Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

The Road to Tobruk (The North African Campaign, 1940-1942)


The Road to Tobruk | PDF | 98 Pages | 53 Megabytes

Tobruk 1940-42

Note, December 2017 – This study was updated on Friday, December 8, 2017, resulting in an increase from 41 pages to 98, with updated art, cartography and information.

Tobruk Page Mockup

Tobruk Cover (Alternate)

When the German General, Erwin Rommel, landed in Libya in 1940, during the Second World War he found a strange land almost devoid of life. The majority of the population lived in small towns along the coast where the land was green and rich but where just a few miles inland, the burning desert reigned as master and deliverer.

The vast open space meant that civilians were largely out of the crossfire and that a war could be fought “cleanly” (a veritable oxymoron) between professional armies, who to their credit avoided the senseless butchery which marked the other campaigns of the war. Rommel would call this period of his military life, krieg ohne hasse, or “War without Hate,” a period in which he as a soldier conducted a proper war, on purely military terms, on lines of mutual respect.

The "krieg ohne hasse" (war without hate) in effect, mid-1942. A wounded British soldier accepts a light from a wounded German soldier of the Afrika Korps

The “krieg ohne hasse” (war without hate) in effect, mid-1942. A wounded British soldier accepts a light from a wounded German soldier of the Afrika Korps.

The high point of Rommel’s North African career revolved around the seaside town of Tobruk, the second city of Eastern Libya’s Cyrenaica province. After the failure of the Italians in 1940 to reach their dream of a new Roman Empire in the Mediterranean, Hitler was forced to send German troops to salvage Axis pride. Rommel’s orders were simple – recapture Cyrenaica and rout the British. The campaign captured the imagination of the world, as did the dashing Rommel who became a household name in Germany, England and the western world. Tobruk itself became a place of myth in 1941, as stories of its cavalierly heroic Allied garrison gained momentum. The myth eventually succumbed to Rommel’s will, who in the conquest of Tobruk saw a way to seize that most glittering of prizes — Egypt, the Suez Canal, and eventually the mystical Far East which Hitler so coveted as the birthplace of the Aryan race.

The methods which finally overcame the city would go on to inspire Coalition tactics in the invasion of Iraq during Operation “Desert Storm” half a century later.


The attack on Tobruk 1942

Sidi Rezegh (Landscape) MapDivider-9

Addendum: Rommel’s Assessment of Allied troops

Australians: “Rough” men, but unlikely with a “bad heart.” Highly ranked as fighting troops but “inclined to get out of hand.”
Indians: “Well-disciplined and correct” professional soldiers.
New Zealanders: “The finest troops” on the Allied side.
South Africans: “Good material” but simply “too raw,” to be of much use early in the campaign, although their armoured car units were a credit.
British: “Promising amateurs,” although their special forces are “better than Germans.”

(Source: Young, Desmond, Rommel: The Desert Fox, New York: Quill/William Morrow, 1987)

Note – In the interests of historical accuracy it must be noted that Rommel also had vaguely denigrating things to say about eastern troops and especially black soldiers who accompanied the South Africans (apparently for propaganda reasons). Added to this, Desmond Young, the World War II British officer who collected the assessments above, was something of a Rommel admirer, and his book, something of a hagiography, so it possible that some of the judgments were cleaned up.




The following two pieces (written for publication) recount recent travels in the desert country of northwest India — a mystifying and exotic a landscape as is possible on this planet. Divider-7Jodhpur MastheadThe following piece was published on 3 May 2015. A pdf of the published page can be downloaded here.

Jodhpur Map


When Pratap Singh, the younger son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, took his team of seasoned Indian and British Polo players to visit Queen Victoria during her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, most English onlookers were enthralled by the skill of the players. But even more were intrigued by the unique attire worn by these strange, tanned men from half a world away.

At Ranelagh, one young Englishwoman turned to her fiancé, a cavalry officer, to ask about the curious long pants the “foreigners” sported — tapering creations with duck-like flaps along the thighs. They may have looked funny, yet the public found the pants so practical for horse-riding that Savile Row quickly popularized a British version known appropriately as “jodhpurs.”

That may have been 118 years ago, during the city’s prime, when it forged its reputation on the strength of its attire and polo laurels, but there remains something special about this dusty provincial town, hewn out of the southern sands of the Thar Desert, irrigated and made green and given enough character to proclaim its uniqueness from the rest of that great arid state known as Rajasthan.

No, it has nothing to do with the sound of a Soviet-era MiG-27 fighter-bomber roaring up into the blinding, white sky (Indian Fighter Command is based here), or the blue-coloured homes scattered throughout the city or even the vibrant beauty of the local architecture. It is something more elemental, which, in this city of 1.2 million, is impossible to gauge from mere maps thousands of kilometres away.

It is a veritable small town by Indian standards — and like any small town anywhere is reasonably friendly. I should reasonably, because not all small towns are equally friendly. A cynic could say that this is a friendliness contingent on the fatness of one’s wallet. After all, Jodhpur survives on the kindness of strangers. And certainly, many are out to make a buck. Touts and tour-guides wait everywhere. Even quaintly dressed Rajput women with their brightly patterned dupattas and embroidered blouses hasten in their step whenever firangs appear, their hands out, eager not to miss out. It is difficult to think of another place with such displays of exquisitely beautiful sadness.

Jodhpur Fort 7

In the old market area, under the shadow of Merangarh Fort, the poverty is sometimes so glaring that I am reminded that this is still India, where the most gut-wrenching of indigence shares space with the most fabulous displays of wealth. But life is more colored than black and white. Looking beneath the sometimes shallow displays of greeting, one sees the spark and glimmer of true Rajasthani warmth, a quick cordiality and a shy, endearing pleasure, be it from a fat merchant in the old bazaar or a pretty Rajput girl waiting to use the ATM. Read more of this post

The Western Ghats


Sidetracked from my other projects by a commission to illustrate, design and edit a book on nature in India for an NGO, I spent a significant amount of time learning about issues that I normally wouldn’t have paid much attention to. The book, a 12″ x 12″ hardcover, coffee-table book, was finally completed in August 2014 and has had a limited print run.

This was an interesting project, primarily because it made me aware of the precarious situation of wilderness in India – a nation bursting at the seams with people. For anyone who thinks conservation is unimportant, I recommend a trip to the sub-continent. Certainly, I would be the last person to espouse a Malthusian philosophy, but the idea that an overabundance of people leads to moral haziness, social inequality, diminished value for human life, myriad societal problems such as rampant sexual abuse (and intriguingly, heightened value for family), can be witnessed first-hand in India – and other densely populated parts of Asia. But these observations are beyond the scope of this post.

Nevertheless, such a visit can leave one with an heightened appreciation for conservation and ecology. Was it Walt Whitman or Henry David Thoreau who wrote that people need to be “surrounded by green?” Absolutely right.

Many thanks to my co-editor Ian Lockwood for being such a splendid and affable person to collaborate with, and for his magic behind the lens.

IMG_0026   IMG_0020 Divider-9 IMG_0016  IMG_0019 Divider-9 IMG_0021  IMG_0023 Divider-9 IMG_0024

Below appears an important component of the book. This core map took a significant chunk of my time — about 120 hours of work, and used a combination of information from National Geographic, Google Earth and ultra-detailed US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency maps for reference. It covers the central area of the Western Ghats, the 1,000-mile strip of rain-forested mountains which wind down India’s western coast — a biodiversity hotspot (with species found nowhere else on Earth), under siege from a unrestrained, growing population in need of increased living space and raw materials.

Western Ghats Map (Sectional) Divider-7

Java Apple This watercolor of a cluster of Java apples (for the book) took about two hours of work, and was much a learning experience as anything else, considering that I hadn’t worked in the medium since I was eight. This was my second watercolor image for the book. The first image — of a ginger plant, is well, too embarrassing to post online.

Frame-V-Clove Frame-V-Turmeric Frame-V-Basil  Frame-V-Field Mint Frame-H-Wild-Mango Frame-V-Cinnamon Frame-H-Indian Gooseberry Frame-H-Wild Egg Plant Frame-H-Bottle Gourd   Frame-H-Wild Banana Divider-7

Asked for and struck by the conundrum of trying to describe the culture of the people of the Western Ghats within the larger confines of ecology and nature, I thought a three-page foldout graphical representation was perhaps the best way. The graphic was ultimately scrapped because the idea of talking about the local culture of the western Ghats (which has several negative connotations to it), proved a distraction from the central theme of the book. All photographs © Richard Kalina, London.

Foldout(Richard)-A-v1 Foldout(Richard)-B-v1 A note on the process — The upper graphic took about 10 hours of work. The ribbons and area contours were done using Adobe Illustrator. But the rest of the image was completed using Photoshop. All photos and text were laid out in the Indesign document. 

The War in Biafra

Biafra Mast

The following art is for a new research project, titled: The War in Biafra.

(Temporarily on hold until several other book projects are completed)

If you were a participant in the war, or were a witness in any way or form to the conflict, or happened to be in Nigeria during the critical years from 1964-70, worked for the Red Cross, the PR outfits or the churches, or even protested the conflict in the United States and Europe over continued British aid to Federalist Nigeria, or stood against the Biafrans, or simply have something to say, I am interested to hear your story. Drop me an e-mail by using the “contact me” page linked in the menu above or leave a message on this page.

All images are in medium resolution; click for larger picture.

What this is all about (a brief explanation): Look at world maps today and you will find no mention of the nation of Biafra. It has  suffered an attempt at being expunged from the consciousness of human history.

The country of Nigeria in West Africa, recently known for its e-mail scams, is at the center of this story. Essentially a British construct brought into a national identity without considering regional loyalties, Nigeria can best be identified as the unnatural union of three culturally disparate territories often at odds with each other — the largely-Muslim North, the traditionalist West and finally, the Christian East which in 1967, seven years after Nigerian Independence from Britain, christened itself as Biafra and broke from the Federation because of violent persecution. Biafra’s most numerous peoples are the Ibos, the so-called “Jews of Africa” because of their formidable intellect and perseverance but also as one historian recently argued, because of an ancient link to the tribes of Israel.

But the stunted potential of the Ibos has been written about in the past. One famous writer, Frederick Forsyth, was so committed to Biafran cause that he wrote one propagandized book on the matter and later published a bestselling novel about mercenaries who conquer a new African country for the Ibos (remember The Dogs of War?).

Nigeria, incensed by the Biafran secession, engaged in a police action which soon transformed into a full blown war, fought not only in part over oil in Biafra, but also over personal ambitions and British interests in policy and investment — reasons which gave the world its first prototypical image of the starving African child, and the combatants the ignominious honor of conducting the first modern war in Africa. It was also a war between two English-trained African armies, internationalized by mercenaries and adventurers, gun-runners, journalists, pilots, aid workers, the clergy and the World Council of Churches, who as the months wore on stepped in to aid the starving and a country.

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Biafra Ph-18cBiafra Ph-18bBiafra Ph-18dBiafra Ph-18eBiafra Ph-18aBiafra Ph-22

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A Note on the Process: All art was drawn using Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator and are in the guise above for purely illustrative purposes on this site. The map, composed at 1:1,000,000 scale, took about 47 hours of work, spread over 5 days. It survived to see completion despite my working while on a three-day visit to a friend’s house at the other end of the state, in a house packed with overzealous little kids and hyperactive dogs. The version of the map posted is at medium-low resolution. (11-02-2011)

The Thin Red Line: A Second Look

TRL Mast

In the summer of 1998, two important American movies arrived in theaters that inadvertently triggered a renaissance of books and films on the Second World War. Both were classified as “war films,” and both were so in completely different senses of the term.

The first: After a brief, unexplained interlude at a war cemetery six decades after the war it went back in time — Long lines of landing craft plow through choppy gray seas, carrying clammy, nauseous faces straining with anticipation and fear at the ominous dark country ahead. The crafts crunch up the sable, chilly beach. The ramps drop and men are torn to pieces by a hail of machine-gun fire.

The second film preferred to be more ambiguous but soon more landing craft appeared, this time with the gray of the English Channel replaced by the blue spray of the South Pacific. Once again nervous and fearful faces occupy the screen; groups of men huddle together and pray. And as the landing crafts ground up on the beach to the sounds of Taiko drums, men scramble out, ready to confront the enemy only to find…nothing. Not a single bullet, not the whistle of one. The suspense shattered into anti-climax, the film goes on to meander, skirting art and poetry, often focusing on the rich landscape of the South Pacific instead of what it had been advertised for – warfare.

Obviously the first film is Saving Private Ryan, which went on to garner 11 Academy Award nominations of which it won five. The second is The Thin Red Line, directed by the reclusive Terence Malick, nominated for seven Academy Awards – of which it won absolutely zero. But while Private Ryan has established a reputation as a timeless masterpiece, Malick’s film, based on the James Jones classic novel of the same name,  has continued to enrage and enthrall viewers since its release.

TRL Ph-1

I saw both films within a year of each other. Private Ryan on the big screen; Thin Red Line on television. Private Ryan with its scenes of savagery and careless evil forced me to reconsider the subject of my growing expertise, the Second World War. The Thin Red Line, in contrast, filled me with contempt. Yet ten years on I find myself with a reevaluated opinion of Malick’s visually stunning, deeply enigmatic picture.

Saving Private Ryan, in short, was made by a great director, but it is not a great film. The Thin Red Line, on the other hand, is a great film made by a director “of towering reputation.” It can arguably be called the greatest war film in the history of cinema to date – If only it shed some of its distracted meandering. But those who criticize the film as a bad movie have clearly misunderstood what they have watched. I certainly misunderstood it on my first viewing. Treating combat as a necessary aside, the film is a philosophical examination of the effects of war on man – but that is not to say that the scenes of warfare are substandard. Combat when it comes is harsh and unannounced, callous but also strangely impersonal in its depiction of human beings at war.

The original novel was a sequel to Jones’ epic From Here to Eternity with a few central characters from the earlier book transposed into the second book although under different names. Malick’s focus is on one of these, the Christ-like Private Witt (brilliantly portrayed by Jim Caviezel), whose spiritual ancestor was Private Prewitt (literally pre-Witt) in From Here to Eternity.[*] Still, Witt was only a minor character in the second book compared to the others. Malick actually shot seven hours of film focusing on most of them, only to cut it down to three for theatrical release – with the deleted footage capable of supporting an entirely different version of the film – he says.

All this effort was in aid of Malick’s desire to remain faithful to Jones’ writing. But repeated consultations with the late novelist’s wife, Gloria Jones, led to a certain degree of creativity. “Terry, you have my husband’s voice,” she told him, “You’re writing in his musical key; now what you must do is improvise. Play riffs on this.”

TRL Ph-2

Read more of this post

Tintin and The Life of Hergé

Click image to view mid-resolution jpg (1.3 mb) or use the link below for single-page, high-resolution PDF (4 mb)


The Campaign in the Hurtgen Forest

The Green Hell: The Hurtgen Campaign | PDF | 128 Pages | 47 Mb

The Green Hell (4e)

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In the summer of 1944, as the Allied armies swept out of Normandy and Western France, the end of the war seemed within their grasp. But then American troops from the First Army reached a little-charted forest at Hürtgen and a great opportunity arose. Breaching this would gain them the western banks of the Rhine River – the last natural obstacle into Nazi Germany. But almost immediately what started out as a promising advance became a brutal slog.

Ferocious fighting crippled three American divisions and mauled another. The fighting consumed so much that men didn’t even have the energy to bury the dead. Replacements came “bug-eyed, in small, frightened bunches,” many soon to join the casualty lists. One American general called it a dreadful place and “one of the most costly, most unproductive and most ill-advised battles that our army has ever fought.” Another eyewitness, Ernest Hemingway, wrote a novel on the events. But a myopic focus on other campaigns reduced the Hürtgen fighting to a dim memory. Today it is virtually forgotten, especially in America. But Hürtgen remains a landmark of war’s inhumanity, of heroism and the limits of human military endeavor.

Includes: 14 Maps, +80 photographs and illustrations, a detailed order of battle.

This monograph is a result of the surprising number of people who have contacted me over the years asking for more information about this campaign – all because of a study I had once done on a now-defunct website. This work would not have been possible without their interest.

Instead of publishing it for monetary gain, I have instead released my research on this website in the hopes that it will add to the growing public awareness about this half-forgotten campaign and the men who fought it.


Associated pencil art




Ernest Hemingway, a correspondent for Colliers magazine, and a willing participant in combat.


Peleliu 1944


Peleliu Map 15 September 1944

(LEFT) The Palau Islands chain which contained Peleliu. (RIGHT) The Peleliu Island group on the day of the assault.


The impetus for this Peleliu section came out out of a recent talk with an interesting older fellow who had recently met Joseph Mazzello (of HBO’s The Pacific fame) on 49th Street in NYC. Somehow this fellow and I (the old guy, not Mazzello) went into a conversation, discussing of all things: the best places in NYC, The Pacific, Broadway, Mazzello, Spielberg, some other stuff I can’t even remember anymore.

After we said our goodbyes, I got to thinking of Mazzello. Aside from two or  three episodes, The Pacific was a God-awful disappointment. But I thought Mazzello did a tremendous job portraying  his real-life character, Eugene B. Sledge, a mild-mannered professor of biology at Auburn University in later life, a veteran marine during the Second World War whose androcentric last name was perfectly suited to that of a combat soldier – except that Sledge frowned upon the jingoistic meatheads that seem to comprise a percentage of military forces everywhere. His book on the subject, a searing portrait of combat, becomes anti-war, like every great movie about war. The message, aptly recounted by Private Doll in another great war book, The Thin Red Line, is: “War don’t ennoble men, it turns ’em into dogs.” Sledge repeated as much in Studs Terkel’s Pulitzer-winning non-fiction book, The Good War. The Terkel foundation has offered Sledge’s complete interview on their website. They make for fascinating listening. Find them here:

I thought it would be really interesting to blend Sledge’s experiences and the narrative of another enlightened Marine, Robert Leckie, into a study of the Peleliu battle, but since that has been partly done in none other than the The Pacific, I have decided to put up some of the material that I had collected, especially some photos. For those still interested in learning more on this hell of a campaign, I urge you to visit: which contains the original USMC monograph on Peleliu written by Major Frank O. Hough in 1950. The 205-page document has a great deal of information and some excellent maps and photographs.


Eugene Sledge after the war, in front his microscope. Like many hardened combat veterans he gave up his pre-war hobby of hunting, disgusted by the act of frivolous killing.  His fervor instead turned to preservation. (Auburn University)


I created these two drawings to accompany a planned monograph, which I ultimately decided would be superfluous.

Japanese Machinegunner

(LEFT) Japanese machine-gunner, with his Type 99 LMG slung over his shoulder. (RIGHT) US machine-gun team.


(click images for larger picture)


(LEFT) An aerial view of Peleliu taken some years after the battle. (USAF) (RIGHT) LCI (G) rocket-firing ships pound the beaches on D-Day. (USMC)


(LEFT) Despite the terrific American air and sea bombardment, when the smoke cleared, it was discovered that the Japanese artillery and mortar fire had knocked out dozens of American landing craft and DUKWs. (US Navy) (RIGHT) Even as a rocket-firing LCI (on the far left) pounds the shore, Marine Amtracs of the 3rd Armored Amphibian Tractor Battalion chug forward. The closest vehicle is an LVT-1, indicated by its 37mm main cannon, while the others, equipped with short 75 mm guns are LVT(A)-4s. (Associated Press)


(LEFT) Smoke rises from disabled US amphibious craft seen from above “White” and “Orange” beaches. The white line of water is the reef edge. (US Navy) (RIGHT) On D-Day, Marines take cover around a disabled 3rd Armored Amphibian Battalion LTV(A)-4 near “White beach 2.” (USMC)


(LEFT) Marines H.T. Backous (on left) and C.E. Schneider stand in front of Maj. Parker’s knocked-out command tank. Backous was the driver and Schneider was in the turret with Parker. (USMC)

(RIGHT) Col. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the commander of the 1st Marine Regiment speaks with one his lieutenants. Before the war, Puller had served in the Caribbean, Haiti and Nicaragua. In 1930’s China, he had commanded a detachment of the famous Horse Marines at Shanghai in 1934, encountering his first Japanese here – who, suffice to say, did not afford a favorable impression. During the campaign on Guadalcanal, he won his 3rd Navy Cross and for his leadership on New Britain, was promoted to lead the 1st Marine in February 1944. (USMC)


(LEFT) This fantastic shot of the deck of an LST (No. 202) shows it to be crammed with jeeps, trucks and supplies of all sorts, including rolls of barbed wire, tanks full of drinking water, food and munitions. An LST had a standard displacement of 1,780 tons and a complement of 8-10 officers and 100-115 men. It was ships like these that made America’s liberation of the Pacific possible. (RIGHT) A flamethrower-armed LVT-4 on Peleliu pummels a Japanese dug-out. (Both photos, USMC)


(LEFT) Two marines take a smoke break. In the background is an LVT. The man on the right is armed with a Browning .30cal M1919 Light machine-gun. (USMC) (RIGHT) Marines pose in front of a captured Japanese flag on Peleliu. Trophies like this were well sought after and frequently found. (National Archives)


(Both Photos) Marine wounded found themselves first extracted from the battlefield by stretcher and then evacuated by plane (first photo, National Archives; second, USMC)


(LEFT) Combat on Peleliu was no mean event, considering the ferocity of the Japanese defense and the strange, deformed corral landscape that looked as though it belonged to another world. Predictably, nerves soon frayed as is displayed by the look on this Marine’s face. (My collection; also National Archives 520616) (RIGHT) The ethnicity of this Marine is curious. He has been described as an African-American, although he may have been Puerto-Rican. (National Archives)


(LEFT) An all-black unit of Marine Stevedores shelters in the sand dunes at Peleliu during a break in combat. Despite their employment in a combat zone, it is uncertain how much combat black Marines experienced in the Pacific, owing to the segregated policies of the US Armed Forces during World War II. In this photo, the fact that these men hug the earth while other white marines stand calmly upright in the background seems to indicate that this unit had little prior exposure to battlefield conditions. (RIGHT) Two Marines wait for instructions during an assault.


(LEFT) A disabled Japanese Type 95 tank of the divisional tank company of the 14th Division sits dwarfed alongside a LVT-1 near the airfield in September 1944. (RIGHT) A photograph taken just after the Japanese tank counterattack was smashed. The photo looks out towards the Southeast.


(LEFT) Col. “Bucky” Harris (at center), commander of the 5th Marine Regiment, confers with a gravely-concerned Lt-General Roy S. Geiger (on left) of the III Amphibious Corps, and the egg-bald Maj-General William H. Rupertus, the incompetent, panicky chief of the 1st Marine Division. (RIGHT) Harris’ 5th Regiment gathers on its beach together with Shermans from B Company. (Both photos, USMC)


(LEFT) “Chesty” Puller, photographed on Guadalcanal. Despite popular myth built around Puller that he was a great leader and a true soldier’s soldier (a misconception not fed in the least by The Pacific), in reality few of Puller’s men trusted or respected his leadership. Even men from other regiments on Peleliu could be heard saying: “Thank God, we’re not under Chesty’s command.” (US Government) (RIGHT) When  an LVT(A)-4 nicknamed “Lucky lady,” found itself under siege from a lone Japanese heavy gun, it simply ran it down. Although “Lucky Lady” became stuck in the dug-out, the Japanese obviously came off worst. (USMC)


(LEFT) An Amtrac at rest. Note the improvised flamethrower (behind the blast shield) at the rear of the vehicle, adapted by Marines to tackle entrenched Japanese positions. (USMC)

Naval Amphibian Combat (RIGHT) Occasionally, Amtracs or “Amtanks” as these turreted versions of the LVTs were called, found themselves engaged in naval warfare. Here, the Amtanks have shot up and captured a Japanese landing craft. (USMC)


(LEFT) As the Marines battled north through Peleliu, they came upon one of their last objectives in the campaign: capturing Ngesebus island with its small fighter airfield, just across a narrow strip of coral waterway. Here, survivors of the 3rd Amphibian Battalion wait by the Peleliu shore for the attack order to come. (USMC)

(RIGHT) Marines at Horseshoe Valley deal with a massive 200-lb land mine which was fortuitously discovered before the LVT(A)-4 Flamethrower in the lower part of the photograph could make contact. In the upper background, US Army M4A2 Sherman tanks from the 710th Tank Battalion wait for the advance to resume. This photo was taken in the first or second week of October 1944. (USMC)


(LEFT) A stretcher team under Sgt. T.D. Barnett rushes a wounded man to a forward aid post. (USMC) (RIGHT) In this famous photograph, a Marine, despite the chronic water shortage on the island, gives up his canteen to a fellow wounded Marine. (National Park Service)

Marines under fire on the beach. (My collection/Corbis)

Marines examine their own dead, killed by the Japanese before they could even get off the beach. In all, US forces suffered 9,800 casualties on Peleliu, including 1,794 killed. In contrast, 10,695 out of 11,000 Japanese soldiers died and only some 200 were captured.  (Associated Press/Joe Rosenthal)

Here, two DUKWs perform a new role — as the pontoon propellants for an “aircraft ferry.” Under a system developed by the US Office of Scientific Research and Development, two DUKWs were joined at the center, allowing an aircraft (in this case a P-38 Lightning) to be positioned on the center span. Obviously the system could only work on calm seas. (Military History Institute)


A piece of war art that achieved global fame was this 1944 painting by the famous artist, Tom Lea III (pictured on right). Originally captioned “Down from Bloody Nose Ridge, he’s finished, washed-up, gone,” it has since become known as the “The Two-Thousand-Yard Stare.” Born in El Paso in 1903, Lea was an “embedded” LIFE magazine reporter with the 1st Marine Division in 1944 and witnessed first-hand the carnage on Peleliu. He later wrote that “my work there consisted of trying to keep from getting killed and trying to memorize what I saw and felt.” Lea died on 29 January 2001 at the place of his birth, El Paso. (print image, US Army Center for Military History; Tom Lea photo by the Tom Lea Institute)


Although these two photos are not from Peleliu, I include them here because I think they represent the quintessential American experience in the Pacific theater of operations during the war.


(LEFT) An unknown Marine, the strain of fatigue and combat showing on his face, returns to a transport ship after the battle for Eniwetok. I have always wondered who this guy was and what happened to him. The National Archives tag offers no hint of a name or a unit. (National Archives NA 26-G-3394) (RIGHT) Another photo from the Eniwetok battleground: Three Marines, smudged and weary from two days of continuous fighting recuperate on a troop ship.  PFC Faris M. “Bob” Tuohy, 19, holds the coffee cup.  The other men are sadly unknown. (National Archives NA 26-G-3345)


Peleliu revisted
(all photos © Agence France-Presse)


Cleared Ground Demining blows up about 1,000 lbs of explosives  in Aimeliik State, Palau, from three batches of “Type 2” WWII-era depth charges pulled from the ocean. The team trained a team of 25 Palauans to help dispose of the dangerous items.

The rusting remains of destroyed Japanese war equipment on Peleliu. (RICHARD W. BROOKS/AFP/2014)