The Battle of Peleliu began on 16 September 1944 and lasted until 27 November of that same year. United States Marines of the First Marine Division landed on the island, which was defended by troops from the Empire of Japan. The Marines were reinforced during the battle by soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry Division.
The objective was to secure an airstrip on this small coral island which would be used in the invasion of the Philipines. As it turned out, the airfield captured on Peleliu never played an important role in subsequent operations.
USMC commander of 1st Marine Division Major General William Rupertus predicted that the island would be taken and secured within four days. Unfortunately, because of Japan’s well-crafted fortifications and stiff resistance, the battle lasted well over two months.
In the United States, this remains a controversial battle because of the island’s questionable strategic value and the incredibly high casualty rate, 2,336 Americans were killed and 8,450 were wounded in the battle. This far exceeded that of the other amphibious operations during the Pacific War. It was called the “bitterest battle of the war for the Marines” by the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
This relatively unknown battle was made famous by the HBO miniseries “The Pacific” which featured the invasion of Peleliu in three of the ten episodes.
Peleliu, Palau Islands under attack by US Navy carrier aircraft, 30 Mar 1944; note F6F Hellcat fighter in flight
Amphibious tractor coming out of LST-225, delivering the first wave of landers on Peleliu, Palau Islands, 15 Sep 1944