Coral & Blood: Battle of Peleliu / Part 4: The Umurbrogol Mountains . The Battle of Peleliu, codenamed Operation Stalemate II, was one of the most brutal and controversial of WW2. While it was expected to last a mere 4 days, the reality was over 2 months of intense fighting in 100+ degree weather. This scene from my Battle of Peleliu series - Coral & Blood - depicts the ferocious mountain fighting that would – finally – secure this small coral island by US forces. Place: Umurbrogal Mountains, Peleliu, Palau Islands. Date: November 1944. Main Combatants: US Army, 81st Infantry Division vs. Japanese Imperial Army. I love to get feedback, so please rate and comment! . By November 1944, after intense and casualty-heavy fighting on the beaches and airfield, in the jungle and coral ridges of Peleliu, the only part still in Japanese hands was the pocket of resistance centered in a small area of the Umurbrogol Mountains. US Forces faced a nearly impenetrable system of caves and tunnels, while Japanese artillery fire rained down on them from above.
The US Army 81st Infantry Division relieved the dessimated and exhausted Marines for this final stage of the fight for control of Peleliu.
A US infantryman takes cover behind a rocky outcrop while a Japanese cave in the background is scorched by a US flamethrower.
A side view of the uphill battle. The jet of flames in the foreground is aimed at a Japanese machine gun emplacement high above.
US troops struggle to climb up the difficult terrain. Note the legs of the Japanese soldier retreating into one of many IJA tunnels (lower left hand corner).
Close-up of US soldiers and their weapons (right to left): M1A1 Thompson sub-machine gun, M2 flamethrower, M1897 trench gun.
US soldier diving for cover.
Perspective of a US flamethrower. This was one of the most effective weapons for destroying cave and tunnel-based Japanese resistance. It also put the soldier at great risk due to its flamability.
Flames coming out of the cave's machine gun ports, scorching a palm tree in the process. A wounded Japanese soldier crawls away in the foreground.
A view of the inside of the cave, full of flames (with the cave's mountainous roof taken off).
In the US camp, two infantrymen carry a M2HB heavy machine gun into firing position.
The business of war: a Quartermaster Sargent equips a soldier with a new weapon so he can get back into the fight.
A chaplain comforts a dying soldier.
War is a sad business. A US soldier mourns a fallen friend as he buries him.
A view from the backside of the fortified hill, looking toward the US camp - where a buried US soldier's cross can be seen in the far background. In the left foreground is a US flamethrower. In the right foreground is a cut-out view of the inside of the cave used by the Japanese command. This was part of the IJA's extensive tunnel system.
A close-up of the Japanese fortifications and command center.
Another close-up of Japanese operations. The storage room, lower right corner, contains their very limited remaining supplies, including ammunition.
A view from the Japanese position atop the mountain, looking down on the battlefield.
A side view showing both sides of the fortifications. A Japanese soldier jumps out of his machine gun emplacement as it fills with flames from the US flamethrower.
Even as their own numbers dwindle and they have no hope of victory, the Japanese inflict heavy casualties on US forces.
With such heavily fortified machine gun emplacements, the only hope for US ground forces at this distance is their flamethrower. Closer up, grenades were also an effective weapon against the IJA's protected mountain emplacements and bunkers.
A Japanese Lt. gives his final order.
Japanese soldiers fought fearlessly, fanatically, and to the death.
A Japanese colonel committed hari kiri, ritual suicide, once the battle was a lost cause. He died with honor.
By 27 November 1944, US forces had secured Peleliu in its entirety, but at an enormous price. American casualties neared 1,800 dead & 8,000 wounded or MIA. Japanese casualties were 10,695 dead and 200 captured. It saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific Theater, yet was nearly forgotten by history. This scene is my tribute to those who served.