Note: This is a continuation of World War II Marine George Peto's harrowing days in the Battle of Peleliu. You can read Part I here.
They (the Japanese) had a new anti-boat gun that they were intending on putting back into the knocked out gun emplacement. The bodies were stacked 4-deep over the gun. My hatred has subsided somewhat over the years. I will give them their just dues; they were a formidable enemy. Col. Puller visited the point and when he saw the carnage, his comment was he would recommend the 18 survivors for the Navy Cross. But that never came to pass. So go the fortunes of war. Personally, I was glad to come out of it with sound body and mind. It has been said that I was cheated on both counts. I observed Jap bodies armed with a sack of grenades and a 6 to 8 foot long pole with a bayonet tied to the end of the pole. My thought is that they were to harass us at night but not be able to fire and give away their position or they could have been short on rifles. Either way it worked. It kept us on our toes and fear in our hearts. I heard a Marine scream that was stuck with one of those rigs and to this day I still can hear that cry. This happened around day 4 or 5 when I was I-Co. Lt. Haggerty sized up the situation and came to the conclusion that if we did not get some reinforcements we would not survive another night. He went back to Battalion Headquarters to apprise Lt. Col. Sable of our predicament and to try to get help. We wished each other luck and he took off.
Two hours passed and the Lt. did not return. Thinking he was dead, we decided to move on. Danny Sullivan and Bob Johnson was to attempt to get a phone from the guns to the point so we could stop the attack that was sure to come. As soon as darkness fell, the night belonged to the Nips. We ruled in the daylight. I planned to go back to Bn. and do what Lt. Haggerty was going to do. I got lost on the way back to Bn. headquarters. Meanwhile Bob and Danny ran into a machine gun nest. They decided to charge through a thicket in between bursts. Bob went first but when Danny made his run it was his last. He went down in a hail of machine gun fire. Bob took one look and knew it was over for Danny. He went on to complete his mission. Not only was I lost but I was pinned down by a machine gun, the coconut log was all between me and the hail of lead passing over head. The sun was high and hot, 130 degrees in the shade. My water was long gone, my mouth was parched. Every time I got enough nerve to make a run for it, that gunner would lay on the trigger. I lay there for what seemed like an eternity, probably 15 minutes.
Finally I moved out on a dead run, dove headfirst into a hole with another Marine. He was in a sitting position, the hole was only 18 inches deep, so I said, "You better get your head down", but I did not get a reply. My advice had fallen on dead ears. Sensing something wrong I looked up at his face, just above the bridge of his nose was a neat little hole. I had been in the corps over three years and this was the first black marine I had ever seen. I later learned he had been a member of a shore Party. Eventually I made it back to BN. Headquarters it was located at the waters edge behind some logs the first person saw was major McNulty our BN.
Executive officer, he offered me a cup of coffee and was eager for news of the situation on the point. Back in Melbourne Major McNulty always wore riding breeches and carried a riding crop, I always thought he served with the horse Marines at some time in his career. He did have good news for me. Lt. Haggerty had been there rounded up some men and was back at the point.
After coffee and conversation with the Major I felt good about our situation it appeared like there was hope after all. All that comes to an abrupt halt when I got caught in a Mortar barrage, as the mortars traversed upon the beach I would follow the bursts as the shells dug my foxholes I progressed toward the point. While laying in one of the holes with stuff exploding all around me I started to think, "This would be a good time to ask for a little help from above". Never being much on religion I thought this was a good time to give it a try. Being a novice at this I thought a direct approach would be the way to go so I said: "Lord if you can help me now is the time to help me I am desperately in need. Do something to assure me you are there for me." The shelling continued, the machine guns kept up their chattering, people were still dying around me. I decided if I was going to get help I would have to do it for myself. So much for the old adage that there are no Atheists in foxholes. But now that I reflect back on it, he was there all the time riding shotgun for me I was just too dumb to realize it. How could I come through 24 Months of combat including training, which was sometimes, as dangerous as actual combat and never miss a day of duty or even get a scratch.
Look for Part III coming soon.
In those intense combat moments, do you even think of things like eating, drinking or going to the bathroom, or do all those urges just shut down?
My seven days of uninterrupted combat on Peleliu I tried to eat some of the K rations that we brought ashore but due to the lack of water and extreme heat I could not get enough moister to swallow the food besides that my stomach was upset I gagged every time I tried to swallow. The water that they sent to us was contamenated with gasoline we had precious little water..The first night right after word came down that the Japs had over run our left flank and were behind us I got the urge for a bowel movement I used my steel helmet and pitched it .over the edge of the twenty foot cliff behind us..There is an old saying in the Corps Improvise Adapt And Overcome and we sure did.
I can't imagine that. I guess when you are in the situation and just do what you have to do. That's a great Marine motto! I need to remember that in my middle school classroom!
During my time in the Marine Corps, almost all of my senior NCO's and senior Officers were Veterans of WWII and Korea. Survivors of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Peleliu, Chosin, and others. I count it as one my greatest blessings to have been able to serve with these men. After my Father, Army Sergeant Major Bert H. Boyd, (also a decorated WWII combat Veteran) they are, one and all, my life's heroes!
God Bless you, George, and all those you fought along side!
Talking and writing about My time in combat has always been easy for me but when I read your reply a funny thing happened I got a lump in my throat .,Comming from a fellow Marine Made my day. Thanks for the kind words.
I am the Grandson of the Lt. George Haggerty you describe in your account above. He lead a very long, very satisfying life and was a beloved father and grandfather to many. He very recently passed on Dec 11th of this year at the age of 91. In life he was eventually able to tell of some of his war time service. If there is anything you can remember of him, his character during the war, any thing of note he did, or your relationship to him, it would be greatly appreciated. If you would like you can email me at hagggerty@Gmail.com
Thank you for your service, sir.
The Lt.Haggerty I served with Was James J. Haggerty We served together for two years in four campagins We were the best of friends .Dont get your hopes up He passed away in the sixties.Send more information and a
picture if available