At a point somewhere in ‘The Pacific” Episode 7 ‘Peleliu Hills’, John Basilone is the guest of honor at an American Legion meeting, hearing himself praised as the greatest hero since Horatius held the bridge against the Tuscans.
Basilone has that uncomfortable look about him that says, “Why am I here?” Much has happened since Guadalcanal and he must be thinking of all of the other Marines still fighting and dying. Such thoughts will be his undoing.
Back at Peleliu, the Marines, including Eugene Sledge, having taken the Air Field, are setting about the hard work of digging the Japanese out of the coral hills beyond, where they are dug into a tunnel system the likes that have never been seen before. It is hot, tiring, horrible work with death and worse at every turn.
Sledge, now called “Sledgehammer,” sees it all. Friends dying before his eyes. A man he was bearing away on a stretcher shot to death as he was being taken to safety. Men loosing limbs, their sight, their sanity. The death of a beloved commander that hits the Marines harder than anything else they have experienced.
Because of the nature of the ground, the nature of the enemy, the final days of Peleliu is a battle with no quarter or mercy given or received. It is barbarity and savagery down to the rawest, unadorned roots.
Ironically, had there been intelligence that Peleliu had been so well defended, the island would likely have been bypassed, as so many others were. The place would have been cut off, its well entrenched garrison left to die on the vine. But once on Peleliu, there was no way off the island until every last Japanese was rooted out and killed.
The hills of Peleliu were a nightmare environment. Even in a small place of relative safety, one could heard the crackling of rifle fire somewhere around the next bend, or over the next rise. There was the occasional whump of an explosion, a scream, a last hate filled diatribe in Japanese.
From time to time, a bunker or a fortified cave had to be cleared with a flamethrower, a horrible weapon that killed with agony. Some would not give the burning enemy the last surcease of a rifle shot. Others, not quite gone savage, would do that last service.
And at the end, with the objective finally taken, it was back to Pavuvu, that horrible place now a relative paradise. There were smiling nurses handing out orange juice and a welcome back smile. There was skinny dipping in the surf where no one was lurking nigh to take one’s life. Paradise indeed, at least for a little while.
Source, The Pacific, Peleliu Hills, TV.Rage