of Pavuvu as a camp for the 1st Marine Division was an important factor in impeding close joint planning for air support. The stepped-up time schedule was also involved. Eller ltr.

71. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx L, p. 1.

72. Ibid., p. 8.

73. Some Navy squadrons, such as VC-21 based on Marcus Island, reported pullouts from strafing runs ranging from 300 and 1,000 feet. See Eller ltr. Quoted in Sherrod, Marine Corps Aviation in World War II, p. 257.

75. Worden ltr.

76. 1st MarDiv SAR, Phase II, Anx G, p. 2.

77. 81st InfDiv OpRpt, Peleliu, Anx F, p. 109.

78. 81st InfDiv OpRpt, Angaur, Anx P, p. 112,

79. Hough, Assault on Peleliu, p. 183.

80. Smith, Approach to the Philippines, p. 573.

81. Differences in casualty reporting and accounting systems have resulted in a further variance. Based on the most recent official Marine Corps statistics available at the time of this writing, 1,794 Americans died on Peleliu and adjacent islands during the Peleliu Campaign and approximately 7,800 were wounded or injured in action.

82. The Army version of the Peleliu Operation lists over 11,000 Japanese killed on Peleliu, and 2,600 more on Angaur and the smaller islands off Peleliu. Smith, Approach to the Philippines, p. 572. Morison, in Leyte, p. 46, cites the same total of 13,600 Japanese killed on Peleliu and vicinity. Speaking of Peleliu Island alone, Isely and Crowl estimate a total of 10,695 enemy dead up to 20 October 1944, in U.S. Marines and Amphibious War, p. 411. In the light of the documentary material available and other evidence, the figure of 7,000 personnel on Peleliu (Army and Navy combined) advanced by General Inoue in a postwar interview appears far too low to be credible. Inoue interview in Worden ltr.

83. Unless otherwise noted, the material in this section is derived from: Smith, Narrative; Vandegrift and Asprey, Once A Marine; Craven and Cate, The Pacific; Isely and Crowl, U.S. Marines and Amphibious War; Halsey and Bryan, Admiral Halsey's Story; Morison, Leyte; Smith, Approach to the Philippines.

84. Vandegrift and Asprey, Once A Marine, p. 274.

85. Smith, Approach to the Philippines, p. 573.

86. Fort ltr.

87. Inoue Interrogation.

88. Smith, Approach to the Philippines, pp. 573-575.

89. Halsey and Bryan, Admiral Halsey's Story, pp. 194-195.

90. Oldendorf ltr.

91. Craven and Cate, The Pacific, p. 372.

92. Morison, Leyte, p. 47.

93. Statement by General Alexander A. Vandegrift to Senator Walsh, 15Dec44, as quoted in Vandegrift and Asprey, Once a Marine, pp. 235-236.

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