Landing at Peleliu

Peleliu

After we were on board ship for a while, the task force formed around us made up of a lot of Naval Warships and our Troop Ships. We were off again we knew not where.  The sea was calm and sailing along we had a sense of security from seeing all of those U.S. Naval Ships around us.   
 
Rumors were flying thick and fast about where we were going, of course, we were all anxious to know.  I think, about the second day or so aboard ship we were called up on deck for a briefing, which was done by units.  Captain Croltinger sat there and we sat all around him.  He explained what we were going to do and where we were going.  We were going to the Palau Island group which consisted of several islands among them was Peleliu.  The other island that was going to be attacked was Angaur.  It was to be taken by the 81st army infantry division.
 
He went on to describe what the islands were like and the history.  It developed that as far as the history went, the Germans had owned the islands during the colonial days pre WW1.  Since they had lost the war and the Japanese had been on our side the islands were given to the Japanese.  The islands when owned by the Germans were used, primarily for the export of sulphur of which there seemed to be plenty.  They were getting the sulphur out of the mountainous area on the east end of the island.  The island was not very big approximately six miles by two miles wide, shaped somewhat like a fish.  The eastern end, which was called the Umurbrogol Mountain, was honeycombed with mine tunnels and shafts. The Japanese, looking to the future had made the island into a defensive fortress about which we knew little.
 
They had hundreds of caves interlaced and intertwined.  Some of the caves actually had steel doors and artillery pieces.  Their mortars and artillery were all zeroed in on the landing beaches and that was the other thing we didn’t know.  We were told that there were about ten thousand Japanese on the island and that we could probably be through with the campaign in about four or five days.  It sounded pretty good however we were to be sadly mistaken.
 
Most of the island was flat with the airfield being sort of centered in the middle of the island.  That was our prime objective to take that airport and negate any air forces that could be used against the coming invasion of the Philippines in which General MacArthur was the prime mover, the taskwas to occur very shortly.
 
The days aboard ship were pleasant and warm.   We would bask about on the deck tanning in the sun and reading books and passing the time away. At times we would be assigned to a working party, however since I had become a Cpl. I did not have this duty. The nights were very balmy and pleasant and you could lie on top of the deck and look up at the Southern Hemisphere skies that were black as ink and held hundreds of thousands of stars.  The sea was beautiful as we steamed along. 
 
A noteworthy thing happened to me on board ship during the day.  I think of it occasionally because it was funny.  Here is how it went:

An LST carries smoke charges similar to depth charges.  They come sliding down a chute and are thrown into the sea. When they go off there is a big smoke screen laid out and it is designed to obliterate the view of the ship from submarines.  On this particular day, I believe it was in the morning, we had been to breakfast and I had gone to the head and was sitting there deeply engrossed in my book.  I was so engrossed that I didn’t notice that all of a sudden there was a deadly silence. I looked around and there was nobody around me.  I heard something topside and noticed then that there was smoke creeping into the area where I was and I quickly got out. I had all of these various thoughts:  one being that the ship had been hit and that everybody had left and that I was alone. I had this momentary panic.  I raced up the stairs topside and the deck was crowded with guys yelling and looking at the smoke screen that we had put out.  Evidently a couple of those smoke charges had gone off accidentally and they had been thrown overboard and everybody was getting a big kick out of it.