So many died, but the hill's namesake lives thanks to a change in orders.
By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARDPublished August 28, 2005
"One handful of Marines, out of ammunition, fought off an assault with bayonets, chunks of coral, and their fists... The courage displayed in taking the island is undiminished by a bitter truth: The invasion was not necessary." - entry on "Peleliu" from World War II.
As if clambering over razor blades, the Marines found the coral rock slashed through their boots and bloodied their hands. Their entrenching tools, cast away as useless, soon littered the tiny South Pacific island.
It's a gorgeous hill, in the picture. You might be forgiven for calling it that, if you did not know what happened up there on the night of Sept. 19, 1944.
Peleliu, one of the Palau Islands, is five miles long, two miles wide, and shaped like a lobster claw.
In the end, the Allies didn't even need Peleliu.
There are certain things Pope will not talk about still, like the details of the hand-to-hand fighting that went on that night. His blue eyes skitter uncertainly around the room, and he finally manages to say he would prefer to skip that part.
It was a strange feeling, when he and his wife returned to the Palau Islands for the 50th anniversary to find American flags flying next to Japanese flags.