WITH THE OLD BREED ON PELELIU, USMC 1944.
The first release of Valor Studio’s WII Marines of the Pacific series, “Off the Beach” depicts the second assault wave landing on Peleliu. The legend on the bottom of the print reads: “It is 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 15, 1944 as the Marines of King Company churn onto Peleliu. Vehicle exhaust, gun smoke, and burning vegetation choke the air as Japanese artillery and mortars pound the pre-sighted beaches. Machine gun bullets rip across the sand as Eugene Sledge, in his baptism of fire, trails veteran R.V. Burgin. Sent to capture Peleliu’s airfield from an enemy of unknown strength, the men of K-3-5 and their brothers of the 1st Marine Division know they are in the fight of their lives. But, for now, only one thought echoes through their minds: Get off the beach!”
Codenamed Operation Stalemate II, the objective of the assault was to capture the island and its airstrip to protect MacArthur’s right flank during his drive to recapture the Philippines. Peleliu, part of the Micronesia chain of islands, had been seized by the Japanese during their sweeping campaign across the Pacific in late 1941. MacArthur wanted the Japanese garrison on the island eliminated.
In preparation for the landing, five US Navy battleships and eight cruisers fired thousands of shells onto the island while fighter-bombers from several offshore aircraft carriers made multiple bombing runs to destroy and demoralize the Japanese defenders. Laying in wait for the Marines were 11,000 Japanese soldiers of the 14th Infantry Division who had turned the five square miles of Peleliu into a virtual fortress. The American bombardment caused few casualties among the well protected defenders. Using a new defensive tactic of ‘endurance engagements” the enemy had dug a series of heavily fortified bunkers, concrete pillboxes and caves with systems of connecting tunnels. Rather than attacking the Americans in force, the Japanese lurked in defensive positions that had to be taken one by one.
Depicted in the artwork are men of the 5th Marine Regiment storming up Orange Beach on the southwest side of the island. Landing in the center of the assault force, the 5th Regiment had units on either flank, and while that afforded some relative protection, the Japanese had machine guns, heavy weapons, and mortars already pre-sited on the landing beaches. Additionally, small arms fire zipped all around the Marines as they fought their way inland in their effort to get off the beach. An hour after the first wave hit the beach, sixty assault landing craft had been destroyed and the number Marine casualties started climbing. At the end of first day, the men of the 5th Marines had made the most inland progress and as the sun went down, the Americans held a two-mile stretch of beach, one mile in depth, and had taken over 1,100 casualties.
The island was declared secure on November 27, 1944 after seventy-three days of battle. Originally expected to last just four days, the battle was one of the Pacific campaign’s most deadly engagements. The 1st Marine Division suffered over 6,500 casualties and the US Army’s 81st Division, which had been arriving on the island since late September to reinforce the Marines, took nearly another 3,300.
Signed/Numbered + Signed by two additional WWII USMC Vets