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Title: Bloody Beaches: The Marines at Peleliu
Author: Gayle, Gordon D.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s note: Table of Contents added by Transcriber and placed
into the Public Domain. Boldface text is indicated by =equals signs=.


  Bloody Beaches: The Marines at Peleliu
    Sidebar: The Divisions and their Commanders
    Sidebar: The Changing Nature of Japanese Tactics
    Sidebar: Naval Gunfire Support for Peleliu
  The Japanese Defenses
  The Assault in the Center
    Sidebar: A Horrible Place
    Sidebar: Special Reef-crossing Techniques
  The Assault Continues
    Sidebar: A Paucity of Reserves
  The Early Battle in the Division Center
  The 7th Marines’ Complete Destruction of Enemy in the South
  Maneuver and Opportunity
  Encirclement of the Umurbrogol Pocket
  Encirclement of Umurbrogol and Seizure of Northern Peleliu
  The Umurbrogol Pocket: Peleliu’s Character Distilled
  Post-assault Operations in the Palaus
  Was the Seizure of Peleliu Necessary? Costs vs. Benefits
    Sidebar: Tom Lea’s Paintings
    Sidebar: For Extraordinary Heroism
  About the Author
  About the Series
  Transcriber’s Notes





[Illustration: =“Down from Bloody Ridge Too Late. He’s Finished--Washed
Up--Gone= _As we passed sick bay, still in the shell hole, it was
crowded with wounded, and somehow hushed in the evening light. I
noticed a tattered Marine standing quietly by a corpsman, staring
stiffly at nothing. His mind had crumbled in battle, his jaw hung, and
his eyes were like two black empty holes in his head._” Caption by the
artist, Tom Lea.]


In Nautical Miles

    Pearl Harbor          3990
    Guadalcanal           1589
    Espiritu Santo        2067
    Admiralty Islands      960
    Hollandia              705
    Morotai                430
    Saipan                 820
    Yap                    237
    Ulithi                 323
    Truk                  1030
    Davao                  540
    Manila                 920
    Tokyo                 1725

Bloody Beaches:

The Marines at Peleliu

_by Brigadier General Gordon D. Gayle, USMC (Ret)_

On D-Day 15 September 1944, five infantry battalions of the 1st
Marine Division’s 1st, 5th, and 7th Marines, in amphibian tractors
(LVTs) lumbered across 600-800 yards of coral reef fringing smoking,
reportedly smashed Peleliu in the Palau Island group and toward five
selected landing beaches. That westward anchor of the 1,000-mile-long
Caroline archipelago was viewed by some U.S. planners as obstacles, or
threats, to continued advances against Japan’s Pacific empire.

The Marines in the LVTs had been told that their commanding general,
Major General William H. Rupertus, believed that the operation would be
tough, but quick, in large part because of the devastating quantity and
quality of naval gunfire and dive bombing scheduled to precede their
assault landing. On some minds were the grim images of their sister
2d Marine Division’s bloody assault across the reefs at Tarawa, many
months earlier. But 1st Division Marines, peering over the gunwales
of their landing craft saw an awesome scene of blasting and churning
earth along the shore. Smoke, dust, and the geysers caused by exploding
bombs and large-caliber naval shells gave optimists some hope that
the defenders would become casualties from such preparatory fires; at
worst, they would be too stunned to respond quickly and effectively to
the hundreds of on-rushing Marines about to land in their midst.

[Illustration: PALAU ISLANDS

    E.L. Wilson

Just ahead of the first wave of troops carrying LVTs was a wave of
armored amphibian tractors (LVTAs) mounting 75mm howitzers. They were
tasked to take under fire any surviving strongpoints or weapons which
appeared at the beach as the following troops landed. And just ahead
of the armored tractors, as the naval gunfire lifted toward deeper
targets, flew a line of U.S. Navy fighter aircraft, strafing north and
south along the length of the beach defenses, parallel to the assault
waves, trying to keep all beach defenders subdued and intimidated as
the Marines closed the defenses. Meanwhile, to blind enemy observation
and limit Japanese fire upon the landing waves, naval gunfire was
shifted to the hill massif northeast of the landing beaches.


    Captions by the artist, Tom Lea

“=Going In--First Wave= _For an hour we plowed toward the beach, the
sun above us coming down through the overcast like a silver burning
ball.... Over the gunwale of a craft abreast of us I saw a Marine, his
face painted for the jungle, his eyes set for the beach, his mouth set
for murder, his big hands quiet now in the last moments before the
tough tendons drew up to kill._”]

That “massif,” later to be called the Umurbrogol Pocket, was the first
of two deadly imponderables, as yet unknown to the division commander
and his planners. Although General Rupertus had been on temporary duty
in Washington during most of his division’s planning for the Peleliu
landing, he had been well briefed for the operation.

The first imponderable involved the real character of Umurbrogol, which
aerial photos indicated as a rather gently rounded north-south hill,
commanding the landing beaches some 2,000-4,000 yards distant. Viewed
in these early photos, the elevated terrain appeared clothed in jungle
scrub, which was almost entirely removed by the preparatory bombardment
and then subsequent heavy artillery fire directed at it. Instead of a
gently rounded hill, the Umurbrogol area was in fact a complex system
of sharply uplifted coral ridges, knobs, valleys, and sinkholes. It
rose above the level remainder of the island from 50 to 300 feet, and
provided excellent emplacements for cave and tunnel defenses. The
Japanese had made the most of what this terrain provided during their
extensive period of occupation and defensive preparations.

The second imponderable facing the Marines was the plan developed by
Colonel Kunio Nakagawa, the officer who was to command the force on
Peleliu, and his superior, Lieutenant General Sadae Inoue, back on
Koror. Their concept of defense had changed considerably from that
which was experienced by General Rupertus at Guadalcanal and Cape
Gloucester, and, in fact, negated his concept of a tough, but quick

[Illustration: _As seen from the air on D-Day, 15 September 1944,
Beaches White 1 and 2, on which the 1st and 3d Battalions, 1st Marines,
landed. Capt George P. Hunt’s Company K, 3/1, was on the extreme left
flank of the 1st Marine Division._

    Department of Defense Photo (USN) 283745

Instead of relying upon a presumed moral superiority to defeat the
attackers at the beach, and then to use _bushido_ spirit and _banzai_
tactics to throw any survivors back into the sea, Peleliu’s defenders
would delay the attacking Marines as long as they could, attempting to
bleed them as heavily as possible. Rather than depending upon spiritual
superiority, they would combine the devilish terrain with the stubborn,
disciplined, Japanese soldiers to relinquish Peleliu at the highest
cost to the invaders. This unpleasant surprise for the Marines marked
a new and important adjustment to the Japanese tactics which were
employed earlier in the war.


15-23 September 1944

_R Johnstone_]

Little or nothing during the trip into the beaches and the touchdown
revealed the character of the revised Japanese tactical plan to the
five Marine assault battalions. Bouncing across almost half a mile of
coral fronting the landing beaches (White 1 and 2, Orange 1, 2, and
3), the tractors passed several hundred “mines,” intended to destroy
any craft which approached or ran over them. These “mines” were aerial
bombs, set to be detonated by wire control from observation points
onshore. However, the preliminary bombardment had so disrupted the wire
controls, and so blinded the observers, that the defensive mining did
little to slow or destroy the assaulting tractors.

As the tractors neared the beaches, they came under indirect fire from
mortars and artillery. Indirect fire against moving targets generates
more apprehension than damage, and only a few vehicles were lost to
that phase of Japanese defense. Such fire did, however, demonstrate
that the preliminary bombardment had not disposed of all the enemy’s
heavy fire capability. More disturbingly, as the leading waves neared
the beaches, the LVTs were hit by heavy enfilading artillery and
antiboat gun fire coming from concealed bunkers on north and south
flanking points.

The defenses on the left (north) flank of Beach White 1, assaulted by
the 3d Battalion, 1st Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Stephen V. Sabol),
were especially deadly and effective. They disrupted the critical
regimental and division left flank. Especially costly to the larger
landing plan, these guns shortly thereafter knocked out tractors
carrying important elements of the battalion’s and the regiment’s
command and control personnel and equipment. The battalion and then the
regimental commander both found themselves ashore in a brutally vicious
beach fight, without the means of communication necessary to comprehend
their situations fully, or to take the needed remedial measures.

The critical mission to seize the “The Point” dominating the division
left flank had gone to one of the 1st Regiment’s most experienced
company commanders: Captain George P. Hunt, a veteran of Guadalcanal
and New Britain, (who, after the war, became a long-serving managing
editor of Life magazine). Hunt had developed plans involving specific
assignments for each element of his company. These had been rehearsed
until every individual knew his role and how it fit into the company
plan. Each understood his mission’s criticality.

D-Day and H-Hour brought heavier than expected casualties. One of
the company’s platoons was pinned down all day in the fighting at
the beach. The survivors of the rest of the company wheeled left, as
planned, onto the flanking point. Moving grimly ahead, they pressed
assaults upon the many defensive emplacements. Embrasures in the
pillboxes and casements were blanketed with small-fire arms and smoke,
then attacked with demolitions and rifle grenades. A climax came at
the principal casement, from which the largest and most effective
artillery fire had been hitting LVTs on the flanks of following landing
waves. A rifle grenade hit the gun muzzle itself, and ricocheted into
the casement, setting off explosions and flames. Japanese defenders ran
out the rear of the blockhouse, their clothing on fire and ammunition
exploding in their belts. That flight had been anticipated, and some of
Hunt’s Marines were in position to cut them down.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 94913

_The skies over the landing beaches of Peleliu are blackened with smoke
rising from the ground as the result of the combined naval and aerial
prelanding bombardment, as amphibian tractors rush shoreward carrying
the assault waves._]

At dusk, Hunt’s Company K held the Point, but by then the Marines
had been reduced to platoon strength, with no adjacent units in
contact. Only the sketchy radio communications got through to bring in
supporting fires and desperately needed re-supply. One LVT got into the
beach just before dark, with grenades, mortar shells, and water. It
evacuated casualties as it departed. The ammunition made the difference
in that night’s furious struggle against Japanese determined to
recapture the Point.

[Illustration: _Marines and corpsmen scramble ashore and seek any cover
they can to escape the incoming murderous enemy mortar and artillery
fire. Behind them, smoking and abandoned, are amphibian tractors which
were hit as they approached the beach._]

The next afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel Raymond G. Davis’ 1/1 moved
its Company B to establish contact with Hunt, to help hang onto
the bitterly contested positions. Hunt’s company also regained the
survivors of the platoon which had been pinned at the beach fight
throughout D-Day. Of equal importance, the company regained artillery
and naval gunfire communications, which proved critical during
the second night. That night, the Japanese organized another and
heavier--two companies--counterattack directed at the Marines at the
Point. It was narrowly defeated. By mid-morning, D plus 2, Hunt’s
survivors, together with Company B, 1/1, owned the Point, and could
look out upon some 500 Japanese who had died defending or trying to
re-take it.

To the right of Puller’s struggling 3d Battalion, his 2d Battalion,
Lieutenant Colonel Russell E. Honsowetz commanding, met artillery
and mortar opposition in landing, as well as machine-gun fire from
still effective beach defenders. The same was true for 5th Marines’
two assault battalions, Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Boyd’s 1/5 and
Lieutenant Colonel Austin C. Shofner’s 3/5, which fought through the
beach defenses and toward the edge of the clearing looking east over
the airfield area.


    Caption and photograph by Phillip D. Orr

_Situated in a cave overlooking the airfield is this heavy caliber
Japanese antiboat gun. It had a field of fire which included the
invasion beaches and the airfield._]

[Illustration: _Damaged heavily in the D-Day bombardment, this Japanese
pillbox survives on the southern promontory of White Beach. Now vacant,
its gun lies on the beach._

    Caption and photograph by Phillip D. Orr

On the division’s right flank, Orange 3, Major Edward H. Hurst’s 3/7
had to cross directly in front of a commanding defensive fortification
flanking the beach as had Marines in the flanking position on the
Point. Fortunately, it was not as close as the Point position, and
did not inflict such heavy damage. Nevertheless, its enfilading fire,
together with some natural obstructions on the beach caused Company K,
3/7, to land left of its planned landing beach, onto the right half of
beach Orange 2, 3/5’s beach. In addition to being out of position, and
out of contact with the company to its right, Company K, 3/7, became
intermingled with Company K, 3/5, a condition fraught with confusion
and delay. Major Hurst necessarily spent time regrouping his separated
battalion, using as a coordinating line a large antitank ditch astride
his line of advance. His eastward advance then resumed, somewhat
delayed by his efforts to regroup.

Any delay was anathema to the division commander, who visualized
momentum as key to his success. The division scheme of maneuver on the
right called for the 7th Marines (Colonel Herman H. Hanneken) to land
two battalions in column, both over Beach Orange 3. As Hurst’s leading
battalion advanced, it was to be followed in trace by Lieutenant
Colonel John J. Gormley’s 1/7. Gormley’s unit was to tie into Hurst’s
right flank, and re-orient southeast and south as that area was
uncovered. He was then to attack southeast and south, with his left on
Hurst’s right, and his own right on the beach. After Hurst’s battalion
reached the opposite shore, both were to attack south, defending
Scarlet 1 and Scarlet 2, the southern landing beaches.

At the end of a bloody first hour, all five battalions were ashore.
The closer each battalion was to Umurbrogol, the more tenuous was its
hold on the shallow beachhead. During the next two hours, three of the
division’s four remaining battalions would join the assault and press
for the momentum General Rupertus deemed essential.

Following close behind Sabol’s 3/1, the 1st Marines’ Colonel Puller
landed his forward command group. As always, he was eager to be close
to the battle, even if that location deprived him of some capacity
to develop full supporting fires. With limited communications, and
now with inadequate numbers of LVTs for follow-on waves, he struggled
to ascertain and improve his regiment’s situation. His left unit
(Company K, 3/1) had two of its platoons desperately struggling to
gain dominance at the Point. Puller’s plan to land Major Davis’ 1st
Battalion behind Sabol’s 3/1, to reinforce the fight for the left
flank, was thwarted by the H-hour losses in LVTs. Davis’ companies
had to be landed singly and his battalion committed piecemeal to the
action. On the regiment’s right, Honsowetz’ 2/1 was hotly engaged, but
making progress toward capture of the west edges of the scrub which
looked out onto the airfield area. He was tied on his right into Boyd’s
1/5, which was similarly engaged.

[Illustration: D-DAY

(After Rectifying 3/5)]

In the beachhead’s southern sector, the landing of Gormley’s 1/7 was
delayed somewhat by its earlier losses in LVTs. That telling effect of
early opposition would be felt throughout the remainder of the day.
Most of Gormley’s battalion landed on the correct (Orange 3) beach, but
a few of his troops were driven leftward by the still enfilading fire
from the south flank of the beach, and landed on Orange 2, in the 5th
Marines’ zone of action. Gormley’s battalion was brought fully together
behind 3/7 however, and as Hurst’s leading 3/7 was able to advance
east, Gormley’s 1/7 attacked southeast and south, against prepared

Hanneken’s battle against heavy opposition from both east and south
developed approximately as planned. Suddenly, in mid-afternoon, the
opposition grew much heavier. Hurst’s 3/7 ran into a blockhouse, long
on the Marines’ map, which had been reported destroyed by pre-landing
naval gunfire. As a similar situation later met on Puller’s inland
advance, the blockhouse showed little evidence of ever having been
visited by heavy fire. Preparations to attack and reduce this
blockhouse further delayed the 7th Marines’ advance, and the commanding
general fretted further about loss of momentum.

[Sidebar (page 2): The Divisions and their Commanders

The Peleliu operation was to be conducted by two divisions, one Marine
and one Army. In the Pacific area since mid-1942, the 1st Marine
Division was a veteran, combat-tested organization which launched the
first offensive landing in the Pacific War when it attacked Guadalcanal
on 7 August 1942. After a period in Australia of rest, recuperation,
and training of newly joined Marines, the division made its second
amphibious assault on 26 December 1943 at Cape Gloucester on New
Britain Island. When the division landed on Peleliu, its regiments
(1st, 5th, and 7th Marines, all infantry, and 11th Marines, artillery)
contained officers and enlisted Marine veterans of both landings as
well as new troops. Before World War II ended, the 1st Division was to
participate in one last battle, the landing on Okinawa.

[Illustration: _MajGen William H. Rupertus_]

Major General William H. Rupertus, the 1st Division commander, had been
with the division since early 1942. As a brigadier general, he was the
assistant division commander to Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift
during the Guadalcanal campaign. He took command of the division for
the Cape Gloucester operation. General Rupertus was commissioned in
1913 and served as commander of a Marine ship’s detachment in World War
I. During subsequent years, he was assigned duty in Haiti and China.
Following the Peleliu campaign, he was named Commandant of the Marine
Corps Schools in Quantico. General Rupertus died of a heart attack on
25 March 1945, while still on active duty.

The Army’s 81st Infantry Division--the Wildcats--was formed in August
1917 at Camp Jackson, South Carolina. It saw action in France at the
Meuse-Argonne in World War I, and was deactivated following the end
of the war. The division was reactivated in June 1942. It went to
several Pacific training bases before its first combat assignment, the
landing on Angaur. After securing Angaur, it relieved units of the 1st
Marine Division on Peleliu. When Peleliu was secured, the Wildcats
began training for Operation Olympic--the assault on Japan proper. The
Japanese surrendered unconditionally after suffering two atomic bomb
attacks. As a result, instead of invading Japan, the 81st occupied it.
On 10 January, the 81st Infantry Division was once more deactivated.

[Illustration: _MajGen Paul J. Mueller, USA_]

Major General Paul J. Mueller, USA, the commander of the 81st Division,
was a graduate of the famous West Point Class of 1915. He commanded an
infantry battalion in France in World War I, and during the interwar
period he had a succession of assignments to infantry commands, staff
billets, and schools. In August 1941 he assumed command of the 81st
Infantry Division at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and moved his division
during its training period successively from Florida to Tennessee to
California before its commitment to the battle for Angaur and Peleliu.
General Mueller served on active duty until 1954, when he retired. He
died in 1964.

[Sidebar (page 5): The Changing Nature of Japanese Tactics

Japan launched its December 1941 surprise attacks in the expectation
that its forces could quickly seize a forward line of Pacific and Asian
empire. Thereafter, it expected to defend these territories stubbornly
enough to tire and bleed the Allies and then to negotiate a recognition
of Japanese hegemony.

This strategic concept was synchronized with the fanatic Japanese
spirit of _bushido_. Faith in their army’s moral superiority over
lesser races led the Japanese to expect 19th-century _banzai_ tactics
to lead invariably to success. Expectations and experience meshed until
their 1942 encounters with the Allies, particularly with Americans in
the Solomons. Thereafter, it took several campaigns to internalize
the lessons of defeat by modern infantry weapons in the hands of the
determined Allies.

To Americans, these Japanese misconceptions were alarming, but
cost-effective: It was easier, and less costly, to mow down _banzai_
attacks than to dig stubborn defenders out of fortified positions.

By spring of 1944, the lessons had permeated to the highest levels of
Japan’s army command. When General Hideki Tojo instructed General Inoue
to defend the Palaus deliberately and conservatively, he was bringing
Japanese tactics into support of Japanese strategy. Henceforth,
Japanese soldiers would dig in and hunker down, to make their final
defenses as costly as possible to the attacking Americans.

[Sidebar (page 7): Naval Gunfire Support for Peleliu


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95115

In their earlier operations, especially at Guadalcanal, the primary
experience of 1st Division Marines with naval gunfire was at the
receiving end. On New Britain, the character and disposition of
Japanese defenses did not call for extensive pre-landing fire support,
nor did subsequent operations ashore. The naval gunfire to which the
Guadalcanal veterans were exposed frequently and heavily damaged
planes and installations ashore. Its effect upon dug-in Marines was
frightening and sobering, but rarely destructive.

During the planning for Peleliu, the division staff initially had no
trained naval gunfire (NGF) planner. When one arrived, he was hampered
by the cumbersome communications link back to higher headquarters,
Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith’s Fleet Marine Force, Pacific
(FMFPac), in Honolulu, which would provide the essential targeting
information for the division’s NGF plan. FMFPac also would plan
and allocate the available gunfire resources to the targets deemed
important by the division staff’s planners. The preoccupation of
FMFPac with the ongoing Marianas campaigns, as well as illness on the
staff of Rear Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf, Commander, Naval Gunfire
Support Group, further limited and constrained the preparations. Heavy
ammunition expenditures in the Marianas reduced ammunition availability
for Peleliu.

Surprisingly, during the delivery of U.S. preparatory fires, there
was no Japanese response. This prompted Oldendorf to report all known
targets destroyed, and to cancel preparatory fires scheduled for D
plus 3. An unintentional benefit of this uncoordinated change in naval
gunfire plan may have resulted in there being more shells available
for post-landing NGF support. But the costliest effect of inadequate
NGF was that the flanking positions north and south of the landing
beaches were not taken out. The selection of naval gunfire targets
could certainly have been done with more careful attention. Colonel
Lewis B. Puller, the 1st Marines commander, had specifically asked for
the destruction of the positions dominating his landing on the division
left flanks. Failure to do so was paid for in blood, courage, and time
during the critical battle for the Point.

Subsequent to D-Day there were numerous instances of well-called and
-delivered naval gunfire support: night illumination during the night
of 15-16 September, the destruction of two major blockhouses earlier
reported “destroyed,” and effective support of the Ngesebus landing
toward the end of the battle.

_The Japanese Defenses_

On the enemy’s side, Lieutenant General Sadae Inoue, a fifth generation
warrior of stout military reputation, commanding the _14th Infantry
Division_, fresh from the _Kwangtung Army_ in China, met in Tokyo in
March 1944 with Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo, who was also Minister
of War. Tojo had concluded that Japan was no longer able to hold the
Palaus against growing Allied naval dominance in the Western Pacific.
Instead, he had decided to sell the Palaus to the United States at the
highest possible cost to Americans in blood and time. He ordered Inoue
to take his division to the Palaus, to take command of all Japanese
forces there, and to defend the Palau Islands as long as possible,
denying its use to the Americans--and killing as many as possible in
the undertaking.

As his division sailed to the Palaus, Inoue flew ahead, reconnoitered
his new locale by air for two days, and concluded that Peleliu (with
satellite air strips on Angaur and Ngesebus) was the key to his
defenses. Earlier U.S. attention to Peleliu during the Task Force 58
March strikes seemed to confirm that judgment. To defend Peleliu, Inoue
immediately settled upon a commander, a mission, and a force level.
Peleliu had for some time been under occupation and administrative
command of a rear admiral, who had used his forces’ construction
resources and capability to build blockhouses and many reinforced
concrete structures above ground, while improving existing caves and
tunnels under Peleliu’s rich concealment of overlying jungle, scrub,
and vines.


    Caption by the artist, Tom Lea

“=The Beach ... My First View as I Came Around From the Ramp of our
LVT= _We ground to a stop, after a thousand years, on the coarse
coral.... And we ran down the ramp and came around the end of the LVT,
splashing ankle-deep up the surf to the white beach. Suddenly I was
completely alone. Each man drew into himself when he ran down that
ramp, into that flame. Those Marines flattened in the sand on that
beach were dark and huddled like wet rats in death as I threw my body
down among them._”]

In these underground installations, the admiral’s personnel had well
survived the Task Force 58 March attacks. Above ground, planes and
installations were demolished. As Task Force 58 departed, the Japanese
emerged, repaired what they could, but continued to focus upon
underground installations. Together with a few Korean labor troops,
their numbers totaled about 7,000, most of them lacking training and
leadership for infantry action.

Leadership arrived in the person of Colonel Nakagawa, with his
6,500-man _2d Infantry Regiment (Reinforced)_. They had long
battle experience in China. They were armed with 24 75mm artillery
pieces, some 13-15 light tanks, about 100 .50-cal. machine guns, 15
81mm heavy mortars, and about 30 dual-purpose antiaircraft guns.
Already on the island were a large number of very heavy (141mm)
mortars, naval antiaircraft guns, and rudimentary rocket launchers
for sending up large, unguided naval shells. Most significant, the
regiment had Colonel Nakagawa and his battle-disciplined officers and
noncommissioned officers. Nakagawa had already been awarded nine medals
for leadership against the Chinese and was viewed as a “comer” within
his officer corps.

Immediately upon arrival, Nakagawa reconnoitered his prospective
battle area from the ground and from the air. He identified the
western beaches, the Marines’ White and Orange Beaches, as the most
probable landing sites. He immediately ordered his troops to dig in and
construct beach defenses. At this time, a bureaucratic conflict arose.
Vice Admiral Seiichi Itou, who was the senior officer and the senior
naval officer on Peleliu, resented being subordinate to an Army officer
much junior to him.

From Koror, Lieutenant General Inoue dispatched Major General Kenjiro
Murai to Peleliu, to assume island command and to maintain “liaison”
with Colonel Nakagawa. Murai was young, highly regarded, and, as the
personal representative of Lieutenant General Inoue, was considered
senior to the admiral. He left Nakagawa’s operational mission firmly in
Nakagawa’s hands, as Inoue intended. Throughout the campaign, Nakagawa
exercised operational control, and was assisted and counseled, but not
commanded, by General Murai.

Nakagawa had a sound appreciation of his mission, of the situation,
and of American firepower. He turned his attention to the fullest use
of his principal advantage, the terrain. He so deployed and installed
his forces to inflict all possible damage and casualties during the
anticipated landing, and then to defend in depth for as long as
possible. On Peleliu, that offered a vertical as well as a horizontal
dimension to the defense.

He surveyed and registered artillery and mortar weapons over the
width and depth of the reef off both eastern and western beaches, with
planned heavy concentrations along the fringe of the western reef. In
this he anticipated the American need to transfer follow-on waves from
landing craft to the reef-crossing amphibian vehicles. He registered
weapons on, and immediately inland from, the water’s edge, to subject
landing troops to a hail of fire. Off-shore he laid 500 wire-controlled


    Caption by the artist, Tom Lea

“=The Price= _Lying there in terror looking longingly up the slope to
better cover, I saw a wounded man near me, staggering in the direction
of the LVTs. His face was half bloody pulp and the mangled shreds of
what was left of an arm hung down like a stick, as he bent over in his
stumbling, shock-crazy walk. The half of his face that was still human
had the most terrifying look of abject patience I have ever seen. He
fell behind me, in a red puddle on the white sand._”]

Colonel Nakagawa directed construction of beach obstacles, using
rails and logs, and ordered antitank ditches dug. He emplaced troops
in machine gun and mortar pits along, and inland from, the beaches,
augmented by all the available barbed wire. On the north and south
flanks of the beach, he constructed concrete emplacements to shelter
and conceal antitank and antiboat artillery sited to enfilade the
expected waves of landing craft.

Inland, he incorporated the already-built blockhouse and adjacent
reinforced buildings into mutually supporting defensive complexes, with
interconnecting communication lines and trenches.

Although believing the western beaches to be the most probable route of
attack, he did not leave the southern (Scarlet) and eastern (Purple)
beaches undefended. He committed one battalion to organize defenses
in each area. The Purple Beaches were thoroughly organized, with
contingent orders to the defenders to move into central Peleliu if
the battle developed from the west, as expected. But the battalion
committed to the south, Scarlet Beach, had orders to defend those
stronger, more permanent emplacements to the end. Nakagawa assigned
about 500 infantry and artillery to defend Ngesebus and about 1,000
naval personnel to defend northern Peleliu. Not under his command were
the 1,500 defenders of Angaur.

The major part of his force and effort was committed to the 500 caves,
tunnels, and firing embrasures in the coral ridges of central Peleliu.
The naval units’ extensive earlier tunneling into the limestone ridges
rendered occupants largely immune to general bombardments. Only lucky
hits into the mouths of caves, or point-blank direct fire could damage
the hidden defenses and their troops. The tunnels were designed for,
or adapted to, various purposes: barracks, command centers, hospitals,
storage and ammunition magazines, cooking areas complete with fresh
water springs and seepage basins, and of course firing embrasures
with elaborate concealment and protective devices, including a few
sliding steel doors. Colonel Nakagawa expected very heavy prelanding
bombardments. He expected his troops to survive them, and then to carry
out his mission of delaying and bleeding the Americans.

On Koror, Lieutenant General Inoue was busy with the bulk of his
forces, preparing for expected attacks against Babelthuap. The Allied
“Stalemate” plan had indeed called for invasion of Babelthuap. As the
anticipated invasion drew near, Inoue issued a proclamation to his
troops, clearly reflecting Tojo’s instructions to delay and bleed.
He pointed out the necessities to anticipate and endure the naval
bombardment and to use the terrain to inflict casualties on the
attackers. Without actually ordering troops to die, he included the
words, “we are ready to die honorably.” He went on to say that dying,
and losing the territory to the enemy, might contribute to the opening
of a new phase of the war.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95253

_Engaged in the bitter struggle to establish the Peleliu beachhead,
Marine riflemen get only momentary shelter behind an LVT, while other
Marines atop the amphibian tractor fire at enemy targets. The name of
the LVT was more than prophetic._]

[Illustration: _Embrasures in this well-sited, heavily reinforced
position, possibly in the Pocket, indicate the location of Japanese
weapons which devastated attacking Marines._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 107934

_The Assault in the Center_

As the 1st Marines battled to secure the left flank, and as the 7th
Marines fought to isolate and then reduce the Japanese defenses in the
southern end of Peleliu, the 5th Marines, Colonel Harold D. Harris
commanding, was charged to drive across the airfield, cut the island
in two, and then re-orient north and drive to secure the eastern half
of the island. Shortly after the scheduled H plus one schedule, the 2d
Battalion, 5th Marines, Major Gordon D. Gayle commanding, landed over
Beach Orange 2, in trace behind 3/5. It moved directly east, through
the dunes and scrub jungle, into and out of the antitank barrier, and
to the west edge of the clearing surrounding the airfield. Passing
through the lines of 3/5, Gayle’s battalion attacked west against
scattered resistance from dug-outs and bomb shelters near the southern
end of the airfield, and through the scrub area slightly farther south.
The 3d Battalion’s mission was to clear that scrub, maintaining contact
with 3/7 on its right, while 2/5 was to drive across the open area to
reach the far side of the island. Advancing in its center and right,
2/5 battled completely across the island by mid-afternoon, echeloned
its left rearward to keep contact with 1/5, and moved to re-orient its
attack northward. The 2d Battalion’s right flank tied for a while into
3/5 in the woods to the south of the airfield, but then lost contact.


By this time, the antitank ditch along the center and right of Orange
Beaches 1 and 2 was notable for the number of command posts located
along its length. Shofner’s 3/5 was there, as was Harris’ 5th Marines
command post. Then an advance element of the division command post
under Brigadier General Oliver P. Smith, the assistant division
commander, landed and moved into the antitank ditch within sight of the
airfield clearing area. Simultaneously, important support weapons were
moving ashore.

The 1st Tank Battalion’s M-48A1 Sherman medium tanks, one-third of
which had been left behind at the last moment because of inadequate
shipping, were landed as early as possible, using a novel technique to
cross the reef. This tank landing scheme was developed in anticipation
of early Japanese use of their armor capability.

Movement of this fire and logistical support material onto a beach
still close to, and under direct observation from, the commanding
Umurbrogol heights was an inescapable risk mandated by the Peleliu
terrain. So long as the enemy held observation from Umurbrogol over
the airfield and over the beach activity, there was no alternative to
driving ahead rapidly, using such fire support as could be mustered and
coordinated. Continuing casualties at the beaches had to be accepted to
support the rapid advance. The commanding general’s concern for early
momentum appeared to be eminently correct. Units on the left had to
assault toward the foot of Umurbrogol ridges, and quickly get to the
commanding crests. In the center, the 5th Marines had to make a fast
advance to secure other possible routes to outflank Umurbrogol. In the
south, the 7th Marines had to destroy immediately those now cut-off
forces before becoming freed to join the struggle against central

The movement of the 5th Marines across the airfield and to the
western edge of the lagoon separating the airfield area from the
eastern peninsula (Beach Purple), created a line of attacking Marines
completely across that part of the island oriented both east and north,
toward what was believed to be the major center of Japanese strength.
The 7th Marines, pushing east and south, completed splitting the enemy
forces. Colonel Hanneken’s troops, fully engaged, were generally
concealed against observation from the enemy still north of the
airfield and from the heights of Umurbrogol. There was a gap between
the 5th’s right and the 7th’s left, but it did not appear to be in a
critical sector.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 96745

_Cpl Peter P. Zacharko stands by a captured Japanese 141mm mortar,
which rained shells down on the landing beaches and on the Marines as
they proceeded inland._]

Nevertheless, it was by now apparent that the D-Day phase-line
objectives were not going to be met in either the south or the north.
Alarmed at the loss of the desired momentum, General Rupertus began
committing his reserve. First, he ordered the division reconnaissance
company ashore, then, pressing commanders already on the island, he
ordered his one remaining uncommitted infantry battalion, Lieutenant
Colonel Spencer S. Berger’s 2/7, to land. No commander ashore felt a
need for 2/7, but Colonel Hanneken said he could find an assembly area
where it would not be in the way. General Rupertus ordered it to land,
remarking to his staff that he had now “shot his bolt!” Ashore, it was
apparent that what was needed on this hectic beachhead was not more
troops, but more room in which to maneuver and more artillery.

General Rupertus began to make plans to land himself and the main
elements of his command group. Advice from the ADC ashore, and his
chief of staff, Colonel John T. Selden, convinced Rupertus to stay on
the flagship. He compromised that decision by ordering Colonel Selden
ashore. By now, the shortage of LVTs was frustrating the timely landing
of following waves. In consequence, neither Selden’s small CP group,
nor Berger’s 2/7, could get past the transfer line in their landing
craft, and had to return to their ships despite their orders to land.

Into this division posture, at about 1650, Colonel Nakagawa launched
his planned tank-infantry counterattack. All Marine commanders had
been alerted to the Japanese capability to make an armored attack on
D-Day, and were well prepared. The attack emerged from the area north
of the airfield and headed south, generally across the front of the 1st
Marines’ lines on the eastern edge of the airfield clearing. The attack
moved directly into the 5th Marines’ sector where Boyd’s 1/5 was set
in, and stretched across the southern area of the airfield. Marines in
2/1 and 1/5 took the attackers under fire, infantry and tanks alike.
A bazooka gunner in 2/1’s front hit two of the tanks. The commanding
officer of 1/5 had his tanks in defilade, just behind his front lines.
They opened up on the Japanese armor, which ran through the front lines
and virtually into his forward command group. Boyd’s lines held fast,
taking the attackers, infantry and tanks alike, under fire with all
available weapons.

Major John H. Gustafson, in 2/5’s forward command post mid-way across
the airfield, had his tank platoon close at hand. Although the enemy
had not yet come into his zone of action, he launched the platoon of
tanks into the melee. Accounts vary as to just who shot what, but
in a very few minutes it was all over. The attacking tanks were all
destroyed, and the Japanese infantry literally blown away.

Colonel Nakagawa’s attack was courageous, but proved to be a total
failure. Even where the tanks broke through the Marine lines, they
induced no Marine retreat. Instead, the Japanese armor became the focus
of antitank fire of every sort and caliber. The light Japanese tanks
were literally blown apart. More than 100 were reported destroyed.
That figure, of course, reflected the amount of fire directed their
way; each Marine grenadier, antitank gunner, and tanker thought he had
killed the tank at which he shot, and so reported.

[Illustration: PELELIU


PHASE (D+1-D+8)]

With the counterattack over and the Japanese in apparent disarray, 2/5
immediately resumed its attack, moving north along the eastern half
of the airfield. The battalion advanced halfway up the length of the
airfield clearing before it stopped to organize for the night. It was
the maximum advance of the day, over the most favorable terrain in the
division front. It provided needed space for artillery and logistic
deployment to support the continuation of the attack the next day.

However, that relatively advanced position had an open right, south,
flank which corresponded to a hole in the regimental command structure.
At that stage, 3/5 was supposed to maintain the contact between
north-facing 2/5 and south-oriented 3/7. But 3/5’s battalion command
and control had been completely knocked out by 1700. The battalion
executive officer, Major Robert M. Ash, had been killed earlier in
the day by a direct hit upon his landing LVT. About the time of
the Japanese tank attack, a mortar barrage hit the 3/5 CP in the
antitank ditch near the beach, killing several staff and prompting the
evacuation of the battalion commander. As of 1700, the three companies
of 3/5 were not in contact with each other, nor with the battalions
to their right and left.

[Illustration: _The antitank ditch dug by the Japanese along the center
and right of Orange Beaches 1 and 2 soon after the landing became the
locations of command posts of various units. Both the 5th Marines’ and
3/5’s CPs were located there, as was the 7th Marines’, shown here. BGen
Oliver P. Smith with the advance element of the division CP set up in
the ditch also._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 94939

The 5th Marines commanding officer ordered his executive officer,
Lieutenant Colonel Lewis W. Walt, to take command of 3/5 and to
redeploy so as to close the gap between 5th and 7th Marines. Major
Gayle moved 2/5’s reserve company to his right flank and to provide a
tie-in position. Walt located and tied in his 3/5 companies to build a
more continuous regimental line. By 2230, he had effected the tie-in,
just in time. Beginning then, the salient which the 5th Marines had
carved between Peleliu’s central and southern defenders came under a
series of sharp counterattacks that continued throughout the night.
The attacks came from both north and south. None of them enjoyed any
notable success, but they were persistent enough to require resupply
of ammunition to forward companies. Dawn revealed scores of Japanese
bodies north of the Marine lines.

Elsewhere across the 1st Division’s front there were more potentially
threatening night counterattacks. None of them succeeded in driving
Marines back or in penetrating the lines in significant strength. The
most serious attack came against the Company K, 3/1, position on the
Point, at the 1st Marines’ left.

In the south, the 7th Marines experienced significant night attacks
from the Japanese battalion opposing it. But the Marines there were
in comfortable strength, had communications to bring in fire support,
including naval gunfire illumination. They turned back all attacks
without a crisis developing.

At the end of the first 12 hours ashore, the 1st Marine Division held
its beachhead across the intended front. Only in the center did the
depth approximate that which had been planned. The position was strong
everywhere except on the extreme left flank. General Smith, from his
forward command post was in communication with all three regimental
commanders. The report he received from Colonel Puller, on the left,
did not afford an adequate perception of 1st Marines’ tenuous hold on
the Point. That reflected Colonel Puller’s own limited information. The
other two regimental reports reflected the situations adequately.

In addition to the three infantry regiments, the 1st Division had
almost three battalions of light artillery ashore and emplaced. All 30
tanks were ashore. The shore party was functioning on the beach, albeit
under full daylight observation by the enemy and under intermittent
enemy fire. The division necessarily had to continue at full press on D
plus 1. The objective was to capture the commanding crests on the left,
to gain maneuver opportunities in the center, and to finish off the
isolated defenders in the south.


    Caption by the artist, Tom Lea

“=This is Sad Sack Calling Charlie Blue= _We found the battalion
commander (LtCol Edward H. Hurst, CO, 3/7) sitting on a smashed wet
log in the mud, marking positions on his map. By him sat his radioman,
trying to make contact with company commands on the portable set
propped up in the mud. There was an infinitely tired and plaintive
patience in the radioman’s voice as he called code names, repeating
time and again, ‘This is Sad Sack calling Charlie Blue. This is Sad
Sack calling Charlie....’_”]

At least two colonels on Peleliu ended their work day with firm
misconceptions of their situations, and with correspondingly inaccurate
reports to their superiors. At day’s end, when General Smith finally
got a telephone wire into the 1st Marines’ CP, he was told that the
regiment had a firm hold on its beachhead, and was approximately on
the O-1 objective line. He was not told about, and Colonel Puller was
not fully aware of, the gaps in his lines, nor of the gravity of the
Company K, 3/1, struggle on the Point, where only 38 Marines were
battling to retain the position.

Colonel Nakagawa, on the other hand, had reported that the landing
attempt by the Marines had been “put to route.” Inconsistently, he had
also reported that his brave counterattack force had thrown the enemy
into the sea.

[Sidebar (page 15): A Horrible Place

Among the few civilian news correspondents who chose to share the fate
of the Marines on shore on Peleliu was Robert “Pepper” Martin, of
_Time_, who furnished the following description of what it was like

  Peleliu is a horrible place. The heat is stifling and rain falls
  intermittently--the muggy rain that brings no relief, only greater
  misery. The coral rocks soak up the heat during the day and it is
  only slightly cooler at night. Marines are in the finest possible
  physical condition, but they wilted on Peleliu. By the fourth
  day there were as many casualties from heat prostration as from

  Peleliu is incomparably worse than Guam in its bloodiness, terror,
  climate and the incomprehensible tenacity of the Japs. For sheer
  brutality and fatigue, I think it surpasses anything yet seen in
  the Pacific, certainly from the standpoint of numbers of troops
  involved and the time taken to make the island secure.

On the second day, the temperature reached 105 degrees in the shade and
there was very little shade in most places where the fighting was going
on, and arguably no breeze at all anywhere. It lingered around that
level of heat as the days dragged by (temperatures as high as 115 were
recorded). Water supply presented a serious problem from the outset.
This had been anticipated and in actual fact the solution proved less
difficult than expected; the engineers soon discovered that productive
wells could be drilled almost anywhere on the comparatively low ground,
and personnel semi-permanently stationed near the beach found that even
shallow holes dug in the sand would yield an only mildly repulsive
liquid which could be purified for drinking with halizone tablets.
But it continued necessary to supply the assault troops by means of
scoured-out oil drums and five-gallon field cans. Unfortunately,
steaming out the oil drums did not remove all the oil, with the result
that many or most of the troops drinking water from the drums were
sickened. When the captains of the ships in the transport area learned
of this and of the shortage of water, they rushed cases of fruit and
fruit drinks to the beaches to ease the problem somewhat.

The water situation presented a problem even in the case of troops
operating on comparatively level and open ground. Once the fighting
entered the ridges, terrain difficult merely to traverse without having
to fight, the debility rate shot upward so alarmingly that an emergency
call was sent to all the ships off-shore to requisition every available
salt tablet for issue to the 1st Marines.

The statement that heat prostrations equalled wound casualties is apt
to be misleading. Most of those evacuated were returned to duty after
a day or two of rest and rehabilitation; hence, their absence from the
frontlines did not permanently impair the combat efficiency of their
units. But such numerous cases did strain the already overburdened
Medical Corps elements.

[Sidebar (page 16): Special Reef-crossing Techniques

Inasmuch as Peleliu’s fringing reef would not permit landing craft
within 700 yards of the beach, such craft deposited tanks at the reef’s
edge. There the depths permitted tanks to operate in most areas,
without being submerged, but not in all. A plan was devised to form
tanks into small columns, each to be led by an LVT. So long as the LVT
was grounded on the reef, the tanks could follow in trace. But when the
LVT encountered a depth which floated it, tanks halted while the LVT
literally “felt” out a suitable shallow path. Then the tanks followed,
still in small columns, and so arrived at the shore at the earliest
possible hour. The technique was one of the keys to timely employment
of armor ashore before D-Day was over.

Two other reef-crossing innovations were used on D-Day. A large number
of amphibious trailers were incorporated into the logistic plan, to
be towed behind landing craft, and later, at reef’s edge they would
be taken in tow by amphibian tractors. Ashore, trucks took them into
tow, enabling critical supplies to be moved well forward to supply
points just in rear of the fighting. Newly available crawler cranes
were emplaced on barges near the reef’s edge. They could lift nets
full of ammunition and other vital supplies from boats to tractors at
the transfer line. Other such crawler cranes were landed early and
positioned by the shore party to lift net-loads from LVTs to trucks for
expeditious delivery forward.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95624.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95354.

_The Assault Continues_

With the dawn of a new day, the two opposing commanders at Peleliu
awoke from whatever sleep they may have gotten to face immediate grim

General Rupertus, having been frustrated by his earlier effort to land
his division reserve into the southern sector of his beachhead, was now
aware that his northern sector stood most in need of help, specifically
on the extreme left flank. Rupertus ordered 2/7 into Puller’s sector
for employment there.

[Illustration: _Wary riflemen of the 5th Marines advance through a
devastated Japanese bivouac area to the northeast of the Peleliu
airfield. The concealed enemy troops took full advantage of the rocky
terrain, forcing the Marines to clear out each nook and cranny._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 96763

At division headquarters afloat, more had been learned about the
extent of Marine D-Day casualties: 1,111, of whom 209 were killed
in action (KIA). While this was not a hefty percentage of the total
reinforced divisional strength, the number was grim in terms of
cutting-edge strength. Most of those 1,111 casualties had been suffered
in eight of the division’s nine infantry battalions. Except in the
center, Rupertus was not yet on the O-1 line, the first of eight
planned phase lines.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95921

_At about 1650 on D-Day, Col Nakagawa launched his tank-infantry attack
from the north of the airfield and headed south across the front of the
1st Marines’ lines. The 1st Marine Division had been prepared for such
an eventuality, and the attack was a total failure. More than 100 enemy
tanks and their covering troops were reported as being literally blown

Having received less than a comprehensive view of the 1st Marines’
situation, Rupertus was more determined than ever to move ashore
quickly, to see what he could, and to do whatever he could to re-ignite
the lost momentum. That he would have to operate with a gimpy leg from
a sandy trench within a beach area still under light but frequent
fire, seemed less a consideration to him than his need to see and to
know (General Rupertus had broken his ankle in a preassault training
exercise, and his foot was in a cast for the entire operation.).

Over on Colonel Nakagawa’s side, despite the incredible reports being
sent out from his headquarters, he could see from his high ground a
quite different situation. The landing force had not been “put to
route.” Ashore, and under his view, was a division of American Marines
deployed across two miles of beachhead. They had been punished on
D-Day, but were preparing to renew the fight. Predictably, their attack
would be launched behind a hail of naval gunfire, artillery, and aerial
attacks. They would be supported by U.S. tanks which had so readily
dispatched the Japanese armor on D-Day.

[Illustration: _Apparently covered by a returning 1st Marine Division
veteran’s graffiti, this Japanese light tank remains on the northwest
corner of the Peleliu airfield. Its turret blown off, it is the only
one left from the failed enemy attack of 1944._

    Caption and photo by Phillip D. Orr

In his own D-Day counterattack, Nakagawa had lost roughly one of
his five infantry battalions. Elsewhere he had lost hundreds of his
beach defenders in fighting across the front throughout D-Day, and
in his uniformly unsuccessful night attacks against the beachhead.
Nevertheless, he still had several thousand determined warriors,
trained and armed. They were deployed throughout strong and
well-protected defensive complexes and fortifications, with ample
underground support facilities. All were armed with the discipline and
determination to kill many Americans.


    Caption and photo by Phillip D. Orr.

“=Sick Bay in a Shellhole: The Padre Read, ‘I am the Resurrection and
the Light’= _About thirty paces back of the Jap trench a sick bay had
been established in a big shell crater made by one of our battleship
guns.... In the center of the crater at the bottom a doctor was working
on the worst of the stretcher cases. Corpsmen, four to a stretcher,
came in continually with their bloody loads.... The padre stood by with
two canteens and a Bible, helping. He was deeply and visibly moved by
the patient suffering and death. He looked very lonely, very close to
God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home._”]

As he had known from the start, Nakagawa’s advantage lay in the
terrain, and in his occupation and organization of that terrain. For
the present, and until that time when he would be driven from the
Umurbrogol crests which commanded the airfield clearing, he held a
dominating position. He had impressive observation over his attackers,
and hidden fire to strike with dangerous effect. His forces were
largely invisible to the Americans, and relatively impervious to their
fire superiority. His prospects for continuing to hold key terrain
components seemed good.

The Marines were attacking fortified positions, against which careful
and precise fire preparations were needed. They were, especially on the
left, under extreme pressure to assault rapidly, with more emphasis
upon speed than upon careful preparation. With enemy observation and
weapons dominating the entire Marine position, staying in place was
to invite being picked off at the hidden enemy’s leisure. General
Rupertus’ concern for momentum remained valid.

This placed the burden of rapid advance primarily upon the 1st Marines
on the left, and secondarily upon the 5th in the airfield area. In the
south, the 7th Marines already held its edge of the airfield’s terrain.
The scrub jungle largely screened the regiment from observation and it
was opposed by defenses oriented toward the sea, away from the airfield.

Puller’s 1st Marines, which had already suffered the most casualties
on D-Day, still faced the toughest terrain and positions. It had to
attack, relieve Company K, 3/1, on the Point, and assault the ridges
of Umurbrogol, south to north. Supporting that assault, Honsowetz had
to swing his east-facing 2/1 leftward, and to capture and clear the
built-up area between the airfield and the ridges. This his battalion
did on D plus 1 and 2, with the 5th Marines assisting in its zone on
the right. But then he was at the foot of the commanding ridges, and
joined in the deadly claw-scratch-and-scramble attack of Davis’ 1/1
against the Japanese on and in the ridges.

As Colonel Puller was able to close the gaps on his left, and swing
his entire regiment toward the north, he pivoted on Sabol’s 3/1 on the
left. Sabol, aided by Company B, 1/1, established contact with and
reinforced Company K on the Point. Then he headed north, with his left
on the beach and his right near the West Road along the foot of the
westernmost features of the Umurbrogol complex. In Sabol’s sector, the
terrain permitted tank support, and offered more chances for maneuver
than were afforded in the ridges further to the right. Hard fighting
was involved, but after D-Day, Sabol’s battalion was able to move north
faster than the units on his right. His advance against the enemy was
limited by the necessity to keep contact with Davis’ 1/1 on his right.

The relative rates of movement along the boundary between Sabol’s
flatter and more open zone and Davis’ very rough zone of action,
brought the first pressing need for reserves. Tactically, there was
clear necessity to press east into and over the rough terrain, and
systematically reduce the complex defenses. That job Davis’ 1/1,
Honsowetz’s 2/1, and Berger’s 2/7 did. But more troops than Sabol had
also were needed to advance north through the open terrain to begin
encirclement of the rough Umurbrogol area, and to find avenues into the
puzzle of that rugged landscape. By 17 September, reserves were badly
needed along the 1st Division’s left (west) axis of advance. But on 17
September, neither the division nor III Amphibious Corps had reserves.

As Sabol’s 3/1 fought up the easier terrain on the 1st Marines’ left,
Davis’ 1/1 drove into the center with his left on the break between
coral ridge country and Sabol’s more open flat zone. Among his early
surprises, as he approached the foot of the ridge area, was another
of the blockhouses Admiral Oldendorf had reportedly destroyed with
pre-D-Day gunfire. Although it had been on the planning map for weeks,
those who first encountered it, reported the emplacement as “not having
a mark on it!”

The blockhouse was part of an impressive defense complex. It was
connected to and supported by a web of pillboxes and emplacements,
which it in turn supported. The walls were four-feet thick, of
reinforced concrete. Happily, Davis was given a naval gunfire support
team which called in the fires of the USS _Mississippi_. Between them,
they made fairly short work of the entire complex, and 1/1 could
advance until it ran into the far more insoluble Japanese ridge defense

Major Davis, who was to earn a Medal of Honor in the Korean War in
1950, said of the attack into and along or across those ridges, “It was
the most difficult assignment I have ever seen.”

During the 1st Marines’ action in the first four days of the campaign,
all three of its battalions battled alongside, and up onto Umurbrogol’s
terrible, cave-filled, coral ridges. Berger’s 2/7, initially in
division reserve, but assigned to the 1st Marines on D plus 1, was
immediately thrown into the struggle. Puller fed two separate companies
of the battalion into the fight piecemeal. Shortly thereafter, 2/7 was
given a central zone of action between Colonel Puller’s 1st and 2d
Battalions. The 1st Marines continued attacking on a four-battalion
front about a 1,000 yards wide, against stubborn and able defenders
in underground caves and fortifications within an incredible jumble
of ridges and cliffs. Every advance opened the advancing Marines to
new fire from heretofore hidden positions on flanks, in rear, in caves
above or below newly won ground.

Nothing better illustrated the tactical dilemmas posed by Umurbrogol
than did the 19 September seizure of, then withdrawal from, Hill 100,
a ridge bordering the so-called Horseshoe Valley at the eastern limit
of the Pocket. It lay in the sector of Lieutenant Colonel Honsowetz’
2d Battalion, 1st Marines, to which Company B of Major Ray Davis’ 1st
Battalion was attached. Company B, 1/1, having landed with 242 men,
had 90 men left when its commander, Captain Everett P. Pope, received
Honsowetz’ order to take what the Marines were then calling Hill 100.
The Japanese called it _Higashiyama_ (East Mountain).

Initially supported by tanks, Pope’s company lost that support when the
two leading tanks slipped off an approach causeway. Continuing with
only mortar support, and into the face of heavy defending mortar and
machine-gun fire, Pope’s Marines reached the summit near twilight,
only to discover that the ridge’s northeast extension led to still
higher ground, from which its defenders were pouring fire upon the
contested Hill 100. Equally threatening was fire from the enemy caves
inside the parallel ridge to the west, called Five Brothers. In the
settling darkness Pope’s men, liberally supported by 2/1’s heavy
mortars, were able to hang on. Throughout the night, there was a series
of enemy probes and counterattacks onto the ridge top. They were beaten
off by the supporting mortars and by hand-to-hand brawls involving not
only rifles but also knives, and even rocks, thrown intermittently with
grenades, as supplies of them ran low. Pope’s men were still clinging
to the ridge top when dawn broke; but the number of unwounded Marines
was by now down to eight. Pope was ordered to withdraw and was able to
take his wounded out. But the dead he had to leave on the ridge, not
to be recovered until 3 October, when the ridge was finally recaptured
for good. This action was illustrative and prophetic of the Japanese
defenders’ skillful use of mutually supporting positions throughout

By D plus 4, the 1st Marines was a regiment in name only, having
suffered 1,500 casualties. This fact led to a serious disagreement
between General Rupertus, who kept urging Puller onward, and the
general’s superior, Major General Roy S. Geiger, III Amphibious Corps
commander. Based on his own experiences in commanding major ground
operations at Bougainville and Guam, Geiger was very aware of the
lowered combat efficiency such losses impose upon a committed combat

On 21 September, after visiting Colonel Puller in his forward CP and
observing his exhausted condition, and that of his troops, Geiger
conferred in the 1st Division CP with Rupertus and some of his staff.
Rupertus was still not willing to admit that his division needed
reinforcement, but Geiger overruled him. He ordered the newly available
321st Regiment Combat Team (RCT), 81st Infantry Division, then on
Angaur, to be attached to the Marine division. Geiger further ordered
Rupertus to stand down the 1st Marines, and to send them back to
Pavuvu, the division’s rear area base in the Russell Islands.

On 21 September (D plus 5), Rupertus had ordered his 7th Marines to
relieve what was left of the 1st and 2d Battalions of the 1st Marines.
By then, the 1st Marines was reporting 1,749 casualties. It reported
killing an estimated 3,942 Japanese, the capture of 10 defended coral
ridges, the destruction of three blockhouses, 22 pillboxes, 13 antitank
guns, and 144 defended caves.

[Illustration: _Near the edge of a clearing, a Marine rifleman fires a
rifle grenade with good effect into an enemy position up ahead into the
northern, difficult portion of Peleliu._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 96106

In that fighting the assault battalions had captured much of the crest
required to deny the enemy observation and effective fire on the
airfield and logistic areas. Light aircraft had begun operating on D
plus 5 from Peleliu’s scarred, and still-under-repair airfield. With
Purple Beach in American control, the division’s logistical life-line
was assured. Although the Japanese still had some observation over the
now operating airfield and rear areas, their reduced capability was to
harass rather than to threaten.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95661

_At a conference held in the 1st Marine Division command post, Col
Harold D. “Bucky” Harris, 5th Marines commander, center, explains to
MajGen Roy S. Geiger, Commanding General, III Amphibious Corps, left,
and MajGen William H. Rupertus, commander of the division, his plan of
operations in northern Peleliu._]

Furthermore, the Marine front lines in the Umurbrogol had by now
reached close to what proved to be the final Japanese defensive
positions. Intelligence then available didn’t tell that, but the
terrain and situation suggested that the assault requirements had
been met, and that in the Umurbrogol it was time for siege tactics.
The Japanese defenders also learned that when aerial observers were
overhead, they were no longer free to run their weapons out of their
caves and fire barrages toward the beach or toward the airfield.
When they tried to get off more than a round or two, they could
count on quick counter-battery, or a much-dreaded aerial attack from
carrier-based planes, or--after 24 September--from Marine attack planes
operating from the field on Peleliu.

[Sidebar (page 20): A Paucity of Reserves

Planning for the seizure of the southern Palaus (Angaur and
Peleliu-Ngesebus) had been the responsibility of III Amphibious Corps
(Major General Roy S. Geiger). But General Geiger and his staff had
been fully occupied during the critical planning weeks, up to and
including the capture of Guam, from 21 July to 10 August. The Guam
operation ended more than a month later than originally contemplated.
Meanwhile, someone else had to fill the corps planning function for the
Palau undertaking. A temporary headquarters, X-Ray Corps, under Major
General Julian C. Smith was established. The two major tactical tasks
of the southern Palau operation were assigned to the Army 81st Infantry
Division (Angaur) and 1st Marine Division (Peleliu-Ngesebus). The 81st
Division was also tasked to set aside one RCT as corps reserve.

This partition of division level-planning effort was convenient, but it
slipped into a gross imbalance in force allocation which was neither
recognized nor corrected as plans progressed toward operations. The
1st Marine Division had nine infantry battalions with which to attack
more than 10,000 defending Japanese on Peleliu. Major General Paul
J. Mueller’s 81st Infantry Division had six infantry battalions with
which to attack 1,500 (earlier reported as 2,500) Japanese defenders
on Angaur. Terrain and circumstances on the two objective islands were
similarly imbalanced. Peleliu was considerably larger and had far
more complex terrain. Its defensive fortifications were obviously far
more developed, and it offered fewer predictable landing beaches than
Angaur. Only the subsequent rapid shifting of plans and higher-level
responsibilities can account for such force allocation imbalance not
having been corrected at Corps or Expeditionary Troops level. The
effect of all these imbalances was still further magnified between 13
and 17 September. Higher level changes in plans and naval decisions
stripped III Corps of all its reserves.

_The Early Battle in the Division Center_

On D plus 1, when the 1st Marines had launched their costly Umurbrogol
assault, the 5th Marines on its right also faced an assault situation,
but one of substantially less opposition and easier terrain. Lieutenant
Colonel Boyd’s 1/5 had to fight across the airfield, from southwest to
northeast, and through the built-up area similar to that which faced
Honsowetz’s 2/1. The battalion was subjected to observed fire from
the Umurbrogol and to small arms fire from Japanese defenders in the
rubble-filled built-up area. Boyd’s coordinated tank-infantry attack
quickly carried the day. He soon had control of that area, and the
east-west, cross-island road, which could lead the 5th toward its next
objective, the eastern peninsula of Peleliu.

On the 5th Marines’ right, 2/5 had a more difficult time. Its progress
was stubbornly opposed by infantry from the woods on its right, and
by artillery from Umurbrogol, which took a particular interest in the
tanks 2/5 was using to support its attack along the edge of the woods.
Whether the Japanese infantry in those woods had been posted to defend
that position, or whether they were just surviving Japanese infantry
from the D-Day counterattack, was never established. The fight took
all day and inflicted heavier casualties on Gayle’s battalion than had
D-Day. By dusk, 2/5 had battled beyond the north end of the airfield,
and halted for the night near the woods concealing the approaches to
the eastern peninsula.

As the two-battalion attack of the 5th Marines (D plus 1) was heavily
engaged on its front and right, the regimental headquarters near the
beach was hit by an artillery barrage which, coupled with D-Day’s
loss of 3/5’s commanding officer and executive officer, engendered a
significant rearrangement in command assignments. The early D plus
1 barrage hit the regimental CP, took out numbers of the staff, and
buried the regimental commander in the crumbling Japanese antitank
trench in which the CP was “sheltered.” Fortunately, the burial was
temporary, and Colonel Harris emerged with a twisted and battered leg,
but still able to hobble. Two of his principal staff officers were
casualties, and his sergeant major killed. Harris elected not to be
evacuated, but he needed help in the regimental CP. Ordering Lieutenant
Colonel Walt back from the 3d Battalion to the regimental CP, Harris
directed the commanding officer of 2/5 to send his executive officer,
Major John H. Gustafson, to take command of 3/5. Then Harris directed
Boyd to send his 1/5 operations officer, Major Hierome Opie, to join
3/5 as Gustafson’s executive officer.

Fortunately, 3/5 was having a relatively quiet day, unlike its
hair-raising regrouping on the night of D-Day. After daylight, as 2/5
attacked north, 3/5 stretched along the east edge of the mangrove
lagoon which separated Peleliu from the eastern peninsula. In that
position, 3/5 also tied into 3/7 as that battalion attacked south.
Thus 3/5 protected each regiment’s flank against any Japanese movement
across the intervening water, and into the rear of the attacking
battalions. No such threat developed, and as the afternoon grew on,
there emerged a more pressing employment for 3/5.

As Walt returned to his post beside the now only semi-mobile Harris,
Major Gustafson was told to get 3/5 into position to bolster and then
relieve 1/5, as it closed in on its O-2 objectives.

Throughout the next day (D plus 2), the 5th Marines kept tied in with
the 1st Marines on its left and captured some control of the foot of
the East Road. On the right, 2/5 hacked and combed its way through the
jungle and mangrove north of the airfield, alongside the road leading
toward the eastern peninsula. The thick scrub, nearly impenetrable,
reduced progress to a crawl. It compensated by concealing most of the
advancing Marines from enemy observation from high ground to 2/5’s
north and northwest.

That 5th Marines’ forward position generally coincided with the
northeast sector of the airfield earlier mentioned. Possession of that
visual boundary meant that in most places on the regimental right,
frontline Marines were spared the hostile observation and directed
fire from Umurbrogol. As with the 7th Marines, largely hidden in the
jungle of the south, this lessened the need for headlong assault. There
would now be freedom to maneuver more deliberately and to coordinate
supporting fire more carefully.

_The 7th Marines’ Complete Destruction of Enemy in the South_

In the south, from D plus 1 through D plus 3, the 7th Marines was in
vigorous assault against extensive fortifications in the rear of the
Scarlet Beaches. These were defended by a full battalion, the elite
_2d Battalion, 15th Regiment_. Although isolated and surrounded by the
Marines, this battalion demonstrated its skill and its understanding of
Colonel Nakagawa’s orders and mission: to sell Peleliu at the highest
possible price. The 7th Marines attacked with 3/7 on the left and 1/7
on the right. They enjoyed the advantage of attacking the extensive
and well-prepared defenses from the rear, and they had both heavy fire
support and the terrain for limited maneuver in their favor. Both sides
fought bitterly, but by 1530 on 18 September (D plus 3), the battle
was substantially over. The Marines had destroyed an elite Japanese
reinforced infantry battalion well positioned in a heavily fortified
stronghold. Colonel Hanneken reported to General Rupertus that the 7th
Marines’ objectives he had set for D-Day were all in hand. The naval
gunfire preparation had been significantly less than planned. The
difference had been made up by time, and by the courage, skill, and
additional casualties of the infantry companies of 1/7 and 3/7.

Now the 7th Marines, whose 2d Battalion was already in the thick of
the fight for Umurbrogol, was about to move out of its own successful
battle area and into a costly assault which, by this time, might have
been more economically conducted as a siege.

_Maneuver and Opportunity_

As the 7th Marines moved to its mission, the 5th Marines was again
successfully opening up opportunities on Peleliu’s eastern, “lobster
claw” peninsula. Most of those opportunities, unfortunately were never

By the end of D plus 2, the 5th Marines stood at the approach to the
eastern peninsula, and astride the East Road just east of the 1st
Marines’ terrible struggle in Umurbrogol. It had fought somewhat clear
of the galling fires from Umurbrogol, and planned an assault on the
eastern peninsula across a narrow causeway, which the Japanese should
certainly defend. Then a D plus 3 reconnaissance of the causeway
revealed that the causeway was not defended. The 2d Battalion hastened
to seize the opportunity and moved across in strength. The attack was
hit by its own supporting fires. The forward battalion CP group was
strafed by Navy planes and then hit by artillery airburst, causing the
loss of 18 battalion headquarters personnel to “friendly fire.”

Nevertheless, a bridgehead across the causeway was well established
on D plus 3, and the 5th Marines’ Colonel Harris moved to exploit it.
During the afternoon, he thinned his forces holding the East Road
sector, gave the former 3/5 mission to Company L, 3/5, and gave the
remainder of 3/5 a new mission. He ordered Gustafson into a position
within the bridgehead established by 2/5, and further ordered both
battalions then to capture and clear the eastern peninsula. Earlier he
had expected such an attack to be against the strong defending forces
originally reported on the eastern peninsula. However, the apparent
reduction of defending forces now appeared to offer an opportunity to
seize Purple Beach quickly, a logistic prize of some significance.
Harris knew that the division would need to shift its logistical axis
to Purple Beach, away from the fire from Umurbrogol, and away from the
threat of westerly storms.

Before dark, Gustafson moved two of his 3/5 companies across the
causeway, and moved his own CP group in with the 2/5 CP, where the two
commanders jointly planned the next day’s advance. Hoping for little
resistance, they directed rapid movement, but armed their point units
with war dog sections to guard against ambush. Their lead companies
moved out just after dawn. In the 3/5 sector, there was an ambush,
but the war dogs warned of, and effectively thwarted, the attempted


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 96936

_A Marine war dog handler reads a note just delivered by canine
messenger, a Doberman Pinscher, one of the breeds used in the Pacific.
This Marine has a pump shotgun._]

By the end of D plus 4, the two battalions had cleared the main body
of the eastern peninsula and had reached Purple Beach from the rear.
The defenses were most impressive, but many were unmanned. Those enemy
troops encountered seemed more interested in hiding than in fighting,
leading to speculation that Nakagawa’s trained infantry had been moved
west to the fight on D-Day and/or D plus 1. By D plus 5, Purple Beach
was cleared, as were the long peninsulas southwest and northeast of
Purple Beach. On D plus 6, 2/5 seized the two islands immediately north
of the northeast peninsula, and the next day occupied the small unnamed
islet just 1,000 yards east of the northern ridges of Peleliu.

From that position, and positions elsewhere on the other islands, and
near Ngardololok, there appeared to be many opportunities to attack
by fire against the cave-infested north-south ridges of central and
northern Peleliu. Such positioning of heavy weapons would be very
difficult, but relative to the intense infantry battles underway
in Umurbrogol, such difficulties seemed acceptable. Many of the
prospective targets could have been vulnerable to direct, flat
trajectory fire across the front of U.S. units advancing north in
central Peleliu. Corps artillery units had conducted such direct fire
training before embarking for the Peleliu campaign. Such tactical
advantages and opportunities from the eastern peninsula were advocated
but never exploited. Only later, in the fighting for northern Peleliu
was the 5th Marines able to secure point-blank, heavy, single-gun fire

_Encirclement of the Umurbrogol Pocket_

With southern and eastern Peleliu captured, there now began an
encirclement of the Japanese defenders in central Peleliu, and an
attack against the Japanese defending northern Peleliu and nearby
Ngesebus and Kongauru. This was the obvious next tactical phase for
combat on Peleliu. However, securing it was less necessary for the
basic Peleliu tactical and strategic goals than for the mopping-up of
the island. As the 1st Marine Division’s Assistant Commander, Brigadier
General Oliver P. Smith, later phrased it, “by the end of the first
week, the Division had control of everything on the island that it then
needed, or later used.”

The airfield had been seized, was under repair and improvement, and in
use. It was no longer any threat, if it had ever been, to MacArthur’s
long-heralded return to the Philippines. Peleliu’s best logistical
beach (Purple) had been secured, providing a secure logistic axis to
the main battle areas. The Japanese defenders in their caves, and in
northern Peleliu and on Ngesebus, retained some capability to harass
American rear installations, but that was sharply curtailed by the
Marines’ counterfire.

Only two significant Japanese capabilities remained: they could
bitterly resist from their cave positions and they had a limited
capability to reinforce Peleliu from Babelthuap. Such reinforcement
could only be by small-unit infiltration, which faced U.S. naval
screening operations in the area. Likewise, American encirclement of
the stubborn Umurbrogol Pocket faced two obstacles. First was the lack
of additional maneuver regiments from III Amphibious Corps’ reserve.
General Geiger in fact had no corps reserve pending the release of some
units from the forces involved in the seizure of Angaur. That landing
by the 81st Infantry Division (less the 323d RCT) had been launched on
17 September, after which there was no corps reserve.

The operation on Angaur, the planning which attended it and the
decision on its timing, impacted heavily upon the Peleliu operation.
The naval planners early on proposed landing on Angaur before Peleliu.
Only when Major General Julian C. Smith, commanding Expeditionary
Troops/X-Ray Planning Group, explained that such timing would invite
the numerous Japanese in northern Palau to reinforce Peleliu was
it agreed that Angaur be assaulted only after the Peleliu landing
was assured of success. However, the Angaur landing was initiated
before the Peleliu landing had been clearly resolved. The commanding
general of the 81st Division wanted to land as soon as possible, and
he was supported in his view by his naval task unit commander, Rear
Admiral William H. P. Blandy. Opposing the 17 September date for the
Angaur landing was Marine Major General Julian Smith. Smith argued
that committing the element of III Corps Reserve before the Peleliu
operation was more fully developed would be premature. His advice was
ignored by Vice Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson.

A related decision on 17 September committed the III Corps’ final
reserve to the Ulithi landing. The task was assigned to the Western
Attack Force, which was ordered to seize Ulithi with “available
resources.” Over General Smith’s advice, Wilkinson chose to commit
the entire 323d RCT, the 81st Division’s other maneuver element. The
321st subsequently and successfully occupied an undefended Ulithi while
reserves were sorely needed at Peleliu.

By 20 September, the 81st Division had defeated or cornered all
survivors of Angaur’s 1,400 defenders. The 81st’s commander declared
Angaur secure. He tasked his 322d RCT to complete the mop-up, and
reported to General Geiger that the 321st RCT was available for further
operations. The lack of enough troops to begin encircling Umurbrogol
was no longer an obstacle.

The other obstacle to reinforcing the division on Peleliu and
encircling the Pocket lay in the thinking of General Rupertus, who
clung to a belief that his Marines could do it without help from the
Army. The III Corps plan tasked the 81st Division to reinforce the
Marines in seizing Peleliu and then to relieve the 1st Marine Division
for the mop up, but the general continued to exhort his commanders to
“hurry up.”

Earlier, General Rupertus and Colonel Puller had shrugged off a
suggestion from the 5th Marines’ “Bucky” Harris that they take a look
at the Umurbrogol Pocket from the newly available light planes of
Marine Observation Squadron 3. Harris’ own aerial reconnaissance, made
immediately after those planes arrived on 19 September, had altered
his view of the Umurbrogol from sober to grave. It convinced him that
attacking the Pocket from the north would be less costly than the
originally planned and ordered attempts from south to north. Both
Puller and Rupertus responded to Harris that they had their maps.

[Illustration: _Once the troops entered the Umurbrogol Mountain, they
found sinkholes and difficult terrain much as pictured here. Japanese
soldiers in the caves and heights above could fire at will at the
Marines, who were like so many “fish in a barrel.”_

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 108432

The prelanding scheme of maneuver was built on the tactical concept
that, after capturing the airfield, the 1st Marine Division would push
north along a line across the width of the main or western part of the
island. Once abreast of the southern edge of Umurbrogol, that concept
and maneuver scheme were reflected in a series of four west-to-east
phase lines, indicating an expected linear advance, south to north.
Clearly, it was expected that the advance along the flatter zones
west and east of Umurbrogol would be at approximately the same pace
as that along the high-central ground of Peleliu. Such thinking may
have been consistent with Rupertus’ prediction of a three-day assault.
Developments in Sabol’s sector to the west, and in the 5th Marines’
sector to the east, apparently did not change division-level thinking.
Until additional forces became available, such a linear advance may
have seemed all that was possible.

Even so, there was no apparent reexamination of the planned
south-to-north linear advance, and for days after the Pocket was sealed
off at its northernmost extremity, the division commander kept ordering
attacks from south to north, generally following the initial landing
plan. As had been revealed to “Bucky” Harris in his early aerial
reconnaissance of the Umurbrogol Pocket, such attacks would offer
little but casualties. Troops, heavily supported, could advance into
“the Horseshoe” and into “Death Valley,” but the positions they reached
then proved untenable and withdrawal was usual at day’s end.

Some part of this thinking may have well come from the inadequacies
of the map in use. The 5th Marines in early October produced a new
and more representative sketch map. It located and identified the
details within Umurbrogol sufficiently to facilitate maneuver and fire

That mapping effort, incidentally, led to the misnaming of Honsowetz’
Hill 100, where Captain Everett P. Pope earned his Medal of Honor.
The 5th’s mapping team, launched after Harris’ regiment was committed
against the Pocket, encountered Lieutenant Colonel Walt, the regimental
executive officer, on Hill 100 during their sketching, and so named the

Even after General Geiger had ordered General Rupertus on 21 September
to stand down Puller’s shattered 1st Marines, General Rupertus
expressed the belief that his Marines, alone, would shortly clear the
entire island. After taking a closer look at the situation on the
ground, Geiger ordered RCT 321 from Angaur and attached it to the
Marine division. Encirclement of the Umurbrogol Pocket now became
tactically feasible.

Capture of northern Peleliu and Ngesebus became more pressing with the
discovery on 23 September that some part of the enemy’s substantial
troop strength in the northern Palaus was being infiltrated by barge
from Koror and Babelthuap into northern Peleliu.

Although the naval patrol set to protect against just that reinforcing
action had discovered and destroyed some of the Japanese barges, most
enemy troops seemed to have waded ashore on the early morning of 23
September. Colonel Nakagawa suddenly had reinforcements in the form of
a partially mauled infantry battalion in northern Peleliu.

_Encirclement of Umurbrogol and Seizure of Northern Peleliu_

A plan to encircle the Pocket, and deny reinforcement to northern
Peleliu was immediately formulated. General Rupertus’ staff was closely
attended by selected III Corps staff officers, and General Geiger also
was present.

The plan called for two regiments to move up the West Road, the Army
321st Infantry leading in the attack, and the 5th Marines following.
The Marines were to pass through the Army unit after it had gone beyond
the Pocket on its right, and the 5th would continue then to take
northern Peleliu and Ngesebus.

[Illustration: COMMITMENT OF

RCT 321, 24 SEPT.]

The 321st RCT, by now battle tested, was tasked to push up the West
Road, alongside and just atop the western edge of coral uplift which
marked the topographical boundary between the flat western plain, and
the uplifted coral “plateau.” That plateau, about 300 yards west to
east, constituted the western shoulder of the Pocket. The plateau rose
some 30-80 feet above the West Road. Its western edge, or “cliff,” was
a jumble of knobs and small ridges which dominated the West Road, and
would have to be seized and cleared to permit unharrassed use of the

Once the 321st RCT was past this up-lift, and the Pocket which it
bounded, it was to probe east in search of any routes east through
the 600 yards necessary to reach the eastern edge of that portion of
Peleliu. Any opportunities in that direction were to be exploited to
encircle the Pocket on the north.

Behind the 321st RCT, the 5th Marines followed, pressed through, and
attacked into northern Peleliu. Hanneken’s 7th Marines relieved the
1st, which was standing down to the eastern peninsula, also relieving
the 5th Marines of their then-passive security role. The 5th was then
tasked to capture northern Peleliu, and to seize Ngesebus-Kongauru.

This maneuver would involve the use of the West Road, first as a
tactical route north, then as the line of communications for continued
operations to the north. The road was comparatively “open” for a
distance about halfway, 400 yards, to the northern limit of the Pocket,
and paralleled by the ragged “cliff” which constituted the western
shoulder of the up-lifted “plateau.” That feature was no level plateau,
but a veritable moonscape of coral knobs, karst, and sinkholes. It had
no defined ridges or pattern. The sinkholes varied from room-size to
house-size, 10 to 30 feet in depth, and jungle- and vine-covered. The
“plateau” was generally 30 to 100 feet above the plain of the road.
Some 200-300 yards further to the east, it dropped precipitiously off
into a sheer cliff, called the China Wall by those Marines who looked
up to it from the southern and eastern approaches to the Pocket. To
them, that wall was the western edge of the Pocket and the coral
“plateau” was a virtually impassable shoulder of the Pocket.


26, 27 SEPT]

The plateau was totally impenetrable by vehicles. The coral sinkholes
and uplifted knobs forced any infantry moving through to crawl, climb,
or clamber down into successive small terrain compartments of rough and
jagged surfaces. Evacuating any casualties would involve unavoidable
rough handling of stretchers and their wounded passengers. The area
was occupied and defended by scattered small units and individuals who
did not sally forth, and who bitterly resisted movement into their
moonscape. When Americans moved along the West Road, these Japanese
ignored individuals, took under fire only groups or individuals which
appeared to them to be rich targets.

The only tactical option along the West Road was to seize and hold
the coral spires and cliffs commanding the road, and to defend such
positions against infiltrators. Once those heights were seized, troop
units and trucks could move along West Road. Until seized, the “cliff”
offered concealment and some cover to occupying Japanese. Until those
cliff positions were seized and held, the Japanese therein could be
only temporarily silenced by heavy firepower. Until they were driven
from their commanding positions, the road could not be treated as truly

Those terrain conditions existed for three-quarters of a mile along
the West Road. There, abreast the north end of the Pocket, the plateau
of coral sinkholes merged into a more systematic group of limestone
ridges. These ridges trended slightly northeast, broadening the coastal
strip to an east-west width of 200 to 400 yards.

Into that milieu, the 321st RCT was launched on 23 September, behind an
hour-long intensive naval gunfire and artillery preparation against the
high ground commanding the West Road. The initial Army reconnaissance
patrols moved generally west of the road, somewhat screened from any
Japanese still on the “cliff” just east of the road by vegetation and
small terrain features. These tactics worked until larger units of
the 2d Battalion, 321st, moved out astride the West Road. Then they
experienced galling fire from the heights above the road.

The 321st’s 2d Battalion had relieved 3d Battalion, 1st Marines, along
an east-west line across the road, and up onto the heights just above
the road. Near that point, the 1st Marines had been tied into the
forward left flank of 3d Battalion, 7th Marines. The orders for the
advance called for 3/7 to follow behind the elements of 2/321, along
the high ground as the soldiers seized the succeeding west edge of the
cliff and advanced northward. However, the advanced elements along the
ridge were immediately out-paced by the other 2/321 elements in the
flat to their west. Instead of fighting north to seize the ridge, units
responsible for that cliff abandoned it, side-stepping down to the
road. They then advanced along the road, and soon reported that 3/7 was
not keeping contact along the high ground.


    Caption and photo by Phillip D. Orr

_Discovered during a trip to Peleliu in 1994 was this 1,000-man cave,
littered with empty sake bottles, deep in the tunnels in the Amiangal
Mountain in north Peleliu._]

On orders from Colonel Hanneken, the 7th Marines’ commanding officer,
3/7 then captured the high ground which 2/321 had abandoned, but at
a cost which did little for inter-service relations. Thereafter, 3/7
was gradually further committed along the ridge within the 321st zone
of action. This of course stretched 3/7, which still had to maintain
contact on its right in the 7th Marines’ zone, generally facing the
southern shoulders of the Umurbrogol Pocket. Further north, as the
321st pressed on, it was able to regain some of the heights above its
axis of advance, and thereafter held onto them.

Abreast the northern end of Umurbrogol Pocket, where the sinkhole
terrain blended into more regular ridgelines, the 321st captured
parts of a key feature, Hill 100. Together with an adjacent hill just
east of East Road, and designated Hill B, that position constituted
the northern cap of the Umurbrogol Pocket. Seizing Hill B, and
consolidating the partial hold on Hill 100 would occupy the 321st for
the next three days.

As the regiment probed this eastern path across the north end of
Umurbrogol, it also pushed patrols north up the West Road. In the
vicinity of the buildings designated “Radio Station,” it reached a
promising road junction. It was in fact the junction of West and
East Roads. Colonel Robert F. Dark, commanding officer of RCT 321,
determined to exploit that route, back south, to add a new direction
to his attack upon Hill 100/Hill B. He organized a mobile task force
heavy in armor and flamethrowers, designated Task Force Neal, named
for Captain George C. Neal. He sent it circling southeast and south to
join 2/321’s efforts at the Hill 100/Hill B scene. Below that battle,
the 7th Marines continued pressure on the south and east fronts of the
Pocket, but still attacking south to north.

As those efforts were underway, the 5th Marines was ordered into the
developing campaign for northern Peleliu. Now relieved by the 1st
Marines of its passive security mission on the eastern peninsula and
its nearby three small islands, the 5th moved over the West Road to
side-step the 321st action and seize northern Peleliu. Having received
the division order at 1100, the 5th motored, marched, and waded (off
the northeastern islets) to and along the West Road. By 1300, its 1st
Battalion was passing through the 321st lines at Garekoru, moving to
attack the radio station installations discovered by 321st patrols the
previous afternoon.

In this area, the 5th Marines found flat ground, some open and some
covered with palm trees. The ground was broken by the familiar
limestone ridges, but with the critical tactical difference that
most of the ridges stood alone. Attackers were not always exposed to
flanking fires from mutually supporting defenses in adjacent and/or
parallel ridges, as in the Umurbrogol. The Japanese had prepared
the northern ridges for defense as thoroughly as they had done in
the Umurbrogol, with extensive tunnels and concealed gun positions.
However, the positions could be attacked individually with deliberate
tank, flamethrower, and demolition tactics. Further, it developed that
the defenders were not all trained infantrymen; many were from naval
construction units.

On the U.S. side of the fight, a weighty command factor shaped the
campaign into northern Peleliu. Colonel Harold D. “Bucky” Harris was
determined to develop all available firepower fully before sending his
infantry into assault. His aerial reconnaissance earlier had acquainted
him with an understanding of the terrain. This knowledge strengthened
his resolve to continue using all available firepower and employing
deliberate tactics as he pursued his regiment’s assigned missions.

On the afternoon of 25 September, 1/5 seized the Radio Station complex,
and the near portion of a hill commanding it. When 3/5 arrived, it was
directed to seize the next high ground to the east of 1/5’s position.
Then when 2/5 closed, it tied in to the right of 3/5’s position, and
extended the regimental line back to the beach. This effectively
broke contact with the 321st operations to the south, but fulfilled
Colonel Harris’ plans to advance north as rapidly as possible, without
over-extending his lines. By suddenly establishing this regimental
“beachhead,” the 5th Marines had surprised the defenders with strong
forces challenging the cave defenses, and in position to engage them
fully on the next day.




The following day, 26 September, as the 321st launched its
three-pronged attack against Hill 100/Hill B (northern cap of the
Umurbrogol Pocket) and the 5th Marines attacked four hills running
east to west across Peleliu, dubbed Hills 1, 2, 3, and Radar Hill in
Hill Row. The row was perpendicular to and south of the last northern
ridge, Amiangal Mountain. These hills and the ridge were defended by
some 1,500 infantry, artillerymen, naval engineers, and the shot-up
reinforcing infantry battalion which landed the night of 23 September,
in caves and interconnected tunnels within the ridge and the hills. As
the fight for Hill Row developed, Colonel Harris had his 2d Battalion
side-step west of Hill Row and begin an attack on the Amiangal ridge to
the north. Before dark, the 2d Battalion had taken the southern end
and crest of the ridge, but was under severe fire from cave positions
in the central and northwestern slopes of the ridge.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95375

_Marines using rifle grenades, hand grenades, and “Molotov cocktails”
battle Japanese holed up in caves in northern Peleliu. Note the torch
in the foreground which was used to ignite the “cocktails” and the
flaming bottle of gas ready to be thrown._]

What was not yet appreciated was that the Marines were confronting
the most comprehensive set of caves and tunnels on Peleliu. They
were trying to invade the home (and defensive position) of a
long-established naval construction unit most of whose members were
better miners than infantrymen. As dark fell, the 2d Battalion cut
itself loose from the units to its south, and formed a small battalion
beachhead for the night.

[Illustration: _During the night of 27 September, one of the weapons
from the 8th 155mm Gun Battalion was moved into position in 2/5’s
sector about 180 yards from Amiangal Ridge._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95941

The next morning, as the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, tried to move along
the route leading to the northern nose of Amiangal Ridge, it ran into
a wide and deep antitank ditch which denied the attacking infantry
the close tank support they had so successfully used earlier. At this
point, the 5th Marines command asked, again, for point-blank artillery.

This time, division headquarters responded favorably. During the night
of 27 September Major George V. Hanna’s 8th 155mm Gun Battalion moved
one of its pieces into position in 2/5’s sector. The gun was about 180
yards from the face of Amiangal Ridge. The sight of that threat at dawn
elicited enemy machine-gun fire which inflicted some casualties upon
the artillerymen. This fire was quickly suppressed by Marine infantry
fire, and then by the 155mm gun itself. Throughout the morning, the
heavy 155mm fire played across the face of Amiangal Ridge, destroying
or closing all identified caves on the west face, except for one. That
latter was a tunnel mouth, down at ground level and on the northwestern
base of the hill. It was too close to friendly lines to permit the gun
to take it under fire. But by then, tanks had neutralized the tunnel
mouth, and a tank bulldozer filled in a portion of the antitank ditch.
This allowed 2/5’s tank-infantry teams to close on the tunnel mouth, to
blast and bulldoze it closed, and to press on around the northern nose
of Amiangal. Simultaneously, Marines swept over the slopes above the
tunnel and “seized” the crest of the small mountain.

The term seizure is qualified, for although 2/5 held the outside of the
hill, the stubborn Japanese defenders still held the inside. A maze of
interconnected tunnels extended throughout the length and breadth of
the Amiangal Ridge. From time to time the Japanese inside the mountain
would blast open a previously closed cave or tunnel mouth, and sortie
to challenge the Marines. Notwithstanding their surprise effect, these
counterattacks provided a rare and welcome opportunity for the Marines
actually to see their enemy in daylight. Such tactics were inconsistent
with the general Japanese strategy for Peleliu, and somewhat shortened
the fight for the northern end of the island.

As that fighting progressed, the 5th Marines assembled its 3d
Battalion, supporting tanks, amphibian tractors, and the entire panoply
of naval gunfire, and air support to launch a shore-to-shore operation
to seize Ngesebus and Kongauru, 600 yards north of Peleliu, on 28

There followed an operation which was “made to look easy” but which in
fact involved a single, reinforced (but depleted) battalion against
some 500 prepared and entrenched Japanese infantry. For some 35 hours,
the battalion conducted the most cost-effective single battalion
operation of the entire Peleliu campaign.

[Illustration: SECURING THE NORTH]

Much of the credit for such effectiveness was due to supporting
aviation. VMF-114, under Major Robert F. “Cowboy” Stout, had landed
on Peleliu’s air strip just three days prior to this landing, and
immediately undertook its primary service mission: supporting Marine
ground operations. The Ngesebus landing was the first in the Pacific
War for which the entire air support of a landing was provided by
Marine aviation. As the LVTs entered the water from Peleliu’s shore,
the naval gunfire prematurely lifted to the alarm of the assault
troops. Stout’s pilots immediately recognized the situation, resumed
their strafing of Ngesebus until the LVTs were within 30 yards of the
beach. They flew so low that the watching Marines “expected some of
them to shoot each other down by their ricochets.” This action so kept
the Japanese defenders down that the Marines in the leading waves were
upon them before they recovered from the shock of the strafing planes.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 95931

_The crews of amphibian tractors board a severely damaged Japanese
landing craft which was intercepted by U.S. naval patrols when it
carried troops attempting to infiltrate northern Peleliu and reinforce
Ngesebus Island off northwest Peleliu._]

[Illustration: _A western-looking aerial view of the northern end of
Peleliu showing Peleliu village and the Amiangal Mountain. Ngesebus
Island is in the upper right. Veterans of Peleliu will be amazed to
note how fully the island has been recaptured by vegetation._

    Caption and Photo by Phillip D. Orr

The 3d Battalion got ashore with no casualties. Thus enabled to knock
out all the Japanese in beach defenses immediately, it turned its
attention to the cave positions in the ridges and blockhouses. The
ridges here, as with those on northern Peleliu, stood individually,
not as part of complex ridge systems. This denied their defenders
opportunities for a mutual defense between cave positions. The
attacking companies of 3/5 could use supporting tanks and concentrate
all fire means upon each defensive system, without being taken under
fire from their flanks and rear. By nightfall on 28 September, 3/5 had
overrun most of the opposition. On 29 September, there was a day of
mopping up before Ngesebus was declared secure at 1500. As planned, the
island was turned over to 2/321, and 3/5 was moved to division reserve
in the Ngardololok area.

Seizure of Ngesebus by one depleted infantry battalion gave a
dramatic illustration of an enduring principle of war: the effective
concentration of means. To support that battalion, General Rupertus
concentrated the bulk of all his available firepower: a battleship;
two cruisers; most of the divisional and corps artillery; virtually
all of the division’s remaining armor; armored amphibian tractors; all
troop-carrying amphibian tractors; and all Marine aviation on Peleliu.


    Caption and photo by Phillip D. Orr

_Possibly one of the best preserved specimens of its kind in the
Pacific this Model 10 120mm dual-purpose antiaircraft and coastal
defense gun is on the western shore of Ngesebus. The gun rests on its
skid plate and was sited in a natural position._]

Such concentrated support enabled the heavily depleted 3d Battalion,
5th Marines, to quickly seize Ngesebus, destroying 463 of Colonel
Nakagawa’s battle-hardened and well-emplaced warriors in 36 hours, at a
cost of 48 American casualties.

Other maneuver elements on Peleliu also were attacking during those 36
hours, but at an intensity adjusted to the limited support consequent
upon General Rupertus’ all-out support of the day’s primary objective.

As 3/5 was clearing Ngesebus, the rest of the 5th Marines was fighting
the Japanese still in northeast Peleliu. After capturing Akarakoro
Point beyond Amiangal Mountain, 2/5 turned south. It swept through the
defenses east of that mountain with demolitions and flamethrowers, then
moved south toward Radar Hill, the eastern stronghold of Hill Row. That
feature was under attack from the south and west by 1/5. After two
days, the two battalions were in command of the scene, at least on the
topside of the hills. Inside there still remained stubborn Japanese
defenders who continued to resist the contest for Radar Hill, as did
the defenders within Amiangal Mountain’s extensive tunnels. All could
be silenced when the cave or tunnel mouths were blasted closed.


As these operations were in progress, the 321st at the north end of
Umurbrogol completed seizing Hills 100 and Hill B, then cleared out the
ridge (Kamilianlul Mountain) and road north from there to the area of
5th Marines operations. On 30 September the 321st relieved the 1st and
2d Battalions of the 5th Marines in northern Peleliu. That regiment
reassembled in the Ngardololok area, before it became once more
necessary to commit it to the Umurbrogol Pocket.

_The Umurbrogol Pocket: Peleliu’s Character Distilled_

In a very real sense, the Umurbrogol Pocket typified the worst features
of the post D-Day campaign for Peleliu. It provided the scene of
some of Peleliu’s worst and most costly fighting, and of some of the
campaign’s best and worst tactical judgments. Its terrain was the most
difficult and challenging on the island. Prelanding planning did not
perceive the Pocket for what it was, a complex cave and ridge fortress
suitable to a fanatic and suicidal defense. Plans for the seizure
of the area treated the Pocket’s complex terrain as oversimplified,
time-phased linear objectives to be seized concurrently with the flat
terrain abutting it to the east and west.

The southern slopes (generally called Bloody Nose) dominated the
landing beaches and airfield, over which the Pocket had to be
approached. After those heights were conquered by the heroic and costly
assaults of Puller’s 1st Marines (with Berger’s 2/7 attached), and
after the division had set in artillery which was controlled by aerial
observers overhead, the situation changed radically. The Pocket’s
defenders thereafter retained only the capability to harass and delay
the Americans, to annoy them with intermittent attacks by fire and with
night-time raids. But after D plus 4, Umurbrogol’s defenders could no
longer seriously threaten the division’s mission.

[Illustration: _This sketch shows the floor plan of the largest and
most elaborate tunnel system discovered by Marines on Peleliu. It was
prepared by Japanese naval construction troops and was so elaborate the
Americans thought it might be a phosphate mine._]

Nevertheless, after the critical enemy observation sites were seized,
General Rupertus kept urging “momentum,” as though the seizure of the
Pocket were as urgent as had been seizure of the commanding heights
guarding it from the south. The stubborn character of the terrain, and
its determined defenders, became entwined with the determined character
of the general commanding the 1st Marine Division. This admixture was
sorted out only by time and by the reluctant intercession of General
Geiger. Most of the offensive effort into the Pocket between 21 and 29
September was directed from south to north, into the mouths or up onto
the ridges of the twin box canyons which defined the Pocket. Infantry,
supported by tanks, air, and flame-throwing LVTs could penetrate the
low ground, but generally then found themselves surrounded on three
sides. Japanese positions inside the ridges of the canyons, hidden from
observation and protected in their caves, were quite capable of making
the “captured” low ground untenable. Other attacks, aimed at seizing
the heights of the eastern ridges, while initially successful, in
that small infantry units could scramble up onto the bare ridge tops,
thereafter came under fire from facing parallel ridges and caves. They
were subject to strong night counterattacks from Japanese who left
their caves under cover of darkness.

During 20 September, D plus 5, the 7th Marines had relieved the 1st
Marines along the south and southwest fronts of the Pocket, and on the
21st the 3d and 1st Battalions resumed the attack into the Pocket, from
southwest and south. These attacks achieved limited initial successes
behind heavy fire support and smoke, but succeeded only in advancing to
positions which grew untenable after the supporting fire and smoke was
lifted. Assault troops had to be withdrawn under renewed fire support
to approximately their jump-off positions. There was little to show for
the day’s valiant efforts.

Attacks the next day (22 September) against the west shoulder of
the Pocket, from the West Road, up the western box canyon (Wildcat
Bowl) and toward Higashiyama (Hill 140), all liberally supported with
firepower, again produced early advances, most of which had to be
surrendered at day’s end, as all three attacking groups came under
increasing fire from the Japanese hidden in mutually supporting cave
positions. The 7th Marines had, unbeknown to it, reached within about
100 yards of Colonel Nakagawa’s final command cave position. However,
many supporting ridges, and hilltops, would have to be reduced before a
direct attack upon that cave could have any hope of success.

The fight for Umurbrogol Pocket had devolved into a siege situation,
to be reduced only by siege tactics. But the 1st Marine Division’s
commander continued to cling to his belief that there would be a
“break-thru” against the enemy’s opposition. He insisted that continued
battalion and regimental assaults would bring victory “very shortly.”

When the 321st’s probes eastward near the northern end of the Pocket
brought them within grasp of sealing off that Pocket from the north,
they deployed two battalions (2d and 3d) facing eastward to complete
the encirclement.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 98260

_Many of the participants in the battle with a literary turn of mind
best compared the ridge areas of Peleliu with the description of
Dante’s “Inferno.” Here a flame thrower-mounted amphibian tractor spews
its deadly stream of napalm into a cave._]

This attack against Hill B, the stopper at the northern end of the
Pocket absorbed the 321st Infantry’s full attention through 26
September, as the 5th Marines was fighting in northern Peleliu. The 7th
Marines continued pressuring the Pocket from the south, and guarding it
on the west. With the 321st victory on the 26th, that unit’s mission
was expanded to press into the Pocket from the north. This it did,
while simultaneously clearing out the sporadically defended Kamilianlul
Ridge to its north. Its attack south from Hill B and adjacent ridges
made very limited progress, but permitted some consolidation of the
American hold along the north side of the Pocket, now 400 yards wide in
that zone. On 29 September, the 7th Marines was ordered to relieve the
Army unit in that northern sector.

To relieve 2/7 and 3/7 of their now largely static guard positions
along the west and southwest sectors of the Pocket, the division
stripped hundreds of non-infantry from combat support units (artillery,
engineer, pioneer), and formed them into two composite “infantillery”
units. Under 11th Marines’ Lieutenant Colonel Richard B. Evans and 5th
Marines’ Major Harold T. A. Richmond, they were assigned to maintain
the static hold in the sectors earlier held by 2/7 and 3/7. They faced
the karst plateau between the West Road and the Pocket.

The 7th Marines’ flexibility restored by this relief, its 1st and 3d
Battalions relieved the 321st units on 29 September, along the north
edge of the Pocket. Then on the 30th, they pushed south, securing
improved control of Boyd Ridge and its southern extension, variously
called Hill 100, Pope’s Ridge, or Walt Ridge. The latter dominated the
East Road, but Japanese defenders remained in caves on the west side.
The 7th Marines’ partial hold on Pope Ridge gave limited control of
East Road, and thereby stabilized the east side of the Pocket. But the
U.S. hold over the area needed improvement.

On 3 October, reinforced by the attached 3/5 (back from Ngesebus), the
7th Regiment organized a four-battalion attack. The plan called for 1/7
and 3/7 to attack from the north, against Boyd Ridge and the smaller
ridges to its west, while 2/7 would attack Pope (Walt) Ridge from the
south. The attached 3/5 was ordered to make a diversionary attack from
the south into the Horseshoe canyon and its guardian Five Sisters
on its west. This regimental attack against the Pocket committed
four infantry “battalions,” all now closer to company than battalion
strength, against the heights near the southern end of the Pocket (Five
Sisters), and the ridges at the eastern shoulder of the Pocket (Pope
and Boyd Ridges). After heavy casualties, the attack succeeded, but the
Five Sisters (four of which 3/5 scaled) were untenable, and had to be
abandoned after their seizure.

The next day, 4 October, the 7th Marines with 3/5 still attached made
one more general attack--in the south, again to seize, then give up,
positions on the Five Sisters; in the north, to try to advance and
consolidate the positions there earlier seized.

In that 4 October action, the 3d Battalion, 7th Marines’ push led to an
unexpectedly rapid advance which it pressed to get up onto Hill 120. It
was hoped that this would provide a good jump-off for the next day’s
operation against the next ridge to the west. However, Hill 120, as
with so many others in the Umurbrogol, was then under enemy crossfire
which made it completely untenable. The attacking company was withdrawn
with heavy casualties. Among these casualties was Captain James V.
“Jamo” Shanley, commanding Company L. His company was attacking
Ridge/Hill 120 when several of his men fell, wounded. Shanley dashed
forward under heavy fire, rescued two of the men and brought them to
safety behind a tank. He then rushed back to help a third, when a
mortar round landed immediately behind him, mortally wounding him. His
executive officer, Lieutenant Harold J. Collins ran out to rescue him,
only to fall by his side instantly killed by a Japanese antitank round.

For his heroism Captain Shanley was awarded a Gold Star (second) for
the Navy Cross he had earned at Cape Gloucester, New Britain. There,
his company was in the lead in seizing Hill 660, a key terrain feature
in the Borgen Bay area.

The 7th Marines had now been in the terrible Umurbrogol struggle for
two weeks. General Rupertus decided to relieve it, a course General
Geiger also suggested. Still determined to secure the Pocket with
Marines, General Rupertus turned to his only remaining Marine regiment,
the 5th.

Colonel Harris brought two firm concepts to this final effort for his
5th Marines. First, the attack would be from the north, an approach
which offered the greatest opportunity to chip off one terrain
compartment or one ridge at a time. His 1st Battalion positions
along the east side of the Pocket would be held statically, perhaps
incrementally adjusted or improved. No attacks would be launched from
the south, where the 3d Battalion was positioned in reserve.


30 SEPT-1 OCT]

Colonel Harris’ aerial reconnaissance during the first week on Peleliu
had convinced him that siege tactics would be required to clear the
multitude of mutually defended positions within Umurbrogol. As he had
earlier expressed himself in the presence of the corps and division
commanders visiting his regimental CP, Harris continued with his policy
to “be lavish with ammunition and stingy with ... men’s lives.” He
was in a strong command position to prepare support thoroughly before
ordering advances.

The 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, relieved 3d Battalion, 7th Marines in
position on 5 October, but did nothing but reconnoiter positions where
heavier firepower could come into play. Engineer dozers were brought up
to prepare paths into the north ends of the box canyons, along which
LVT flamethrowers and tanks could later operate. A light artillery
battery was emplaced along the West Road to fire point-blank into the
west-facing cliffs at the north end of the Pocket, as were weapons
carriers and tanks later. Troublesome sections of certain cliffs were
literally demolished by direct fire, and the rubble dozed into a ramp
for tanks to climb toward better firing positions. Light mortars were
used extensively to strip vegetation from areas in which firing caves
were suspected, and planes loaded with napalm-filled belly tanks were
used to bomb suspected targets just south of the key Hill 140, which
2/5 had selected as its key objective.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 97433

_Marine riflemen accompanied by tanks push forward to the inner
recesses of Horseshoe Ridge in an effort to cut off the enemy water
supply and rid it of Japanese troops once and for all. The going got no
easier as the Americans pushed forward._]

[Illustration: _Marines who fought on Pope Ridge would not recognize
it in this photograph of the southern end of the ridge looking north
showing how the vegetation took over._

    Caption and photo by Phillip D. Orr

As 2/5 picked off successive firing positions in the north, 3/5
on 7 October sent a tank sortie into the Horseshoe. This time,
the mission was not to seize and hold, but to destroy by fire all
identifiable targets on the faces of the Five Sisters, and on the
western (lower) face of Hill 100 (Pope Ridge). When all ammunition
was expended, the tanks withdrew to rearm then returned, accompanied
by LVT flame-throwing tanks and guarded by small infantry fire-teams.
Considerably more destruction was effected, a large number of Japanese
were killed in caves, and many of the Japanese heavy weapons in those
caves were silenced. Previous to this time, some single artillery
pieces firing from within the Horseshoe had occasionally harassed the
airfield. No such nuisance attacks occurred after the 7 October tank

For the next six days, the 5th Marines headquarters afforded all
available support to small, incremental advances by 2/5 from the north.
Light mortars were repeatedly used to clear all vegetation from small
objectives and routes of advance. Both tanks and artillery were used
at point-blank ranges to fire into all suspected caves or rough coral
areas. Aerial bombardment with napalm was used to clear vegetation
and, hopefully, drive some defenders further back into their caves.
All advances were very limited, aimed simply at seizing new firing
positions. Advances were made by squads or small platoons.

The last position seized, Hill 140, just north of the Five Brothers,
afforded a firing site to which a 75mm pack howitzer was wrestled in
disassembled mode, reassembled, sandbagged, and then effectively fired
from its then-commanding position. It could fire into the mouth of a
very large cave at the base of the next ridge, from which serious fire
had been received for days.

Sandbagging this piece into position posed special problems, since the
only available loose sand or dirt had to be carried from the beach, or
occasional debris slides. Nevertheless, the use of sandbags in forward
infantry positions began to be used increasingly, and the technique was
later improved and widely used when 81st Infantry Division soldiers
took over further reduction of the Pocket.


By this mode of careful advance, a number of small knobs and ridges
at the head of the two murderous box canyons were seized. Direct
fire could be laid into the west face of Walt and Boyd Ridges, whose
tops were occupied by 1/5, but those cave-filled western slopes were
protected by other caves on the opposite, parallel ridge known as Five


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 97878

_Maj Gordon D. Gayle, commander of 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, outlines
in the sand proposed enemy targets in the north for LtCol Joslyn R.
Bailey, Marine Aircraft Group 11. Looking on are Col Harold D. Harris,
5th Marines commander, center, and LtCol Lewis W. Walt, behind Gayle,
5th Marines executive officer._]

A week of such siege-like activity pushed the northern boundary of the
Pocket another 500 yards south. On 12 October, the 3d Battalion, 5th
Marines was called in to relieve 2d Battalion, 5th Marines. The relief
was seriously marred, primarily because the forward positions being
relieved were so close to the opposing enemy. The incoming troops,
including a company commander, were picked off by snipers during this
exchange, and a small group of enemy reoccupied a position earlier
subdued by frequent interdiction fires. Despite these losses and
interruptions, the relief was completed on schedule, and on 13 October,
3/5 continued the slow and deliberate wedging forward.

Directly south of Hill 140, there seemed no feasible axis for advance,
so 3/5’s axis was shifted southwest, approximately paralleling the
West Road, and into the coral badlands in front of the containing
lines manned by the composite groups guarding West Road. While the
composite groups held in place, 3/5 operated across their front, north
to south. By this means the coral badlands were cleared out for an
average (east-west) depth of 75-150 yards, along some 500 yards of the
north-south front. This terrain, earlier judged unsuitable for any
but the costliest and most difficult advance, was now traversed with
the aid of preparatory fire-scouring by napalm bombs. Major “Cowboy”
Stout’s VMF-114 pilots’ bombs fell breathtakingly close to both the
advancing 3/5 front and to the stationary composite units holding just
east of West Road.

A similar effort was then launched from the south by what was left of
Lieutenant Colonel John Gormley’s 1/7. Together, these two advances
seized and emptied about one-half of the depth of the coral badlands,
between West road and the China Wall. This clearing action allowed the
composite “infantillery” unit to advance its lines eastward and then
hold, as far as the infantry had cleared, toward the back of China Wall.

Overall, the actions of the 5th and 7th Marines in October had reduced
the Pocket to an oval some 800 yards, north to south, and 400-500
yards, east to west. According to Colonel Nakagawa’s contemporaneous
radio report back to Koror, he still had some 700 defenders within the
Pocket, of which only 80 percent were effective. In early October, some
wag had suggested that the Pocket situation be clarified by enclosing
it with barbed wire and designating it as a prisoner of war enclosure.
Spoken in bitter jest, the concept did recognize that the Pocket
no longer counted in the strategic balance, nor in completing the
effective seizure of Peleliu.

But it still weighed significantly in the mind of Major General
Rupertus, who wanted to subdue the Pocket before turning over to Major
General Mueller the 81st Division’s previously specified mopping-up
task. In point of fact, Rupertus’ successful seizure of Ngesebus and
northern Peleliu had terminated the enemy’s capability to reinforce the
now-isolated Japanese on Peleliu. Creation of that tactical situation
had effectively secured Peleliu.

Without pressing for a declaration that Peleliu had been effectively
secured, which would have formalized the completion of the 1st Marine
Division’s mission, General Geiger had for some days suggested that
in continuing his attacks into the Pocket, Rupertus relieve first
the 5th, then the 7th Marines with his largest and freshest infantry
regiment, the 321st RCT, still attached to 1st Marine Division. To all
such suggestions, General Rupertus replied that his Marines would “very
shortly” subdue the Pocket.

Two events now overtook General Rupertus’ confidence. First, the 81st
Division was made whole by the return of its 323d RCT, fresh from its
critically important seizure of Ulithi. Second, the perception that
Peleliu was effectively secured was validated by a message which so
stated from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific
Fleet/Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas. Major General Geiger
was directed to turn over command to Major General Mueller, whose 81st
Division was now directed to relieve the 1st Marine Division, to mop
up, and to garrison Peleliu, as long planned. Rear Admiral George E.
Fort, Rear Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson’s successor as commander of
operations in the Palaus, was directed to turn over that responsibility
to Vice Admiral John H. Hoover, a sub-area commander. When relieved by
the 81st Division, the 1st Marine Division would embark for return to

[Illustration: DRIVE FROM THE NORTH]

During the movement and turnover, tactical operations ashore
necessarily remained under 1st Marine Division control until the 81st
Division could move its command post from Angaur. General Mueller
established his CP near Peleliu’s Purple Beach on 20 October. The
Wildcat Division thereupon acquired “custody” of the Pocket, and
responsibility for final reduction of its determined, able, battered

Meanwhile, the relief of the 5th Marines by the 321st RCT took place
on 15 and 16 October. While that relief was in progress, Lieutenant
Colonel Gormley’s 1/7 was still engaged in the earlier-described
coral badlands action, to make possible the eastward movement of
the containing lines protecting West Road. The relief of 1/7 was
accordingly delayed until the next day. On 17 October, a full-strength
Company B, 1/323, newly arrived from Ulithi, relieved Gormley’s
surviving battalion, approximately man for man.

_Post-assault Operations in the Palaus_

When on 20 October Major General Mueller became responsible for mopping
up on Peleliu, he addressed the tactical problem as a siege situation,
and directed his troops to proceed accordingly. Over a period of nearly
six weeks, his two regiments, the 322d and 323d Infantry, plus 2/321,
did just that. They used sandbags as an assault device, carrying sand
up from the beaches and inching the filled sandbags forward to press
ever nearer to positions from which to attack by fire the Japanese
caves and dug-in strong points. They made liberal use of tanks and
flamethrowers, even improving upon the vehicle-mounted flamethrower.
They thrust a gasoline pipeline forward from a roadbound gasoline
truck, thereby enabling them, with booster pumps, to throw napalm
hundreds of feet ahead into Japanese defensive areas. Noting the
effectiveness of the 75mm pack howitzer which the Marines had wrestled
up to Hill 140, they sought and found other sites to which they moved
pack howitzers, and from which they fired point-blank into defending
caves. To support their growing need for sandbags on ridge-top
“foxholes,” their engineers strung highlines to transport sand (and
ammo and rations) up to such peaks and ridgetops.


    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 98401

_As a result of Maj Gayle’s targetting of enemy positions in the
Umurbrogol, napalm-laden Marine Corsairs lifted from Peleliu’s
airfield, and returned to the field to be rearmed, in perhaps the
shortest wheels-down bombing run of the Pacific War._]

Notwithstanding these deliberate siege tactics, the 81st troops still
faced death and maiming as they ground down the bitter and stubborn
Japanese defenses. The siege of the Umurbrogol Pocket consumed the full
efforts of 81st Division’s 322d RCT and 323d RCT, as well as 2/321,
until 27 November 1944 (D plus 73).

This prolonged siege operation was carried on within 25 miles of a
much larger force of some 25,000 Japanese soldiers in the northern
Palaus. Minor infiltrations aside, those Japanese were isolated by U.S.
Navy patrols, and by regular bombing from Marine Aircraft Group 11,
operating from Peleliu.

Difficult and costly as the American advances were, the Japanese
defenders in their underground positions had a similarly demanding and
even more discouraging situation. Water was low. Sanitation was crude
to nonexistent. Rations were short, and ammunition was even scarcer. As
time wore on, some of the Japanese, when afforded opportunity, chose
to leave their defenses and undertake futile, usually suicidal night
attacks. A very few succeeded in being captured.

Toward late November, even Major General Murai apparently came to
this point of view. Still not in command, he nevertheless proposed,
in a radio message to Lieutenant General Inoue on Koror, a _banzai_
finale for their prolonged defense. But General Inoue turned down the
proposal. By this time, Nakagawa’s only exterior communications were by
radio to Koror. As he had anticipated, all local wire communications
had been destroyed. He had issued mission orders to carry his units
through the final phase of defense.

As the tanks and infantry carefully pressed their relentless advances,
the 81st Division’s engineers pressed forward and improved the roads
and ramps leading into or toward the heart of the Japanese final
position. This facilitated the tank and flamethrower attacks to
systematically reduce each cave and position as the infantry pushed its
sandbag “foxholes” forward.

On 24 November, Colonel Nakagawa sent his final message to his superior
on Koror. He advised that he had burned the colors of the _2d Infantry
Regiment_. He said that the final 56 men had been split into 17
infiltration parties, to slip through the American positions and to
“attack the enemy everywhere.” During the night of 24-25 November,
25 Japanese, including two officers, were killed. Another soldier
was captured the following morning. His interrogation, together with
postwar records and interviews, led to his conclusion that Colonel
Nakagawa and Major General Murai died in the CP, in ritual suicide.


The final two-day advance of the 81st Division’s soldiers was truly and
literally a mopping-up operation. It was carefully conducted to search
out any holed-up opposition. By midday on 27 November, the north-moving
units, guarded on the east by other Army units, met face-to-face
with the battalion moving south, near the Japanese CP later located.
The 323d’s commander, Colonel Arthur P. Watson, reported to General
Mueller that the operation was over.

Not quite. Marine air on Peleliu continued to attack the Japanese
positions in Koror and Babelthuap, joining the patrolling Navy units in
destroying or bottling up any remaining Japanese forces in the northern
Palaus. A late casualty in that action was the indomitable Major Robert
F. “Cowboy” Stout, whose VMF-114 had delivered so much effective air
support to the ground combat on Peleliu.

[Illustration: _On 27 September 1944, the U.S. flag was raised over
Peleliu, symbolizing that the island was secured. The honor guard was
comprised of 1st Marine Division Band members. The general editor of
this pamphlet, Benis M. Frank, is eighth from the left._]

The stubborn determination of the Japanese to carry out their emperor’s
war aims was starkly symbolized by the last 33 prisoners captured on
Peleliu. In March 1947, a small Marine guard attached to a small naval
garrison on the island encountered unmistakable signs of a Japanese
military presence in a cave in the Umurbrogol. Patrolling and ambushes
produced a straggler, a Japanese seaman who told of 33 remaining
Japanese under the military command of Lieutenant Tadamichi Yamaguchi.
Although the straggler reported some dissension within the ranks of
that varied group, it seemed that a final _banzai_ attack was under

The Navy garrison commander moved all Navy personnel, and some 35
dependents, to a secure area and sent to Guam for reinforcements and a
Japanese war crimes witness, Rear Admiral Michio Sumikawa. The admiral
flew in and travelled by jeep along the roads near the suspected
cave positions. Through a loudspeaker he recited the then-existing
situation. No response. Finally, the Japanese seaman who had originally
surrendered went back to the cave armed with letters from Japanese
families and former officers from the Palaus, advising the hold-outs
of the end of the war. On 21 April 1947, the holdouts formally
surrendered. Lieutenant Yamaguchi led 26 soldiers to a position in
front of 80 battle-dressed Marines. He bowed and handed his sword to
the American naval commander on the scene.

_Was the Seizure of Peleliu Necessary? Costs vs. Benefits_

What advantages to the United States’ war effort grew from the conquest
of Peleliu? It assured absolute domination of all of the Palaus,
thereby adding, marginally, to the security of MacArthur’s right flank
as he continued westward, then northward from New Guinea into his
Philippines campaign. Within the Palaus group, it destroyed facilities
which survived Admiral Marc A. Mitscher’s devastating strike of March
1944. It insured total denial of support to the enemy from Koror’s
submarine basing facilities, incrementally decreasing the already
waning Japanese submarine capability east of the Philippines. The
United States position on Peleliu completed the neutralization of the
some 25,000 Japanese troops in northern Palau. The landing on Peleliu
did not contribute to the Regimental Landing Team (RLT) 323 unopposed
seizure of Ulithi. Admiral William F. Halsey had earlier believed that
his forces could seize Ulithi without first seizing Peleliu.

The most visible benefit of a subdued Peleliu lay in its use as a link
in the flight path and line of communications from Hawaii, and from the
Marianas, to the Philippines. The holding was a convenience, but not a

[Illustration: _With the senior officers present, division chaplains
dedicate a new cemetery created at Orange Beach 2. The 1st Division
commander, MajGen Rupertus, with a cane, is near the center and to his
right is Col Puller (1st Marines). Grouped on the extreme right are:
BGen Smith, assistant division commander; Col Harrison (11th Marines),
and Col Harris (5th Marines). Not present at this time was the 7th
Marines’ commander, Col Hanneken, whose regiment was still engaged with
the enemy._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 96989

Such judgment could be disputed, however, by the survivors of the
_Indianapolis’_ 29 July 1945 sinking. Having delivered atomic
bomb parts to Tinian shortly before, the ship was headed for the
Philippines, when it was suddenly torpedoed at night. The ship went
down in 12 minutes, and no report of the contact or the sinking was
received. The fourth day after the sinking, its 316 survivors (from
a crew of 1,196) were sighted by a Navy patrol bomber working out of
Peleliu. The sighting led directly to their rescue, and most certainly
would not have occurred, but for American occupation of Peleliu.

What did the seizure of Peleliu cost? Marine casualties numbered 6,526,
including Navy corpsmen and doctors, of whom 1,252 were killed. The
81st Division totalled 3,089 casualties, of whom 404 were killed in
action. Total U.S. troop casualties was 9,615 for Peleliu, Angaur and
Ngesebus, with 1,656 dead.

By inflicting that many casualties, the Japanese were successful in
implementing their longstanding “delay and bleed” strategy. The actions
cost them an estimated 10,900 casualties, all but a tiny fraction
killed. Just 202 prisoners of war were captured, only 19 of whom were
Japanese military (seven Army, 12 Navy). The others were laborers,
largely Korean. Among the Japanese military defenders, less than two
per thousand were captured.

The costs at Peleliu held warnings aplenty for the remaining Allied
operations to be conducted across the Pacific to Japan. Even with total
local air and naval superiority, with lavish naval gunfire and bombs,
with the dreaded napalm weaponry, and with a 4:1 troop superiority,
the seizure of Peleliu consumed one American casualty and 1,589 rounds
of heavy and light troop ammunition for each single Japanese defender
killed or driven from his prepared position. A few months later, the
attacks on Iwo Jima and Okinawa would confirm this grim calculus of war
against determined Japanese defenders, ably led, in prepared defenses.

The question of whether the Peleliu operation was necessary remains
moot, even today, some 52 years after the 1 September 1944 landing. The
heroism and exemplary conduct of the 1st Marine Division, its Marines
and Navy corpsmen, and the soldiers of the 81st Infantry Division
on that miserable island is written in the record. But there is an
enduring question of whether the capture of Peleliu was essential,
especially in view of Admiral William F. Halsey’s recommendation
through Admiral Nimitz to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 13 September
1944, two days before D-Day, that the landing be cancelled. By that
time, it was too late. And Peleliu was added to the long list of
battles in which Marines fought and suffered, and prevailed.

[Sidebar (page 46): Tom Lea’s Paintings

[Illustration: Life _Magazine artist Tom Lea accompanied Marines on

Tom Lea, the artist of the paintings which illustrate this pamphlet,
wrote of his experiences on Peleliu in _Battle Stations_, published
in 1988 by Still Point Press in Dallas. Some of the sketches from
this book were reproduced with commentary in Volume 14, Number 2 of
_Discovery_, a journal published by the University of Texas at Austin.
In this issue, James Jones, author of _From Here to Eternity_, wrote:
“Lea was one of the artists put in the field by _Life_.... Various of
his works appeared in the magazine, and up until the time he went into
Peleliu, most of them could be pretty well classified as excellently
done but high-grade propaganda. There was very little American blood,
very little tension, very little horror. Mostly, it was what could be
called the _Bravo America!_ and _This is Your Boy_ type of war art. His
almost photographic style easily lent itself to that type of work....

“But something apparently happened to Lea after going into Peleliu. The
pictures painted out of his Peleliu experience show a new approach.
There is the tension of terror in the bodies here, the distorted facial
expressions of the men under fire show it, too....

“One of the most famous, of course, is the _Two-Thousand-Yard Stare_
portrait of a young marine who has had all, or more than, he can take.
The staring eyes, the slack lips, the sleepwalker’s stance. I’ve seen
men with that look on their faces. I’ve had it on my own face. It feels
stiff, and the muscles don’t want to work right when you try to smile,
or show expression, or talk. Mercifully, you’re out of it for a while;
unmercifully, down in the center of that numbness, though, you know you
will have to come back eventually.”

  Reprinted by permission of _Discovery_, the University of Texas
  at Austin. Tom Lea’s artwork in this pamphlet is reproduced with
  the permission of the artist. The captions under each of the Lea
  paintings are the artist’s own words.

    Benis M. Frank

[Illustration: “=Counterattack=” _The phone rang. A battalion CO
reported the Japs’ infiltration and the beginning of the counterattack.
He asked what reserves were available and was told there were none.
Small arms fire ahead of us became a continuous rattle. Abruptly three
star shells burst in the sky. As soon as they died floating down,
others flared to take their place. Then the howitzers just behind us
opened up, hurling their charges over our heads, shaking the ground
with their blasts._]

[Illustration: “=Artillery Support=” _At the southern end on our side
of the field opposite the hill our artillerymen had dug holes and
carried 75mm field howitzers to the sites. As we came down to them
these batteries were firing continuously, throwing shells into the Jap
hangars and buildings at the foot of the hill, and at caves in the hill
where Jap mortar and artillery and machine-gun fire was dealing out
misery to marines._]

[Illustration: “=The Blockhouse=” _Looking up at the head of the
trail I could see the big Jap blockhouse that commanded the height.
The thing was now a great jagged lump of concrete, smoking. I saw
our lead man meet a front line detail posted by the blockhouse while
the other troops advanced down the hill with the three tanks and the
flamethrowers. Isolated Jap snipers were at work on our slope, small
groups of marines fanned out on both sides of the trail to clean them
out, while we climbed toward the blockhouse._]

[Sidebar (page 48): For Extraordinary Heroism


The Secretary of the Navy awarded the Presidential Unit Citation
to the 1st Marine Division, and its reinforcing organizations, for
“extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces at
Peleliu and Ngesebus from September 15 to 29, 1944.” In addition,
Marine Aircraft Group 11 and the 3d 155mm Howitzer Battalion were
awarded the Navy Unit Commendation. On an individual basis, 69
participants in the battle for Peleliu were decorated with the Navy
Cross, the second seniormost combat award in the Naval service.

The nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor, was presented to eight
Marines in the fight for Peleliu; five were decorated posthumously, as
indicated by (*): *Corporal Lewis K. Bausell, USMC, 1/5; Private First
Class Arthur J. Jackson, USMC, 3/7; *Private First Class Richard E.
Kraus, USMCR, 8th Amphibian Tractor Battalion; *Private First Class
John D. New, USMC, 2/7; *Private First Class Wesley Phelps, USMCR, 3/7;
Captain Everett P. Pope, USMC, 1/1; *Private First Class Charles H.
Roan, USMCR, 2/7; and First Lieutenant Carlton R. Rouh, USMCR, 1/5.


The basic source work for this pamphlet is the Marine Corps’ official
monograph, _The Assault on Peleliu_, by Maj Frank O. Hough, published
by the Government Printing Office in 1950, while LtCol Gordon D.
Gayle was serving as deputy director of Marine Corps history, and
editor of the monograph series. Other books used in this narrative
were: George W. Garand and Truman R. Strobridge, _Western Pacific
Operations_, vol IV, _History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in
World War II_ (Washington: Historical Division, HQMC, 1971); George
P. Hunt, _Coral Comes High_ (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946);
E. B. Sledge, _With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa_ (Presidio
Press, 1981); Edward S. Miller, _War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy
to Defeat Japan_ (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991); Edward
Behr, _Hirohito: Behind the Myth_ (New York: Vantage Books & Random
House, 1989); Bill D. Ross, _Peleliu: Tragic Triumph, The Untold
Story of the Pacific War’s Forgotten Battle_ (New York: Random House,
1992); James H. Hallas, _The Devil’s Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu_
(Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1944); Harry A. Gailey, _Peleliu
1944_ (Annapolis, Maryland: Nautical & Aviation Publishing Inc.,
1983); Masataka Chihaya, _Fading Victory: The Diary of Admiral Matome
Ugaki, 1941-45_ (University of Pittsburg Press, 1962); Larry L.
Woodward, _Before the First Wave: The 3rd Armored Amphibian Tractor
Battalion--Peleliu and Okinawa_ (Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower Univ.
Press, 1944); Burke Davis, _Marine: The Life of Lieutenant General
Lewis B. (Chesty) Puller, USMC (Ret)_ (Boston: Little, Brown Company,

The Oral History and Personal Papers Collections in the Marine Corps
Historical Center, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., hold a
number of interviews and diaries of participants in the Peleliu
operation. These documents from the following were particularly useful:
LtGen Oliver P. Smith; BGen Harold D. Harris; BGen Harold O. Deakin;
and LtGen Lewis J. Fields, along with numerous personal interviews with
campaign veterans--officers and enlisted men.

The author wishes to thank the Army Center of Military History for
the loan of the photographs of Tom Lea’s artwork appearing in this
pamphlet. He also wishes to thank Phillip D. Orr for permitting use of
the interesting photographs of Peleliu as it appeared in 1994.

_About the Author_


Brigadier General Gordon D. Gayle, USMC (Ret), graduated from the
U.S. Naval Academy in June 1939 and was commissioned a Marine second
lieutenant. After completing Basic School in Philadelphia in 1940,
he was assigned to the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division with which
he served in three Pacific campaigns: Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester,
and Peleliu. For his extraordinary heroism while commanding the 2d
Battalion, 5th Marines, on Peleliu, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

He returned to 1st Marine Division in the Korean war to serve first as
the executive officer of the 7th Marines, then as G-3 on the division
staff. He is a graduate of the Army’s Command and General Staff
College. In 1963-65, he chaired the Long Range Study Panel at Quantico,
developing concepts for the Corps’ operational, organizational,
logistical and R&D needs for the 1985 period. He was promoted to
brigadier general in 1964. Retiring in 1968, he joined Georgetown
University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.


THIS PAMPHLET HISTORY, one in a series devoted to U.S. Marines in
the World War II era, is published for the education and training of
Marines by the History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine
Corps, Washington, D.C., as a part of the U.S. Department of Defense
observance of the 50th anniversary of victory in that war.

Editorial costs of preparing this pamphlet have been defrayed in part
by a grant from the Marine Corps Historical Foundation and a bequest
from the estate of Emilie H. Watts, in memory of her late husband,
Thomas M. Watts, who served as a Marine and was the recipient of a
Purple Heart.


    =Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)=

    =Benis M. Frank=

    =George C. MacGillivray=

    =Robert E. Struder=, Senior Editor;
    =W. Stephen Hill=, Visual Information Specialist;
    =Catherine A. Kerns=, Composition Services Technician

    Marine Corps Historical Center
    Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
    Washington, D.C. 20374-5040


    PCN 190 003137 00


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

To make this eBook easier to read, particularly on handheld devices,
most images have been made relatively larger than in the original
pamphlet, and centered, rather than offset to one side or the other;
and some were placed a little earlier or later than in the original.
Sidebars in the original have been repositioned between chapters and
identified as “[Sidebar (page nn):”, where the page reference is to the
original location in the source book. In the Plain Text version, the
matching closing right bracket follows the last line of the Sidebar’s
text and is on a separate line to make it more noticeable. In the HTML
versions, that bracket follows the colon, and each Sidebar is displayed
within a box.

Page 2: “troops carrying LVTs” was printed that way.

Sidebar “A Paucity of Reserves”, originally on page 20: “division
level-planning” was printed with that hyphenation.

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