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Excerpt from the book:

Storm Landings
Epic Amphibious Battles in the Central Pacific

by Joseph H. Alexander

Copyright 1997.

From the chapter "Bloody Peleliu":

      The Palaus anchor the western edge of the Carolines, the most extensive island chain in the world, spanning thirty-three degrees of longitude just north of the equator. The Palaus themselves are an unremarkable string of islands ranging about one hundred miles from Ulithi in the north to Peleliu and Anguar in the south...

      Peleliu is barely six miles long by two miles wide and shaped like a lobster claw. The airfields — the main complex in the south and the fighter strip under construction on Ngesebus in the north — lay fully exposed in flat ground. But along the northern edge lay the badlands — a jumble of upthrust coral and limestone ridges, box canyons, natural caves, and sheer cliffs. The natives called this forbidding terrain the Umurbrogal; the Japanese named it Momoji. The Americans would call it Bloody Nose Ridge. But here was an intelligence failure. Dense scrub vegetation covered and disguised the Umurbrogal before the bombardment began. Overhead aerial photographs failed to reveal this critical topography to U.S. analysts. That's why General Geiger was so astonished on D-Day to see such dominant terrain overlooking the airfield and beaches...

      The real tragedy of Peleliu occurred during the first week, when General Rupertus and Colonel Puller believed they faced a linear defense along the perimeter of the nearest highest ground, the kind of positions they could surely penetrate with just one more offensive push. As a result, for all their undeniably bravery, the 1st Marines sustained appalling casualties and had to be relieved by a regiment of Wildcats (at Geiger's insistence) six days after the landing...

      The pace of relentless close combat exacted a heavy toll among the Americans... "It was a young man's war," said Capt. John McLaughlin, a rifle company commander in the 5th Marines. "Only a young man could fight all night, then attack all day." Here was another forecast of fighting to come on Iwo Jima and Okinawa...


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