Japanese Order of Battle, Peleliu

Sledge, E B. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1996 (Reprint).

Japanese Order of Battle, Peleliu - History

The Japanese Defenses

On the enemy's side, Lieutenant General Sadae Inoue, a fifth generation warrior of stout military reputation, commanding the 14th Infantry Division, fresh from the Kwangtung Army in China, met in Tokyo in March 1944 with Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo, who was also Minister of War. Tojo had concluded that Japan was no longer able to hold the Palaus against growing Allied naval dominance in the Western Pacific. Instead, he had decided to sell the Palaus to the United States at the highest possible cost to Americans in blood and time. He ordered Inoue to take his division to the Palaus, to take command of all Japanese forces there, and to defend the Palau Islands as long as possible, denying its use to the Americans — and killing as many as possible in the undertaking.

As his division sailed to the Palaus, Inoue flew ahead, reconnoitered his new locale by air for two days, and concluded that Peleliu (with satellite air strips on Angaur and Ngesebus) was the key to his defenses. Earlier U.S. attention to Peleliu during the Task Force 58 March strikes seemed to confirm that judgment. To defend Peleliu, Inoue immediately settled upon a commander, a mission, and a force level. Peleliu had for some time been under occupation and administrative command of a rear admiral, who had used his forces' construction resources and capability to build blockhouses and many reinforced concrete structures above ground, while improving existing caves and tunnels under Peleliu's rich concealment of overlying jungle, scrub, and vines.

" The Beach . . . My First View as I Came Around From the Ramp of our LVT We ground to a stop, after a thousand years, on the coarse coral . . . . And we ran down the ramp and came around the end of the LVT, splashing ankle-deep up the surf to the white beach. Suddenly I was completely alone. Each man drew into himself when he ran down that ramp, into that flame. Those Marines flattened in the sand on that beach were dark and huddled like wet rats in death as I threw my body down among them. Caption by the artist, Tom Lea

In these underground installations, the admiral's personnel had well survived the Task Force 58 March attacks. Above ground, planes and installations were demolished. As Task Force 58 departed, the Japanese emerged, repaired what they could, but continued to focus upon underground installations. Together with a few Korean labor troops, their numbers totaled about 7,000, most of them lacking training and leadership for infantry action.

Leadership arrived in the person of Colonel Nakagawa, with his 6,500-man 2d Infantry Regiment (Reinforced). They had long battle experience in China. They were armed with 24 75mm artillery pieces, some 13-15 light tanks, about 100 .50-cal. machine guns, 15 81mm heavy mortars, and about 30 dual-purpose antiaircraft guns. Already on the island were a large number of very heavy (141mm) mortars, naval antiaircraft guns, and rudimentary rocket launchers for sending up large, unguided naval shells. Most significant, the regiment had Colonel Nakagawa and his battle-disciplined officers and noncommissioned officers. Nakagawa had already been awarded nine medals for leadership against the Chinese and was viewed as a "comer" within his officer corps.

Immediately upon arrival, Nakagawa reconnoitered his prospective battle area from the ground and from the air. He identified the western beaches, the Marines' White and Orange Beaches, as the most probable landing sites. He immediately ordered his troops to dig in and construct beach defenses. At this time, a bureaucratic conflict arose. Vice Admiral Seiichi Itou, who was the senior officer and the senior naval officer on Peleliu, resented being subordinate to an Army officer much junior to him.

From Koror, Lieutenant General Inoue dispatched Major General Kenjiro Murai to Peleliu, to assume island command and to maintain "liaison" with Colonel Nakagawa. Murai was young, highly regarded, and, as the personal representative of Lieutenant General Inoue, was considered senior to the admiral. He left Nakagawa's operational mission firmly in Nakagawa's hands, as Inoue intended. Throughout the campaign, Nakagawa exercised operational control, and was assisted and counseled, but not commanded, by General Murai.

Nakagawa had a sound appreciation of his mission, of the situation, and of American firepower. He turned his attention to the fullest use of his principal advantage, the terrain. He so deployed and installed his forces to inflict all possible damage and casualties during the anticipated landing, and then to defend in depth for as long as possible. On Peleliu, that offered a vertical as well as a horizontal dimension to the defense.

He surveyed and registered artillery and mortar weapons over the width and depth of the reef off both eastern and western beaches, with planned heavy concentrations along the fringe of the western reef. In this he anticipated the American need to transfer follow-on waves from landing craft to the reef-crossing amphibian vehicles. He registered weapons on, and immediately inland from, the water's edge, to subject landing troops to a hail of fire. Off-shore he laid 500 wire-controlled "mines:'

Colonel Nakagawa directed construction of beach obstacles, using rails and logs, and ordered anti-tank ditches dug. He emplaced troops in machine gun and mortar pits along, and inland from, the beaches, augmented by all the available barbed wire. On the north and south flanks of the beach, he constructed concrete emplacements to shelter and conceal antitank and anti-boat artillery sited to enfilade the expected waves of landing craft.

Inland, he incorporated the already-built blockhouse and adjacent reinforced buildings into mutually supporting defensive complexes, with interconnecting communication lines and trenches.

Although believing the western beaches to be the most probable route of attack, he did not leave the southern (Scarlet) and eastern (Purple) beaches undefended. He committed one battalion to organize defenses in each area. The Purple Beaches were thoroughly organized, with contingent orders to the defenders to move into central Peleliu if the battle developed from the west, as expected. But the battalion committed to the south, Scarlet Beach, had orders to defend those stronger, more permanent emplacements to the end. Nakagawa assigned about 500 infantry and artillery to defend Ngesebus and about 1,000 naval personnel to defend northern Peleliu. Not under his command were the 1,500 defenders of Angaur.

" The Price " Lying there in terror looking longingly up the slope to better cover, I saw a wounded man near me staggering in the direction of the LVTs. His face was half bloody pulp and the mangled shreds of what was left of an arm hung down like a stick, as he bent over in his stumbling, shock-crazy walk. The half of his face that was still human had the most terrifying look of abject patience I have ever seen. He fell behind me, in a red puddle on the white sand." Caption by the artist, Tom Lea

The major part of his force and effort was committed to the 500 caves, tunnels, and firing embrasures in the coral ridges of central Peleliu. The naval units' extensive earlier tunneling into the limestone ridges rendered occupants largely immune to general bombardments. Only lucky hits into the mouths of caves, or point-blank direct fire could damage the hidden defenses and their troops. The tunnels were designed for, or adapted to, various purposes: barracks, command centers, hospitals, storage and ammunition magazines, cooking areas complete with fresh water springs and seepage basins, and of course firing embrasures with elaborate concealment and protective devices, including a few sliding steel doors. Colonel Nakagawa expected very heavy prelanding bombardments. He expected his troops to survive them, and then to carry out his mission of delaying and bleeding the Americans.

On Koror, Lieutenant General Inoue was busy with the bulk of his forces, preparing for expected attacks against Babelthuap. The Allied "Stalemate" plan had indeed called for invasion of Babelthuap. As the anticipated invasion drew near, Inoue issued a proclamation to his troops, clearly reflecting Tojo's instructions to delay and bleed. He pointed out the necessities to anticipate and endure the naval bombardment and to use the terrain to inflict casualties on the attackers. Without actually ordering troops to die, he included the words, "we are ready to die honorably." He went on to say that dying, and losing the territory to the enemy, might contribute to the opening of a new phase of the war.

Japanese Order of Battle

We present here the Japanese order of battle from 7 December 1941 on. Units that deployed as part of a higher echelon (such as regiments assigned to divisions) are not listed separately. Also, units redesignated from other units are not included. The intent is to give a reasonable reinforcement schedule for war games.

Tabulated information

Unit . This is the name of the unit.

Commander . This is the commander of the unit at the time of its activation. For units already active when war broke out, it is the commander of the unit on 7 December 1941. In general, we do not display commanders below flag or general rank. Ships showing a commander are the flagship of that commander.

Start . This gives the date and location of the unit's activation. For units already active when war broke out, only the location is given (at 8:00 AM on 7 December 1941, Hawaii time). If no location is given, a unit should be assumed to be at the same location as its operational headquarters (or administrative headquarters if no operational assignment is given.) Naval headquarters are located on the flagship of their commander unless otherwise specified.

Administrative Assignment . The administrative assignments in this table represent the formal organizational structure. The initial order of battle is sorted by administrative assignment, such that every unit appears after the unit to which it is administratively assigned.

Operational Assignment. The operational assignment, if one is given, represents temporary attachment to another unit for a single operation. For example, 16 Division was administratively a part of 14 Army when war broke out, but at that moment it was preparing to embark with (and came under the operational control of) Lamon Bay Force .

Notes. Miscellaneous information about a unit, such as its manpower and equipment, where it was raised, what its initial orders were, what its subunits were, and how well it performed in battle.

Organization of the tables

The order of battle tables are laid out for maximum readability by software tools while retaining some semblance of human readability. Because the complete orders of battle for the major powers are many megabytes in length, we have broken the tables up into individual sections of less than 400K to avoid difficulties with older Web browsers.

In addition to the displayed text and associated links, each unit has an HTML anchor with a unique identifier based on the unit name. For example, the entry for 14 Army includes the anchor 14_Army, which appears immediately before the unit name in the table. These anchors are used to cross-reference the tables but may also be of use to software tools scanning the tables.

We are considering offering the complete orders of battle as SQL files or as C++ code. Users of the Encyclopedia who desire these or other formats may write to [email protected] and make their desires know.

The order of battle


The air and ground replacement schedule is difficult to work out for any power. The replacement model for the influential Pacific War (Victory Games 1985) called for an initial pool of 100 replacement battalions and subsequent accumulation of 10 replacement battalions per month, with the replacement accumulation rate reduced in proportion to the loss of oil fields or destruction of Japanese industry by strategic bombing. These replacements could be applied to any land unit, and there were rules for using cadre and replacements to create new regiments.

The actual data on Japanese military induction are as follows (Drea 2009):

Induction of military manpower (thousands)

A Examined
A Inducted
B Examined
B Inducted

It can be seen that, as the war progressed, fewer of the more desirable recruits were exempted from service or rejected for medical reasons, and more of the less desirable were called up. It can be seen that the numbers in the combat categories (A and B) averaged about 600,000 per year or 50,000 per month, so the figure of ten replacement battalions per month is on the stingy side. On the other hand, even the Japanese Army had a significant division slice, so the numbers may not be entirely unreasonable.

Japan trained about 46,000 pilots during the war. The Pacific War model for air reinforcements and replacements did not distinguish the two, nor did it distinguish services or aircraft type. A single pool of air replacement/reinforcement squadrons was built up, starting in January 1941, at the rates shown in the table below. A training model was implemented by having these replacement squadrons enter the pool initially untrained. Replacement squadrons with over two years' training were considered fully trained those with over a year's training were considered moderately well-trained and those with over three month's training were considered poorly trained. Replacement squadrons with less than three months' training were usable only as kamikazes . Training ceased when a squadron was deployed for combat, but there were mechanisms for improving the training level of deployed squadrons if they performed well in combat. The replacement model also had provisions for improving the experience level of replacement squadrons by sacrificing fully trained squadrons to serve as flight leaders. As with the ground replacement model, there were provisions for reducing the rate at which squadrons entered training if Japan lost control of oil fields or suffered damage to industry. While crude, this model nicely captured the effects of attrition on the pilot skills of Japanese air squadrons, as well as the effects of the submarine blockade on training schedules.

Note that this air replacement/reinforcement schedule assumes that availability of pilots is more crucial than availability of aircraft. This was largely the case during the war.

When the marines landed they were caught in crossfire when the Japanese were guarding their positions. The marines were all of a sudden facing heavy fire with Colonel Puller luckily evading death. The 5th Marines made great progress on the first day. They moved towards the airfield but met Nakagawa&rsquos attack forces. Nakagawa sent his tank forces to try and force the marines to retreat. The marines managed to quickly destroy Nakagawa&rsquos tanks and infantrymen. On the second day the Marines had captured the airfield. After capturing the airfield the Marines went on pushing eastwards under heavy fire resulting in lots of casualties.

My plan was to retrace my father&rsquos steps, starting at White beach, where he landed with the 1st Battalion, then move inland to the Blockhouse and Bloody Nose Ridge, where the invasion forces took dreadful casualties

MHQ, Winter 1998

Peleliu may have the distinction of being the most remote American battlefield on earth. A southern island in the archipelago of the Republic of Palau, it is 500 miles southeast of Manila, in what cartographers once called the Carolines, a part of Micronesia.

In September l944, U.S. Marines, my father among them, launched an amphibious assault against the Japanese forces on Peleliu that were threatening the flank of Gen. Douglas MacArthur&rsquos troops as they advanced toward the Philippines. The landings were more difficult than anyone had anticipated. Instead of overrunning an obscure Japanese garrison and seizing the island&rsquos airstrip, the marines had to attack and reduce a network of interlocking caves and coral ridges defended by the 10,000 soldiers of Japan&rsquos 14th Infantry Division. Although the Japanese defenders were annihilated, the three infantry regiments of the 1st Marine Division suffered dreadful casualties in the process.

During the battle my father, formerly a company commander, served as executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. For many years, during family gatherings, my conversations with my father have drifted to Peleliu. Like any child&mdasheven one in his 40s&mdashI am interested in my father&rsquos war stories. I like to compare his memories with current histories of the battle.

It was not until after I read E. B. Sledge&rsquos With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa that I sensed what the marines had endured on Peleliu. While I was reading Sledge&rsquos book, I noticed that my father had, in a casual way, collected an extensive library about the battle. However, many of the larger histories of World War II, if they mention Peleliu at all, do so only in passing, calling it either needless or forgotten.

During a business trip to Manila in the Philippines, I finally had an opportunity to go to Peleliu and place my father&rsquos accounts of the battle in context. Air Micronesia makes the two-hour flight from Manila to Koror, the capital of Palau. A friend had arranged for the nephew of Palau&rsquos president to meet my plane when it landed. After I cleared customs, Steve Nakamura and his wife introduced themselves and carried my bag to a waiting taxi. Nakamura had charted a fishing boat that would take me from Koror to Peleliu. We made landfall in Peleliu alongside a concrete pier, and I saw a sign proclaiming, &ldquoPeleliu&mdashLand of Enchantment.&rdquo

My plan was to retrace my father&rsquos steps, starting at White beach, where he landed with the 1st Battalion, then move inland to the Blockhouse and Bloody Nose Ridge, where the invasion forces took dreadful casualties attacking a series of well-defended coral ridges.

That evening, as I pored over the maps in the regimental histories I had brought along, a guardian angel arrived at the guesthouse in the form of Tangie Hesus. I knew before arriving that Hesus was Peleliu&rsquos local historian, but had assumed I would be unable to find him. Fortunately, Nakamura had located him just after nightfall, and before me now stood a Peleliu native in his mid-30s wearing Marine Corps fatigues.

For Hesus, the men of the 1st Marine Division were legends whose spirits inhabited the desolate crags and jungle trails of the battlefield where he guided returning veterans or accidental tourists who found their way to his island.

The next morning I ate breakfast overlooking shallow waters encased by coral. It was through such murky waters that the 1st Marine Division launched its attack from an armada of warships that had assembled beyond the reef.

Although there were discussions at the highest levels&mdashincluding President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Hawaii in July 1944&mdashabout canceling the landing at Peleliu, the Americans had decided to proceed with the invasion, in part because few of the commanding generals expected much resistance from the Japanese defenders. Brig. Gen. William Rupertus, who commanded the 1st Marine Division, predicted the battle would be decided in three days.

After a preparatory shelling of the island, Admiral Jesse Barrett Oldendorf confessed that his warships had run out of targets. The legendary commander of the 1st Marine Regiment, Col. Lewis &ldquoChesty&rdquo Puller, told his men, including my father, that after the naval bombardment all they might be asked to do is &ldquopolice up the area with the bayonet.&rdquo But optimistic expectations about the opposition on Peleliu were quickly proved wrong. Waiting to transfer to landing craft, my father remembers his first sense that things might go wrong for the Americans on Peleliu: &ldquoAs the boats loaded, circled, and fanned out in the long line of the first assault wave, I felt the odds were with us. The first hint that they weren&rsquot and that all was not well came as Japanese mortar and artillery shells fell among the advancing boats, with two direct hits close by.&rdquo

The 1st Marine Division&rsquos three infantry regiments landed abreast along two beaches, code-named &ldquoWhite&rdquo and &ldquoOrange.&rdquo On the left the 1st Marine Regiment came ashore at White beach their objective was to push straight inland. The 5th Marine Regiment, in the center, was to capture the airfield, while the 7th Marine Regiment, on the right flank, swung right and secured Peleliu&rsquos southern tip. Soon after the landing, however, the plans fell apart. E. B. Sledge recorded:

Up and down the beach and out on the reef, a number of amtracs and DUKWs were burning. Japanese machine-gun bursts made long splashes on the water as though flaying it with some giant whip…. I caught a fleeting glimpse of a group of marines leaving a smoking amtrac on the reef…. I had tasted the bitterest essence of war, the sight of helpless comrades being slaughtered, and it filled me with disgust.

Hesus and I found White beach, which sits under a gloomy mangrove canopy. Perhaps 20 yards across, the beach where the 1st Marine Regiment landed is covered with chunks of coral. Not only was it difficult for the marines to dig for cover in the hard coral surface, but the Japanese had registered mortars, artillery, and machine guns that covered every inch of the beach. Tom Lea, an illustrator for Life magazine who came ashore in the first wave, recalled, &ldquoThose Marines flattened in the sand on that beach were dark and huddled like wet rats in death….&rdquo
One of my father&rsquos close friends, Fendall Yerxa, who served on Colonel Puller&rsquos regimental staff, remembers how, weighed down with a soaked pack, his mind moved off the beach faster than his encumbered legs. He also remembers the withering fire that came down the beach from what became known as the Point, a redoubt on the American left flank that looms large in accounts of the battle.

Company K of the 1st Marines&rsquo 3rd Battalion, commanded by Capt. George P. Hunt, had the mission of capturing the Point and subduing Japanese crossfire. Of the 235 men Hunt led against the Point, more than two-thirds were killed or wounded taking the position.

&ldquoImagine if an officer less brave than George Hunt had the job of securing the Point,&rdquo is my father&rsquos rhetorical question about the savage battle for the flank and the consequences of failure.
But my father never saw the Point because the remainder of the 1st Battalion had pushed directly off the beach into a series of bunkers and pillboxes. The battalion sustained heavy casualties as it attacked a fortified blockhouse that the navy had missed, despite its claims of having exhausted all available targets.

Leaving White beach, I walked to the Blockhouse along a small dirt road. Several assaults had failed to break resistance at the Blockhouse, which only gave way after 16-inch shells were fired onto it from the battleship Pennsylvania.

As executive officer, my father set up the battalion&rsquos rear command post in the Blockhouse. In addition to being a headquarters, the Blockhouse also became the battalion aid station. Because of his proximity to the aid station, my father organized the stretcher-bearers who brought in the wounded from, among others Company C&mdashhis former command.

Casualties among the men in my father&rsquos battalion were 71 percent its three rifle companies were nearly wiped out. After six days of fighting, Company B had 36 enlisted men and two officers, Company C had 15 men and 2 officers, and Company A had 65 men and two officers. &ldquoLooking back,&rdquo my father reflects, &ldquoI have often felt that becoming battalion exec instead of remaining a company commander could have been the event that saved my life. No longer being required to lead a company directly into battle could have made the crucial difference between living and dying.&rdquo

Once the marines came off the beach at Peleliu and survived nightmares like the Point or the Blockhouse, they encountered coral hills that had gone undetected by the pre-invasion intelligence. These hills stood higher than the dunes above Normandy&rsquos Omaha Beach.

Toward the end of the second day of fighting, the 1st Marines, with the 1st Battalion in the center, attacked the first of these coral hills, the mountainous Umbrogol. The marines nicknamed the Umbrogol &ldquoBloody Nose Ridge.&rdquo Russell Davis, an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, described the attack on the ridge:

Old marines talk of Bloody Nose Ridge as though it were one, but I remember it as a series of crags, ripped bare of all standing vegetation, peeled down to the rotted coral, rolling in smoke, crackling with heat and stinking of wounds and death. In my memory it was always dark up there, even though it must have blazed under the afternoon sun, because the temperature went up over 115, and men cracked wide open from the heat. It must have been the color of the ridge that made me remember it as always dark&mdashthe coral was stained and black, like bad teeth.

Hesus and I traveled by car up a narrow dirt path that leads to a small plateau among the Umbrogol. Halfway up I passed the only American battlefield marker on the island&mdashindicating the direction to Bloody Nose Ridge, where a small obelisk remembers the deeds of the 1st Marine Division and those from its ranks who earned the Medal of Honor.

Until the marines attacked Bloody Nose Ridge, the invasion, while costly, had been a textbook operation. Mobile, lightly armed assault troops had established a beachhead and seized the airfield. Offshore there were large numbers of U.S. Army troops available as reinforcements. But the marine commanding general, Rupertus, never called for the Army and instead sent his badly depleted battalions, including the First, into the ridges, much the way World War I generals hoped that one more frontal assault would break through the enemy trenches.

Among my father&rsquos books are some that he read during lulls in the fighting on Peleliu, many of which are World War I memoirs, with titles like Education Before Verdun. Little did he realize that accounts of his own battalion would later read like those describing conditions before Passchendaele or the Somme. The following passage from Harry A. Gailey&rsquos Peleliu described one marine attack:

The Marines of the 7th were exhausted and Puller sent what was left of A Company of 1/1 [1st Battalion, 1st Marines], a total of 56 men, through their lines to continue the attack. He did this because he assumed from his maps that there was a uniform slope to the hill mass. However, Company A encountered a nearly sheer 150-foot cliff. The Japanese hit the company with heavy small arms, machine-gun, and mortar fire. Only six men of the entire company regained the relative safety of the lines of 2/7 [2nd Battalion, 7th Marines] some 150 yards to the rear without being hit. The rest had been killed or wounded.

Artillery was little help to the marines attacking Bloody Nose Ridge. My father recalled:

As the next hideous night fell, our men held what ground they had chewed out inside the limestone ridges. All the jungle foliage had long since been blasted away the landscape seemed like the mountains of the moon. As the hours progressed, a forward observer, a young ensign from the battleship Mississippi, appeared and declared himself ready to direct fire from its big guns on the enemy positions if I could orient them to him.

The ensign and my father crept forward to a small ravine between the American and Japanese lines, and &ldquofor the rest of the night we called in salvo after salvo, hour after hour, on the honeycombed ridges facing the fast dwindling strength of our companies. But as morning came, and our fire ceased, the Jap machine guns and mortars resumed their lethal chorus.&rdquo
One of the most colorful personalities on the island during the battle was Chesty Puller. In the colonial wars of Haiti and Nicaragua, Puller was awarded several Navy Crosses for leading assaults against enemy strongholds. On Guadalcanal and Cape Gloucester he won important engagements, although his men suffered heavy casualties.

With the officers in his command Puller was cool and direct. He resented the intrusions of military brass, especially parade-ground generals and junior officers, who perhaps did not share his zeal for combat. James Hallas wrote, &ldquoTo Chesty, low casualties among lieutenants indicated that the attack was not being pressed with sufficient vigor.&rdquo

Puller had been commissioned from the ranks, giving him a natural affinity with enlisted men. &ldquoThe men loved Chesty,&rdquo my father said often, &ldquoand he loved them.&rdquo During the heat of a battle, Puller would come forward, crouch low near a rifleman and ask, &ldquoHow&rsquos it going, old man?&rdquo

Puller was physically brave but disinterested in tactics or strategy. Everett Pope remarked, with both irony and appreciation, that he &ldquowas the greatest platoon leader in the history of the Marine Corps.&rdquo

But many of the officers and men whom I asked about Puller refused to answer, not wanting to be at odds with a legend. Puller had a habit of humiliating junior officers, to the delight of the enlisted men. Jim Rogers, a battalion officer on Peleliu, remembers Puller on Pavuvu ordering him to stand at attention in a deep puddle. Rogers survived Peleliu to become a Catholic priest. He wrote in one letter: &ldquoYour father and I were best friends, as you know, and I have the greatest respect and affection for him. Puller thought highly of him, and that&rsquos one of the few good things I can say about Chesty.&rdquo

Puller&rsquos trademark was to have his command post far forward. But on Peleliu, Yerxa recalls how that led to permanent confusion in the regiment, as much of the time headquarters officers were taking cover instead of commanding.

Nor did Puller have his legendary mobility on Peleliu due to a flare-up of a thigh wound from an earlier battle that left him hobbling. &ldquoPuller had no idea what was going on,&rdquo is Pope&rsquos assessment &ldquoWe never saw Chesty,&rdquo is my father&rsquos.

As a consequence, gaps often developed in the lines of the 1st Marines. One history of the battle describes a typical incident:

As the exhausted marines settled in, a more serious threat developed as the enemy discovered a gap between 2/1 and 1/1 [2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, and 1st Battalion, 1st Marines] and began to infiltrate the weak spot. To seal the hole, F Company, 7th Marines had to be committed. This outfit fought its way into position and managed to close the gap.

My father discovered this particular gap, and he tells the story whenever he is asked about Puller&rsquos habits of command:

It was then that it became clear to me that there were no friendly troops on the battalion right flank. It was completely open, entirely vulnerable to a Japanese counterattack, which, had it taken place, could have allowed them to surge all the way to the beach line and create near total havoc. I called Col. Chesty Puller, regimental commander, to warn him of the peril and the urgent need for reinforcements. When I reached him on the field telephone he was true to form. First he confused me with Steve Sabol, commander of the 3rd Battalion. When this was cleared up, his gruff voice spoke its usual formula, &ldquoJust keep pushing, old man.&rdquo

I stood transfixed, my runner beside me as we heard Japanese voices and the click of weapons on the far side of the vital road in question. Unbelieving I called again. This time I got Lt. Col. Buddy Ross, regimental exec, who instantly perceived the urgency: &ldquoStay right there, Steve [my father&rsquos nickname], don&rsquot move I&rsquom sending up a unit from the Seventh. Tie them into the line as soon as they get there.&rdquo Within what seemed minutes, they appeared and immediately took up firing positions to plug the gap. No sooner was this done than there came wild shouts of &ldquoBanzai&rdquo as the Japanese poured across the road into the devastating but crucially effective fire of the newly arrived marines. That day, or perhaps just a portion of it, was saved. More crises were to follow soon.

Craig Cameron sketched a portrait of Puller that made him hard to distinguish from the fanatical enemy he was fighting. Of Puller and Peleliu he wrote:

The course of the fighting began increasingly to take on the appearance of a test of wills between the implacable Japanese in their caves and Puller&rsquos regiment. On Guadalcanal it had been a test of wills between warrior representatives [i.e., each army] on Peleliu, Puller made it more personal. It was, moreover, a test of endurance in which the Japanese did not play fully human roles but were instead faceless elements in the landscape, deadly, but to be conquered along with the heat and blasted coral ridges. He had strong and well-founded faith in his men, and they always responded to his repeated calls for attack.

When the III Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Roy Geiger, went forward to Puller&rsquos command post on the sixth day of the fighting, he decided, as Gailey wrote, that Puller was &ldquoout of touch with reality.&rdquo Shortly thereafter, the 1st Marines, with more than 50 percent casualties, were pulled off the line.

From the monument on Bloody Nose Ridge, Hesus and I came down the hillside into what is known as the Horseshoe, a vast amphitheater of death in which the 1st Marines played out the final acts of their tragedy. In Hesus&rsquo museum, there is a quote from Capt. Hank Hough that describes the Horseshoe: &ldquoIn broad daylight one could stand at the south of Horseshoe and study at leisure the precipitous slopes and its sheer cliffs. It was eerie. You could almost physically feel the weightless presence of hundreds of hostile eyes watching you. There was no sign of the enemy, no movement, no shots, and only a lonely silence.&rdquo

The only monument in the Horseshoe is Japanese, a small oriental shrine, but nothing to remember the hundreds of young Americans killed and wounded here. On the right as you enter the valley is a hill covered with jungle brush. I wanted to reach the top because it was there that Company C made its last desperate stand and its captain, Everett Pope, earned the Medal of Honor.

My father remembers Pope leading away the remnants of his old company:

After another day of futile struggle against the fortified limestone catacombs, the battalion was withdrawn and regrouped. Ev Pope and what was left of C Company (90 men) were detached and sent in support of the 2nd Battalion. With a heavy heart I watched him go, knowing so well that in combat any attached unit is always given the dirtiest, the most dangerous assignment. Theirs was to be no exception.

Pope and his 90 men were ordered to take Hill 100, which on the Marine Corps maps appeared to be an isolated knob, and might, if taken, give the marines high ground to support the attacks across the Horseshoe against Bloody Nose Ridge. But Hill 100 turned out to be the head of a whale, and for one long night the Japanese attacked along the humpback against the few marines who had struggled to the top.

One of the men who made it to the top of the hill was Joseph Seifts, who remembers:

We started up with about 30 men. By the time we got to the top there were only about 20 of us left…. We had no machine guns or mortars. The Japs hit us I believe around 10 or 11 at night. We had to hold the hill. Because at the bottom of the hill lay all of our wounded. We stopped attack after attack…. I was never so glad to see daylight…. I still have bad memories of Peleliu.

Another with a ringside seat to the fighting on the ridge was Russell Davis, who wrote:

The remnants of our 2nd Battalion spent a terrible night up there. But, for the few men up on the higher ridge&mdashmostly from C Company, 1st Battalion&mdashit was far worse. All through the night we could hear them screaming for illumination or for corpsmen, as the Japs came at them from caves which were all around them on the hillside. Men were hit up there and we could hear them crying and pleading for help, but nobody could help them…. The cries of Americans and Japanese were all mixed together.

When dawn broke on Hill 100 Pope&rsquos perimeter was the size of a tennis court. He had no ammunition and only about eight men he led the survivors off the hill. &ldquoI saw no good reason for us all to die there&mdashas was about to happen,&rdquo remembers Pope. But he felt anything but a hero:

My most vivid memory, after being driven off the hill, is that of expecting that Puller would have me court-martialed for having failed to hold&mdashi.e., for not having died up there. As your father will recall, late on the afternoon, Puller ordered C-1-1 [Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines], to take the hill again. Since there were only about 12 to 15 of us left, it was clearly to have been a suicide mission (ours, not Puller&rsquos).

As Pope prepared to lead his men back into battle and to their deaths, he received orders canceling the attack: &ldquoI have always believed that your father and Ray Davis succeeded in convincing Puller to call off the mission. Why Puller wanted us all dead on the top of that hill has never been clear to me.&rdquo

My father wrote the citation nominating Pope for the Medal of Honor. On Pavuvu, Puller grilled my father about the nomination, and he expected Pope to be knocked back to a Navy Cross. What he did not know was that Puller had tried to block the award. As Pope relates: &ldquoPuller attempted to prevent the award to me of the Medal of Honor. I have seen the files. He always maintained that none in his command would receive it until he did, and as far as I can determine, John Basilone and I are the only two serving under him whose awards were not posthumous.&rdquo

But the Medal of Honor was awarded, instead of the court-martial Pope feared he would receive for coming off the ridge without orders. &ldquoI wear it proudly,&rdquo he told me, &ldquonot because of anything I did to deserve it. But out of respect for my men who died up there, and to prolong, at least for a moment of time, their place in our nation&rsquos history. As you know, it was twelve days before my dead on that hill were recovered.&rdquo
During the night that Company C was fighting and dying for Hill 100, the rest of the 1st Battalion was across the Horseshoe, preparing for a final attack against the face of ridge. My father remembers, &ldquoWe received orders from regiment that at six o&rsquoclock the next morning there would be an artillery barrage on Bloody Nose Ridge, followed at six thirty by a frontal attack by the remnants of the First and Second Battalions.&rdquo

Without Company C, the 1st Battalion (normally about 950 men and officers) was reduced to a little more than 100 infantrymen and four officers. He continues:

A plea to regiment to send forward any officers and men who could be spared brought old friend Fendall Yerxa back to us along with a dozen or two cooks, bakers and truck drivers, converted overnight into riflemen, and a 37mm gun. Clearly it was to be the battalion&rsquos last throw of the dice. If Bloody Nose Ridge could be taken, our fire from its heights into enemy-held crevices below would eventually dislodge them and Peleliu would be won at last.

At first light, all hands took position and waited for the artillery barrage. It was 6:10, then 6:20 only deep silence and the growing horror that there would not be one. But at 6:30 sharp, Maj. Ray Davis gave the command and the men moved out in short rushes, starting up the slope toward the heights that now seemed miles away.

Russell Davis was part of the attack as a rifleman with the 2nd Battalion, which was mixed together on the 1st Battalion&rsquos right flank. He remembers that: &ldquoThe whole motley lot&mdasha fighting outfit only in the minds of a few officers in the 1st Regiment and in the 1st Division&mdashstarted up the hill. I have never understood why.&rdquo

As the men moved up the slopes, my father recalls:

Enemy fire quickened. Minutes later a runner came rushing up to me at the rear command post with a message, &lsquoMajor Davis has been wounded and orders you to take command of the battalion.&rsquo As I ran forward I found men still moving, trying to take what cover they could find, urged on by a young second lieutenant, Junior Thompson. On our right flank, the 2nd Battalion had not moved.

As my father ran forward he realized that &ldquoto move farther would be suicide no one would reach the crest alive.&rdquo His crisis of command was not unlike Everett Pope&rsquos on Hill 100. He ordered the men to halt their attack, but now feared the wrath of Colonel Puller for disobeying orders. My father remembers:

I dispatched my runner, Corporal Hauge, going at top speed, to inform Puller that we were pinned down by heavy enemy fire&hellip. At that critical moment the Japanese ceased their firing. An eerie, never-to-be-forgotten quiet fell, broken only by the faraway rattle of machine guns and the clump of distant mortars. We lay and crouched there, waiting. Waiting for we knew not what. The sun rose higher, turning helmets into ovens. At long last came a runner from regiment, informing us that we were to be relieved by a fresh battalion, from the 7th Marines. Slowly we rose, formed two files on each side of the cart track leading back. The relief took place in full view of the Japanese atop Bloody Nose Ridge. If they had opened up, it would have been the final and apocalyptic carnage. Inexplicably, they did not. We marched slowly away.

For the men of the 1st Marines, Peleliu was over. But the battle dragged on for more than a month, with the men of the 5th and 7th Marine regiments&mdashplus army units&mdashfighting and dying among the coral valleys of the Umbrogol.

Before leaving Peleliu I hiked to the top of Bloody Nose Ridge, where the Army Corps of Engineers has built a staircase. From this vantage point, I surveyed an American battlefield that will never be threatened by commercial development. If Peleliu has any monuments, they are in the memories of the men who were there.

Matthew Stevenson is an international banker living in Switzerland with his wife and four children. He grew up in New York and has traveled widely among the Pacific islands.

Japanese Order of Battle, Peleliu - History

Number of Boxes:
4 legal document boxes 1 1/2 legal document box 10 record center boxes 4 oversized boxes & folders and 1 document tube.

Historical or Biographical Sketch:
This collection consists of materials on the life and career of Eugene B. Sledge.

Eugene Bondurant Sledge was born on November 4, 1923 in Mobile, Alabama. He graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile in May 1942 and entered Marion Military Institute (MMI) in Marion, Alabama, that fall. Sledge enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in December 1942 at MMI and was eventually assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division (K-3-5). He served in the Pacific Theater where he saw action at Peleliu and Okinawa. After the war, Sledge attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in the summer of 1949. He returned to Auburn in 1953 where he worked as a research assistant until 1955 that same year he graduated from A.P.I. with a Master of Science degree in Botany. From 1956 to 1960 he attended the University of Florida and worked as a research assistant. He received his doctorate in biology from the University of Florida in 1960. He was employed by the Division of Plant Industries for the Florida State Department of Agriculture from 1959 to 1962. In the summer of 1962, Dr. Sledge was appointed Assistant Professor of Biology at Alabama College (now the University of Montevallo). In 1970 he became a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Montevallo, a position he held until his retirement in 1990.

In 1981, Dr. Sledge published an account of his experiences during the Second World War in a book entitled "With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa". "With the Old Breed" is now widely recognized as a classic war memoir.

Dr. Sledge died on March 3, 2001. A second memoir, "China Marine: An Infantryman's Life after World War II", was published posthumously in 2002.

Scope and Content:
The collection contains personal materials, correspondence, professional items related to Eugene B. Sledge's academic career, photographs, clippings, book reviews, article drafts, periodicals, books, and video cassettes. The major portion of these materials relate to Dr. Sledge's book With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, and his experiences in World War II. Includes artifacts from World War II and a small set of letters from various persons to Dr. Sledge, mostly concerning his writings on World War II. The artifacts consist of uniforms, equipment, flags, and items gathered from battlefields in the Pacific. Many of the items are Japanese. Also included are uniform items worn by his father, a medical officer in World War I and essays, poems, and letters by Eugene Sledge's Grandmother Sturdivant. Sturdivant was Dean of Women at Huntington for several years. The final addition contains ten years of letters, reviews and photographs (1990-2000) from various persons to Dr. Sledge, mostly concerning his writings on World War II.

Japanese Emperor leads official World War Two commemoration on Peleliu

At the beginning of April, the Japanese Emperor and Empress made an official visit to the remote Pacific island of Peleliu in remembrance of hundreds of soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the war effort.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attended a memorial ceremony, laying flowers at both the Japanese and American memorials.

Peleliu is an island in the western Pacific and is part of the nation of Palau.

Emperor Akihito said that all of those who gave their lives in order to defend their countries are being remembered on the 70 th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

He said that the beautiful Pacific islands hold a tragic history.

Emperor Akihito is now 81, but at the time the war was drawing to an end, he was just 11 years old. During the war, his father, Emperor Hirohito, was in charge of the Japanese forces.

Japanese soldiers were stationed across many of the Pacific islands in order to defend against the advancing American and Allied troops. The battle at Peleliu island lasted around two months and left more than 10,000 Japanese and more than 1,500 American soldiers dead.

A veteran of the battle, Kiyokazu Tsuchida, who is now 95, also made the trip to the island for the official ceremony.

He recounts how, out of 34 remaining Japanese survivors of the battle, he was the only one who was able to make the journey back for the commemoration. He says that his fallen comrades would be happy to see the emperor come to the island and honour their sacrifice.

The search for the remains of missing Japanese soldiers on the island still continues to this day. It is believed that only half of the almost 2.5 million Japanese soldiers who were killed abroad have been recovered. Almost 500,000 of those are thought to have been lost at sea and remain unrecoverable.

The Japanese public has been calling for an expedited search for the war dead, but authorities say that there is simply a lack of records and evidence to show where all of the remains are. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has pledged that efforts to recover World War Two remains will be increased, the Today Online reports.

Across the islands of Palau, the remains of around 8,000 soldiers are thought to be still unrecovered.

The emperor and his wife previously made official commemoration visits to Saipan, a key battle site in the Pacific, in 2005, and to the island of Iwo Jima in 1994.

Japanese Order of Battle, Peleliu - History

Peleliu, a tiny volcanic island about 500 miles east of the Philippines, was the site of one of the most fierce and costly battles of World War II . Held by nearly 11,000 Japanese troops, it was seen by some members of the military as a potential threat to future Allied operations in the Philippines, while to some others, it was believed to be an unimportant piece in the overall plan of battle. This disagreement contributed in the long run to making the bloody battle of Peleliu a controversial attack that lasted far longer than anticipated, and which resulted in more casualties than any other amphibious attack in the history of the United States military.

One marine commander had predicted that the tiny island would be taken by U.S. troops within a matter of days, but the battle lasted from September through November of 1944. Both General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz favored taking Peleliu before moving on to Okinawa and Taiwan so that Peleliu could be used as an airstrip, however, from that point their strategies diverged.

The Japanese military had analyzed their previous losses in order to develop an entirely new defense strategy that would rely on caves, bunkers and underground battle positions, some of which had been mine shafts, and all connected by a system of honeycombs and tunnels. The entrances to some of the underground positions had been fortified with armored, steel doors as well as engineered to resist hand grenade and flamethrower attacks. Further, the Japanese had established a base on Peleliu’s highest geographical point which allowed them to observe most of the island, including the airfield, and to see American troop movements while remaining out of sight.

Unlike the Japanese, the American army and marine forces maintained their previous battle strategies for the invasion, despite having suffered several thousand casualties in recent amphibious attacks at Biak. American forces wrongly believed that bombarding the island before the invasion had been successful, but in actuality, because the Japanese troops were in well-fortified hidden positions, they were virtually untouched, and waiting in hiding for the Americans. Japanese troops refrained from firing on the invading Americans immediately so they would not give away their positions until they were able to attack effectively. This strategy represented a dramatic difference from those used in previous encounters.

In the end, the Japanese were successful at killing between 50 and 60% of the military divisions on Peleliu, but the remaining marines and army troops fought on until finally securing the island on November 24, 1944, ending 73 days of brutal fighting. In total, the taking of Peleliu cost nearly 10,000 American lives.

Peleliu was the scene of the iconic story of a Japanese officer and 34 soldiers and sailors who hid out in caves, not knowing that the war had ended, until a Japanese Admiral convinced them three years later, in April of 1947, that the fighting was, indeed over.

The battle remains a source of controversy among military leaders because of Peleliu’s questionable strategic value to the overall war effort, however, from this savage battle, American military forces were able to learn a great deal about the new Japanese approach to island defense, which better prepared them for later successful assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. American forces also learned new ways to approach and conquer the heavily defended and often hidden positions, which, again, proved valuable in future attacks. Having been taken by surprise once, the American military was determined not to let that happen a second time, and prepared for whatever new strategy the enemy might have in store.

Ancillary units


  • 3rd Independent Mountain Artillery Regiment
  • 3rd Heavy Field Artillery Regiment
  • 18th Heavy Field Artillery Regiment - Lt.Col. Katsutoshi Takasu
  • 21st Heavy Field Artillery Battalion .
  • Two trench mortar battalions (3rd and 5th Mortar Battalions) horsed.
  • 14th Independent Mortar Battalion.
  • 17th Field Air Defence Unit (consisting of four field anti-aircraft battalions) .
  • Three independent field anti-aircraft companies .
  • 1st Balloon Company.


  • Three independent engineer regiments:
    • 4th Engineer Regiment
    • 12th Engineer Regiment - Lt.Col. Ichie Fuji
    • 15th Engineer Regiment - Lt.Col. Yosuke Yokoyama
    • 23rd Engineer Regiment
    • 5th Independent Heavy Bridging Company (two horsed, one mechanised).
    • Three bridging material companies (21st, 22nd and 27th).
    • Two river crossing material companies (10th and 15th), one horsed, one mechanised.
    • 21st River Crossing Company (horsed).
    • 2nd Field Military Police Unit.
    • 2nd Railway Unit (consisting of two railway regiments, one railway material depot, two
    • Railway station offices and two special railway operating units) .
    • 25th Army Signal Unit (consisting of one telegraph regiment (horsed), one independent wire company (mechanised), three independent wireless platoons (two mechanized, one horsed )and five stationary wireless units.)

    Line of communication (headquarters and units)

    • These included four L. of C. sector units, eight independent motor transport battalions, twelve independent motor transport companies, two horse transport units, ten land service companies, five construction service companies, also survey, water, road, construction, ordnance and medical units.

    Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Karl Heidenreich » Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:32 pm

    I have found this quite interesting:

    Reading about Leyte I found that the main Japanese plan (as complex as it was, always, I believe it was a doctrinal structure of them doing things that complex) came down to pieces at the very begining at Palawan, when the two US subs sighted the Kurita´s battleships approaching (and sinking, by the way, a couple of real important cruisers, being one of them the bloody flagship). This event lead to the airborne attack that finally sunk Musashi and disrupt the initial attack intended by the Japanese.

    On the other hand at Surigao the Japanese only had two aging Battleship to oppose to the bulk of Oldendorf´s battleline.

    What would have happened if:

    1. Instead of having the main Kurita´s Battleship Line cruising thru Palawan to reach Sibuyan Sea the Japanses just sent the two Nishimura´s Fuso and Yamashiro there, as decoys if you want (Japanese style). Then main Kurita´s Battleline would then attempt to cross thru the Surigao strait having the following order of battle:

    Japanese Forces. BBs: Yamato, Musashi, Haruna, Kongo. HC or LC: 12 units. DD: 12 units

    US Forces would oppose: 6 BBs 8 HC or LC 27 destroyers 37 PT Boats

    There will be more balance here because the Japanese had a much bigger BB, HC and DD force and it will be composed by two of the heavier and bigger BBs ever. And we know that all those PT boats, in real life, detected Nishimura´s force but were unable to harm it bad, so, Kurita´s great problem here could be the DDs and, of course, the US "T" crossing Battleline with RDFC BBs. But the Japanese had the capability to sacrificy their own DDs in order to approach the US Battleline with far more resistant and powerfull armed BBs.

    2. There can be another "parallel" history line in which we keep Kurita steaming out of Sibuyan thru San Bernandino Strait and engaging the Escort Carriers but, here is the qui pro quo, engaging them to the last. Maybe Halsey can came to the rescue timely, maybe not. The issue is that Taffy is being hammered badly.

    Any comments on the result on both alternatives?

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by lwd » Mon Jun 09, 2008 5:10 pm

    The air attack that sunk Musahi would probably have shattered the force with Yamahiro and Fuso. Submarines could habe picked up some of the pieces so there likely would not have been enough to have even tried turning around again. So the central force is gone.

    In the South the US was aware of the composition of the Sourthern force as they had hit it with an air attack on the 24th. The additional Japanese BBs and other ships would likely have seen the US send the fast BBs either in addition to Oldendorf's ships or replacing them. This tips the scales again pretty strongly to the US side. However over concentration of fire might allow the Japanese to infict more damage. Lee's force on the otherhand might be less likely to over concentrate. For instance I believe I've read that the US cruisers also concentrated fire on the Yamashiro rather than the supporting cruisers. Additional battleship targets might have effected this as well.

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Karl Heidenreich » Mon Jun 09, 2008 11:58 pm

    We are talking about a battle in which Admiral Halsey, depending on partial information, went to the hunt of a real effective decoy leaving the escort carriers to an almost sure death. Then we must admit that the Japanese could have gambled a little more and using the central force as the decoy tried to force an exit thru the Surigao Strait.
    The Kurita´s force could have suffered incredible casualites at first when the US destroyers used their torpedoes against the flanking units: destroyers and some of the cruisers. But then we have the battleline action of BBs vs. BBs. If the Japanese formed not in a single battleline but in two or three parallel lines as they were doing at Palawan then we must have: 12 x 18" + 4 x 16" at the front at least (maybe more and counting only bow bateries). That´s a very, but very, heavy ordnance to deal with. The US BBs would be firing and suceptible to be lightened by the Japanese. Not easy in any way. Having the Japanese to straddle some BBs then it´s a butchery.
    I believe that if Kurita stays put and determined Nelson fashion then it´s likely that he could go thru (with heavy damage) the US BBs. Now, thru to what? After performing such an outstanding manouver what could he do? Steam with the survivors and try to sink as much tonnage, but being hunted by the also surviving US BBs. At daylight he would be exposed to airborne attack. The only good thing is that Halsey would be northwest trying to sink the decoys.
    But it could have been quite an engagement, the greatest BB engagement of WWII and likely to be at Jutland level.

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Bgile » Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:48 am

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by lwd » Wed Jun 11, 2008 1:24 am

    Karl Heidenreich wrote: lwd:

    We are talking about a battle in which Admiral Halsey, depending on partial information, went to the hunt of a real effective decoy leaving the escort carriers to an almost sure death.

    From the accounts I've read I doubt this was possible. It's also not clear that the US DDs and PT boats would have done a whole lot more than they did hisorically ie a handful of hits on Japanese BBs and some on lighter vessels.

    If 2 of the Japanese BB's get slowed by torpedos then there are 4 of them vs the US ships. The first couple are probably going to get hammered pretty hard. If they are the Yamato and Musashi then they parobably won't take many penetrating hits but their top sides will be a mess. When the first 2 are slowed to the point that the US shifts fire the US BBs will be getting low on AP so again the topsides of the Japanese ships are likely to be a real mess but they may well not be in much danger of shooting. The kicker is the Japanese DDs and CAs actually have a decent target to use their type 93 against and they may inflict a lot of damage on the US cruiser line and perhaps the battle line. Historically it appears that Yamashiro wasn't even aware the US BBs were there when they opened fire. At which point she was smothered. I don't see the Japanese getting much of a chance to get observed straddles although I believe Yamato and Mushashi may have had radar that would have given them a decent range once they turned it on. However any Japanese ship that looked like it was returning fire at all effectivly would likely become a priority target and the US could smother any one or two with enough BB and cruiser fire that the fire control stations and radar of such a ship wouldn't' last long. Given a chance to fight US BBs I'm have a feeling that Kurita would have been much more aggressive and determined. In a day battle vs Oldendorf even forceing the passage he has a decent chance at night. I'm not sure he can get through the straits with anything effective but the US may take some serious losses. If the fast BBs are there then even that's in question particularly since there may be a lot more DDs. Speaking of which I believe Oldendorf could have called up a bunch more DDs from the transport anchorage if he though he needed or could use them.

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Farragut » Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:49 am

    Hi. I've thought about this scenario myself Karl.

    I'd say that the whole thing would've been a toss up. If Kurita's fleet is intact when he encounters Oldendorf, you have an epic battle.

    If you break down the sides, you have 6 US BB's versus 4 Japanese BB's. But, three of the US BB's would be ineffectual except as targets to divide Japanese fire and two of the Japanese BB's were vastly superior. Oldendorf had 8 cruisers (4 heavy, 4 light) and 28 destroyers, Kurita had 12 cruisers (10 heavy, 2 light) and 15 destroyers. The 39 PT boats might be discounted but they did provide Oldendorf with valuable intelligence about the progress of the Japanese fleet in the strait.

    In light of the relatively equal sides, I would think that Oldendorf's capping of the T would still be the decisive tactical factor in your hypothetical scenario but then again if Yamato and Musashi had been near the front of the Japanese column, with their ability to absorb damage. a few hits from their guns could negate Oldendorf's positional edge. If California, Tennesse and West Virginia take a few 18 inch hits then the fight might fall to Oldendorf's cruisers. Maybe the cruisers succeed because they did expend thousands of rounds that night but then again maybe they don't.

    Do the destroyers play a crucial role in this hypothetical battle? Who knows? Would Yamato, Nagato or Kongo blow up into two pieces from a few torpedo hits? Would US destroyers be able to launch torpedoes while engaged with Japanese DD's?

    I think that this battle would be decided by intangibles. Foremost would be the respective leadership abilities of the commanders. Who would win this stare down? Kurita or Oldendorf? Too hard to say. Oldendorf was a staunch combat leader but so was Kurita. And in this scenario, Kurita wasn't traumatized by the sinking of the Atago and Musashi.

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by lwd » Thu Jun 12, 2008 1:13 pm

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:57 pm

    With all due respect I like to point out some flaws in your afirmations:

    Maybe yes, maybe not. One thing is Yamashiro getting hammered by a vastly superior numerical force of US BBs that already cross their "T". Another one is having a couple of mighty Japanese BB columns advancing and firing against a now not so superior numerical enemy force. And the Japanese must be firing back so, there is chance, that the US BBs would be having some kind of trouble they didn´t had in the historical scenario. How can we be so sure that US BBs WOULD damage both Yamatos Class firing controls? We can´t be sure of that. If that doesn´t happen then, we must admit, Olderndorg is in trouble. If the US BBs accomplish the demolishing of the FC then they have half the way already done. But, what if those Yamato´s did strike with good effect the turrets or the RDFC of the US BBs. Those ships were not designed to withstand a 18" shell, less in their upper superstructure.

    How do we know, for certain, that neither of the Yamatos could brought a fatal damage to the some US BBs early in the engagement. The Yamato were quite capable of absorving far more damage than the aging US BBs.

    About the PT Boats. Historically they gathered info for the Oldendorf. Why would they matter more now than that? Specially with a behemoth fleet against them with far more destroyers to deal with in first place? Nope: the PTs would play, here, a role of lesser importance than historical.

    I agree that the Japanese force could very likely not cross over the Strait, and if they did then they achieved with huge losses and damages. Moreover, the state that force would present once passing could be of misery in a manner it could maybe not accomplish big deal in front of McArthur´s vessels. But, and this is my point, such a force playing against Oldendorf´s historical force, had a chance of doing it and breaking the US blockade at Surigao. All depends, and this is a good point by Farragut, in Kurita´s resolve and nerve.

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Bgile » Thu Jun 12, 2008 7:17 pm

    West Virginia probably did most of the damage in the actual battle. She fired more shells than California and Tennessee, and they had 12 guns to her 8. Those were the only 3 ships with Mk8 FC radar, and the other 3 hardly fired at all. They had Mk3 radars which served Washington very well at Savo, but Washington didn't have to contend with several other ships obscuring her target with shell splashes and she didn't have to contend with cruisers getting in the way of her radar. The Mk8 wasn't as susceptible to those problems.

    The Mk8 ships were tracking Yamashiro at over 40,000 yds, but were not permitted to open fire until the range was down to about 20,000 yds because of lack of sufficient AP ammo for a long fight. Judging by what happened in other WWII night battles with the Japanese I doubt they'd have been able to fire effectively until they were closer than about 10,000 yds.

    What this says to me is you have the three mk8 ships firing unopposed from 20,000 yds down to about 10,000 yds. That's at least 30 minutes of firing assuming 20kts closing rate. IMO what ever ships they are firing at are going to be in pretty bad shape by then, even Yamato. I'd be surprised if the US ships weren't able to penetrate her forward armored bulkhead into her magazines by then. It wouldn't have been as thick as her side armor.

    By then, the other 3 US battleships will have begun firing because they will have good visuals on the burning targets, and that will solve the bearing resolution problem of the Mk3 radars.

    Maybe Yamato and Musashi get through all this, but it doesn't look good to me. In daylight they'd be able to hurt the US ships sooner, but at night I really think they'd have a terrible time hitting them until they got pretty close.

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by lwd » Thu Jun 12, 2008 7:19 pm

    Before we get started here's a link to a map with the maneuvers drawn on it.

    A couple of things of note. Looking at the satelite picture it looks like the channel where the PT boats attacked was quite narrow.
    Here's another map: . trait.html

    Re: Alternative Japanese Order of Battle at Leyte

    Post by Farragut » Wed Jun 18, 2008 7:01 am

    Hmm. Everyone raises a lot of interesting points. But I have to disagree with the notion that none of the US BB’s are ineffective. Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania proved their lack of effectiveness in the original battle. I don’t see what would’ve have been different had they fought Kurita instead of Nishimura. Okay, Maryland got off 48 main gun rounds about half of what West Virgina fired, so her effectiveness lies in grey area. But the other two: for the entire original battle, Pennsylvania didn’t fire a single shot even after Yamashiro and Mogami were set ablaze. Not one. Mississippi spent the battle ranging on West Virginia’s splashes and was able to fire her one and only salvo because Yamashiro was dead in the water. These two ships had this much trouble while not even taking any incoming fire. I'd say that made them pretty ineffective.

    West Virginia was at the head of Oldendorf’s column followed by Mississippi and Maryland. For a while the only gun flashes from the front of the US battle line was coming from the West Virginia. Wouldn’t Japanese fire concentrate on her in the beginning? If WV is put out of action then Oldendorf is in a lot of trouble. His whole line could be put in disarray if WV falls out.

    The composition of Kurita’s force would’ve have negated a lot of Oldendorf’s advantages. With so many more Japanese guns, how many PT boats actually survive their attacks to report back to Oldendorf? With so many more Japanese DD’s, do the US DD’s make effective torpedo attacks or are they caught up in a destroyer fur ball leaving Kurita’s battle line unmolested? Are the Japanese able to make a torpedo attack of their own this time around? I don’t think that any of Kurita’s BB’s blows up into two pieces from just a few torpedo hits. After all it took 20 aerial torpedo hits to sink Musashi. I can't see Oldendorf’s DD’s making anywhere near that many hits.

    With so many more Japanese cruisers, do the US cruisers still throw thousands of unanswered rounds at the Japanese column? You’d have to figure that with eight heavy and two light cruisers available to Kurita, that US cruisers and BB’s would take some hits of their own. And you have to remember that all of Kurita’s cruisers were armed with Long Lances and the US battle line was within their range. Someone stated that Nishimura was smothered by gunfire and that’s true but he only had three ships approaching the US battle line. I think that Kurita reaches the point of engagement with a lot more than three ships. How does US gunfire divide then? If Kurita succeeds in putting the US cruiser lines into disarray with a few hits (and that’s all it would take in those confined waters) then there goes Oldendorf’s volume of fire.

    I personally think that people get too caught up in the role of the battleships and ignore the cruisers. Against Nishimura, only three of the US BB’s shot effectively but the cruisers turned night into day with their gun flashes. E.P Hoyt stated that it was the US cruisers that did most of the work in Surigao Strait and I would have to agree with him. Not even Yamato and Musashi together could withstand thousands of 8” and 6” hits and still be able to fight. IMHO, the entire fight would hinge upon the effectiveness of the US cruisers.

    74 Years Later, The Battle For This Tiny Island Remains One Of The Costliest On Record

    By September of 1944, the war in the Pacific was well underway. The Japanese had control over hundreds of islands in the western Pacific that needed to be liberated and taken one by one. Each island landing and battle proved to be challenging and costly. One of those islands was called Peleliu.

    This year will be the 74th anniversary of that bloody contest.

    The original plan was to take the island because it had an airbase from which Japanese fighters and bombers were able to carry out missions against the Allies throughout the area. The planners thought that the island could be taken in about four days. But, like all military planning, that idea went out the window almost as soon as the first Marine units landed on the beaches.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    Marine Pfc. Douglas Lightheart (right) cradles his .30 caliber (7.62×63mm) M1919 Browning machine gun in his lap, while he and Pfc. Gerald Thursby Sr. take a cigarette break, during mopping up operations on Peleliu on 15 September 1944.

    The invasion of the island was undertaken by elements of the 1st Marine Regiment and part of the 3rd Amphibious Corps. It was decided that the landing would take place on the southwest coast of Peleliu because those beaches were closest to the airstrip. Leading the 1st Mar Regiment in the invasion was Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, one of the most beloved Marines in Marine Corps history.

    To this day, before they go to sleep, Marines say, “Good night, Chesty, wherever you are”, in honor of this Marine’s Marine.

    On one occasion during this battle, Chesty Puller was in a vehicle that took a direct hit from a mortar, but the round did not explode. Ol’ Chesty seemed to have the ability to walk through hell without getting burned. The naval fleet under the command of Admiral Oldendorf, remained in support around the island throughout the invasion.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    5th Marines on Orange Beach

    The Japanese had a garrison of some 10,900 soldiers, pilots and guard units. When the first Marine units went ashore they encountered little resistance, but as they attempted to move inland they were met with strong, fierce resistance by the Japanese forces.

    By the end of the first day, the beachhead was no wider than a few hundred yards wide. As in other islands, the Japanese had created cave systems all over the island. The Marines had to battle their way through heavy jungle and mountainous terrain, inch by costly inch, in their effort to root out the Japanese defenders.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    A Corsair drops napalm on Japanese positions atop Umurbrogol.

    Marines have always been famous for their gallows humor on the battlefield. They would name the terrain and scenes of battles as they went, in accordance with the experiences they had in taking those places. On Peleliu they came up with names like: Horseshoe Hill, Prostitute Ridge, and Bloody Nose Ridge. You might get a sense of the shape of the terrain, or of some “lucky” happening in one, but in the others, you get a sense of how difficult the fight must have been in those areas.

    Because the Marines were able to take the airbase, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing was able to use the airstrip and to carry out constant missions in support of their Marine brothers on the ground. In typical fashion, the Marines had to be creative and flexible and to adjust their tactics as they went. For example, their artillerymen found ways to point their big guns directly down hill in one case, in order to fire directly into caves below them.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    Frontline warning sign on Peleliu, October 1944.

    The battle that was supposed to take four days to win would rage on for two months. D-Day at Peleliu was on Sept. 15, 1944. It was not over until November 27, 1944.

    And it was a very costly victory.

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    A wounded Marine receives a drink from a Navy corpsman.

    The Marines at Peleliu would suffer the highest percentage of casualties of any battle in the Pacific Theater. They would suffer 2,336 killed in action, 8,450 wounded in action. But it was far more costly to the Japanese. Of the 10,900 Japanese defenders 10,695 would be killed in action. 202 prisoners were taken of whom 183 were foreign workers and only 19 Japanese soldiers.

    To illustrate the fierceness and the intensity of the battle for Peleliu, there were 8 Medals of Honor given to Marines at this battle. They are as follows:


    • Pfc. Arthur L. Jackson, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines
    • Capt. Everett P. Pope, 1st Bn., 1st Marines
    • First Lt. Carlton R. Roah, 1st Bn., 5th Marines


    • Cpl. Lewis K. Bausell, 1st Bn., 5th Marines
    • Pfc. Richard E. Kraus, 8th Amphibious Tractor Bn., 1st Marine Division
    • Pfc. John D. New, 2nd Bn., 7th Marines
    • Pfc. Wesley Phelps, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines
    • Pfc. Charles H. Roan, 2nd Bn., 7th Marines

    Source: Wikimedia Commons
    Marines in a hospital on Guadalcanal after being wounded in the Battle of Peleliu.

    The 1st Marine Division, including all of the above mentioned units, received a Presidential Unit Citation for their actions at Peleliu.

    The Veterans Site wishes to express its great gratitude and respect for the Marines of the 1st Marine Division who fought on the island of Peleliu in the fall of 1944. We honor those who gave their all and promise never to forget their great sacrifice in that titanic struggle against Japanese Imperialism.

    To those few who remain with us today, we cannot thank you enough. We will never forget.

    Semper Fidelis, Good Marines!

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    Watch the video: Order of Battle: Pacific Stream - Battle of Okinawa (December 2021).