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First Hand Account – after Peleliu

Bruce Watkins, Monty Montgomery & Steve Stasiak

Bruce Watkins (Commander), Monty Montgomery (platoon Sgt.) & Steve Stasiak (guide)

INTRODUCTION: The following is a chapter taken from “Brothers in Battle” by R. Bruce Watkins. This book was written for the benefit of his children, grandchildren, and friends who have an interest in the events of World War II as he saw them. It reflects his personal experience as a platoon leader in E CO/ 2ND Battalion/1st Marines at Peleliu. He also served as company commander of E Co on Okinawa. Bruce dedicated his book to “My Brothers, those undaunted Marines, who followed me without hesitation into the very jaws of death.” [Pictures below are some of these men.]

We don’t often hear what happens after the men fight, the following is what Bruce Watkins remembered after the battle:

Bruce Watkins

Bruce Watkins

Chapter V
PAVUVU

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Marc Jaffe

As we filed off the Tryon to our old bivouac at Pavuvu, we saw few familiar faces. There were a handful of lightly wounded casualties, but all the other living were still hospitalized. Settling into the tents that had been our home a short month ago, we were immediately struck by the empty cots with personal gear stowed below. We had returned with about 15% of our original number. That made for a lot of empty cots. Most of these cots would never see their original occupants again.

     Shortly after, I received a summons from Division headquarters. “We think we may have one of your men down here.” It was PFC Brennan and he told me he did not have a name, that the Japs had taken it from him on the second day. He was sent home to the States and I received a letter from him some time later. He had been suffering from cerebral malaria but back in a cool climate he had recovered.

    

John Kincaid

John Kincaid

In the heat of the Peleliu battle I had not accounted for two of our 17-year-old privates, but these returned to us now, unscathed. Monty told me they had bugged out in the middle of the battle. I had assumed they were wounded or killed. Although this was technically desertion under fire, the NCO’s had a great deal of understanding, taking into account their youthfulness. I saw no reason to take issue with their judgement, and these two more than proved themselves in the next battle.

     There were many signs of strain after Peleliu. Our colonel told us how coming out of the shower he met a major, a member of Battalion Staff, with a towel draped over his arm. The major asked the colonel if he really liked him. The colonel replied, “Of course.” He then removed the towel displaying a loaded 45 pistol in his hands. “I’m glad you do,” he said, “because if you didn’t, I would have to shoot you.” Our colonel made quiet arrangements and the major was shipped back to the states under guard.

Sgt. Hap Farrell

Sgt. Hap Farrell

     We took a boat over to Bonika, the main island of the Russells, where our hospital was. There we saw many of our comrades. John Kincaid was having trouble with both eyes and Joe Gayle was just getting the use of his arms back. Sam Alick was recovering well from the leg wound, but his thumb would never work the same. Another platoon sergeant, a handsome man, had half his face and jaw gone. A gunny sergeant with a shattered pelvis lay there with rods like an erector set holding his hips in place, and so it went. The good news was that Lee Height could return with us.

Lt. Lee Height

Lt. Lee Height

     Back on Pavuvu in the days that followed, we were allowed to rest and routine was at a minimum. We drifted from tent to tent checking on who had returned and always there were the empty cots. This was a most necessary rehabilitation period during wich we dealt with our shock and the loss of many friends. We were to need that rest both physically and mentally for there was much ahead of us.

In 1992 Bruce wrote “Brothers in Battle” about his experiences. The period covered stretches from December 1941 until November 1945.

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Military Humor –

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Farewell Salutes –

Edward Borschel Jr. – Panama City, FL; US Army, 187th RCT

Jack Griffiths – San Diego, CA; US Army, Korea, HQ/38/2nd Infantry Div., Major, POW, KIA

Dixie Heron – UK; RAF, WWII, ETO, 249th Squadron

Hugo Koski – Mt. Vernon, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, Quartermaster

Ira Miss Jr. – Frederick, MD; Korea, HQ/38/2nd Infantry Div., MSgt., POW, KIA

Clifford Nelson – Spanish Fort, AL; US Navy, WWII, PTO & Korea, Captain (Ret. 29 years)

Charles Owen – Greendale, WI; US Navy, WWII

Lee Ragatz Jr. – Dania, FL; US Navy, USS Midway

Jack Slaughter (103) – Muskogee, OK; US Navy, WWII, PTO, USS Welles, Silver Star

Martin Waddington – So.Hurtsville, AUS; RA Air Force # NX098714, 10th Squadron

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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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