By: Japanese origin author unknown
Date: 1944 (dated) Date of Recovery
Dimensions: 17.75 x 31.25 inches (45 x 79.4 cm)
On 24 September 1944, as the infamous battle on the island of Peleliu raged, a certain private first class E. Conahan came into possession of this hand-drawn Japanese map which we believe depicts the island of Peleliu itself and the Japanese defenses on it. As details on the map would suggest, it had no doubt been carried into battle by a Japanese military commander. These details include symbols for antiaircraft units and grenade dischargers strategically positioned near the airfield, observation posts, and a tank unit near the Japanese billeting area. Heavy defenses are well-defined along the beaches including offshore obstacles, trenches and minefields. Positioning of howitzers on the island is well-defined. The rugged terrain of the island is depicted by contour lines.
The soldier’s immediate response would no doubt have been to find his commanding officer, for correct interpretation and reading of the map would have been a matter of great import which could influence the outcome of the battle raging on the island that very day. Peleliu is a small island about six miles long and two miles wide, shaped something like a lobster’s claw. It is part of the Palau chain, which forms the westernmost “tail” of the Caroline archipelago. In fact, Peleliu is one of the smaller islands of Palau, but its airfield gave it enormous strategic importance—or so it seemed at the beginning of 1944.
The stated reason for the operation was to clear the right flank of Douglas MacArthur's planned invasion of the Philippines and provide an air base to support that operation. However, the sad truth is that the battle should probably have never taken place, as by September 1944 the island had lost any strategic value it had once held. It was a battle whose merit is debated to this day due to the great number of casualties suffered on both sides and to the absence of any true gain for American forces. By the end of the battle, more than twenty thousand young men had lost their lives on this small Pacific island.
This map is a silent relic of that time and place, one which speaks volumes. That it is hand-drawn evokes an air of immediacy of the events, of the violent hand to hand combat which took place on the island, for here the Japanese defenses and topography of the island are all denoted in detail, including airfields, lookout posts, jungle areas, rice paddies, observation posts, trenches, antiaircraft posts… a host of details which would have been of immeasurable value to American military personnel. On handling the map it is easy to imagine it having been first in the leather dispatch case of a Japanese officer, then as indicated by the inscription, coming into the possession of an American soldier.
Condition: This interesting and unique hand-drawn map is in A condition. The map has some slight stains of unidentified origin, but as a hand-drawn map from a battlefield, it is in superb condition.
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