Assault Into Hell
In chapter four, Assault into Hell, Sledge details the initial assault on Peleliu. H Hour is 0800; numerous 16" and 8" naval guns open fire from the band of warships brought along for the attack on Peleliu, along with smaller naval guns, airplanes, to pulverize the landing zone. Sledge watches in fascination while nearly collapsing with fear. The bombardment lifts moments before the amtracs hit the beach. Sledge and the other marines jump over the side of the amtrac and rush inland, finally putting into practice all of that training they had been through in order to move as quickly and efficiently off the beach. The Japanese fire they receive upon arrival is intense and effective, leaving behind a frightening path of destruction, slowly wreaking havoc as they assaulted the shore. Moments later on the shore Sledge watches a marine DUKW explode from a direct hit and notes how the sea lit up with Geysers prickling across the ocean surface as enemy mortar fire peppers the waves in hopes of sinking more of the assaulting vehicles emerging from the surf in droves. Sledge than briefly alludes to what amounts to a splintering of the mental state as another veteran calmly stands as motor fire falls all around him, proclaiming, “Calm down sledge, they’re not even close. They’re grazing the leaves “despite the fact that the nearest vegetation was 800 yards away from them. This dissociation from reality was but the first of the many results from the battle to come. After fighting hard into the advance a momentary lull in the fighting allows for a slow breath to be taken. Amidst this lull a group of veteran’s come up to Sledge as he stands near a fallen Japanese corpsman who was apparently administering aid to some of the Japanese soldiers that were littered around him, as indicated by his medical box being open and all the neat bandages ready to be grabbed from their neat little compartments, when the blast from a mortar ended his life before his mission could be accomplished. Sledge stands as a statue, frozen in place as he watches the veterans casually and nonchalantly field strip the dead corps for just about everything that remains. Unable to move while his comrades take their souvenirs he wonders if one day he too will be so cold to the realities of war that he will be as casual around death as these two veterans were.
K/3/5 and K/3/7 land overlap and the men from each company intermingle in confusion. Heavy machine gun and mortar fire comes from the entrenched Japanese and casualties mount. Sledge and his platoon move inland and he sees his first dead Japanese--the men lie about with their intestines and organs exposed from horrific artillery wounds. K/3/5 continues inland, loses contact with flanking units, and reaches its objective. The company riflemen shoot a score of Japanese infantry as they run away from the broken lines left as the allies punched a hole through from the shore assault. K/3/5 then falls back to establish contact with flanking units as they had pushed too far forward into the advance to adequately support the other parts of the assault. The day is unbearably hot as the detachment waits in heavy anticipation for what is perceived to be the eventual enemy counterattack. In the early evening, the Japanese counter attack--but it is not a banzai charge, instead it is a combined forces attack with infantry supporting light armor something the veterans of the company were not expecting, leaving them caught slightly off guard. The momentum than shifts back to the allies’ side and the counter attack is repelled, leaving the enemy force decimated. Sledge is momentarily pinned down by "friendly" fire from Sherman tanks as his mortar team is mistaken for a supporting Japanese team of a nearby machine gun nest. He finds the experience appalling and mentally damaging as he watches the man responsible for calling the tank off is picked off by a sniper while he is mounted on the tank. K/3/5...
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