Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Peleliu. You should know this.

My youngest child graduated from a boarding school in the Northeast on Saturday. I am proud of him for doing so because he has had a rough time. It apparently got a little rocky for him at the end up there at the school but he made it through. Congratulations to him.

Here's an artist's rendering of him done a few years ago. Don't you think he probably is now a handsome young man? (That's my boyhood photo next to his portrait. I always thought we had similar looking eyes and mouths.)

For his graduation, I sent him a card, some money, a few photos of what I have been up to, an old card of a Jet football player (when I was growing up on Staten Island, my parents had season tickets for the Joe Namath-led New York Jets at Shea, hence my affinity for Jets players), a first-day issue stamp of the1st Marine Division and a book by Bill D. Ross called Peleliu: Tragic Triumph.

The book is about the 1st Marine Division's 1944 battle against the Japanese on the island of Peleliu in the Palaus, a chain of islands about 550 miles east of the Philippines. The Army's 81st Division saw combat there as well.

Mostly it was a Marine fight. My Dad was a 19-year old corporal in K35 when he fought the Japanese there. It was awful, fighting in 110 degree heat on sharp coral with the stench of rotting bodies everywhere. The Marines took over 5,000 casualties in a division of around 15,000 men. They annihilated the Japanese garrison of 13,000 troops pretty much to the last man because no mercy was shown by either side in the war in the Pacific. The Japanese refused to surrender and didn't take prisoners themselves as a rule.

Peleliu was the first place where the Japanese eschewed the wasteful tactic of banzai charges and made the Marines come root them out of their fortified caves, one by one. These tactics were later famously applied on Iwo Jima and Okinawa (where my Dad also fought), but they started on Peleliu.

Ross' book's title is based on the fact that the savage fight was unnecessary to the nearly simultaneous reconquest of the Philippines. Bloody Peleliu easily could have been bypassed and left to wither on the vine. I bet you never heard of Peleliu. It was quite a fight.

I was always proud of my Dad. My youngest son never met him because my Dad died three years before my youngest child was born. I hope the book teaches him a little about what kind of special men those World War II combat Marines were.

I haven't seen my youngest son nor spoken with him for quite awhile but I wish him luck. I love you son.

1 comment:

jeanne said...

Congrats on your son graduating! You really put some thought into your gift. I hope he appreciates it. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. And no, I hadn't heard of Peleliu, but i have now!