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Historic-Footage Scenes from the Battle of Peleliu

Historical footage of the Battle for Peleliu, included in this clip, is from the National Archives and the Department of Defense.  Narration is mostly drawn from a book entitled With the Old Breed, by Eugene ("Sledgehammer") Sledge - a Marine who took part in the fighting.

Peleliu was the first battle in which E.B. Sledge - then a young Marine - had participated.  Without a basis of comparison, Sledgehammer (the future professor's nickname) thought it must have been the worst fight of the Pacific war.

Even veterans of other Pacific-island battles, like Guadalcanal, agreed that fighting on Peleliu was horrific.  Sledge relates how the experience changed his life:

None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured.  To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience.  But something in me died at Peleliu.  Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepted as faith the claim that man is basically good.  Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure war's savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.

But I also learned important things on Peleliu.  A man's ability to depend on his comrades and immediate leadership is absolutely necessary.  I'm convinced that our discipline, esprit de corps, and tough training were the ingredients that equipped me to survive the ordeal physically and mentally - given a lot of good luck, of course. 

I learned realism, too.  To defeat an enemy as tough and dedicated as the Japanese, we had to be just as tough.  We had to be just as dedicated to America as they were to their emperor.  I think this was the essence of Marine Corps doctrine in World War II, and that history vindicates this doctrine.

To this private first class, Peleliu was also a vindication of Marine Corps training, particularly of boot camp.  I speak only from a personal viewpoint and make no generalizations, but for me, in the final analysis, Peleliu was:

  • thirty days of severe, unrelenting inhuman emotional and physical stress;
  • proof that I could trust and depend completely on the Marine on each side of me and on our leadership;
  • proof that I could use my weapons and equipment efficiently under severe stress; and
  • proof that the critical factor in combat stress is duration of the combat rather than the severity.

Boot camp taught me that I was expected to excel, or try to, even under stress.  My drill instructor was a small man.  He didn't have a big mouth.  He was neither cruel nor sadistic.  He wasn't a bully.  But he was a strict disciplinarian, a total realist about our future, and an absolute perfectionist dedicated to excellence.  To him more than to my disciplined home life, a year of college ROTC before boot camp, and months of infantry training afterward I attribute my ability to have withstood the stress of Peleliu.

The Japanese were as dedicated to military excellence as the U.S. Marines.  Consequently, on Peleliu the opposing forces were like two scorpions in a bottle.  One was annihilated, the other nearly so.  Only Americans who excelled could have defeated them. (Sledge, With the Old Breed, pages 156-57.)

See, also:

Eugene ("Sledgehammer") Sledge on the Battle of Peleliu

Video:  5-Part Biography of Eugene ("Sledgehammer") Sledge

Image:  Merriell Snafu Shelton

Video:  Battle of Peleliu - Japanese Defenses

Video:  Battle of Peleliu - Marines Land on the Beaches

Video:  Battle of Peleliu - Cave and Pillbox Warfare

 


Media Credits

Historical footage, from the U.S. National Archives and Department of Defense, compiled in "The War," a 900-minutes documentary by Ken Burns.  Copyright WETA, Washington, DC and American Lives II Film Project, LLC. All rights reserved.  Clip used here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the 2007 production.  Clip online, via PBS.

Quoted passage from With the Old Breed, by E.B. Sledge, pages 156-157.

 

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"Historic-Footage Scenes from the Battle of Peleliu" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Dec 13, 2017.
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