We’re continuing our look at the HBO miniseries The Pacific by looking at the three episodes that cover Peleliu.
Episodes we’re covering today:
5. Peleliu Landing
6. Peleliu Airfield
7. Peleliu Hills
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Dan LeFebvre 02:05
Episode five kicks off with John Basilone and Virginia Grey embarking on a tour to get people to buy us war bonds after he received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Guadalcanal. Was this sort of publicity tour to raise money for the war effort something that all Medal of Honor recipients did? Or was it just John Basilone?
Marty Morgan 02:24
A number of different recipients of the Medal of Honor were employed in these war bond tours. And I should point out, too, that it wasn’t just Medal of Honor recipients. It was it was a variety of types of people. The Medal of Honor recipients attracted a great deal of attention. And so they were obviously great choices for Navy public affairs, army public affairs, and so they reached out to them, they also went reached out to people who were recipients of awards, like the Distinguished Service Cross the Navy Cross. And so they reached out to people who were vetted and curated. They needed people to look like a recruiting poster. They need them to present well. They needed them to have compelling stories. And my God, John Basilone checked all of those boxes. I mean, you’ve seen the photos of the guy. He was beautiful. The guy was magnificent looking, you look excellent in uniform. He was all cut up and shredded. And he provided this really fascinating working class hero story. You know, a fascinating detail about this is that when Basilone was ultimately approached to receive the Medal of Honor, he and he understood that it was for Guadalcanal, he did not automatically assume that he was receiving it in association with what he had done during the battle of Henderson Field. He had been engaged in patrol activities the following month, and he assumed that he was receiving the Medal of Honor for that. I find that to be a fascinating detail about his his individual story. Because by the end of the Guadalcanal campaign, by the time first marine divisions taken off the island in December, there were plenty of people that had compelling stories. And it’s just that the War Department needed to be sort of the perfect storm of an extremely compelling story, a person who could represent it well and tell it well. And they needed it to be somebody also, most importantly, who had survived their action. It by this point of the war by late 1942, we have a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, they were not everybody was still alive to be able to receive the accolade of going on the war on tour. And that’s obviously an important factor of what they needed. And so that alone is in many ways, sort of the perfect person. And bass alone, as I believe is what very well depicted in the series becomes a bit of a household name and a bit of a celebrity because of that Not everybody worked out perfectly on these war bond tours. I’m jumping the gun a little bit, but the movie Flags of Our fathers depict something that actually did happen where they were the three men depicted as going on the war bond tour, there were not recipients of the Medal of Honor. But they were nevertheless elevated to this position of prominence by what they had endured during the Battle of Iwo Jima. And what you see depicted in that movie is that one of them, didn’t really do so well. He wasn’t managing his survivor’s guilt, well, he had an enormous amount of survivor’s guilt. And he was also an alcoholic. And the combination of those two things, unleashed his inner demons. I’m talking, of course, about Ira Hayes, and Ira Hayes during the war bond drive, although he wasn’t a recipient of Medal of Honor, he was nevertheless fulfilling the same role that John Basilone had earlier. And Ira Hayes buckles under the pressure, and he comes apart at the seams as a person. And so there was an obvious need to carefully hand select who you who you sent on these tours. Because basically everybody that gets selected as a result of surviving some artists combat experience, they’re haunted to a degree. And it’s a question of how well they’re managing that. And bass alone handled and managed it well. And bass alone, he was a stunning success during that tour. He gave everybody exactly what they wanted. And what they wanted was someone who had fought off the best that the Japanese Empire could throw at them. And could tell the story well represent the Marine Corps represent the Navy represent the country well, and bass long did it. And he and no trivialized way helped to make that war bond drive a success.
Dan LeFebvre 07:00
Yeah, I could definitely see how that would just be a roller coaster of emotions, because you go from going into battle to now you’re essentially a rock star and being celebrated for, in John Basilone’s case, as we talked about in the last episode that the event that happened, he saw one of his good friends die, and now he’s being celebrated for that. That had to be so difficult.
Marty Morgan 07:27
I am friendly with this Medal of Honor recipient from Afghanistan, who at one point told me in confidence like you know, it’s weird because I’m constantly being asked to relive the worst day of my life.
Dan LeFebvre 07:42
If we head back to the show in Episode Five still we meet some new characters on booboo in June of 1944. We meet them that’s as Eugene sledge is arriving. He’s joining his new squad and there’s snafu dillo and Bergen. sledge also happens to run into his childhood friend Sydney Philips a few days before Philips shipped back to the States. We also see lucky come back from his time at the hospital to join runner in Oregon’s the next action that the men are going to see is going to be in Palais loo in September of 1944. But the impression that I got here was that the Marines used Purdue as a staging ground sort of sorts for pullela. Is that a fair assessment
Marty Morgan 08:23
of what happened? It is a fair assessment because they needed to park the division in an area where it could train, they also did not want to move the division, inconveniently far away from the theater of operations. That was because at this point, the American military was really feeling the pinch of the Pacific logistics, because to move a division, say to move a division back to Hawaii, that was a massive decision and the logistics that it would take to bring that division back to where it could be applied against the enemy in action. That represented a serious part of this very complicated matrix of managing supply lines and logistics in the Pacific War. of booboo as it turns out, provides a training area that to an adequate degree simulated partly what the Marines would experience on Pella when they went into action there. And that’s because you have some similarity and so far as you have godforsaken tropical islands, just a few degrees off the equator, which describes a boom in the Solomons. It also describes pehlu in the palaeo Island group. So it would be it was a good place to get the men trained up for what they would experience on Pella, Lou and I can’t stress this enough. What they expected the men to experience on pehlu was three days of combat. And what they got was a battle that raged for 73 days. Quite a bit more than what they bargained for.
Dan LeFebvre 10:01
Toward the end of episode five in the series, we see the Marines landing on pehlu. The mission, according to the show is to capture an airfield on the island. But landing on petaloo is not anything like Guadalcanal that we saw in the series where they have little to no resistance. This time there are explosions everywhere and not everyone makes it out of the landing vehicles. As I was watching this landing again, I couldn’t help but compare the sequence to the landings in Normandy that we saw in Saving Private Ryan. It’s certainly more like those than the landing that we saw earlier in the Pacific when they land on Guadalcanal. How well did the show do depicting the landing on the beaches of pehlu
Marty Morgan 10:41
when the first Marine Division came ashore on that would be the western beaches appellant on September 15 1944, they landed against an enemy force that was extremely well armed, extremely well equipped, and an enemy force that put up in tents opposition on the beachhead. This stands in strong contrast to the landings of Guadalcanal two years earlier a little over two years earlier. And you might remember from our last chat about Guadalcanal, the reason that it ended up being a little bit of a non event was because of the fact that the Japanese didn’t have a fighting regiment on that island. They didn’t even have a fighting champion on that island. They had a construction engineering battalion on the island. And that’s a non Combat Arms unit. They weren’t up to fighting and they didn’t fight they fled into the jungle and presented the beach on a post. What the Marines got on pelo was the precise opposite of that. And what they got was Japanese Imperial Army at the height of its game, ready to lay it down. And that is why, what the first Marine Division undergoes during I mean, just the opening week of the petaloo battle is such an enormous bloodletting example that I should point to, it’s not depicted in the series because in the series, we’re following Marines of h two one and Marines K through five. But just to their left, the far left flank of first Marine Division during the landings landed a white beach on Palo Alto Cove 650 meters wide that was that was dominated by a little little Pinnacle outcropping on its northern end called the point and what you get there is you get Marines of it’s a company of first battalion first Marines, and they’re commanded by a 26 year old Captain named George hunt. They take the beach they’re drawing fire from a Japanese fighting position, a concrete fighting position that’s still there today that was equipped with was armed with Japanese type 9625 millimeter anti boat gun, we call it an anti boat gun. It could also be used as an anti aircraft gun, but it’s effectively a 25 millimeter auto cannon. And that was an enormously effective weapon against the types of landing craft that would support an amphibious landing. So Higgins boats, they’re made of wood. Those guns would shred those things. The LVT landing vehicle tank or our landing vehicle track, also known as the Amtrak. They are light skinned vehicles that are made that we call them light skinned vehicles. They’re technically not armored vehicles, you could put applique armor on them, but they’re not intended to be our armored vehicles and they’re not intended to fight like an armored vehicle. They’re attempted, they’re intended to transition men from big ships in deep water across a beach and move inland. That’s what the lvts are intended to, to do, and they just could not stand up to fire from a 25 millimeter gun. So when, when k one one landed near the point, this 25 millimeter gun is destroying lvts and landing craft. The Marines ultimately get white phosphorus smoke grenades and on the position they overrun the position they set up a perimeter. And during the course of the first that would be 30 hours of the Battle of Peluso stretching from September 15, all the way into the afternoon of the 16th. During that 30 hour time period, this one company of Marines is under constant mortar fire. They receive five heavy counter attacks, most of which occurred during that first night on the island. And by the time it’s all over with when Captain hunt and his men are relieved from their positions. On white beach, it’s Captain hunt and 77 men. That’s all that’s left. I’m an entire Marine Company. In other words, this Marine Company basically loses its I mean, it experiences what would be considered catastrophic losses just in getting ashore and overcoming the enemy’s immediate shoreward defenses. Just for the record, going into a combat action during the Second World War going into an amphibious landing
Marty Morgan 15:00
The military wasn’t done. They calculated what losses would be. They calculated those losses on on the basis of enemy strength, projected enemy strength, the intelligence that you could gather from flying aircraft overhead or maybe having submarines that spied on the island. And they would calculate the strength of the attacking force based on what the expected enemy strength was. They would then anticipate what type of weaponry the enemy would have on the beach, and they would build the assault force based on that estimate. And with that kind of an assault and assault force that’s, that’s glued together based on estimates of the enemy strength and the enemy’s capabilities. They tended to expect around 10% casualties. They would recognize 10% to be within the acceptable range. And they would accept that they would recognize that up to 20%. They could still continue fighting. But they recognize that beyond 20% casualties, it was bordering on disastrous, maybe catastrophic. Well, within the one company, which would be Kay company, first Battalion, first Marine Regiment, they land with almost 200 people and 77 people are still fighting at the end of the first 30 hours. So it’s over 50%. It’s the casualties blow past catastrophic. And move to a level I don’t know what I call it, maybe biblical, but they move to levels that are clearly well beyond what it what was expected. Because what was expected is that there would be I don’t want to say light opposition but manageable opposition on the beachhead, the Marines would after pushing aside that manageable opposition that the Marines would then move into the interior, overrun the airfield, pushed down the length of the island and overcome the enemy garrison, and that they expected all of that to be done in three days. That did not happen. And it’s a significant revelation of what this battle was about, to me, when you consider that beachhead casualties are catastrophic. And as they move beyond the beachhead, it’s only going to get worse.
Dan LeFebvre 17:09
Was that something that both from the American side and the Japanese side, we talked about Guadalcanal being very different than? And then the sense there being that the Japanese were almost caught off guard that they were doing this landing? And then with pehlu? The opposite? I’m assuming maybe it’s the opposite, like the Japanese are aware now that they’re doing these landings, this is going to be probably going to be the next obvious target. So they bolster up their their forces there was that is that kind of what was going on behind the scenes that none of that’s really shown in the series? I’m just curious if that was some of the strategy.
Marty Morgan 17:46
You’re right on target with that. This is late 1944, Imperial Japan, and it’s a lot different than late 1942. Imperial Japan was because late 1942, Imperial Japan was one that imagined the continuing expansion of the oceanic environment. What happened? I am fine. By the time the Guadalcanal landings have occurred. Yep. The expansion of the Japanese into the Pacific had largely reached Tidewater mark. I mean, Midway is a turning point people. And when I say people, I mean historians tend to argue now about whether midway was the actual turning point of the Pacific or was it Guadalcanal? And I believe that, that is largely scholarly and therefore pointless argument because the period stretching between, let’s say, Jim, first at 1942, in January 1 1943, during that period of time that, that six months, a little over six months, the basic quality of what the Empire of Japan had become militarily changed, it fundamentally changed. And that change was manifested in by June 1 1942, the Japanese Empire was was rampaging around the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the Japanese Empire was expanding. That expansion continued even after midway, it just didn’t extend into toward the Hawaiian Islands. That expansion continues through to Guadalcanal. But certainly by the end of the Guadalcanal campaign, the Japanese military is no longer expanding the reality of its war, the war that it had, by that point inherited it, which for the record was not the war that it wanted. But the war that it got instead, the reality of that war was that the Japanese military was doing good to hold on to a network of violent outposts. And what the Japanese military had seen earlier in this year, and I’m speaking like, from the perspective of September 15 1944, what the Japanese had seen since the beginning of the year, was the was oh here comes the Americans, meaning that beginning with the right before the turn of the new year, and it brought For the Americans have conducted operation carbonic which was the post of planning operation in the former British Gilbert islands. That’s terrova and making so the Americans are beginning to assault Japanese island outposts. Then after shortly after the beginning of the year you get an operation flintlock was the Americans come to the Marshall Islands and begin taking back important Japanese island outposts that continues through to 1944 and when 1944 begins so from the end of 43, when we take the former Gilbert islands to the beginning of 44. When we take back the marshals, then we begin to look toward the Caroline Islands, and more importantly, we begin looking toward the Marianas Islands. And when I say Mariana, so what I mean is the historical Marianas, which included Guam, Saipan, tinian, and then about a dozen or so other islands, not all of which were occupied, but some of which were. And the Japanese maintained some significant and important Island outposts in the Marianas, the most important of which was site pan. Well, what the Japanese have seen in the months immediately before, the Americans come to the Palau Island group is that they saw the Americans first attack and capture site ban, which was catastrophic news to the Empire, because Simon represented one of the most important Japanese Imperial Navy Island basis and the Japanese empires network of Island outposts. But then they proceed to also immediately after sidepanel lose tinian and then they lose Guam. In other words, they have lost not all of the Marianas, but to be honest the three most important islands in the Marianas the Japanese have other Garrison’s on other islands in the Marianas, but they end up being bypassed Garrison’s on islands like Paragon and rota are simply bypassed, we leave the Garrison’s there and and keep on chugging. And as we keep on chugging, I shouldn’t put it that way we keep on moving toward this overall goal is the the two competing campaigns.
Marty Morgan 22:12
The the early part of 1944 was spent the early months are spent with an investment in the Nimitz campaign, which is the central Pacific campaign, which is a campaign by which you first take the former British Gilbert islands then you take the Marshall Islands, and then you take the Marianas Islands and then you set up your basis for long range very heavy bombing activity to to expose the Japanese home islands to a strategic air campaign. We know that story. That’s another story entirely. But that was the overall objective of this Nimitz campaign, which reaches its ultimate conclusion with the fall of Guam and Guam is fully captured by the end of July 1944. We then begin setting up the airfields on one tinian and sideman and we begin bombing the Japanese home islands. And we haven’t we know how that story ends. But it’s also important to remember that a second campaign was about to kick off in 1944. And that was the South Pacific campaign, which was living led by Douglas MacArthur and in the South Pacific campaign, it imagined a series of proposed 50 slamming operations in the former Philippine Islands. We ended up becoming familiar with what actually happened but what actually happened was quite a bit different than what was planned. Because what was planned was not that we would first go to this island called les Tay and conduct landings in October 44. What was what was planned was that we would conduct landings on the island Mindanao and that we would land in Mindanao, then we would land at lead j and that you would have this two pronged assault on the Philippines that would then ultimately be joined by a third prong when there were landings at lingyin. Golf on Luzon. Just after the New Year, or Well, yeah, just in January 45. That was the plan. Well as the as the army was moving toward kicking off this overall assault, this liberation conquest of the Philippines, it was recognized that the tech by assessing the tactical situation, McArthur began to question whether or not a positive planning operation at Mindanao would be necessary. He was beginning in other words, to envision that I could preserve part of my strength by not even conducting a landing in Mindanao, but going straight for lay Tang, and then attacking Luzon. So that rather than trying to attack everything it was it was service toward this idea of bypass what you can attack what you can’t live without. Just like in the Nimitz campaign in the Central Pacific they had bypass my past major Garrison’s at places like pawn pay We would famously bypass the Japanese Garrison’s at kosrae and at Trump lagoon and several other locations, even in the Marianas, Nimitz. Ultimately bypasses wrote up a gun and a few other islands, focusing instead on tinian. So I panic one. And so it’s not an entirely unrealistic idea. And it’s not an entirely irresponsible idea that MacArthur realizes, you know, we don’t necessarily need to lose people and lose ships and airplanes on Mindanao. Let’s focus everything on late j and then after late j will go to Luzon and then we’ll attack Manila. And that’ll be the end of that, which is, of course, what ends up happening. The only problem with all of this was that the overall plan is contemplated as a preemptive strike to cover the Mindanao landings, attacking certain Japanese island outposts in the Palau Island group. And when I say the Palau Island group, there’s a very important point here that when I, when I take tours, I think I’ll end up taking tours to Palau again, I used to do that before COVID. That ended. But a big point that I made is that the palaung group consists of 340 Islands, and you’re familiar with one of them. There’s 340, other islands, not all of which are important. But there are several very important islands in there in addition to pelo.
Marty Morgan 26:29
To turn this back to your original question, the reality was the Japanese from the end of 43 realized we’re a different world we’re we’re a different Empire. Now. We’re an empire that needs to hold what we can. And we’re no longer going to be building new airfields on islands that we’ve captured, those days are gone. The New Japan is one where we have to build up powerful garrison forces on Island outposts, because the Americans are going to come and try to take them from us. And it is for that reason that pehlu was heavily fortified. It’s definitely worth mentioning that petaloo was heavily fortified during the 1944 time period. But pehlu had also like other islands in the pullout Island group, had also been fortified in the years before the war started. In fact, the Japanese did so with a great deal of secrecy in the aftermath of the First World War, as you know, the Versailles Treaty, divided up what had at one point been the German Empire and the German Empire included places like, for example, the Island in New Britain with this major, perfect deep sea anchorage in a place called rebel that had at one time been German. The Northern Marianas Islands to include tinian sai pan had been German as well. The pullout Island group had to a to a limited degree bins settled by the Germans, at the end of World War One, all of what had been German. Up to World War One and up to the armistice of 1918. All of those islands became a part of what was called the South Pacific mandate. And the South Pacific mandate
Marty Morgan 28:12
pointed that the Empire of Japan, which for the record had been an ally, who was fighting technically on our side during World War One, although Japan did very little in the way of actual fighting during the war, but Japan was nevertheless an ally, going into the Versailles peace treaty, Japan was an equal. And at the end of that treaty, the conclusion of that treaty that established this opposite mandate, gave those islands to the Empire of Japan. Now, within a few years after Versailles, the International cysts situation had changed fundamentally, and the the Japanese Empire and the United States of America suddenly found themselves in an arms race, the type of arms race that had brought on the circumstances of World War One. And so we sought to apply the brakes to that process. And we invited the Japanese to the negotiating table, and we would ultimately hold the Washington Naval Treaty and the Washington Naval Treaty. I should say we had negotiations that led eventually to this treaty, and that treaty compelled both sides to limit what they were building in terms of Warships, limiting specifically battleships because it was recognized after the misery and experience of world war one it was recognized that battleships are a great way of guaranteeing you’re going to get everybody really nervous, and there’s going to be an arms race, and that will lead to warfare. And so we sought to prevent that from happening by entering entering into this treaty agreement with the Empire of Japan. And as a part of that, we had furthermore obligated that we wouldn’t begin fortifying islands in the Pacific. So the United States had this Pacific outpost on the former former Spanish colony of Guam, which is still part of the greater united states of america today. And the United States as a part of this Washington Naval Treaty agreed with the Empire of Japan that listen, we will not fortify Guam, if you will not fortify anything in the South Pacific mandate, and the Japanese agreed to it, and then immediately began violating it. We never did build, like if you ever get a chance to go to Hawaii, and if you tour any of the old coast artillery locations around the island of Oahu, all of that was done after the turn of the 20th century leading up to the World War One era. And so, literally, like the island of Oahu was turned into basically the Deathstar of post artillery defenses. Warm, on the other hand, had nothing, absolutely nothing. And that’s because of the fact that we were obligated by this treaty that followed world war one where we were trying to prevent an arms race with the Japanese whereby everybody’s building battleships and building fortifications on islands in the Pacific. That’s what we were trying to prevent. That is exactly what happened. Because the Japanese, and I love to be fair to them, but it’s hard to be fair to them over this. The Japanese then they exerted these tight controls over who got to visit places like site pan, and the pulao Island group to include the island of Palawan. Those tight controls were in place to prevent Western eyes from seeing what the Japanese were actually doing. And what the Japanese were actually doing was fortifying the hell out of these remote island outposts in violation of this agreement the United States. And so the pulao Island group that includes pehlu its most important Island is an island called Korea, which is about 35 miles north of Pelham, and Korea ends up being the perfect place to have like your main city in the island group because it’s a perfect seaport. And the Japanese will violate the terms of these this treaty by building multiple submarine bases. In the Palau Island group, where they build a big submarine Bay or they they build one submarine base and multiple seaplane bases. in Palau. They then do things like blast channels through coral reefs, they do that right next to petaloo, by the way, to create greater access in and out through the island group access to the open ocean that is, they then build a military airfield on the largest of the islands in the island group and the northern most and the largest of all the islands in the in the ploughman groups called Babel to AB the Japanese during this pre world war two time period. In fact, almost 20 years before World War Two, they’re beginning to build a submarine base, seaplane bases and Army Airfield. They will eventually move Garrison’s there at the beginning of World War Two. They’re using it as a means during this early phase of supporting their attempted spread across the Pacific. It’s an island group that they had before the war started. And it’s an island group that they were planning to hang on to because they fortified it in violation of the treaty agreement.
Marty Morgan 33:13
After the fall of Saigon, and there was no bones about it, there was there was no question about what was going to happen next. for everybody. Every Japanese garrison on an island was fully aware. I mean, they were aware before SIPE and in fact, they were aware after really terawatt, I would say, certainly by January 1 1944. Every Japanese Colonel or general in charge of a garrison on a remote island outpost new, they’re coming for me, eventually, I have to be ready. And so the activity associated with preparing the island for combat, it increased in pace and scale. And the result of that was that the Japanese, the Japanese commander in in the pulao Island group, and keep in mind Palau is several critically important locations. This series really focuses on what happens on petaloo. But it would be wrong to it lets people misunderstand the battle when they don’t understand the broader context because the broader context is that pehlu was the the largest Southern Japanese airfield in the palaeo Island group, there was a large airfield on bibble dweb, the biggest island in the north. There was even one more airfield south of petaloo on the island ongar which, which is where there will be also an a post landing and a big battle in September of 1944. The Japanese Imperial Army, however, maintains its airfield on pehlu and focuses on that airfield because you have two intersecting runways you’ve seen photos I bet you’ve seen two nice fat long runways with big taxi and Turn around areas and hardstand areas and that airfield the airfield on the southern end petaloo was there to support multi engine, Japanese Imperial Army Aviation. So you could from that airfield Park. This famous aircraft that the Japanese used throughout the war, the twin engine Bette medium bomber Island from the airfield at the southern end of pehlu, where there was sort of a nice flat vessel thick plane that allowed you to establish two intersecting runways have a nice of healthy links from that airfield bombers could reach 500 miles to the west to reach the Philippines. And bombers could reach five 800 miles to the northeast, to Guam. And so the Japanese the fact that the Japanese had not just one island outpost at Pella loop, but really multiple islands outposts in the Palau Island group. That was threatening and that was why MacArthur realized that before I can land in Mindanao, I have to do something to neutralize not just pehlu but everything in the Palau Island group, and that’s anger. pehlu they had a fighter strip on an island called nega booze, they had the seaplane bases, and then the submarine base at crore. Then they had another fighter base and a big garrison on the island of Baywatch way up in the north. And that brought the overall Japanese military strength and it was just for the record it was mostly army not entirely mostly Japanese Imperial Army. The Navy was around for at the seaplane bases and the submarine base. But the overall Japanese strength in the palaeo Island group was over 30,000. And that’s a significant garrison as significant as places like Iijima Guam site, man, the thing is, is that that that strength is spread out over these multiple islands, and the most important are and Gar they build web corps or, and of course pellowah. So the tactical situation was that within the palaeo Island group, the Japanese realized that an American amphibious landing of some kind would be inevitable. They could also they weren’t stupid by this. I mean, they were never stupid at any point during the war. But by this point in the war, we had shown our cards to use an expression we had shown what our post amphibious landing operations looked like we shown the form that they took in the form that they took was that American transport ships would sail up near it, transferred troops into landing craft that would then go ashore, that they would be supported by large ships, battleships, cruisers, that would bombard the island before the landings, they would be supported in the aftermath of the landings by this this wonder weapon that we had called the LST. And that we could show up at the island assaulted and then make an assault landing stick. They understood that that’s how that worked. And so they understood how to fight it. They also understood that for the Americans to make this strategy work, they’ve got to have beaches. And if there’s one thing that defines the Palau Island group of more than 340 Islands, is there are hardly any beaches there. Hardly any, the further north you get, you get basically no beaches so that they will grab the biggest island of them all. beveled web is cliffs that go down to the sea, you can conduct an amphibious landing there.
Marty Morgan 38:42
The farther south you get, the older the island group gets. And so the lower and you know, more gentle the angles are. And the result is that as the farther you get south and pull our island group, you get some beaches but one of the things that I that characterizes heavily the center part of the Palau Island group is this area that everyone refers to as the rock islands and Palouse rock islands are world famous for activities like snorkeling and scuba diving. And they are stunning in their beauty, but they’re dreadful, inhospitable islands. It’s best to enjoy that beauty from a boat offshore than it is to go mucking around up in the jungle on these islands. Because you’re just a few degrees off the equator. It’s hot, it’s extremely muggy. And you don’t have a lot to work with the islands that constitute the center part of Palau, the rock islands, they are completely incompatible with an amphibious landing because they’re intense fringing reefs very shallow water and islands that are basically just rock outcrop sheer rock outcroppings. It’s only when you reach the southern end of the island group that You get a couple of islands that presents some beaches to you. And at the far southern end of the island group, you had really good landing beaches on the southern most of the islands called anger. And then you had good beaches on the western and southern sides of Palawan. The Japanese garrison commander who was no idiot, realized, alright, the Americans are going to come here, eventually they’re gonna bomb us first, then their ships are going to show up, then they’re going to conduct an amphibious assault. And when they conduct an amphibious assault, they’re not going to be able to land up here at table Guam, there’s no place to land, they can’t really land around the center part of the island group because it’s the rock islands, it’s shallow, there are no beaches. It doesn’t work for them. Hello, though, it gives them what they need. And anger gives them what they need. And so the Japanese commander in the imperial army commander in the island group, chose to focus defenses there. And it was an extremely intelligent use of those defenses. Just for the record, it was largely obvious It was a patently obvious thing, like there was no sense and putting static units on the coast on the northern tip of anger, or the northern tip of Guam, because the Americans are going to land there, you take those same units and you put them in defensive positions on pehlu. That’s a good use of that resource, or you put them in defensive positions. I’m anger, that’s a good use of the resource because the Americans can land there. And that’s why beginning on September 15 1944, we see this two pronged assault unfold with elements of the US Army’s at first Infantry Division, conducting the Postal Service landing on the island of Unger. And, of course, famously, the US first Marine Division conducting the post amphibious landing on the western beaches of Hello. And I know that that’s a lot and that that information may seem extraneous and useless. But it’s for me extremely important in tackling a subject that I know is going to come up. And it’s a subject that the series flirts with. And that subject is people have in the decades since pehlu, they have taken to the sport of imagining that pehlu was an unnecessary battle. And the reason that they believe this is because the Mindanao operation and keep in mind pehlu had to be attacked to preempt Japanese bombers on the airfield to pillow from reaching the Philippines, when the Mindanao operation was canceled.
Marty Morgan 42:36
To be casual, outside observer that doesn’t fully understand everything you can easily say, and we didn’t need to land a pillow. To this day, that’s an argument that happens every time I go to the island. And people have extremely powerfully held feelings about it. And these, the majority of people believe that peltola was an unnecessary battle. And they believe that because they’re sort of told that over and over again, by almost every printed book, and the HBO miniseries The Pacific, they’re reminded time and time again, pebble it was unnecessary. And when you when you take pebble loo and you pluck it out of this larger and important background of complicated geography and complicated other events, if you pluck it out and single it out sure it looks unnecessary. But the reality is that by conducting landings at angara, and Capella, Lu, even though the Babylon petaloo turned out to be far, far worse than we ever imagined. in aggregate, it ties up all Japanese forces in the pulao Island group. And for the record, we bypassed all those other locations. There was never an attack on Korea, except from the air, there was never an attack on David Webb except from the year. That’s why it fascinates me to hear people say we should have bypassed that and I was like, well, we bypass most of it. We just Indian didn’t bypass and guard petaloo. And then there’s this one other island where we conduct a landing that will come up for us here in a few minutes, at a place called nativos. But what we also did was we significantly turned up the heat on the Japanese submarine base at Korea. And what it looks like to me is that the pelo operation for all of the misery, suffering and loss that we have, we’ve basically destroyed the first Marine Division on Palawan. And, to me, it doesn’t look like that was a waste, because it provided this very, very important contribution to the overall war at sea, and that it greatly limited the bandwidth of the submarine base at core.
Dan LeFebvre 44:47
So if it hadn’t landed on pelo, then probably would have had to have tried to take some of those other islands.
Marty Morgan 44:54
That’s a great one if and it maneuver it very nicely maneuvers into the broader question because Okay, If we didn’t invade Petaluma because what the way I typically presented when I’m being sassy to people that want to argue with me when we’re on the island is that they’ll say we should never have invaded here and I was like, okay if we didn’t invade Pilla, do you think we shouldn’t have invaded ongar? as well, I can see that sometimes they’re like, Oh, yeah, that’s right, we did that too. And they’ll very, almost immediately, because they, they’ve already planted the flag, and they feel like they have to defend it, they’ll go, we shouldn’t have done that either. And I was like, that then would have left the entirety of the Palau Island group on molested during an extremely critical period in the Pacific War, the period of the latter months of 1944, that would carry us by the way up through the late landings, and then up through the link iron Gulf landings on Amazon. And I feel like if we had left on guard, and petaloo, completely alone, and if we had just bombed the Palau Island group, I think that our overall objectives in the Pacific would have been compromised a lot more than they were, it would have been a far more difficult fight to liberate the Philippines because pillar would have always been there, the airplanes based on pebble Lou could have harassed us, granted, they wouldn’t have been able to do so forever, because they were eventually cut off from gasoline. But the submarines, submarines could have done what submarines were being used to supply Island outposts that, of course, that shut the supplies off to a trickle. But still there were being supplied. And that meant if we had done nothing to the entirety of the Palau islands, that sub base would have continued plugging along. And there would have been Japanese air power on pehlu and on anger and on Daedalus, and unbiblical. And I think that would have made 1944 an early night, late 1944 and early 1945, a much more complicated thing that it eventually was, trust me, it’s, it’s with no great joy that I advanced this argument. Because as you know, we lose basically 1800 people killed on this island, and about that was supposed to take three days that took 73, we pay dearly. For both islands, we pay a lot more dearly for pillow than we did for anger. And we destroy the fighting strength of the first Marine Division in that battle. And, at least to me, it looks like the investment paid an ultimate dividend, although it’s a very oblique dividend. To the big picture, I should mention that I remember having a spirited argument of this subject at one point, with people who are named characters in this series where I had been on a trip, I was on a trip to Okinawa, and RV Bergen was on the trip. And I was quite close with RV Berg and until his death I, I met most of these people, in fact, and I remember talking to him about it. And he was not having a word of what I had to say. And it’s just when you’re when you’re dealing with somebody like Harvey Bergen, you eventually just stop trying to make your points because, I mean, that is a person who bled and suffered on these islands and, and that that’s a perspective that deserves respect. And I definitely respected that perspective. And what I enjoyed about the subject is this ongoing dialogue, where, just by, by virtue of me being lucky and being in the right place at the right, the right person at the right place at the right time. I got involved in this, and I got to meet these people. And I got to be friendly with Sid Phillips and I got to be friendly with Harvey Bergen. And I had met Eugene sledge before his death by complete coincidence, because I’m an alabamian. And I enjoyed having the interaction with them over the Pacific War and learning about it from them, and their personal perspective. And I also enjoyed reconciling that with the intellectual thought of hate. Was this operation actually necessary? Have we considered everything? And I only hope that this is the kind of intellectual exploration of this subject that’s going to continue in the future. I worry that it won’t because the veterans are gone.
Dan LeFebvre 49:31
Well, you mentioned the airfield on pelo in episode six of the series. That’s really where we see the battle for the air, airfield take place and Japanese defenses are strong. there’s just not a lot of cover on the airfield. So a lot of men are killed trying to take it. Eventually, though they do manage to take the airfield How well did the show do portraying the actual battle for the airfield itself on pelo.
Marty Morgan 49:57
The show did very Well in depicting that, because I’ve been on that airfield many, many times, I’ve taken people there who wanted to run the length from the beach area, all the way to the headquarters, which is something that’s well depicted in there. And the location that they chose matches the actual location so well that it would blow your mind, I should actually do some side by side of photos I’ve taken at the actual location, and stitched screen grabs from the series because they mean it looks perfect, it looks like pehlu. And that, that I found to be an extremely thought provoking aspect of this, it was, that’s one thing that I deeply respect about the series is that thought went into the selection of locations, just like it went into that with Saving Private Ryan with panda brothers. And I often think about how, you know this genre of the world war two movie, it was created before World War Two was over, there were already movies being made while the war was still being fought. The one that I frequently referenced, I should reference to actually is the defensive Wake Island. And then one can altiris was made during the war. And they found them on location in Southern California. And they didn’t really have access to Japanese people. And so they used they tended to use extras who were sometimes Hispanic. And the thought was because they’re Hispanic, they will look more Asian, which is a little bit of a convoluted way of getting there. But that’s the that was the reality of film production during the war. And so it’s fascinating to me to look at movies like that, and
Marty Morgan 51:41
even to extend beyond the end of the war and into the the post war time period, like sands of Iwo Jima, for example, where they chose locations that they had to go with locations that were available to them. To look at those movies today. It’s just it causes you to recoil like, Oh my god, that doesn’t look that looks like Ventura County that looks like Southern California, that does not look like terroir that does not look like Guadalcanal that does not look like Wake Island. And that’s one thing that makes me value and appreciate the efforts that went into Saving Private Ryan band brothers and hbos series The Pacific because oh, my God, they nailed the location for the petaloo sequence. And it looks stunning, absolutely stunning, even down to the point that the building that is supposed to represent the headquarters of the Japanese airfield on Pella loop, which was a building that was in ruin as a result of first bombing, then preliminary naval bombardment, and then Combat Action on the ground. That building looks just like the real one that’s there. That’s a that’s an accomplishment that I think they should be proud of in the series, the battle sequence, I think it’s also something to be proud of. And one thing that I really admire about that sequence that, for me, at least, sort of grabbed me by the by the shirt, and yanked me into the experience was there’s an interesting cast of characters that they’re not named in this series, but I think they are performers. Nevertheless, they make weapons cast members in a way, because literally the heart of the entire story arc of Sid Phillips is that he’s a mortar man, and we meet him and we come to understand that weapon system quite a bit better as that weapon system is used in combat, from autocount Canal to Cape Gloucester to Petaling, Okinawa, and I’m quite interested in that weapon. And I’ve shot all the world war two weapons, and particularly the ones that are depicted in series 60 millimeter mortar and the 81 millimeter mortar. And I appreciate that part of the series and that authenticity, because there’s a reality that we have to confront, and that is that world war two departs from the standard action movie reality. And the standard action movie reality is that everybody gets killed by small arms fire by rifles, pistols, and submachine guns. And the reality is that, overwhelmingly, during World War Two, it was artillery fire and mortar fire that did the killing. And I mean, overwhelmingly, 90% of the combat casualties are caused by those weapons, and the mortar, just from the experience that I have had firing 60 and 81 millimeter mortars. It’s a chilling experience to shoot them because you realize there’s nothing you can do. There’s nowhere you can hide and just hope that it doesn’t get you and that’s all you can do. Because the mortar doesn’t care if it’s day or night, doesn’t care if it’s raining, or shining doesn’t care if it’s snowing or if it’s howling wind doesn’t care if it’s blistering heat, or chilling cold. The mortar always works. It’s an excruciatingly accurate weapon system and it’s not long as you’re operating within ranges, and when you’re on pehlu, you are basically in range of all the motor systems at all times, this pellet was not big. And that’s one thing I appreciate about the series is that you’re seeing the weapon system, and how that weapons system is used in combat. And for the most part, movies just don’t do that. But instead, we have named characters, we have speaking parts, and their job is their mortar man. Like there’s a point in the pelvis sequences where you see Rami Malik snafu, you see, they set the 60 millimeter more up, he puts the the site on the weapon he’s citing through the site. And then they begin to deliver fire using the weapon. And then you see a marine is killed, and he was the one that was in a little leather pouch over his shoulder, he was carrying the site and you see, they have to leave his body and they take the site off. And that’s a powerful moment, because without that site, the weapons useless. You also see how when the mortar team moves forward, the mortar team has to keep moving forward, you can’t allow pieces of the team to separate because to allow them to separate is a guarantee that the system won’t, you won’t be able to fire with that weapon, and you’re just carrying around paperweights. At that point, you have to have one man carrying the baseplate, one man carrying the tube, you have to have men carrying the ammunition for the weapon, you have to have somebody carrying the site. And when you have all of those pieces together, and the men are very skilled at fighting with that weapon. That’s what that’s a terrifying weapon on the battlefield and a very, very deadly weapon on the battlefield. And I kind of respect the series because it makes the mortar team a central player. And I don’t really know of another movie that doesn’t say movie a Movie or Miniseries that doesn’t. You’re also earlier, we saw the enlightened 17, a one water cooled machine gun, which is an extraordinarily effective weapon system that is used from the beginning of the war all the way to the end of the war. Why did they use it through to the end, because it worked. And it worked great. That Weapon System fights like a beast on Guadalcanal, which is very well depicted in the scenes that are relating to the Battle of Anderson field, and the basketball Medal of Honor actually. And that weapon continues to fight all the way through to the end of the of the war. And it was a fearsome weapon system that went well handled like sent by a crew. And well led by somebody like john bass alone, that thing could break the back of an enemy infantry attack. So it fascinated me because where else is that weapon system being depicted as being a powerful battlefield weapon, you just don’t see it. In other movies. Yeah, you see machine guns being used. But they’re like sort of sideline character. They’re not depicted as being a starring character. And those sequences were passed along as mowing down this attack, that it descends on his position, the weapon system is depicted, I think accurately as being just as deadly as it actually was. And it was actually capable of a lot greater than what’s depicted there. And so I kind of appreciate the fact that they’re depicting these weapons. And it’s, I mean, obviously, I’m interested in the weapons more, in addition to the history of the people that fought it. But I feel like those weapons tell us a lot, they can inform a great deal of our understanding about why these battles were as costly as they were. Because if you fail to understand the mortar and what a fearsomely dangerous weapon, that is, you’re not really understanding how we can lose 1800 people on a small island. If you don’t understand the machine gun, you don’t understand to read the john basketball Medal of Honor action citation. To read it without having seen those scenes to read the the Medal of Honor, citation and abstract, I don’t know that you would really have the deepest appreciation for that Medal of Honor citation. But if you’ve seen the movie, and then you read his actual citation, it all kind of comes together in a very effective way. And then also you get in one carbene and one rifle and the Thompson submachine gun. They’re well depicted in this, and the lineup, the usual suspects of American infantry weapons in the Pacific, their central characters through this whole drama, and all of them reach sort of this Apex during the petaloo sequences. And you see, see them all in these parallel episodes and depicted in a way that I deeply appreciate which is why I gushed about it so long just now they
Dan LeFebvre 59:33
seem to go out of their way to mention this during the battle for the airfield, is just how the men didn’t have any fresh water. They’re all thirsty, it has to be extremely disheartening. There’s one scene where they find water and then they find the Japanese poisoned it. It was that true?
Marty Morgan 59:50
Absolutely true. And this was a major part of what limited our effectiveness during the fight, propel whoop and it also provides this brilliant meditation on logistics. Because what happens very often and abstract when we say things like, Hello was only supposed to last three days. One experience I’ve had in leading tours on pillows I’ve had people say, Well, if it was, if they only thought it was gonna last three days, how did they fight for 73. And I’ll tell you how they did they, they really had to stretch things. And they really have to call in sort of an emergency to get through that long. And it basically caused a shuffling of everything that it was thought it would take to capture the island. So imagine this, I mean, the military didn’t unnecessarily or wantonly or carelessly throw people into these battles, they very carefully thought out the supplies that would be necessary to achieve victory. And if, if your intelligence estimate was, first Marine Division is going to knock this out in three days, you wouldn’t just give them three days of water, you would give them much greater than that, and you would give them because there’s going to be obviously a mop up time period in the aftermath of primary hostilities on the island. And so you would give them two, maybe three weeks of water to get a three day job done. Well, that’s all well and good until you’re in the third week of a knockdown, drag out battle, and you don’t have enough water.
Marty Morgan 1:01:21
They began running short of water on pehlu, long before three weeks in just for the record. And there is one mishap that occurs that brings on that shortage, and that is that you’ve seen military gas cans, and they will also have military water cans. And during the Second World War, they were very careful to mark what’s potable water and watch gasoline. And the logistics of staging this major operation moving in moving an entire Marine Division to the Palau Island group to carry out the assault on fellow they knew that their water needs were going to be higher because they understood well what the daytime temperatures during the autumn months were they understood well that it’s going to be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every single day with with the humidity level and the 80 percentage point. And so understanding that they were like we’re gonna have high levels of water consumption, we better be prepared. It’s just that when they prepared, they collected up additional water cans, but they had been used previously for gasoline. And so they scrubbed them to with the hope that they could be then that the all of the gasoline residue and film would be out of them, and they could be used to carry water. And to this day, we still don’t know exactly what happened. But it’s beyond question that they didn’t scrub a lot of the cans out, and then they put water in them. So that when the first Marine Division begins fighting on the island, they have cans that are delivered to the beach that are supposed to be containing potable water. But then when they’re poured out into canteens, the men realize this is God, this is gasoline, we can’t drink this. And it’s because the cans had not been thoroughly wrenched and cleaned after having been used for gasoline. That’s a logistics challenge that fascinates me because just imagine how broad the challenge was of providing everything that is the end all of the Marines, the first marine of all the Marines and Sailors in the first Marine Division are going to need to fight this battle. You have to provide not only the weapons of war and equipment, you have to provide their water and their food as well. And an attempt during war during wartime conditions where basically everything is in shortage. If you go out and you try to find containers for fresh, drinkable water, and you come up with things that at one point contain gasoline, and maybe you do the best you can to make them appropriate for carrying water and you have a mistake. And that mistake results and Marines fighting on pehlu who don’t have enough water in that situation was greatly compounded by the fact that then the battle stretches on far longer than was expected. In fact, by the end of by the end of the first week on the island, you may have read that the first Marine Division and some regiments they had experienced 70% casualties. And the result was that by the 20th of September, may 21 21st 22nd, right in that area about a weekend of the battle, the first Marine Division, it just doesn’t have the strength that it needs to continue fighting by this point. They have overcome the Japanese positions on the beach and they have over run the airfield and they’re moving into a third phase. And that third phase was pushing into this central uplifted coral plateau. We call the boomer burgle massif. And as they begin moving into that, the attrition that the division has experienced up to that point has been so great. And attrition is partly combat men who have been wounded in action. It’s partly men who just, they experienced heat exhaustion and heat exhaustion casualty is a Marine who has to come off the line, you can’t, you can’t be mad enough to toughen up and just get back in there and do it, your body shuts down, your body will not permit you to continue fighting. And so there are a large number of heat exhaustion casualties. And this is made all the worse by the fact that there’s not enough water for everybody. And all that does is that means that men who were sort of like right on the edge of becoming a heat exhaustion casualty, they tumble over the edge because they don’t help they don’t get water that would help hold that off. And so the result is that you get such high casualties in the division that a decision is made that the army will be brought onto the island to supplement the first Marine Division in fighting off the Japanese garrison, because by this stage of the battle, the Japanese have experienced they’ve suffered heavy losses. But they’re still by September 23 or so there’s still a couple 1000 Japanese on the island. And by this point, there, they have moved into defensive positions in the boomer Bruegel Hill mass, an area that is broadly and generically referred to his bloody nose ridge. And that’s because it’s not one Ridge, but a series of ridges, a series of ridges and hills and knobs and coral Badlands that are uplifted from that coastal plane where the runway where the airfield was. That is an area where the enemy can, can enjoy covering concealment. The Japanese made extensive use of this hill complex as defensive fortification, so that in the months immediately leading up to this battle Japanese dig into the unbreakable there were positions in the human readable and another hills further to the north on pelo that had been prepared much earlier in the war. And then a lot of digging took place at the beginning of 1944, after the Japanese see the Gilbert’s and the marshals fall, and then of all, and eventually, of course, the Marianas. And so the human robot becomes basically one big fortress, and the Japanese make this shrewdly competent decision to, let’s just pull back into this and let them come and get us and we can sit here and inflict casualties on them. In the meantime, there’s a recognition overall among the Japanese defenders that every day that we make the Americans pay for this island is a day that we delay them. Every marine or sailor or soldier we kill on this island is a marine sailor soldier who will not land on Kyushu or Honshu, or Hokkaido, in other words, won’t land in the home islands. And so the Japanese, they shift into this mindset of the defensive attritional battle. And in doing so they have basically abdicated the idea of stopping the American force from capturing the island. And they have adopted instead, this position of we’re going to make you pay, you’re going to win anyway. And we know that, but we’re going to kill as many of you as we possibly can, before you can celebrate it.
Dan LeFebvre 1:08:35
At what point you said they’re going to be, they thought there’s gonna be three days. And obviously, it was much longer than that, did they have a supply line bringing more supplies into reinforced them? Or do they basically have, you know, this couple of weeks worth of water, and we had to stretch that out, because I would imagine, initially, when you first get there, you assume that the battle is going to be three days, you’re not really going to be saving water on an island that’s near the equator like that.
Marty Morgan 1:09:07
And that’s a critical realization that leadership has to make, and that is that this is going to go on for a long time, we’re not going to be able to complete this job with the supplies we brought with us, that sets in motion, this sudden shifting of gears of we’ve suddenly got a crisis on our hands. And what we need to manage that crisis is more people more ammunition, more water, more fuel, more air cover. And as they shift into this, this crisis mode of supplies that were destined for other locations are rerouted to the Palau Island group to support the army battle and then Gar and then ultimately the Army and Marine Corps battle on pehlu because I keep neglecting to mention that during the first week in the Battle of pehlu, just six miles away. The Battle of anger has begun and ended. The army eventually overcomes the Japanese garrison on anger captures the island. This was the US Army’s at first Infantry Division, supported by the 17 7/10 Tank Battalion. And I mentioned those units specifically because they will have to come and help on pelo. Because after all, the Marine Corps has this extremely difficult experience during the opening week, the army ultimately moves over the 300 and 21st Infantry Regiment of the 81st division. they land on the island on what is that that’s on September 23. And almost as soon as the army conducts its landings, the army maneuvers around to the north of the boomer Bruegel Hill mass, and cuts it off from the north. So that the boomer Bruegel complex, prior to the Army’s landing, was being attacked by the Marines from the south than the army lands, they seal it off, and then you’ve got this, this pocket that’s 900 meters long and about 300 meters wide, that’s surrounded. And once it’s surrounded, it will take five marine and army regiments, the next eight weeks to conquer it. That’s how rugged that terrain was. And five arguments for the army in the Marine Corps, circa late 1944. One regiment is going to be somewhere between let’s say 2500 to maybe 3500 men. These strength levels vary from unit to unit as a result of attrition and replacements and that sort of thing. But if you consider let’s just say on the conservative that’s, that’s over 10,000 Marines sailors and soldiers who fight to secure something that’s 800 meters long and 300 meters wide for two months,
Dan LeFebvre 1:11:56
I mean, it really puts it in perspective.
Marty Morgan 1:11:59
It really does and that’s why I I mean, I’ve I know that there are a lot of other historians out there that have had the experience that I’ve had and I think they would probably agree with the statement and that is that once you hike up to the Umbro goal complex on peloton because they have a jungle trail now that takes you through sort of the main landmarks within a robo complex. Once you hike up through there, and you come back out, and and when you come down at the end of the trail to go get back in the van to go back to the hotel. All of us, we’ve all done the same thing. We all go. Yep, I get it now. Because with carrying no equipment, and nobody shooting at you, the robot will whip your ass. Because it did that to me. My first day on pehlu. During my first visit, I was a heat Casualty. And that was in March, not in September. That was in the winter. Granted, the winter is not all that much colder than the summer is but it’s a difference of 20 degrees. So it was about 8586 degrees. So it’s 20 degrees cooler than it would have been for the Marines in the army when they were fighting the actual battle in September. But we landed and as soon as we landed, we went straight to the beach to have a look at the beach. And when we got there, one of the members of our group wandered off the biggest no no on a tour group. And the problem with wandering off on pehlu is that petaloo has lots of these things called saltwater crocodiles. So when you wander off, people immediately think you have been taken by the saltwater crocodiles. And it’s not a ridiculous conclusion. And so we launched into this panic and we were going to just make this quick visit to the beach, have a look at the beach. Awesome. We walked out on the point, we’re gonna have 30 minutes of light kind of looking around at the point. And thinking about the first the way that the battle unfolded there on the first day, then we were gonna go back to the hotel cleanup have dinner and get ready for the next day. And instead, we did a headcount somebody was missing. And then we spent three hours looking for this guy. And during that three hours, I mean, if you’ve ever dealt with heat exhaustion, you know it’s a stopwatch. Once your body gets into the conditions where he exhaustion will take over, you start the stopwatch, and everyone’s a little different. And when you run out of time, you are at a time and there’s no amount of ice or water on planet earth that will bring you back quicker. So I went down after about the second hour, and when I was down, I was down for the count. It was a full 20 hours before I can even stand up and walk around again. And that’s with me laying down and like putting a cold rag on my forehead and then just guzzling water constantly. The irony of it was that when I went down as a heat casualty, the group leader was then like, Oh, great. I’ve got real drama here. I’ve lost one person, probably a crocodile. And then this guy just passed out on me. And so he was like, when I when I passed out, they were like we got to go straight to the hotel and try to get him Take him back. And so we broke off the search loaded up in the man drove up to the hotel. And when we pulled up, they were like carrying me to the room to throw me on the bed. And as they as we walked up, the guy that had been missing was sitting at the bar having a drink. And he’s like, Oh, hey, where are you guys bed?
Dan LeFebvre 1:15:17
Well, at least he wasn’t taken by a crocodile.
Marty Morgan 1:15:21
He wasn’t my crocodile. It’s a silly story that’s meant to call attention, in fact that when you’re a few degrees off the equator, it ain’t like being from New Orleans, or from Mobile, Alabama, like Eugene sledge was, we get hot here, and people from the south we know heat. But that’s different. That’s so much, it’s so much worse. It’s a more fast acting heat than it is here. Because here, it’s all the humidity and the heat together, and you’re getting direct sunlight in a way that you weren’t that we don’t get it nearly as direct here, I’m at 30 degrees north here, I think petaloo is at seven degrees off the equator, isn’t it? pehlu is just not that far off the equator. And I don’t know how those men god bless the men that fought that battle, because those are some of the most challenging circumstances that I can imagine. And you and they emerge in that battle in a way that they haven’t before. You know, because on one canal, the the environment was a challenge. But it just wasn’t the same kind of challenge that it was on pelo. It’s worth mentioning here, because we haven’t said it yet. And that is that the Japanese who knew how to defend islands, and knew how to fight us, they knew don’t leave any open space, don’t allow bushes and trees that the Japanese had burned off everything. So the island was completely bald. That’s what makes it so different today when you go to Pelle who, because it’s you’re in the jungle, and you tend to think of it, this was a jungle battle. And it really, it kind of wasn’t that there were only a few patches of natural growth that had survived. The Japanese understood, understood that they needed the best possible fields of fire. And so they they scoured the entire island before the operation began. And the result was that you’re just you’re being bombarded by this direct sunlight at the hottest time of the year, on an island that has no shade anywhere. And you have to survive all of this with very, very limited water. I couldn’t do it. I mean, I I lasted two hours on jungle pehlu. And nobody was shooting at me. Imagine being on a mortar team, that now a 16 millimeter mortar tube is not that heavy base plates not that heavy. But the problem was that everyone in the crew had to carry ammunition. And if they’re carrying the standard, the 40 and 40 981, high explosive round, the more you can carry on that the better because obviously, if you are carrying less ammunition forward with a weapon, that just means you’re less dangerous. So you’re carrying the elements, the components of a weapon system and you’re carrying ammunition in addition to your own personal weapons because like the sledge character you really see it I think so well, that’s why I know I’m back to this again. But you never get to see this really effective depiction of what a mortar team experienced in combat. And in this you’re seeing the mortar team moving forward, the men carrying various components of the weapon system and like you’re seeing sledge and he’s carrying a component of the mortar, in addition to his own carving, because he also has to have a personal defensive weapon with him at all times. And many of these men carried a carbene and a pistol. So you’re carrying a personal defense weapon with the ammunition for that in addition to components in the mortar system, and ammunition for it. That’s a lot to lug around on an island like that.
Dan LeFebvre 1:18:54
We mentioned slides I wanted to ask you about another character that we had talked about in last episode as well as a little bit earlier. In episode six of the Pacific we see Bob Luckey get injured and he’s taken to a medical shape where runner is also there. He’s also injured. Basically they’re taken out of the fight. Can you give a little more historical context around what happened to Bob Luckily,
Marty Morgan 1:19:16
yeah, they were during the attack on the airfield lekki is hit by fragmentation from an explosion and the fragments pepper him in such a way that he has to be evacuated was lucky in that when he got peppered it was by smaller fragments. It was never clearly determined what it was there was a belief that it might have been a Japanese mortar round or a Japanese hand grenade. Weapon the Japanese fought with it was extremely common on these islands was this weapon that was nicknamed the knee mortar. It’s not me like the knee like that, that piece of your anatomy but it’s it comes from the Japanese name for the weapon system and it was an individually portable and operated mortar, but it was not one where it fires by operation of the mortar round sliding down the tube, you would pull the pin on the ground, put it in the tube and then you had you actuated it to fire it. So there was a firing pin that set it off. And these little 15 millimeter mortar rounds are there all over these battlefields today, like I found 50 mil unexploited 50 millimeter knee mortar rounds on Pelican. And so it could have been one of those. That was that exposure was set off by a picric acid charging picric acid is a high explosive, just like TNT is. So it’s extraordinarily dangerous. It’s just that they provided a light fragmentation effect that will point detonating light fragmentation in the Japanese time. 97 hand grenade was an extraordinarily dangerous weapon, but it was it produced light fragmentation. If you were an adequate interval away from the weapon, it was it was survivable. And that’s what lucky experiences. So it’s either a knee mortar, round or hand grenade round peppers and with fragments. And the problem with that kind of fragmentation wound is that even if the fragments that embedded themselves in your flesh, even if it’s not life threatening, if you give it any, any measure of time, everything immediately becomes septic. I mean, I shouldn’t say everything very quickly becomes septic. And so the the fragments have to get removed, the entire wound has to be sanitized, and everything has to be sealed up. And so like he goes down from fragmentation mood, and so he’s out of the fight. And that’s a critical detail because there’s one of our main characters a character who we have followed through thick and thin up to this point. And he’s out of the story. I mean, he’s not, he doesn’t disappear from our story entirely at this point. But he’s out of action. And I feel like by losing that, you know, the old joke about making TV is that when they kill off a main character, it’s because they don’t know what else to do. They didn’t kill off lucky but lucky is gone. And the reason that that became sort of an old cliche TV cliche was because when you killed off a named character, a character that people had gotten to know and gotten to love, when you kill that character off, it has an effect on people. And it has this effect of getting people there. It has an effect of like tugging at their emotional involvement. And so that wasn’t written into the script that actually happened in Lucky’s life, but for him to be pulled out of it that that that invites your emotional attachment to what’s going on in the story. And isn’t that really what’s at the heart of this series this series is it’s different than Band of Brothers was in so many ways, because this this series is about the individual’s experience in the Pacific War. And there is this extremely powerful tone in the series of the Pacific War had the effect of traumatizing that’s really what we’re seeing. We’re seeing the with the Pacific War, traumatized people. And I would challenge that this is not something that is a major theme or a central theme. In Band of Brothers, we get a little bit of that Indiana brothers, but we don’t get it basically in every episode. And in this series, we get it in every episode, don’t we
Dan LeFebvre 1:23:26
kind of slipping away from some of the main characters are just seen, I wanted to ask you about it is near the end of Episode Six. And it’s after the Marines take the airfield before they go into the hills. There’s a Marine who just starts making a lot of noise one night, and making noise is dangerous, because that’s going to let the Japanese know where your dog in, risks everybody’s life. And so they try to get and be quiet just keeps yelling, swearing, you will come down to another marine grabs, closest thing you can find the shovel hits him with it. And the next morning, we find that that marine has been killed. The general consensus of everybody else as well, better him than all of us. Did that really happen?
Marty Morgan 1:24:02
That is certainly a story that was told and they’ve never identified exactly who that marine was. And
Marty Morgan 1:24:12
that is a little bit of a tale as old as time because you we’ve heard that about trench writing and World War One. I remember that as a kid there was this TV series called mash, maybe you’ve seen it and, and mash used that vehicle as a means of expressing to people, the high stakes of a combat environment. And in this scene, it’s depicted as they’ve moved into positions around the airfield, it’s nighttime. And the reality of the Battle of Hello Lou was that at night, the enemy was a bit more active the enemy would come out of cover a little bit more and that nighttime was very, very dangerous time and that the the Marines in the army tended to they would set up in nighttime positions and they put out they put out their defenses and they tended to not move a lot at night because More you moved in, if you moved at night, you tended to invite friendly fire. And it’s just because you can’t move at night, because you suddenly no longer have the ability to just stay in your lane. And you can very easily move into an area where a friendly unit is protecting it, you can unload, knowingly stumbled into an area that’s, that’s covered by another friendly unit, you can draw their fire. And so they tended to just move into static positions, set up their defenses and spend the night like that. And then they’d wait until dawn, and then they begin pushing again. And so the result was that, at night, men tend to try to sleep you had to maintain a watch. But this was simultaneous to the fact that the enemy was rating that the area was periodically interrupted by the occasional, like illumination round by some Naval Support from ships offshore. And there was always sort of enough noise around that nobody could really the people that were not on, not on guard, not a watch, they could try to get some sleep, but very little bit of very little sleep could be had. And if there’s one thing that we do know that the human experience in combat is one where First of all, everyone’s different, and some people can take it, what seems like endlessly, and other people can only take it for a few days, so that you could have someone who joined the Marine Corps and World War Two, completed marine boot camp, somebody that was really tough, somebody that could hack it all the way through boot camp, no problem, somebody that might be able to hack it through one battle, and then move to the second battle. And from the moment that you’re under fire, the clock is ticking. And eventually, somebody might just reach their limit. And I think that’s what’s being depicted here. This This person has he’s reached his limit that the stress of combat will eventually get to people. When you add the further duress, of physical privation where you’re sleep deprived, you’re hungry, and then your water deprived, that is all that’s going to do is bring on that problem quicker. And the problem I’m referring to is somebody reaches their limit. And so they are depicting that this, this marine reached his limit that one night on Pelham, and I could see why. Because I can’t imagine a more challenging situation to endure. And it took a special type of personality, to sail through that sort of thing. If there’s one thing that the series does is it depicts these hardships, it depicts the way that the experience of combat pulls at even the toughest individual. And I tend to think that the series presents it in sort of a post Vietnam way. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen. I am saying though, that there’s a heightened awareness of this reality that has existed since Vietnam, that I think was that heightened awareness was largely promoted by movies like Platoon, and that we tend to now expect that any war movie is going to depict as a part of that war movie, there’s going to be some trauma in it. And we got a little bit about that and Band of Brothers. But in Band of Brothers, we are not confronted in almost every scene like we are in this series, we’re not confronted with people are reaching their limit. Everything here is very challenging and very trying. I think what that does is, I think it’s what it does is overall not a great thing, because what it does is it allows this mythology to exist that the European war did not push people to their limit, because it most certainly did that. Pacific war did it. And I don’t know that it’s productive for us to argue about which one did it faster or more effectively. But the reality here is that people would reach their limit in combat. This is depicted in this scene, as this ongoing tableau, which I think is at the heart of this series, because the heart of this series is to call attention to the traumatizing experience of combat, it’s meant to say, look at the hell that these men went through. And then they came home from it. And I knew not all but many of these men. And I don’t deny that they probably were traumatized, like I was I was raised by somebody was a combat veteran who was traumatized by it. And the only time you would see the trauma was by enjoying the perspective of the intimate of being the person who was in the household around them, at their best at their worst around them constantly. Only then would you see it that these people who were traumatized by the experience of combat, they could live out their lives and they weren’t quivering and weeping shells of him. Humanity that combat traumatized them. Yes. And that combat might have taken them to that point of shivering and barely able to hang on. But there was also a capability of resilience in them that I think it’s, it’s certainly my No, I think my experience with them is noteworthy in that I knew many of these men and knew them to be charming and knew them to be fun, and I knew them to tell dark stories and to tell funny stories and to tell, you know, naughty stories sometime I knew that about them. And I knew them that they could also turn on the dark side and tell you about things that happened. And that, yeah, they experienced it. And yes, it stayed with him in a lasting way. But there was, I think, an element of American manhood, that these men also took it in stride.
Marty Morgan 1:30:55
I think the series calls this idea of trauma to the center. And I think it’s a little bit out of proportion, for the reality of what these men were, because these were extremely tough people. And that toughness emerges in their experience in combat. And then that toughness emerges again, I believe, in the years after the war, when they had to make a life where they were around people who had not gone through the same thing. They had to learn to live with, and work with people who had not been through the hardships that they had been through. And by experience of being around some of the men that are depicted as named characters in this series. And then like my experience of being raised by my father was one in which I felt like sometimes the thing that that was almost a third level of navigating trauma, that level one was surviving it to begin with level two was then going home and being normal. And that the third level was that people were always kind of badgering them and asking them about it. And that it might not be something that they wanted to recall, let alone talk about. And yet they were constantly being called on to talk about it, and to drag all that out in the open again. And I think the three elements of that made these, these men emotionally fairly tough people. I was particularly close with Harvey Bergen and St. Philip’s. And both of those men could be like, the most impossibly charming gentlemen you’ve ever met in your life. And then they would tell me stories that would, you know, make you curl your toes, they were terrifying stories, and all of that resided in one person. And it made them very complex in a way that continues to fascinate me. And so I do not doubt they were traumatized by their experience during the war. But it didn’t destroy them.
Dan LeFebvre 1:32:59
Well, if we hit back to the show on episode seven, this is taking petaloo hills in October of 1944. We see Captain Andrew Haldane his men are heading up into the hills and Colonel Polish men are coming out of the hills. And as they pass Polish as your up boys. I wanted to ask you about this, this kind of strategy, this tactic, it seems like men are just cycling in and out, there’s a group of men that go out, and then government and go into replace them. So there’s always this this fighting going on, was that kind of the strategy that that they had.
Marty Morgan 1:33:31
That was the only way to fight a battle like this and that and what that was was that when a unit was fully armed, it was at its peak staffing, meaning that it was it was filled out with enough people to do all of the jobs. And I like to point out to it is that like when you consider a marine rifle company in combat in the Pacific, there are rifleman in that rifle company, yes, but there are also a lot of people in that company that do very specialized jobs. You have people that are machine gunners, you have mortar operators, you have radio operators, you have the US Navy sailors who are medical corpsman that are assigned to that rifle company, you have a lot of people that are doing a lot of things other than just shooting rifles at the enemy. And
Marty Morgan 1:34:18
if you lose one element of that, that makes the company that much weaker, so that if you for example, if the company goes on the line, the company’s in combat and one machine gun section is the mineral killed by the enemy. That’s one less machine gun you have so the company suddenly got a little bit less dangerous. And the experience of combat as it goes by, you’ll have people that are wounded in action, they come off the line, the way that like he was wounded in action and came off the line. You’ll have people that is mean it’s petaloo After all, so you’re going to have people that go down to as heat casualties. And when they go down as heat casualties, they’re off the line. And let’s just say you have some you have unfortunately some men killed in action so that at the end of the day of intense combat operations on pelvin. For example, you can have an infantry company that starts the day at full strength. And by the end of the day, they’re at, you know, three quarters strength, they lost 25% of their strength in one day of combat. They can operate another day, there’s a little short staffed at that point, but they’re still capable of operating so long as you could keep ammo and food and water coming to them. But then, let’s say at the end of the second day, that strength has been reduced now to 50%. Yeah, there’s still an identifiable infantry company there. And if so long as you have all your machine gun sections and your mortar section and your you have enough medical corpsman, and you have enough radio operators, you can still take that company and make it fight like a company even though it’s it has strength. But once you get below 50%, it’s no longer productive by you, what’s that? I mean, I think it would happen actually even a little sooner than that. But eventually, you’ll lose enough of the specialized people and the overall strength, that the the entire company needs to come off of the line, you need to either replace personnel that are permanently lost, or let the ones that were just lightly wounded, and recuperate, get patched up and come back on the line. And that’s why it was necessary that when you fed one company up, it was it can only stay on the line for a certain duration, under a very kinetic combat experience, like the the combat experience that pehlu presented. And so you had this rotational system by which you would put a company online, it couldn’t stay up there, it wouldn’t just stay up there endlessly until the last man was killed, it would stay up there and to accept casualties to a reasonable degree, then it would come off the line to resupply and reinforce. And just for the record, the way that the Marine Corps would conduct an attack was that you had a regiment regiments were composed of three battalions and within a battalion, you tended to have three, sometimes four companies. And the way that a battalion would conduct an attack was that it would would be given an objective move up to and attack this hill, you would attack with two companies, and then maintain one company in reserve. Meaning the third company is it’s ready to go into action, but it’s not inaction. But the two line companies their inaction, and they’re sustaining casualties. And if one company sustains greater casualties than the other, they can pull that company off the line, replace it with the reserve company, and suddenly you’re back to a higher level of fighting strength. That means that as with that system in place, in other words, using the reserve company to replace losses, you can with one battalion and a battalion being about 500 men, you can attack an objective off for a day or two within the pehlu battle with within a day to three, you’re so long as you’re not sustaining extremely heavy casualties, that battalion can remain in the attack on that objective. Once you’ve depleted the strength of your two attacking companies and your reserve companies, the entire battalion has to rotate off the line so that it can resupply and reinforce. And that’s why it it looks like it, it takes on this appearance of being this soulless meat grinder, doesn’t it, it kind of ends up looking like we’re just sending the lambs off to the slaughter. And that’s not really what’s going on. When you when you understand the way that the military operates. When you understand it a little bit more clearly, you understand that it’s, while it might look like that to the outside observer. And I think there are moments where this series certainly likes to let that dangle out there, where it sort of looks like the neverending Vietnam movie cliche. We’re all Vietnam movie cliches are it’s just a meat grinder, and we’re all being run through it until we’re all dead. And that the government doesn’t care. The military doesn’t care. I’m making this assertion this argument that the era of Vietnam movies as a jumper, that that era is an era that is heavily defined by deep disenchantment, deep condescension. And I’m not entirely sure that that applies to Vietnam, and I’m pretty sure it does not apply to World War Two. Yes, Peppa Lu was the Heart of Darkness for the men that fought there. And yes, they went through an absolute hell on that island. But I’m not entirely convinced that it crushed their souls as thoroughly as we’re being given.
Marty Morgan 1:39:39
Because none of these men went into these battles, and felt deep senses of surprise. These men knew what they’d signed up for. They knew what they were going to get. And they were all at the peak physical condition of their youth. They were already tough having gone through basic training and survived the previous battle. And so there were no there were no big secrets. At that point, it was a matter of whether or not you could physically do it. And that physical endurance was tested by the water, it was tested by the heat. And it was, as depicted in the, the scene you referenced a few minutes ago, it was a question of whether or not you could psychologically deal with it. Because the cumulative effect of this this of combat, as it has been explained to me is a lot like some people like think of it as my water bottle here. And some people, they have a bottle that’s much bigger than others, and that the experience of combat is pouring water into that valve. Eventually, your bottle will throw off. Some people, they’ll go through it, and their bottle doesn’t even get halfway. Like I know a person who spent eight years consecutively in Vietnam. And he went home because they made him that is a man who had a very big bottle. And he was not in a support unit. He was in a Combat Arms unit, he was actually a Mac v SOG. He was, he was involved in a lot of combat, and I know him very well. And I know the man to when they made him go home from Vietnam, he was ready for more, and he could have handled it, and he could have handled everything. And then I know people that have known people who went through basic training or tough guys, tough people who then got into combat, and they didn’t do well. And it’s that’s the that’s the mystery of the way that the human mind responds to combat. Because not everybody can take it pehlu had the effect of drawing weakness out of everybody. So that if there were people who had a smaller model than others pehlu revealed it just because the the conditions of that battle were very, very trying for these individuals. And it was also a battle that at least for the first Marine Division, it went on and it got worse. I mean, the series has periodized the parrot pehlu battle in the perfect way, because there are three distinct phases to the battle. And that’s phase one beach landing, phase two airfield, phase three Thoma Bravo. It’s just that humor broco. That phase is a straight face that lasts for two months. And that’s a hell of a lot of chances to push people to their limits. During that two months if I mean, a lot of tough cookies were pushed to the limit by phase one, by just the beach phase, the first couple of days of the battle. And there are people that are they reach their limit during phase two during airfield part. Now the Marines, the Marines, the first Marine Division, they are eventually pulled off the line during the battle entirely in the army and the army takes over and runs through to the end of combat operations on the island. And just for the record come when I say the end of combat operations on an island during the Pacific War, that doesn’t mean until the last guy comes out, because in some cases that can go on for years and years and years. And famously on Guam, and in the Philippines, there were men that didn’t come out for 27 and 28 years after the war. That’s another subject entirely, but when I indicate the end of the battle, I indicate the the end of Maine combat operations. And for the petaloo battle, main hostilities continue through to November 27. There was an earlier ceremony to acknowledge the battles, primary combat operations have terminated. But they weren’t done yet. Because the Japanese were still holding the pocket and you still had Japanese Army soldiers that were in this pocket that we call the mobile pocket. And they remained in it until the end of December the end of November, which is when Colonel Nakagawa, who was commanding the Japanese regiment on petaloo, he burned the regimental colors, and then he committed ritual seppuku. And it’s after that, then his last command post, it was overrun, that traditionally marks the end of the battle of pillow battle that was supposed to have ended on September 18. And instead, it ended on November 27.
Dan LeFebvre 1:44:10
These mitchener, three phases and that last one took a few months, how long were the other phases like from the beach being one phase and then the airfield being another and then the hills
Marty Morgan 1:44:22
beach phase is really two days and you can stretch a little bit into a third day. And then airfield phase is Thursday, the 18th up until the big approach to the marovo which is only three days later. Then it becomes a matter of where you draw the line for period Ising the barrier between second and third phase because do you draw it at the point do you draw that barrier as on September 23, the point at which the army lands and begins fighting as a part of the battle. That might be a good place to begin the third phase because the army lands in the land they land on the other side of the island and they land further up the coast. And they cut off, they find a trail and they cut off the rememberable pocket. And so that to me is a pretty decent time to begin the third phase. But a point I need to make quickly about the third phase is I feel that the series The series can’t do everything, I realized that I recognize that. But the series definitely does not do a good job of identifying this reality of this ongoing threat. The series flirts with it, but doesn’t have any exposition that deals with it. And that there’s this famous scene at the so called sledge bunker, and I think you’ve ever seen I’m talking about where they’re attacking this concrete position fighting position. That’s not even on pillow. There was a counter landing against this island, Nicholas, and it’s the island that’s immediately north of petaloo with a channel between the two that’s only about 800 yards wide. Well netbooks had a Japanese fighter airfield on it. So an airfield but smaller than the big medium bomber, airfield appellant. And the fighter airfield was had had defensive positions built on it. And there was a big problem with Nicolas, and that is that net Abbas was sort of an open door, because keep in mind that north of pehlu was another 338 Islands. And some of those islands had a lot of Japanese troops on them, particularly the island and they would walk way up north. Something that begins happening after the Marines land is that the Japanese can use what we call the interior lines, meaning that the Japanese own and all of the islands north of Petaluma and the Japanese could at night when our airpower could do nothing to stop them. They could move people down through the rock islands, in protected water where our Navy wasn’t patrolling, they could move them all the way down to nettles, and then they could just move them right across this little channel to pedalo. And they could conceivably on a daily basis reinforced pelo the way that Guadalcanal was being reinforced almost every day by the Tokyo Express two years earlier. And so there was a recognition for the fact that we had to close that door. And so we eventually conduct they have the Marines conduct this landing to have k three 5k company from techfit. Marie’s company goes up and lands at Naples as a means of clearing that island so that the Japanese can no longer use it as a means of circulating reinforcements on to Petaluma. And so I wanted to mention it. And that’s because the series goes there and depicts that and this sledge bunker incident happens on that island. And that just goes to show you I think that when pehlu stretches beyond the third day when it stretches into a week, and then when it stretches into the long, slow third phase of battle, there was no foregone conclusion of how the story would end.
Marty Morgan 1:48:02
There were a whole hell of a lot of Japanese troops up in the northern part of that island group that could have moved through interior lines all the way back to Naples, and then moved over to pelo itself. There used to be a Causeway connecting Petaluma netbooks. But that Causeway was destroyed right before the invasion. Still, they could have gotten people onto the island. And they we believe that they did get some people onto the island using this method. And the reason that I wanted to mention it is that as US forces even after the army after the 81st division is landing, when we looked North for netbooks, it was looking toward to use an expression Indian Territory, because there were over 30,000 Japanese north of there. And that greatly outnumbered the Americans who were fighting on parallel from the Marine Corps from the army and from the Navy. And so there was a significant concern about there’s more of them up there than there are of us here. And we have to do what we can to prevent them from getting here. And we were doing that by bombing the northern islands we had ships that were showing them and then K through 5% on this landing on nebulous to deny the Japanese the use of that island for this open door. I mean, a telling thing is that when you landed Pele today, you pull into that channel between natives and the the sort of the Northern into pehlu. You land there, and right where you land. First of all, there’s this thing that’s called the 1000 man cave. The name is really self explanatory. It’s a case that’s big enough to accommodate maybe 1000 people. It would be very cramped, but you can do it. And then right next to it is a bunker that was built by US Navy seabees looking northward nativeness during the third phase, and it’s because we didn’t know that we’re going to come across that channel from Nicholas Capello, we wanted to have a hardened fighting position to hold them off. And then After combat operations have terminated on pehlu in late December, think about it. Then you’re in December, late November, then you move into December 1944. There’s nine more months of war left. And there’s 30,000 of them just up just a few miles away. Coronavirus. 28 miles away. Baby is 30 miles away, that’s too close for comfort. We were scared to death that all they were going to all it was going to take them was putting together a really good well thought out well armed counter attack, and they could sweep down there, they might not necessarily push us back into the sea. But they could greatly they could have broken through to the human broken pocket and relieved and reinforced Colonel Naka Gao was forced until that that door closed, when not the gala committed seppuku on November 27, and the battle ended. But still, I think all of these factors are so important and grasping the essence of this battle. Because this was not a battle begins, day one battle ends day 73, it was not that simple. This matter could have easily gone in a different direction at any point during the 73 days of combat operations. And then at any point during the nine months that followed it. And I feel like that’s a critical thing for us all to understand and respect about what happened. And not just on petaloo, but also on ongar. And on metapost during this battle.
Dan LeFebvre 1:51:32
Yeah, that’s something that we were talking about earlier, where they decided to bypass some of the other islands. Even even doing that that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to you can let your guard down.
Marty Morgan 1:51:46
They remain there and as long as they’re there, they remain dangerous. And that’s why I have a little bit of a different opinion than most people about was Petaluma necessary. Well, Pella, Lu was only one of multiple battles for pullout. And I think it was necessary, because if anything, we kept that, that very large garrison pinned down. And we bypassed them when we could. And we suck a lot of strength and operating freedom away from the submarine base, we took away basically all of the air power in the palaeo Island group, that air power would have survived if we had not conducted these landings and that air power even if we haven’t landed on Mindanao, that airpower could still be dangerous, they could have still put together something it would have been dangerous forever, but it still would have been dangerous. And when people offer up this idea of well, we should have just bypassed it. The argument I immediately throw out them is like we bypassed a lot. We bypass Island after Island after Island and we bypass everything north of Nicolas. And it’s because we had to pick our battles wisely, we had to pick the battles that were going to make the most sense because the Japanese oceanic empire that was elaborated in the 1941 1942 time period was big, and we couldn’t take it all. Just as an example the island Pompei in Micronesia. It had a garrison of 32,000 men on it and it had a Tank Battalion on it. And we never let Have you ever heard about quantify that ever talks about battle pay because there was never a battle there. And there was not a battle there. And that’s because we went Oh hell no, we’re not doing that. And by that same token, we never conducted a fitness landing at revolve. We never conducted Phineas landings in truck. There were several islands and several other islands in the Carolinas that we’d never attack their islands all over the Pacific that we bypass. And when it came to the pullout Island group, we chose three, because we realized all we really need to do is tie him down and deny him air power. And to do that we had to take pelo because that was the biggest and therefore the most powerful and therefore the most dangerous of the airfields and all of the Palau Island group. And guard was right there. We knew we had to take it anyway, just because we couldn’t leave a garrison that would be potentially dangerous to us, just six miles away on Pelham, and then we ended up taking nettles just because it was right there as well. And so out of 340 Islands, we seized three. And by seizing those three, we denied the Japanese a lot of the strength that would have remained unmolested and therefore unfettered in the pulao Island groups during what was becoming then the critical ending months of the Second World War.
Dan LeFebvre 1:54:36
If you head back to the show in Episode Seven, around here is where I noticed a big difference between the Pacific and Band of Brothers and we’ve talked a little bit kind of comparing some there. But abandoned brothers episode two we see some German soldiers as prisoners, spears ends up killing them all but not before malarkey. Sit down has a conversation. One of the Germans is from Eugene, Oregon, and it humanizes the German soldiers in the Pacific, we never really see the Japanese up close for most of the series. The Marines don’t take prisoners. When the Japanese do attack, their method of attack tends to be more of a guerilla style, everything is all quiet, and then all of a sudden, there’s just massive surprise attack, you know, ambushes things like that. So I got the sense from the series that the Japanese were this faceless enemy just waiting to ambush at any given moment? Is there any truth to these differences? And how that shows the Pacific and Band of Brothers portray the Germans and Japanese differently?
Marty Morgan 1:55:36
Yes, there is, you’ve identified the critical difference, and that is that there was a Eurocentric cultural relativism that existed about our German and Italian enemies. Because let’s face it, the United States was packed from top to bottom with German and Italian immigrants. So when we fight Germany, in Italy, and Italy, during World War Two, there’s a cultural reality there, there’s a cultural similarity. And there are people that speak the native languages. Lots of them actually, I’m not saying the United States didn’t have a strong Japanese American culture. But there because the United States had in certain areas, very large populations of Americans of Japanese ancestry were well aware of this on the US West Coast, well aware of this in the territory of the Hawaiian Islands. However, there was less of a powerful cultural connection between the two. That meant there were fewer Americans who were capable of reading and speaking the Japanese language, which I think pulls us into this more of a remote reality where there’s an exoticism where they seem foreign, they seem different, because you could be born and raised in the United States, and never know anybody who was an American of Japanese ancestry. But let’s face it, I think that’s still kind of a large part of the American experience, even today, where we had a broader experience with Americans of Chinese ancestry than we did Americans of Japanese Japanese ancestry. That’s not to say that it didn’t exist, it just wasn’t as big. In addition to that, the Japanese the way that the Japanese eventually have to fight the Pacific War, is by fighting, protracted campaigns of attrition. And by fighting like that, you’re experiencing less of maneuver elements on a battlefield and more of people in prepared defensive positions, fighting off and attacking maneuvering force. And that isn’t a way to develop strong personalities and combat with your enemy. That’s not a way of encountering them very often. There’s also another factor that I should mention in that we mentioned this last time, very few Japanese troops surrender to American forces during the Second World War. And that is for a number of reasons. And principle, among those reasons was that Japanese troops were told that they should not expect a quarter from Americans so that, you know, if they, if you allow yourself to be captured, they’re not going to treat you well. And by that same token, we understood that if our trips were captured by the Japanese, they wouldn’t be well treated. I would call everyone’s attention to the fact that there were a series of conventions both the Hague Convention and a series of conventions that were signed in Geneva, the famous geneva conventions that govern the way that countries fight one another. And that, particularly within those conventions, that govern the way that prisoners of war were treated. It’s definitely worth mentioning that the United States had signed those treaties, as had the German and Italian governments. The overall experience of Americans captured by Germans during the Second World War. And overwhelmingly, Americans are well fed, well cared for and returned home. Overwhelmingly, 95% of the Americans who are captured by Nazi Germany during World War Two, they survived the experience of captivity. 95% of the Americans captured by the Japanese do not survive. So it’s an inverse. And a point that I, I know I have to remind myself to remember is that the Japanese felt no obligation to maintain prisoners because the Japanese had not signed any of these conventions. And so the Japanese were not expecting to maintain prisoners, and they weren’t obligated to maintain prisoners.
Marty Morgan 1:59:44
Many people have spent a great deal of time writing about and attempting to understand what it was about the Japanese fighting spirit that made for people who would not surrender. I think that an important part of this is to understand that They were told, listen, there’s no treaty between us and them. If they capture you, they’re just going to kill you. I feel like that’s a significantly important factor here. Many people will point to this vague and nebulous idea of Bushido, the idea that there was a Japanese warrior spirit and a Japanese warrior code that made everyone fight to the death. And well, I don’t deny that it existed. And I don’t deny that you have that, certainly among professional soldiers and higher ranking officers. The reality was that the Japanese military was a citizen, soldier military. Not everybody was a samurai. Not everyone was raised, learning the martial art of how to fight with the samurai sword. Most people were born as fishermen or farmers, or craftsmen. Most people were not, like I said, they were not born into a warrior class. That is something that was fading very quickly as a central element of the Japanese cultural experience. And so the result was that a very large number of Japanese people who were conscripted into uniform during the Second World War, I don’t believe that they were fighting by being animated by this idea of Bushido and a samurai code from a bygone century. I believe what they were animated by more than anything was a sense of, I have to stop these people before they invade the home islands where my wife and my children live. I don’t, I don’t think it would be fair for us to deny them of that, to deny that to them that animated the way they fought. Just like a sense of vengeance animated the way that we fought vengeance for Pearl Harbor. And I think that this this sense of I have to stop these people. And if, if I surrender, I haven’t done my job. I haven’t done my job of sacrificing everything I can to prevent these Americans from invading the home Island because everybody knew how this story was about to end. There was no doubt about it. Certainly by pehlu. There’s no doubt that this ends with an invasion of the Japanese home islands. And that these men on these Island outposts, they realize that hey here I am in the pulao Island group, but hey, I’m the frontline, protecting Kishu, I’m the frontline protecting hearth and home back on punch you. And I believe that had the effect of animating them when that combines with the fact that they had assumed this attritional defensive type of warfare. What you end up with is an enemy that you very rarely see. In fact, we’re not talking about Iijima today. But in the Iijima battle, many of the survivors will indicate that I never saw a Japanese soldier the whole time I was under I was in combat the whole time. And I never saw an enemy soldier. And that’s because of the way that the enemy was fighting was from prepared defense positions, which is an extremely intelligent way of fighting. And those prepared defensive positions function as a force multiplier, where one man with a rifle out in the open, he can’t do much to stop an American infantry Platoon, the Army or Marine Corps. But one man with a rifle and a concrete fighting position, he can actually do something pretty meaningful to an infantry platoon. He’s not he might not kill them all, but he’s gonna kill several of them. And so the prepared fighting position, amplifies his ability to fight. And so the Japanese are using that method of fighting more and more, they have moments where they roll back to the old method, which is where they want to engage in maneuver warfare. I find that sometimes in a really disturbing way that sometimes Americans will trivialize that the Japanese way of war that rewarded them handsomely back between 1937 and 1942, during that five year time period, being aggressive on the battlefield, engaging in maneuver warfare, that rewarded them over and over and over again, after 1942. It’s no longer really rewarding them much because that aggressive maneuver warfare, it results in a lot of dead people, and you lose a lot of your strength. And if you if you suddenly have to shift gears and become much more conservative about how you fight, you’re going to abandon the old aggressive maneuver warfare tactics and you’re going to assume the individual attritional defensive warfare tactics, which is what this Japan is doing more, granted, there are departures, they will depart from that. They’ll depart from that during the battle on pebble where there are a couple of we tend to call them bonzai attacks. I kind of hate to call them that, because I think that even that even calling it that invites the wrong attention to it. I believe that when we call it a bonzai attack, it imagines them being the F word which is fanatical. And I don’t think you can say that aggressive maneuver tactic on a battlefield are fanatical because the American military did that during the war. Sometimes it paid off. Sometimes it didn’t. That’s why I’m never gonna call American troops fanatical. And I don’t want to call Japanese troops fanatical. It’s just that they had elements within their military that some elements who had the more sober appraisal of what modern war look like and what it looked like was prepared defensive positions and attritional warfare, slowing down as much as you can. And there were still a couple of old holdouts that imagined a world where Japan would once again engage in aggressive maneuver tactics. And when the day and there was a little bit of a struggle, we will certainly have a broader conversation about that next week, when we talk about the mother of all battles, okay, now.
Marty Morgan 2:05:48
But I hesitate to call attention to the bonzai at charge of idea because the words bonds I charged tend to suggest that the Japanese were somehow foolish, stupid, and I hate to even say it fanatical because they weren’t what they look like to me was a military that started a war and then ended up with something that they hadn’t bargained for. They started the war where they were, let’s face it, they were kicking everybody’s ass there for the first few years. And the way they were doing that was through aggressive maneuver warfare, then things changed. And it was no longer rewarding to engage in an aggressive maneuver warfare. And the more appropriate way of fighting was to fight from your prepared positions, and to stay there until you were killed. And let’s face it, people don’t often want to do that. People want to take control of their circumstances. And despite that, and despite that, you have Japanese people who you have Japanese troops during the war, who in some cases are led by officers that want to return to the good old days of 1939 in 1940, where they get aggressive and they maneuver around the enemy. And they use the things that were taught them at the academy and they they defeat the enemy. And let’s face it, that kind of that kind of leadership that boosts morale, people can get fired up about that kind of leadership. What they can’t get fired up about is what we need you to do is to stay here and fight and kill seven Americans. And only after you’ve done that, then you can die. It’s a little bit more challenging to to animate someone’s morale under circumstances like that. And let’s face it, those are the circumstances that identify and characterize the war that Japan is fighting from the end of 1943 until hostilities and in September 1945. And that type of fighting is one where you’re very rarely gonna see them. What you might see is what ends up in all the newsreel footage and all the photographs you’ll you might see dead Japanese bodies. And it’s a Japanese military that has been told over and over again, don’t surrender because if you surrender they have they’re just going to kill you. You can’t surrender because after all, what’s our What’s our decided strategic path at this point, attritional warfare where everyone has an obligation to kill this many Americans. And these factors all rolled together to mean that the Marines that fight on petaloo they’re not really seeing Japanese much you get this one scene, I think you’re leading into that one scene where they’re walking by there’s a Japanese, there’s some Japanese prisoners, and there’s this. There’s this interaction between them. And some racialized slurs are tossed out, there’s a moment of tension. And that scene makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Because
Marty Morgan 2:08:46
when I started graduate school, it was well, really when I was an undergraduate history major, and then when I was working on my master’s degree in history, it was during this era where we were having a conversation about racism and the war in the Pacific. And a number of books were introduced during that one of which was john Bauer’s book war without mercy. And war without mercy was a book that I had read review for school multiple times. And it was a book that I never really became very fond of. And it was because it did something that I felt was a reductionist view of the war in the Pacific, where it reduced everything in the war, that Pacific to racism. The Japanese were racist, and the Americans were racist. They were in both sides were racist against one another. And I believe that shorts, that short changes, a very complicated subject. And that’s why that that little interaction with this prisoner makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, because I’m kind of like, Oh, here we go. Again. We’re going to drag the john Bauer book back out and have another talk about race when very clearly what it looks like to me was that the racism that is a part of the Pacific War, I’m not denying that there wasn’t racism because there definitely was racism. But I believe that that racism was occasioned by the circumstances of the war. People will then quickly say like, well, we you racialized them and depicted them as monkeys. And I was, and I will quickly argue that, yes, and we did that to the Spanish in 1898. And we did that to the Germans in 1917. And then we did it the Japanese in 1941. That is clearly a trope that we turned to whenever we depicted people as being the other and being the enemy. We did it to the Spanish, the Germans and the Japanese. And I’m not, I’m not convinced even to this day, because trust me, I spent a lot of time thinking about the Pacific War and reading about the Pacific War, I’ve spent sort of a lifetime on it, I feel like more of a Pacific War specialist than anything. And I am not convinced that that that racism alone explains this very complicated situation. And the fact that the Japanese by petaloo, were fighting this attritional warfare where you didn’t see them, that had the effect of making them seem more exotic in a way. And I could see how that would easily set the table for people to reach racialized conclusions. But I don’t think that’s what happened. I think that that, that the reason that these Marines were just not seeing the much was because you’re getting late war, Japan, that where every battle is in a traditional defensive battle. People are not coming out of their defensive positions, because at this point, they have officer leadership that’s telling them Don’t do that. Don’t conduct a bayonet charge, because all that does is squander strength. We’re not here to talk about the Sai pan battle because as you’ve already heard me mon sideman was not depicted in the HBO series, even though I wanted it to be the site and battle wasn’t depicted. And there’s the largest bonds on my advantage charge of the war with Japan is then in there. And everyone was critical that the Japanese high command was very critical in the fact like there we go again, wasting squandering the strength, all of them and that we lost in that one big bayonet charge we could have, they could have made that battle last two more weeks. We will see this importantly, when we talk next week about Okinawa, because Okinawa is at first and attritional battle where they’re bleeding us to death over from one Valley to the next from one hill to the next. And then they get off that horse midstream and decide to conduct a big overall bonzai offensive maneuver operation that squanders 20,000 people and shortens the open our campaign, probably by a month, which is shortening Joakim Noah who does that help, that helps us that doesn’t help them. And so I think that’s why the Japanese have become this sort of faceless, nameless, faceless, exotic sized enemy. And I can see how that looks so much different than the German or Italian enemy. And I can see how people who have spent a little bit less time understanding the Pacific War and all of its complexity, I could see how they can rush toward the old racialized theories that were so popular in the 80s and 90s. theories that have largely been undermined by more my contemporary scholarship. But you could look at those differences and go Why is it that American prisoners were respected by the Germans and taken care of by the Germans, but American prisoners held by the Japanese were brutalized? Well, because Japanese had no obligation to take care of prisoners. They had signed no agreement. And that’s also kind of not how they understood what warfare was, and they understood warfare to be total warfare. And total warfare was you use the enemy’s prisoners of war for forced labor. And then if they were no longer useful to them, you get rid of them. It’s cold, it’s dark, and that’s the way it was.
Dan LeFebvre 2:13:50
Well, on the American side, in episode seven of the Pacific, there’s a major blow that gets dealt in the span of just a few days. First lieutenants Edward Jones, Captain Andrew Haldane are killed and then we see Sergeant Elmo Haney Gunny as he’s he’s called, he reaches his breaking point because of this. He was the rock for for so long, and then he reaches his breaking point there. All of a sudden, it just seems like the leadership is gone. Did it really happen that fast like we see in the show?
Marty Morgan 2:14:19
It didn’t have that was pelo heavily did that because for reasons we’ve already discussed, this is a battle that because the longevity of the battle is so much greater than expected, troops are being asked to do a lot more than it was expected that they would be asked to do, they’re being pushed into the experience of combat for a longer duration. And the longer you’re experiencing it, the more casualties you’re going to want to sustain. Because they’re on the line and they keep they have to stay on the line. And they continue to sustain these casualties up to the point where they begin to critically start losing officers Just to put it in perspective, there’s one chilling thing about Hello that I always make it a point to bring up to people and that the at first Infantry Division ultimately gets some tanks that roll up onto the boomer Bruegel Hill complex. And the way that they get up there is that the, the engineers from the First Division, they build a ramp that makes it possible for the tanks to drive up, because it’s really not so much. It’s partly a hill complex, but it’s also partly this uplifted coral plane. So it’s a plane with hills dominating it, but the whole thing has been shoved upward by tectonic activity. And so if you had to get them, you had to get the tanks up on this plane. And they had to build this pathway for the tanks. And as Army soldiers from a different division fought their way up through this area where this to this what is now called the Wildcat bowl, because the at first division was nicknamed the Wildcat division, and it’s this large mole area that was part of this uplifted coral plane, as they fought their way up to that the way that some of these 81st Division soldiers got up there because the Japanese in the pocket covered all avenues of approach with automatic weapons fire and the Japanese had some of the finest automatic weapons of the Second World War. And so they everything was covered by automatic weapons fires. So whenever they attempted to move up toward this bowl, the Army troops drew fire. And the way they ultimately got men up there and knocked out the positions firing on them was that they would feed men up and they would belly crawl up and drag sandbags. And they would push the sandbag in front of them, crawl up a few inches, push the sandbag again, crawl up more and the sandbag was there to protect you from the machine gunfire if that’s not hardcore, and under what is that’s how this battle was fought during the third phase. And when you’re fighting under circumstances like this, where the attacking force has no cover, the opposing force is nothing but cover and automatic weapons, you’re gonna lose, you’re gonna lose a lot of people. And who is it you’re going to lose first, it’s going to be your squad and platoon level leadership. Because why? Because they’re up in front. You’re going to you might lose a company commander here and there. But you’re going to lose these the the senior NCO and the junior officers at an astonishing level. And that’s what’s depicted here. That’s this breaking point that they pass because they’ve lost the these critical senior NCO and junior officer leaders. And that’s because I think of it like this. You ever seen the old trip, I can’t remember what movie it’s from. But there’s a movie where somebody puts his hand over a candle to see how long he can keep his hand over the candle before it gets so hot. That’s what it’s like for troops in combat. You put them over the longer that you’re you hold your hand over the candle, the hotter it’s going to get and the more uncomfortable it’s going to get.
Marty Morgan 2:18:07
In addition to that the way that the Marine Corps was conceived of fighting in the Pacific was a bit different than the way that the army was going to fight because the two forces it was thought would complement one another. And the overall strategy of the way that they approach these battles, because the way it was thought that they would approach these battles was that the Marine Corps would be the shock force, the Marine Corps will be the force that was conducted in previous landing, and that it would move quickly into the interior and that the Marine Corps would have to move quickly as it pushed into the interior to secure the beachhead, and that it would then be followed by the army and then the army reach the battlefield, the army would have this more methodical approach because the army would have the benefit of the beachhead is already well established because the Marines did it. The army would then move in and using using triumph by fire strategy, meaning using overwhelming artillery support and coordinated tactical close air support, the army would move slowly and more methodically. And an interesting thing happens on pehlu. And that the Marines, they are used to fight in the way that they’re originally conceived as a shock force to move in, establish the beachhead in Russia into the interior. But then the Marines begin getting called on to fight like the army did, using the slow, methodical process of of creeping forward using supporting fires against the enemy. And that’s part of the reason why you’ve got Marines on the island far longer than they’re supposed to be. I mean, the battle goes on for far longer than it was supposed to go on. And the Marines are being asked to stay in that fight far longer. Because even if it had been a three day fight, it’s you would not have experienced this long drawn out attritional misery that leads ultimately to losing senior NCO and junior officer leadership. You might have lost some people, but the battle wouldn’t have reached out. But the Japanese, they get a vote in this. And the Japanese were like, Oh, no, you don’t, you’re not going to take this island in three days, you’re going to sit here and bleed. And they beat the shit out of us on that island. And it is a testament to the Japanese strategic vision that understood, this is how you deal with the Americans, you don’t let them have their circumstance don’t come out in the open because you’re giving them what they want. You’re gonna don’t give them a john basketball moment, because you’re going to have Americans with machines that are just going to bring you down, don’t have anything out in the open that can be targeted by their naval gunfire, support offshore, dig everything into into the rock of the rememberable, then then their airplanes can’t get to you, their naval gunnery can’t really get to you. The only way they can get to you at that point is corkscrew and blowtorch to move up into the hill mass using flame throwers. And fire teams to methodically move basically feet at a time. And it was a brilliant way of forcing us into circumstances that we didn’t want. Because by forcing us into those circumstances, you make Marines K through five suffer a lot longer than they should have and lose more people than they should have and critically lose senior NCO junior officer leadership.
Dan LeFebvre 2:21:24
At the very end of Episode Seven, there’s it gets a little bit of a timeline. And you had mentioned that the battle that was 73 days. But at the end of that episode, we see the men going back to Purdue iron October of 1944. And earlier mentioned that they had landed in September. So I’m curious if were there, people that were going back and forth during this process, or do we only see like a portion of it in the show.
Marty Morgan 2:21:53
We’re only seeing a portion of it because I mean, there were still operations in Solomon Islands, I mean, Guadalcanal kung fu and much of the Solomons, they were after we captured everything back in 42, and 43. We use that through to the end of the war as a staging area as a supply area. And just like we use New Guinea through to the end of the war, even though we were fighting on the north coast of New Guinea through to the end, we use those staging areas. And as people were casualties, and the petaloo battle or other battles like for you, a GMO people tended to be evacuated back to Guam. Because Guam was close for pehlu, people were tending to be evacuated back to locations in the Solomon Islands. And that happened some too. And the the main, the main issue was that if you had someone who was a complex, a combat casualty, like lucky, for example, was get them out of the immediate battle area as fast as you can. Why? Because when they’re in the battle area as a casualty, they’re just consuming resources. And what you have to do is free those resources up for someone who is combat capable. So if you have somebody that’s off is no longer combat capable, get them out as fast as you can let them become the logistical problem of the area. That’s, that’s not currently the scene of a massive battle, and bring in only people who can still fight that still have something that they can give to the action. And so that’s why you’re seeing evacuations during the course of the campaign.
Dan LeFebvre 2:23:26
Okay, that makes that makes sense. That makes sense that logistical nightmare. In the Pacific.
Marty Morgan 2:23:33
Yeah. I was mentioned to that, like the logistics of the Pacific are so much different than the logistics of the European Theater. Not to say that they were easy in Europe, but they had they had their challenges, they just were different. You had rear areas so that for example, I love to point this out that we although we had captured Guam, Saipan, and tinian. In 1944, the islands were not big enough to take and put a Marine Division there to train for the invasion of ujima. So we’ll see this in our next chat. But john bass alone ultimately becomes Qadri in the fifth Marine Division. And bass alone ends up going back to were going all the way back to Hawaii. And that’s because Hawaii had room to park people to park divisions and train them and prove and provide them in the supply lines were shorter, but the supply lines back to North America were quite a bit shorter. But then when the fifth Marine Division stages to Iijima they stage from Hawaii. And there’s nothing there’s no service station in between. It’s nothing but open Pacific Ocean and it fascinates me the logistics that are associated with that like, just to give you one quick anecdotal story. I’ve done some writing about this thing that happens at the end of the second marine divisions battle on terawatt in 1943. And that is that the terrible battle it It goes on for 72 hours. It’s a lot longer. Longer than they expected, they expected it to be one day, it ends up going on for 72 hours. There’s a theme going here,
Dan LeFebvre 2:25:06
I was gonna say I’m sensing a theme here.
Marty Morgan 2:25:10
And at the end of the terrible battle, the second Marine Division, it stays after it captures the objective. But the second Marine Division, it’s sustained 1000 casualties over the course of that battle, and several 100 dead. And that they, that with the ships that came to the Gilbert islands to support that operation, they didn’t have enough space in the freezers to take all the dead back to Hawaii. And so they created some mass graves on terawatt, and the mass graves, it was understood from the start, these are going to be temporary. Included even it was a Medal of Honor recipient who was placed in one of the mass graves and terawatts, because it was assumed from the start, this is temporary, because when that battle ended, the clock was ticking. And that clock that was ticking was the clock that was the freezer capacity on board the shifts the amount of fresh water they had and the the amount of food they had. So if they were going to stay there much longer, they were going to need more food and more water because there’s no food and water on that island. And so the result was they had to make this decision on the fly of like, Alright, we can’t prepare a proper cemetery. We don’t have time because we can’t get the hell out of here. We have to get back to where there’s food water. So let’s do mass graves, Markham, and we’ll come back for them later. As it turns out, they came back for them after the war and the Navy had moved in and built facilities over the top of the mass graves. And so there are still mass graves on Terra with today because of this one oversight. And this oversight was caused by the monstrous the towering logistical challenges that the Pacific War presented.
Dan LeFebvre 2:26:51
Well, that brings us to an end of today’s episodes, but we’ll be back to finish the look at the Pacific. Until then, Marty, can you fill in listeners and what you’ve been working on?
Marty Morgan 2:27:01
Yeah, be sure to continue watching the Discovery Channel, you’ll see a special documentary that I’ve been working on for many, many months now about the Japanese food go balloon bomb campaign in 1944 in 1945, I believe that’s going to be out in November, but also in November, specifically on November 5, the release of Call of Duty Vanguard, which is not to be overlooked, just in time for the Christmas shopping season. And I’ve worked for Sledgehammer Games as an historical consultant since 2015. And I worked extensively during the COVID lockdown on Call of Duty Vanguard and very excited to see it is releasing here and just a few weeks. So if you enjoy first person shooter video games, check this out. I think you’ll like it. I count you as one of our players.
Dan LeFebvre 2:27:50
I enjoy the world war two Call of Duty games. More so than the modern Modern Warfare ones. I think it’s just because the history side of it too. But I don’t know the futuristic ones are not as fun for me.
Marty Morgan 2:28:06
I’m so glad to hear that. wish there were another five or 6 million people like you.
Dan LeFebvre 2:28:15
Thank you again so much for your time.
Marty Morgan 2:28:16
It’s my pleasure, Dan. I’ll talk to you again soon.