News: USS Peleliu passes its namesake island, renders honors
Story by Cpl. Gabriel Velasquez
USS PELELIU, At Sea – Marines and Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu made a special transit when the group traveled within one mile of the ship’s namesake, the island of Peleliu, June 13.
The battle for the island of Peleliu was one of the most savage in World War II.
“Marines are in the finest physical condition, but they wilted on Peleliu. By the end of the fourth day there were as many casualties from heat prostration as from wounds,” wrote Robert Martin, of Time magazine.
The assault began September 15, 1944, with naval gunfire, followed by an assault by 1st, 5th and 7th Marine Regiments. Eight Marines received the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during the 34-day assault on the island. The most ever received from a single battle.
Passing the island gave Marines and Sailors a chance to reflect on their services’ past.
“I think it’s very important that Sailors and Marines know about military history,” said Capt. David Schnell, commanding officer of USS Peleliu. “I think it helps build esprit de corps and pride in service.”
“We are fortunate to be in this part of the world to commemorate the Battle of Peleliu aboard the ship that bears its name,” said Schnell. “Tradition runs deep in the military and we should take time to recognize the fighting spirit of those who have gone before us so we continue their legacy.”
For the Sailors of Peleliu and the embarked Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, it was an invaluable glance at the history made by their predecessors during the island hopping campaign of World War II.
“With the 15th MEU being an amphibious force in readiness, it was pretty significant for us to be able to see the island,” said Col. Roy A. Osborn, commanding officer of the 15th MEU. “We are not all about Iraq and Afghanistan; we are much more than that. We are an amphibious force in readiness, and that’s the core of what we are,” Osborn added emphatically.
USS Peleliu is not only the name of the ship; it’s the flagship of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. As the PELARG approached the southern tip of the island, amphibious transport dock USS Dubuque and dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor formed a column and presented their colors.
Marines and Sailors formed on the flight deck of USS Peleliu with a joint Navy-Marine color guard. Decks and passageways were cleared and respects were paid.
“Everyone should know their past,” said Osborn. “Being in the military is a calling and a profession, and honoring our predecessors makes us better Marines, Sailors, Soldiers,” he added. “By studying them, it not only lets us learn from their mistakes but helps us to build on their successes as well.”
Thought the island was secured, the battle of Peleliu cost the Marines of 1st Marine Division more than 6,500 casualties.
For one Marine, the rich heritage of the Corps is what drives him to be a better Marine.
“I enlisted in the Marine Corps because I heard all the general things like the Marines are the best and they are the first to fight,” said Marine Cpl. John T. Durham, motor transportation mechanic, Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4. “Once I learned about the rich history of the all the battles the Marines have fought, it really motivated me to honor the past Marines by just being a great one,” explained the 21-year-old Bryan, Texas native.
Hearing about those battles was one thing; actually seeing where they took place was much more significant.
“It almost feels kind of historic. This is a once in a lifetime chance to be here on this ship with this crew passing the island of Peleliu. It just feels good.” said Durham.