It was officially known as "Operation Stalemate II" but the survivors still call it "The Forgotten Battle". It was one of the last big Pacific battles of World War II and one of the bloodiest. Even the names associated with the inhospitable strip of land in the Palau islands sound hostile and discordant: Bloody Nose Ridge, the Pocket, Five Sisters, Five Brothers and the China Wall. And to many Marines, it still represents, to steal a phrase from Charles Dickens, the worst of times.
The street named for the Palau island where thousands of young Marines lost their lives in the fall of 1944 runs peacefully through a Camp Lejeune housing area. Peleliu -- it rolls off the American tongue with difficulty -- is one of those places official military historians would prefer to pretend just doesn't exist. But it does and it has the ghosts to prove it.
The invasion of Peleliu began on Sept. 13, 1944, with concentrated naval bombardment of the island designed to help clear a path for the attack. D-Day, Sept. 15, started with a pre-dawn shelling, a couple of bombing runs and the launch of Amtrak's full of infantrymen. But these were no ordinary infantrymen.
Although there were a number of battle-hardened veterans aboard those Amtrak's, many of the Marines deployed at Peleliu were young, inexperienced draftees, teenagers straight out of basic training. It was upon these young, unpracticed shoulders that the burden of taking Peleliu would fall. Take it they would, but the price they paid would be heavy, every inch of that island bought and paid for in blood, both American and Japanese.
The decision to take Peleliu still confounds many historians. The strip known as the Palaus was considered operationally insignificant at that late point in the contest to control the Pacific theater. But a battle of wills between the Navy's Chester Nimitz and the Army's Douglas McArthur led to an American operational plan to proceed with the battle on Peleliu.
Tags: World war 2, WW2, world at war, peleliu, naval, amphibious, combat, empire, japan, axis, allies, pacific, Operation stalemate, phillipines, palau island, amtrak, Navy, Mcarthur, pacific theatre
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