A Small Piece of Hell Called Peleliu

Gerald Gaylord, a native of Washington County, North Carolina, fought in the Pacific during World War II. His combat experience took place on a small piece of hell called Peleliu where the struggle for survival had the ability to strip a man of his hope and humanity.
Gaylord landed on the island of Peleliu in October of 1944 with the 323rd Infantry Regiment. Their job was to relieve the beleaguered Marines and press the attack against the Japanese. Much of the fighting took place in the mountains where the Japanese had dug a honeycomb of tunnels that provided countless opportunities to ambush the American troops.
Snipers were a constant threat in the mountains, which had a demoralizing effect on men and drove some to the point of madness. Gaylord remembers losing a friend under such circumstances: “One of my friends ‘cracked up.’ He had been pinned down by a sniper for a long time. He jumped up and started running towards the sniper while firing his rifle. The sniper cut him down too far away for us to get to him.”
Peleliu was a living nightmare: “the odor of rotting flesh and the maggots and blowflies working on [us] was awful. The men were getting sick and I was one of them. My belly hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up straight.” While fighting on Peleliu, Gaylord suffered from stomach ulcers and tropical ulcers on his feet and legs. He witnessed fellow soldiers lose their humanity: “Some men became ghouls. They started collecting gold teeth… Some of the men were collecting skulls.”
While surrounded by death and destruction, Gaylord developed a fatalistic attitude: “I dared not think of when I would go home. It was a place of Paradise that was out of reach or a place that I would never see again. It really looked to me that the war would never end and I would never go home again.”
By the end of November the island was declared secure and Gaylord never saw combat ever again. After the war, he went home and lived the rest of his days in peace.

Special thanks to the Golden Skillet, and U.S. Cellular for sponsoring this article on behalf of the Port o’ Plymouth Museum.
A Small Piece of Hell Called Peleliu A Small Piece of Hell Called Peleliu Reviewed by kensunm on 7:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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