Michael A. Lazaro's Story

Pavuvu Island

Michael left Cape Gloucester on May 1, 1944. He arrived at Pavuvu Island, Russell Island Group, British Solomon Islands on May 3, 1944. No one liked the island because it smelled of rotten coconuts and land crabs.

On August 1, 1944, Michael transferred to H&S Co. of the 1st Marine Pioneers who were responsible for light construction, logistics and demolition. The records do not indicate why Michael was transferred from C-1-7.

On August 25, 1944, Michael departed on the USS Fayette for Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands to conduct pre-invasion training for Peleliu.

Peleliu is a contentious battle. Many historians today believe that it was an unnecessary battle that claimed more than 1,200 Marines. Peleliu was part of the battle plan that would have allowed General MacArthur to liberate the Philippines. General MacArthur believed that the Palau islands needed to be taken to protect his right flank when he liberated the Philippines. Many in the military argued against going to the Philippines and against going to Peleliu. In each argument, the President ruled in favor of General MacArthur.

Peleliu was supposed to be a quick victory. It was a small island in the Palau chain, only 2 miles by 6 miles. It looked flat from the air but it had well defended ridges and a sophisticated cave network. The Marines that were sent there were told that the fighting would be rough but short, maybe lasting 2 to 3 days. In reality, it took over two months. 1,200 were killed and 5,000 were wounded before the Marines were able to declare victory.

Peleliu is a rugged coral island with much swamp area. Because of the coral, the Marines had a difficult time digging foxholes for protection. Three regiments of the 1st Marine Division assaulted Peleliu. The main target of the assault was the airfield. That was taken in four days (and would later be used to drop Napalm on Peleliu; planes would take off and land at the adjacent runway making this the shortest bomb run in the war). The lower tip of the island was also secured quickly. However, capturing the Umurbrogel Ridges on the island proved the most difficult and dangerous.

The USS Fayette, 1944
The USS Fayette, August 1944, leaves for Peleliu with Michael aboard. (National Archives, Department of Defense, USMC #94719)
black and white photo of Umurbrogel Ridges
An example of the difficult terrain in the Umurbrogel Ridges. (National Archives, Department of Defense, USMC #108432)