WWII veterans honored for their stand at Peleliu

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Bill Geary, 88, a cattle rancher from Montana, paused today to look at pictures and maps detailing the carnage of the World War II battle on the island of Peleliu.

Geary, who fought there as a Marine, was succinct in his assessment.

“It was a nasty place,” he said as he walked a passageway dubbed the Hall of Heroes aboard the amphibious assault ship named for the battle.

What was nasty about it? Geary was asked. “Everything,” he said, “absolutely everything.”

It was a morning of remembrances for Geary and 10 other former Marines honored in San Diego as members of the 12th Defense Battalion, a unit of the 1st Marine Division, the division that led the U.S. assault on the Japanese garrison...

...The fighting at Peleliu was fierce and close in, in heat that exceeded 100 degrees. One in three Marines was killed or wounded during the two-month battle that began in mid-September 1944 -- by some measures the highest casualty rate of any battle in the Pacific war.

“The Japanese were dug in,” said Hal Handley, 85, of Los Angeles, a retired banker. “We had to go in after them. They wouldn’t surrender.”

Military records indicate that 1,252 Marines were killed and 5,274 wounded and that 542 U.S. Army soldiers were killed and 2,736 wounded. Japanese deaths were put at more than 10,600...

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