Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in January, 2008.
Friday, 25
Week 28: Pounding on Peleliu as 5th MarDiv Forms for Iwo Ji
With plenty of fanatical Japanese defenders still holding out in the ridges and caves of Peleliu's central spine, PFC Eugene Sledge and his buddies in K-3-5 are stuck in a line of coral outcroppings watching air and artillery pound the high ground to their front. It's been going on for days now with batteries from the 11th Marines and Corsairs from the newly reclaimed airfield delivering tons of high explosive on the cliffs overlooking Death Valley. It just never seems to be enough or sufficiently effective. King Company continues to be pelted by plunging fire and depleted by casualties that must be hauled down through the ankle-breaking terrain by stretcher-bearers under Japanese mortar and small arms fire all the way back to the Battalion Aid Station. Attached Navy Hospital Corpsmen are doing superlative work in combat life-saving but there's never enough of them and they are always prime sniper bait, so Sledge and some of his fellow mortarmen have been pressed into service as litter-bearers. When the call comes, as it does with numbing regularity, they fight their way forward under intense incoming barrages to pick up a wounded buddy and haul him out of harm's way. Sometimes the wounded Marine makes it to the rear but too often he doesn't live through the trek toward medical help. That has taken a psychological toll on everyone. It's only about fifty bloody yards from their lines into the cliffs but it might be miles from the look in everyone's eyes when the order comes to advance. And those orders just keep coming, an inevitable reality that's causing frustration in the ranks and a gnawing fear that no one will leave bloody Peleliu alive. Meanwhile, back at Camp Pendleton Manila John Basilone has been promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and is busy helping to form the new 5th Marine Division for combat in the Pacific. He's finally volunteered his way out of the war bond drive business, tucked away his Medal Of Honor, and joined Baker Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines as the weapons platoon sergeant. He's got a lot of first-hand combat experience to share with boot Marines and a big organizational job to do in a hurry as the division has been alerted for imminent deployment. We continue the attack out here in the South Pacific but will be taking a breather next week to welcome a group of veterans from WW II campaigns in the Pacific theater who are coming to visit some old battlefields and check what we've been doing to tell their story. It's an honor to have these gentlemen sponsored by The Greatest Generation Foundation and we look forward to meeting some of the men we are portraying. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 10:55 PM / Category:The Pacific War
Saturday, 19
Week 27: Close Range Slugfest on Peleliu
The battered 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines is in it up to their bloodshot eyeballs at this point in the fighting for control of Peleliu. With the airfield in friendly hands and Seabees repairing damage to suit squadrons of Hellcats and Corsairs flying close air support for the hard-pressed infantry, the axis of advance has shifted northward. While Chesty Puller's shattered 1st Marines have been pulled out of the line, both the 5th and 7th Marines are now grinding through a maze of caves, hard-points and bunkers in the Umurbrogol Hills. Units are attacking such infamous Japanese bastions as Walt's Ridge, The Five Sisters, Horseshoe Basin, the China Wall and Death Valley. In that last appropriately named area PFC Sledge experienced a close encounter of the nasty kind with Japanese stay-behind troops aiming to kill as many Marines as possible by ambushing them from the rear. Sledge and his fellow mortarmen were ordered to set up their weapon near what everyone thought was a burned out bunker and be ready to fire support for the advancing rifle platoons. Unfortunately, that bunker was far from empty and a major fight ensued between Japanese survivors and the mortar guys with no riflemen around to lend a hand. The bunker - like so many others Marines encountered on Peleliu - was a regular clown-car. Every time they killed one Japanese defender, two more seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Finally, Corporal Burgin, the mortar squad leader, rushed to the rear and found an M-4 Sherman tank crew willing to rumble forward and help put a few 75mm holes in that bunker. Burgin also brought up a Marine flamethrower team to seal the deal and the mortarmen were finally able to get back to work firing for the infantry. Right now, King Company is stuck in a very tight spot facing Japanese dug in deeply on an opposing ridge and a long, deadly stretch of open ground to cross before they can advance. Artillery, air and naval gunfire is being called to pound that ridge but brutal experience has taught the infantrymen that there will still be plenty of enemy alive when the orders come to advance and assault the high ground. And those orders will come. It's the nature of the beast on Peleliu. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 7:39 PM / Category:The Pacific War
Friday, 11
Week 26: Melbourne magic for some; back to war for others
Unlike the 1st MarDiv Marines we are emulating, we all enjoyed three weeks of annual leave over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Now we are back in the fight...or at least the 5th and 7th Marines are...as they continue to pound away at tenacious Japanese defenders on Peleliu. For PFC Robert Leckie and his shipmates from 1st Marines life is a little easier and a whole lot safer. They are still enjoying a post-Guadalcanal liberty binge in Melbourne, Australia where Leckie has begun a whirlwind wartime romance. In the coming weeks, the party will come to an abrupt and jarring end as Major General Rupertus replaces Major General Vandegrift as Division CG and sends the hung-over infantry outfits to the wild outback for some serious training and re-conditioning. We'll stay with Leckie and his buddies through that and right up until they leave Australia and head back for the Palau Campaign. And that campaign is in full brutal and battering swing for PFC Eugene Sledge and his Weapons Platoon buddies from K-3-5 as they assault the Umurbrogol massif in an effort to burn and blast the stubborn Japanese defenders out of their caves and bunkers. We are beginning to see significant examples of the Marine Corps' World War II "Corkscrew Tactics" in this effort. Using that methodology, infantry units pin Japanese defenders in place, blow holes in their rocky positions like popping the cork out of a wine bottle, and then use incendiary weapons to reduce the hard-points. We'll see infantrymen using innovative variations on demolitions techniques including demo on jerry-rigged poles and suspended from ropes to blast their way into the Umurbrogol defenses. We'll also see innovative uses of rifle grenades, flame-throwers, white phosphorous grenades and bazookas in this brawl. On a sad and depressing note,
K-3-5 has lost its beloved Company Commander while fighting northward on Peleliu. A Japanese sniper killed Captain Andrew A. Haldane (known as Ack Ack to his Marines) while the CO was conducting a leader's recon in Peleliu's infamous Death Valley area. With the Skipper's death and the continuing carnage they are facing, morale in King Company has plummeted. It's now up to the salty sergeants and corporals to re-motivate their Marines and continue the fight until a replacement company commander is assigned. There's still a lot of fighting to be done on Peleliu and we'll be jumping back in time soon to be with K-3-5 and
H-2-1 as they negotiate the crossing of the Peleliu airfield, described by Sledge as the most terrifying experience he had throughout the entire war. As our predecessors did in 1944, we continue the attack. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 8:06 PM / Category:The Pacific War
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