The Battle of Peleliu was one of the bloodiest battles fought by the United States against the Japanese during the Mariana and Palau Campaign in World War II. 

The battle, codenamed Operation Stalemate II, took place from September 15 to November 27, 1944. It involved the 1st Marine Division and the Army’s 81st Infantry Division. The National Museum of the Marine Corps called it “the bitterest battle of the war for the Marines.”

Even before the Battle of Peleliu, there was controversy over whether the operation was even necessary. The controversy continues to this day.

The battle was fought over the existence of an airstrip on the island and was part of Operation Forager, the larger Allied offensive campaign, which took place between June and November 1944 in the Pacific Theater. 


Which Way to Tokyo?

By the summer of 1944, American forces were gradually pushing the Japanese out of the Southwest and Central Pacific. The war was inching closer to Japan. Long-range American B-29 bombers were now able to strike at the Japanese mainland from Mariana Islands airbases that had been taken in heavy fighting during the early summer (June-August 1944). 

However, there was disagreement among the U.S. Joint Chiefs over the two proposed strategies to defeat the Japanese. Army General Douglas MacArthur favored the capture of the Philippines, followed by the capture of Okinawa and then the eventual invasion of Japan itself. For MacArthur, however, the Philippines was a personal objective as he’d been forced out of there early in 1942 by the Japanese invasion.

Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz’s plan involved a more direct strategy of bypassing the Philippines and seizing Okinawa and Taiwan as staging areas for an attack on the Japanese mainland.