Friday, November 14, 2014

November 1944

On September 26, 1944, Daddy flew from Peleliu on a C-46 (Curtis R5C in the Marine Corps), "Little Angel" to the island of Manus.
Curtis R5C in World War II

The reason for his departure from the island remains a mystery, but one that I will continue to investigate.  We have his medical records and nothing is noted in this time frame that would indicate the need for medical evacuation.  These dates are noted in the datebook he kept so we are sure the dates and places are accurate, but just don't know what happened.  The 12th Defense Battalion was not removed from the island as a unit, but it is possible he was moved to the rear echelon.  One Peleliu veteran we talked to scoffed at this notion, saying that the Marines needed every able-bodied person on the island on September 26 so there must be another reason.

Daddy arrived back on the island November 10, 1944 on the S.S. Mintaka.

Colonel Kunio Nakagawa, commander of the Japanese forces on Peleliu, declared on November 24, "Our sword is broken and we have run out of spears". He then burnt his regimental colors and performed ritual suicide.

The island was officially declared secure on November 27, 1944 (although holdouts remained...some until 1947.)  In one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history, both the 1st Marine Division and the Army's 81st Infantry Division lost 1,508 KIA and over 6,600 wounded in 73 days.  The Japanese had changed their strategy for this battle.  They chose to abandon the tactic of attempting to stop U.S. forces at the beach. Colonel Nakagawa used the rough terrain on Peleliu to his advantage, by constructing a system of heavily fortified bunkers, caves, and underground positions all interlocked into a "honeycomb" system. The old tactic of the “banzai charge” was also discontinued as wasteful of men and ineffective. These two tactics would force the Americans into a war of attrition requiring more and more resources.  This new battle strategy would also be seen on Iwo Jima in February 1945 but on a larger scale.

Below are some photos from Peleliu September 15, 1944 through November 27, 1944.

Wounded Marines are carried from the front lines back to the beach on Peleliu, September 15, 1944.

A jeep navigates the barren battle field September 1944.

As a marine with a carbine covers the entrance, a pistol-toting officer moves up to clear out a bunker.

Explosion near the airfield after it was serviceable by U.S. forces. The airfield was in use as of September 26.

A news correspondent snapped a picture of Frank Pomeroy holding his hands in his head, right after being rescued. He had been stuck for six days in the burnt jungle alone, with rescue prospects seeming bleak. He had three machine gun bullets in his leg and a bayonet wound in his knee.

A Navy corpsman gives a wounded Marine a drink of water.

The casket of a fallen comrade, who fell in the battle for Peleliu island, is pushed into the sea by U.S. Marine honor guards during a funeral ceremony held aboard a Coast Guard manned transport ship operating in the Palau group, in September 1944.

Cemetery on Peleliu