Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in November, 2007.
Friday, 23
Week 16: Sometimes You Eat the Bear and Sometimes the Bear
Well, it seems like some units get all the breaks. That's what PFC Eugene Sledge and the rest of the hard-pressed Marines from K-3-5 are thinking right now as they prepare to trundle across the wide-open Peleliu airfield under fire from the Japanese dug into caves and bunkers up on the Umurbrogol massif. Their buddies in the 1st and 7th Marines are having a hell of a time on liberty in the bars and bistros of wartime Melbourne, Australia. Those Division units who caught the lucky cards this week include PFC Robert Leckie and H-2-1 plus Platoon Sergeant John Basilone and his surviving machinegunners from 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Basilone doesn't know it yet, but he'll soon be among the VIPs at a Division parade ceremony during which he'll be awarded the Medal Of Honor. At the conclusion of that ceremony, he'll be sent back Stateside to help sell war bonds to the American public...at least until he can work his bolt and join up with the 5th Marine Division forming at Camp Pendleton. PFC Leckie is also blissfully unaware that he'll be among the marching Marines who pass in review at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds to honor Basilone, Platoon Sergeant Mitchell Paige, Colonel Merritt A. (Red Mike) Edson, LtCol. Lewis B. Puller and other heroes of the Guadalcanal Campaign. Modern Marines will likely be a little startled when they see the reproduction of this parade. WW II Marines who arrived in Melbourne with their dungarees literally rotting off their aching backs had no uniforms, so Major General Vendegrift and his staff borrowed khakis from the Army and green woolen battle dress jackets from the Australians to create a field expedient version of a dress uniform. The eagle, globe and anchor emblems appear on the lapels but not much else will be familiar. This sojourn in Melbourne also marks the first time the Marines wore the now-familiar Division diamond insignia as a shoulder patch. The patches were manufactured by a local company and became wildly popular with the Marines but the Division staff failed to specify how they were to be worn, so Marines just sewed them on anything and everything any way that suited their fancy. You'll see some on the left shoulder and some on the right and some with fancy stitching that would send a modern Marine First Sergeant into fits of indignation. All that is neither here nor there to Sledge and the 5th Marines who are facing heavy Japanese opposition back on Peleliu as the Palau Islands campaign continues. They survived a suicidal Japanese tank-infantry attack on the perimeter of the airfield and are scheduled to conduct a sweep up the eastern arm of Peleliu. When that mission is complete, they will return to the airfield area with orders to relieve the devastated 1st Marines in the attack on the Umurbrogol hills. We continue the liberty...and the attack. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 6:37 PM / Category:The Pacific War
Saturday, 17
Week 15: Peleliu Airfield in Sight
It's heating up on Peleliu&literally and tactically. We have recommenced combat operations in the Palau Islands campaign and 1st Marine Division outfits are pushing inland from the bloody landing beaches against stiff resistance on the left flank and scattered hard points in the center and on the right of the line. As if fanatical Japanese resistance wasn't enough to make this fight a misery, almost all of the line outfits have run out of drinking water and are suffering severely from thirst and dehydration. Temperatures have soared to triple Fahrenheit figures and in the desperate struggle to move combat power ashore, re-supplying fresh water has not been a high priority. That will change shortly as field commanders are screaming at the ships offshore to send them water so they can continue the push across the island. Amtracks and DUKW's are being pressed into service as water carriers while the assault troops pant and sweat under a blazing sun and intense enemy fire. PFC Robert Leckie and his fellow Marines from H-2-1 are in the worst situation over on the left flank and pinned down just inland from White Beach where they are being hammered by fire from the Umurbrogol massif. Their movement inland is stalled by plunging fire from caves and hard points dug into that craggy coral formation. Leckie's buddy Hoosier has been wounded and evacuated and the situation seems grim for the rest of Col. Chesty Puller's regiment as they continue to push against the critical high ground. Meanwhile to the right of the 1st Marines, PFC Eugene Sledge and his 60mm mortar squad with K-3-5 are having an easier time pushing through the scrub immediately inland from their landing site on Orange Beach. Both the 5th Marines and the 7th Marines have rolled up resistance fairly quickly and have reached the edge of Peleliu's airfield. They will hold there to rest and refresh until 1st Marines can move and consolidate the assault line. Naval gunfire and air strikes from carriers offshore are pounding away at the Umurbrogol to take the pressure off the left flank but the Japanese refuse to come out of their holes and submit themselves to destruction. This waiting game with emphasis on defeating the assaulting Marines piecemeal is a new tactic for the Japanese Army in the Pacific and it's proving both effective and costly to the 1st Marine Division. When the magic time machine cranks up next week, we'll join some units of the Division in Melbourne, Australia for a look at the wild times that occurred on R&R following the epic Guadalcanal campaign. We are all looking forward to that leap backward in time. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 8:19 PM / Category:The Pacific War
Friday, 9
Weeks 13 and 14: Redeployments, Returns and Re-fights
Much like the 1st Marine Division during World War II, we are bouncing around chasing our mission from place to place as ordered. We have packed up, done a hot-wash and re-deployed from north Queensland to Melbourne in the south of the continent. Now we are unpacking, preparing our fighting positions and ready to continue the attack. At this point we have nearly completed the Solomon Islands campaign and the brutal experience on Cape Gloucester is also at an end. We are just beginning to pick up where we left off on Peleliu. The Division is driving inland from the beaches with Colonel Chesty Puller's hard-pressed 1st Marines pinned down on the left flank while 5th Marines (Colonel Bucky Harris) and 7th Marines (Colonel H.H. Hanneken) press on toward the crucial Peleliu airfield. In the near future, PFC Eugene Sledge and his fellow mortarmen will be facing a suicidal Japanese tank attack right across the runways and into the teeth of Marine armor, which has landed behind the assaulting infantry. It's a real treat  not to mention a bit of Marine Corps karma  to be in Melbourne where the Division was sent to rest and re-fit back in 1942-43. We will recreate sequences here that depict the Division's temporary quarters at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds not to mention the prime liberty spots that all surviving veterans who experienced the Australian sojourn seem to remember so fondly. Platoon Sergeant Manila John Basilone is with us and will receive his Medal Of Honor here at a Division parade. The presentation will be made by Major General A.A. Vandegrift and should be quite a spectacle. We are staging a WW II themed Marine Corps Birthday Ball here in Melbourne with all the attendant trimmings, traditions and trappings. Just like the 1st Division Marines in Australia back in 1943, none of us have dress uniforms available so we'll starch and iron our dungarees and carry on with the ceremonies. Marines returning from combat in the Solomons were given U.S. Army khaki uniforms and Australian Army battle dress jackets to replace their rotting dungarees so the uniform for our ball seems appropriate. We will also stage some of the fighting on Iwo Jima (with Sgt. Basilone serving in the 27th Marines of the newly-formed 5th Marine Division) and all of the bloody fighting during the Okinawa campaign here in Melbourne. Happy 232nd Birthday to all Marines past and present. We are committed to recreating a portion of the proud history that is our heritage. Semper Fidelis.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 7:56 PM / Category:The Pacific War
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