UMURBROGOL

Umurbrogol sounds like the name of a place in Mordor – and in a way it is just such a place. 13,489 people died on it, in it and round it within three months, from September to November 1944. 

Umurbrogol is a mountain in the centre of the Pacific island of Peleliu and with 1,794 Marines killed and 8,010 wounded the battle of Peleliu had highest casualty rate of any battle in the Pacific War. The Japanese used some 500 limestone caves and mine shafts within the mountain to turn it into a true invisible fortress. Although before the D-day the Americans dropped 519 rounds of 410 mm shells, 1,845 rounds of 360 mm shells, 1,793 500-pound bombs and 73,412 .50 caliber bullets onto the tiny island (only six square miles in size), they destroyed nothing but the aircraft on the local airfield, which those of the Marines who survived the landing under constant and unexpected fire had to run across the next day without water and in 46°C heat. But the airfield positions were just the beginning. The ending were the tunnels of Umurbrogol. And in between, the battle for The Point, a coral promontory, where the K Company (3rd Battalion, 1st Marines) was reduced to 18 men, suffering 157 casualties.

The tunnels… It was only the second time napalm was used in the Pacific Theatre.

A Japanese lieutenant, Ei Yamaguchi, held out in the caves in Peleliu with his 33 men until April 22, 1947. The Americans had to sent a Japanese Admiral over to convince the holdouts the war was over. This was the last official surrender of World War II.

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