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INVASION OF PELELIU
AMPHIBIOUS ASSAULT IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC - 1944


 
features
Click here to view Map 1 (275k)Peleliu Map 1
flash animated battle map
Click here to view Map 2 (275k)Peleliu Map 2
flash animated battle map
Click here to view Map 3 (350k)Peleliu Map 3
flash animated battle map
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 attacker and defender. In the process, the Japanese 14th Infantry Division was totally destroyed and the U.S. 1st Marine Division was dreadfully crippled, losing over half 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 before."

Colonel Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller.
An 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 charge tactics - did a radical about face and organized a defense 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 and planned to fight to the last man.

When 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 dilemma 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 U.S. Marines.

These WTJ Flash maps present an overview of the general flow of battle and the order in which 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.
 
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