Sep 15, 2007

63 years past 

On 15 September 1944, American forces consisting of the 1st Marine Division and the Army's 81st Infantry Division, landed at Peleliu. It was supposed to be something akin to a snatch and grab job for our guys. It was supposed to take days, and the Japanese enemy was estimated at no more than few thousand.

In reality, there were over 11,000 Japanese defending that tiny spit of sand and rock.

When it was all said and done 10 weeks - not a few days - later, there were over 2,300 American dead and more than three times as many wounded.

My Grandfather was a Navy Corpsman there, and his stories about that battle were quite a thing. He had one story of a wounded Marine who came to the aid station with a perfect, clean bullet hole through his hand. The doctors took one look at the guy and told him to sit and wait his turn. They were dealing with sucking chest wounds and all other manner of nastiness. He was not a priority. By the time anyone got back to him, he was dead. No one had bothered to treat him for shock, and he simply died quietly while no one was looking.

There are all sorts of "coulda, woulda, shoulda" stories that come from any battle. There's still an argument out there that Peleliu was a waste of time and resources - that it could have just as easily been bypassed.

This same argument is applied by some to the battle of Iraq as well. Yes, I said "battle." Iraq is one front in a bigger war. And just like little Peleliu 63 years ago, people are saying it should have been bypassed. But here's the ugly truth: we are engaged. Your original plan never survives first contact with the enemy. But you stay and fight until you win. You do not withdraw just because the plan changes. You do not give back ground that you spilled blood to take. And most importantly, you DO NOT take the pressure off the enemy until he has departed the battlefield - be it on his heels or on his back.

The comparisons between the wars of the past and the war of the present are many. But if we want to have a future in which we can argue these further, we have to win. Like I said yesterday, the flags of losers end up in the museums of winners.

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