In late 1944, as a precursor to the invasion of the Philippines, U.S. military analysts decided to seize the small island of Peleliu to ensure that the Japanese airfield there could not threaten the invasion forces. This important new book explores the dramatic story of this ‘forgotten’ battle and the campaign’s strategic failings. Bitter Peleliu reveals how U.S. intelligence officers had failed to detect the complex network of caves, tunnels, and pillboxes hidden inside the island’s coral ridges. They did not discern—nor could they before it happened—that the defense of Peleliu would represent a tectonic shift in Japanese strategy. Now, invaders would be raked on the beaches by mortar and artillery fire. As the enemy penetrated deeper into the Japanese defensive systems, he would find himself on ground carefully prepared for the purpose of killing as many Americans as possible. It was no less than attritional warfare.
For the battle-hardened 1st Marine Division, Peleliu was a hornets’ nest. The battle was unlike anything the division had seen before. Yet thanks to pre-invasion over-confidence on the part of commanders, 30 of the 36 news correspondents accredited for the campaign had left. Bitter Peleliu reveals the full horror of this 74-day battle, a battle that thanks to the reduced media presence has never garnered the type of attention it deserves.
By Joseph Wheelan. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022. Hardcover, 336 pages.