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World War Two - Point of No Return

Updated on September 29, 2011

In the sixth chapter of Lost Films, this landmark series of life on the frontlines during World War 2, American units push inland from Normandy, across France, Belgium and into Germany. Also the bloody battles in the Pacific region rage on to the battle of Peleliu.

Summer 1944

By August 1944, U.S. forces have pushed the Japanese out of the Marianna Islands and their land based bombers are within range of Tokyo.

The Allies have chased the Axis forces out of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Hitler has lost an ally in fascist Italy, but U.S. forces still total over 12,000 killed per month and the bloodiest battles of the war are yet to come.

American troops on Peleliu
American troops on Peleliu

Marine base on Pavuvu, South Pacific

August 1944

The 1st Marine Division are on the south Pacific island of Pavuvu training for their next combat assignment.

September 1st, 1944

The destination for the marines is the island of Peleliu, as part of General Douglas MacArthur's plan to retake the Philippines. It is a small island located 2,100 miles north of Pavuvu. Although it is one of the most remote spots in the Pacific, the U.S. military feel they must take Peleliu's airfield in order for an Allied invasion of the Philippines to succeed.

September 15th, 1944

Almost 4,500 marines launch in 200 landing craft, all will land on Peleliu within 19 minutes. As Japanese artillery rains shells down upon them the marines are silent in expectation of what is to come. As they land on the shore a sweltering tropical heat engulfs them and the Japanese prepare to unleash a viscious attack.

September 16th, 1944

After 24 hours of fighting on the island, the men of the 1st Marine Division are struggling to gain ground. Casualties are already above 1,000 and the searing temperatures have soared to 116 degrees, fresh water is in short supply and marines are collapsing from heat exhaustion.

As the marines push inland toward their objective, Peleliu's 10,000 Japanese defenders fall back into their heavily fortified positions. Unknown to the marines the Japanese are employing a new strategy, realising they cannot hold back the Ameicans indefinitely, they are setting up there defences to inflict as many casualties as possible. Their hope is to bleed the Americans into negotiating an end to the war.

At the centre of peleliu is a heavily fortified mountain with intricate Japanese defences built into it. With steep canyons and razor sharp ridges it overlooks the sought after airfield. Nothing in the marines training has prepared them for a battle against such a seemingly impregnable defensive position.

September 20th, 1944

The 1st Marine Division are locked in a fierce fight for control of the mountain which they must secure in order to safely begin using the islands' airfield. Division operations estimated it would only take 3 days to secure the entire island, but the marines are up against 10,000 stubborn Japanese soldiers.

In previous amphibious landings, the Americans outnumbered the Japanese three to one, but here it is the 9,000 marines who are outnumbered and casualties continue to rise. As fatigue and frustration overtake the marines, the struggle for Peleliu becomes a battle of attrition.

The battle rages on for another staggering 70 days and although the Americans are finally victorious, the victory has come at a terrible loss. Almost 10,000 troops are either dead or wounded, the incredibly high casualties and surprising length of the fight are a shocking preview of island battles yet to come. As the Americans now focus on the re-conquest of the Philippines, the losses sustained on Peleliu are almost all but overlooked by the public.

Chateau-Thierry, France

August 1944

The 39th Infantry Regiment in Normandy and the 200 men of C. Company are ordered to advance ahead and form a 2 mile wide path all the way to Germany.

After breaking through the german defences in Normandy, the Allies are fighting a potent and highly mobile war. In the face of relentless pressure, Hitler orders a general withdrawal across France.

His forces will stand and fight from a position of great advantage along the infamous Seigfreid Line, a formidable 400 mile long defensive wall that consists of over 18,000 bunkers and tank traps protecting Germany's western frontier.

In towns battered by Allied bombing, the men of C. Company of the 39th Infantry Regiment are engaged in sporadic firefights with desperate yet determined enemy.

This kind of urban warfare takes it's toll, but it doesn't stop the Americans from keeping the Germans on the run.

Once they have cleared the towns, the 39th Infantry are directed to push forward and pursue the retreating Germans.

Belgium

September 1944

They are now crossing through Belgium's farm country heading towards the western border of Germany.

Ahead of them, Hitler's massively fortified Seigfried Line.

On September 13th, 1944 the 39th Infantry reach the north Rhine region, becoming one of the first American units to enter the Reich.


Lammersdorf, Germany

September 14th, 1944

The 39th Infantry Regiment drive into the town of Lammersdorf, just inside Germany's border. Their mission is to secure the town and then to push on through the defences beyond. After driving through the deserted town they suddenly come under attack whilst scouting a nearby fortified hill on the infamous Seigfried Line. Their lead tank is completely destroyed as a hail of bullets and mortar shells rain down upon them.

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