NOTE: (Noah H. Belew, was a member of B Co., 1st Bn., 1st Reg., 1st Marine Division:) On September 15, 1944, U.S. Marines fighting in World War II (1939-45) landed on Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands of the western Pacific. Over the next several weeks, ferocious Japanese resistance inflicted heavy casualties on U.S. troops before the Americans were finally able to secure the island. Though the controversial attack on Peleliu resulted in a higher death toll than any other amphibious assault in U.S. military history, Allied commanders and troops learned important lessons that would benefit them during the invasion of the Philippines and the Japanese home islands.
On the morning of September 15, the 1st Marine Division landed on the southwest corner of Peleliu. U.S. forces had refined their amphibious strategy over a year of hard fighting, and by this time had it down to a science: Massive naval bombardment of land-based targets preceded troop landings, which were supported by strafing and bombing runs by carrier-based aircraft. The troops arrived on shore in waves, gathering on an island's beaches until they had sufficient numbers to push inland. These methods had worked in earlier landings and were expected to work again on Peleliu.
Bloody Nose Ridge
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army's 81st Infantry Division had secured Angaur and Ulithi, also in the Palaus, relatively quickly. Members of the 321st Regiment (and later the 323rd) were sent to aid the 1st Marine Division, arriving in time to make a renewed attack on Bloody Nose Ridge from the west on September 24. While the combined Army and Marine forces were able to envelop Japanese positions on the mountain, the Japanese still held out, and would only be dislodged after much bloodshed throughout October. More U.S. reinforcements arrived, and the ridge was finally neutralized on November 25. Characteristically, the Japanese defenders refused to surrender, and virtually all of them were killed.
Lessons of Peleliu
On the other hand, the capture of Peleliu served as a means to MacArthur's much-desired end: the recapture of the Philippines, and the drive towards Japan's home islands. The lessons learned at Peleliu also gave U.S. commanders and forces insight into the new Japanese strategy of attrition, which they would use to their advantage in later struggles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.