Peleliu – Eye Witness Account

" Thousand Yard Stare" by Thomas C. Lea III

” Thousand Yard Stare” by Thomas C. Lea III

“The main cause of the 1st Marines going through the ordeal of Peleliu was the rugged and well-defended terrain of the Umurbrogol Hills.  They were honeycombed with caves and enemy strongholds.  Spearheading the grueling assault was Colonel “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Regiment.  The following are excerpts from Pvt. Russell Davis:

We went quickly into line, backing and plunging a bit in the surf like race horses in the starting gate. The control oflicers in the picket boats sighted along the line and then waved us ahead. We took off into the wake of the second Wave, but it was hard to see them when they were in the troughs of the swells.

Everyone was up and yelling but Buck and the squad leader. They crouched low; both of them were young but their faces looked old with determination and fear. When we hit the beach they would have the job to do, and we would do whatever they told us to do.

It was almost a glorious feeling, roaring in toward he beach with fear gone for the moment. We were in motion with thousands of tons of armed might at our backs; and it seemed that nothing could stop us. We were an old and tried outfit, led by men like Buck and the squad leader, who would know what to do when the time came to do it. As we rolled in on Peleliu, and before we were hit, the excitement took us and we were not afraid of anything. Some men began to chant: “Drive! Drivel!Drive!”

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I saw the amphibious tractor in front of us go up in a shellburst. For a moment I didn’t realize what I had seen. Somebody said: “Hey, I think they hit him,” in a complaining tone, as though it were against the rules to do that.

The amtrac flamed, spread gas on the water, and wallowed in a puddle of fire. Men spilled from it. The driver of our tractor screamed so loud we heard him above everything. He had seen the hit and he was very frightened.”

After Pvt. Davis landed and joined in the fight:

“Clawing and crawling up the cliff went platoons that were no more than squads and companies that were no more than large platoon.  From the base of the cliffs we could pick out each man and follow him until he got hit, went to the ground or climbed to the top.  Not many made it to the top.

As they toiled, caves, gulley’s and holes opened up the Japanese dashed out to roll grenades down on them and sometimes to lock body to body in desperate wrestling matches.  Knives and bayonets flashed on the hillside.  I saw one man straighten and lunge to kick something that attacked his legs like a mad dog.  He reached and heaved, and a Japanese soldier came end over end down the hill.  The machine-gunner yelled encouragement.”

The Attacks on the hills during the first week of battle cost Puller’s regiment 1/3 its strength.

Russell Davis wrote the book, “Marine At War”.

Thomas C. Lea III, war correspondent for “Life” magazine, author and artist of the “2000 Yard Stare” and “The Price” said about the actual Marine on Peleliu: “He left the States 31 months ago. He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases.  He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”usmc-c-peleliu-p3b

As seen from the air on D-Day, 15 September 1944, Beaches WHITE 1 and 2, on which the 1st and 3d Battalions, 1st Marines, landed. Capt George P. Hunt’s Company K, 3/1, was on the extreme left flank of the 1st Marine Division.
Department of Defense Photo (USN) 283745

References: US Army Center of Military Information; World War II Today and ibiblio.org.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes – 

Leo Adams – Brighton Bch., NY; US Army, WWII, Lt., US 5th Army

Alice Attchison – Saskatchewan, CAN; RC Woman’s Air Force, WWII

Frank Bartos – McHenry, IL; USMC, WWII, PTOth-jpg1

John Caddell – Belmont, NH; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Haggard

Clarence Day – Wanganui, NZ; RNZ Army # 446267, WWII, Engineers

Gilbert Meehan – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

William ‘Ryan’ Owens – Peoria, IL; US Navy SEAL, Yemen, KIA

Charles Rupprecht – Collierville, TN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div., Communications

Carl Stearns – Oshkosh, WI; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea, SSgt.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 2, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 74 Comments.

  1. Good ole Chesty leading the way!!! Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another reminder of how gruesome the fighting was on those Pacific islands as we rolled the very determined Japanese back to their home islands. The closer we came to Japan, the harder they fought …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A very vivid first account reading gp, an unbelievable introduction to war. These memory’s are forever etched in the minds of all old soldiers.
    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I mentored kids for years. We always enjoyed going to the movies. You may know that the GI Joe films aimed at teens depict death as heroic and bloodless. The reality, of course, is far different. I am not a fan of violence on screen, especially not for children. But I always felt the GI Joe films were dangerous. There are values work defending, even dying for. However, the sacrifice is always painful and costly. We should, I think, remember that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A child should learn to love and care for others to start off, there’s plenty of time for war later. [IMO]. I never could see war movies of any kind for children. It should never be portrayed as glorious or romanticized, that is so’Hollywood’. If a young person wishes to serve, the truth should be shown, violence, blood, [boredom at times] and pain.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This gives some inkling of a horror impossible to imagine if not actually experienced. It is a miracle that so many survivors of a series of such engagements were able to return home and to normal life as if nothing had happened. I have known such.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. All so young; they went to hell and back. We can only guess the depths of their nightmare. That portrait speaks louder than any words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree. I have no idea how any came home and were still capable of having productive lives. Lea’s other painting mentioned, “The Price” I felt was too graphic for some of our younger readers.

      Like

  7. An excellent post. It is amazing just how much these men were asked to give to achieve ultimate victory over very evil enemies. It also makes me think how easily we overuse the word “hero”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True, we do use the word hero quite often, but personally I think it’s because no generation will ever endure what this one did with going from WWI to the Great Depression and slap into WWII – yet they came out of it all and created the terrific 1950’s era of prosperity.

      Like

  8. Semper Fi, Chesty and all the nameless Marines

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  9. Can’t imagine what it was like to experience this battle. Thanks for posting this account.

    Like

  10. i freaking enjoy your military humor section!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jesus. Unimaginable. Thank-you for this excerpt. I admit to not reading a lot of books like this, but one I have read, and which reminds me a bit of this, is The Vicar of Christ by Walter Murphy, where the first one-third of the book zeroes into battles of the war in Korea.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That is a good quote from Thomas C. Lea III. Sums it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You mentioned that your father was on Peleliu but do not talk about it, did this help explain why?

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      • Yes, it does help. My brother has seen a few documentaries on it as well and had some passed along what he knew of it. Horrific is the word that comes to mind. Peleliu alone could explain a lot about my father, although I know he was in other combats as well. He had a bayonet scar from his neck down his back. I am not sure what battle that was from. I was told he was the last man in line going through somewhere and heard a noise. He moved just in time to only receive a serious injury, and was not killed. He did manage to kill his attacker. I know a number of Viet Nam vets. One said he is still not able to relax until he scans the area and knows what is around him. I am sure I would feel the same way myself had I been in their place and lived through it.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Wünsche ein schönes Weekend Gruß an dich Gislinde

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The bravery and fortitude is always baffling to me. So many people willing to sacrifice their lives for others.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. One shudders at the thought od being with the men fighting their way up the hill. Your posts remind of the great struggle battle by battle to finally accomplish victory.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. How they endured seeing all their fellow comrades blown up or injured is beyond me. Yet they continued on to fight for their lives and their country. Brave and Bold.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Beautiful art and photography.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Am reminded that Marine casualties were higher than in any other campaign of the war. I’d made two posts about this battle. (you visited them)
    I recall the devastating account in E.B. Sledge’s With the Old Breed. Appropriate to let your viewers see this part of a disc series. I could never forget the terrible cost sustained by such brave men.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for including this video about E.B. Sledge’s book. I’ve read it myself and find his descriptive writing makes each moment on Peleliu come to life. [“when you realize that you’re expendable” that is the strongest jolt of reality, isn’t it?!!] I remember your posts on the subject; you did an excellent job!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. It’s amazing what our Marines accomplish by trusting their leadership and following orders. Interesting account, as usual, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pvt. Davis’s description of the landing at Peleliu evoked such powerful images that I almost felt like I was there beside him, truly an amazing experience to suddenly be transported 73 years back in time to a war-torn place on the other side of the world. This is the purpose and the meaning of “history”, and we must never forget! Thank you Pvt. Davis, and thank you too GP, for the opportunity to time travel in a way that only the written word can provide.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I’ve seen that thousand yard stare in a couple of fellows back from Iraq. It’s one reason Houston’s Camp Hope, and so many other veteran organizations, are so important. No matter where anyone comes down on Pres. Trump, and no matter what the truth about the Yemeni raid that resulted in the death of a Navy Seal, there’s no question that the President’s trip to Delaware to honor the man was good. Or so I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. The shift from the “glorious feeling” to the horror is palpable.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. So powerful…so sad. I’m so grateful to all who fought for our country…and all who do…and will!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I love reading the first hand accounts. What they went through is not something that is easily or accurately imagined.

    Liked by 1 person

    • None of us can I suppose. Even today’s combat soldier has a whole different situation, weapons, intelligence, etc. Some have tried to explain it all to us, but we can only imagine. Kind of makes you understand why so many stayed quiet about it all.

      Like

  25. Men has fighten for their life like animals and so much of them let their life for freedom of their land.This were héros but much of them can tell it anymore.Thanks for your post and setting in the men in the picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I always resented how so many of my uncles and my dad’s friends were hard-asses. One of my greatest regrets in life is not appreciating what they went through while they were around.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Praise these mighty men and the price paid they paid for this great Country and the Republic we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Awesome article. The first I read about Peleliu was With the Old Breed which I have read about a dozen times…looks like I have new book to add to the pile now: Marine at War.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Peleliu I had never heard of until the miniseries The Pacific. This terrible campaign where so many gave their lives was so costly that the military and press enjoyed the convenience of being able to focus on achievements happening elsewhere. But their sacrifice should never be forgotten. I’m glad to think that more attention is being paid in recent years.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Comment not appearing? Just checking.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Powerful stuff indeed, GP. That image of the ‘thousand yard stare’ is haunting.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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