Peleliu - September 1944
Peleliu island is located about 23 miles south of Koror island, in the Palau Islands. Peleliu is a reef island and only 5sq miles in size. Peleliu was also the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II - Operation Stalemate II. In two months of fighting on Peleliu, there were over 20,000 casualities. Close to 1,800 American servicemen died; of the 11,000 Japanese soldiers defending the island, only 202 were captured alive.
The Empire of Japan was now on the defense but its quest for power and resources had spread its military might throughout the vast regions of the Pacific islands and Far East. Maintaining key operational and logistical bases throughout the Pacific chain of islands was crucial to Japanese overall support for its war effort. By expanding its empire, Japan had formed a powerful defensive belt around its homeland. In order for the US to reach its strategic goal of the ultimate defeat of the Japanese, it was necessary to commence a full-scale assault throughout the Pacific to close in on the homeland.
The island hopping strategy as it became known was the only means to array US forces closer to the mainland objective. Many islands were seized throughout the central and southern Pacific area of operations in order to neutralize Japanese strongholds and gain logistical support bases to carry on with the Pacific campaign. Many analyst and historians claim certain islands seized were a terrible lost of life without any significant strategic and operational advantages to US goals at the time; the seizure of the island of Peleliu fell into this claim.
Admiral Halsey truly felt that resources and manning should have been allocated directly to the Philippines and that Peleliu and the Palau Island group should have been bypassed. The assault on Peleliu began on 15 September 1944 and the island would not be officially secure until 27 November 1944. US casualties totaled 9,740 including 1790 killed in action. The total number of Japanese casualties was 10,695, almost all being killed in action. Combat operations would last for a full 73 days until the final Japanese forces committed suicide on the northern end of the island.
Initially US commanders belived the fighting would only last four to five days. Peleliu would end up being one of the most bloodiest victories in all the Pacific war. Seizing the island of Peleliu did little to change or contribute to the ultimate defeat of the Japanese during World War II. US war planners had the opportunity to revisit their course of action but chose not to alter their original plans. Island by-pass criteria should have been more closely examined and studied. As a result, many servicemen lives were lost as the battle of Peleliu was marked as one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|