The Devil's Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu

The Devil's Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu

The Devil's Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu

The Devil's Anvil: The Assault on Peleliu


On September 15, 1944, General William Rupertus and the 16,000 Marines of the U.S. 1st Marine Division moved confidently toward Peleliu, an obscure speck of coral island 500 miles east of the Philippines. Though he knew a tough fight awaited him, Rupertus anticipated a quick two-day crush to victory, strengthening Gen. Douglas MacArthur's flank in his drive on the Philippines. Instead, as The Devil's Anvil reveals, American forces struggled desperately for more than two months against 10,000 deeply entrenched Japanese soldiers who had spent six months preparing for the battle. By the time the weary Americans could claim a victory, the fight had become one of the war's most costly successes. Even more tragic, Peleliu was later deemed a more or less unnecessary seizure. For those who survived, Peleliu remains a bitter, emotionally exhausting chapter of their lives. In The Devil's Anvil, Hallas reports on the personal combat experience of scores of officers and enlisted men who were at Peleliu. These men describe the heartbreaking loss of friends, the pain of wounds, and the heat, dirt, and exhaustion of a fight that never seemed to end.


On the morning of 15 September 1944, over 16,000 Marines of the U.S. 1st Marine Division waited off an obscure speck of coral in the Palaus Islands group roughly 500 miles east of the Philippines.

The name of that speck was Peleliu.

Also waiting, hidden deep in Peleliu's caves and coral ridges, were some 10,000 Japanese soldiers, sailors and laborers, their backbone provided by members of the proud 14th Division. the Japanese had been digging in for months in anticipation of this day.

Morale was high, although the garrison commander, Colonel Kunio Nakagawa, had few illusions about the sheer weight of firepower and materiel his men would face; his ambition was to make Peleliu as costly as possible for the young U.S. Marines then standing off the landing beaches.

By contrast, the commander of the 1st Marine Division, General William Rupertus, was filled with brash optimism. He expected a tough fight but was confident enough to go on record with a prediction: Peleliu would be secure in two days, three at the most, he told officers and news correspondents. He was wrong by 68 days.

Nearly 1,500 American soldiers and Marines died in the battle for Peleliu. Thousands more were seriously wounded. Except for a handful of prisoners, the Japanese garrison fought to the death in the best traditions of Bushido.

Tragically, the prize, 6,400 acres of upheaved coral, proved to be of dubious value. Seized to protect General Douglas MacArthur's flank in the drive on the Philippines, it contributed little to that victory. the war in the Pacific moved on too quickly; enemy capabilities were far less than assumed; Peleliu became a backwater almost before it was invaded.

Adding to the bitterness of this historical assessment, the Peleliu campaign was largely overlooked by the American public at the time and generally ignored by historians in years after. Overshadowed by events in Europe and . . .

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