AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC -
By James Burbeck
Of all the
battles of the Pacific War that raged across half the world between 1941 and
1945, one of the least publicized in relation to its violence and impact was
arguably the amphibious invasion of the island of Peleliu in the Palau island
group. This 1944 invasion took place barely ten months after the carnage of
Tarawa, and ended up costing nearly double the casualties for the attackers and
defenders. In the process, the Japanese 14th Infantry Division was totally
destroyed and the U.S. 1st Marine Division was nearly crippled, losing over
half of its strength due to severe casualties. The U.S. 81st Army Division
which assumed responsibility for the later half of the battle suffered an
additional round of losses before completing the destruction begun as such cost
by the USMC.
"Well, sir, all I can see is dust. I doubt if
you've cleaned it out. I know they have underground oil dumps for that
airfield. We haven't seen that blow. I've been boning over those maps for weeks
and I believe they'll have pillbox stuff, fortifications like we've never seen
important characteristic of the fighting on Peleliu was not what happened, but
rather what did not happen. The Japanese Army which until this time had been
employing their own style of World War I bayonet charges, did a tactical about
face and organized defenses in depth. The island commander forbad the emotional
employment of last ditch Banzai charges. He instead utilized a strict fire
control regime which made the best possible use of their plentiful ammunition
stocks with plans to wage a defensive campaign to the last man.
Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller.
considered along with the lengthy preparation of the island and the garrison of
veteran infantry newly arrived from China, the defense of Peleliu created a
formidable tactical problem for invasion planners. Unfortunately for the U.S.
troops about to go ashore, the 1st Marine Division's relatively new commander
was possessed of an overly optimistic impression of the coming battle's
prospects. This faulty impression - pressed home despite misgivings and
recommendations of officers lower in the command chain - were to compound the
dreadful casualties suffered by the American Marines.
java maps present an overview of the general flow of battle and the sequence in
which major events took place. Due to limitations on size, time scales are
necessarily compressed and not all events can be shown. General naval and air
bombardment activity is shown on an abstract scale, and local artillery fire is
not shown at all as its massive activity would be difficult to recreate and
would prevent viewers from seeing unit movement. The island was generally
covered with Japanese units or Japanese infiltrators, and so their front lines
are not shown, only the approximate front lines of the American forces. Due to
the uncertainty and confusion of battle, even the American front lines can only
be estimated for any particular time. A well researched title on Peleliu is
Peleliu 1944 by Harry Gailey. The classic eyewitness account With the
Old Breed by E.B. Sledge is also highly recommended.